Though there are thousands of things to do within the colorful, cobbled streets of Charleston, South Carolina, part of its charm lies in the wealth of attractions surrounding the city. From nearby islands to neighboring towns, there are hundreds of places near Charleston that are worth a visit.
Charleston’s antebellum edifices, leafy parks, and countless museums are quite the draw, but if you hope to go a little further afield, here are the 15 best day trips from Charleston.
A beautiful relic of the Old South, Beaufort is known for its historic architecture and small-town feel. Located on Port Royal Island, it is the second-oldest city in South Carolina. Beaufort’s attractions include the Beaufort Arsenal, the Cypress Wetlands, the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, and much more, including dozens of antebellum mansions.
The drive from Charleston to Beaufort is a little under an hour and a half, making it the ideal distance for a day trip.
Kiawah Island is home to acclaimed golf courses and iconic beaches. It is the perfect destination for those looking to relax, with a few rounds of golf or a day on its sunny shores. Kiawah Island is also known for its boating, fishing, and miles of oceanfront and wetland trails.
Only a 40 minute drive from Charleston, Kiawah is the perfect place to go to kick back.
Hilton Head Island
This pristine resort island is home to spectacular beaches and lively nightlife. With over 12 miles of sandy coastline and world-class golf courses, it is the ultimate vacation spot. Hilton Head is also home to some of the South’s best jazz clubs, such as The Jazz Corner, as well as some great seafood restaurants.
At a little under two hours from Charleston, Hilton Head Island is a bit further than other seaside retreats, but tack on a few days here after a visit to Charleston for the perfect getaway.
Yet another historic town, Georgetown is a quaint Lowcountry treasure. Its beautiful waterfront and intriguing museums set it far beyond other small towns. Some of the best attractions Georgetown has to offer include Hopsewee Plantation and Hampton Plantation, which is a state historic site, and the Rice Museum, which explores the vivid history of the crop.
Georgetown is only an hour from Charleston, so you can spend an engaging afternoon here exploring what some call ‘little Charleston.’
Charleston’s ‘sister city’ across the Georgia state border, Savannah is a dynamic, idyllic city with plenty of Southern charm. It offers sprawling, curated parks, a historic riverfront district, iconic public squares, and gorgeous architecture. Savannah is also rich with Civil War-era history and echoes of the Civil Rights Movement.
A two hour drive from Charleston, a trip to Savannah is completely worth it for its awe-inspiring architecture and historical significance.
Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve
Botany Bay covers more than 4,600 acres of forest, beaches, wetlands, and trails, making it a true portion of untouched Lowcountry wilderness. The coast at Botany Bay has remained much the same as it was when the first settlers came to the Carolinas; its protected status means it is a habitat for countless endangered species, including sea turtles and songbirds. Visit Botany Bay for its incredible wildlife and unmarred landscapes.
At only a 50 minute drive from Charleston, Botany Bay Plantation is the best day trip destination for visitors looking to reconnect with nature.
Named one of the top 10 gardens in America by TripAdvisor, Brookgreen Gardens is a must-see location. Originally a rice plantation, the gardens were created in 1931, and it is now a marvel of sculpture and landscaping. Greenery, art, and wildlife coexist within this delightful garden, allowing for a transformative visitor experience.
These lush acres of land are an hour and a half from Charleston, but their cultivated beauty makes it worth the trip.
Bulls Bay/Bulls Island Ferry
The Bulls Island Ferry is an ecotour led by Coastal Expeditions into Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Once on Bulls Island, visitors are free to explore the inland trails or hike to the beach. Highlights include Boneyard Beach, Dominick House, Maritime Forest and the boat tour. Wildlife sightings include American Alligators, Loggerhead Sea Turtles, Bald Eagles, Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Bobcats and more. Other tours include Bulls Island Paddle and Hike, Cape Romain Lighthouses Tour, Bulls Island Beach Drop and Winter Birding Tours. Private charters are available year-round, too!
Shem Creek is a tranquil waterfront destination with incredible coastal cuisine and gorgeous views. The Shem Creek Boardwalk is perfect for fishing, taking a stroll, or soaking in the sunset. This location’s waterfront dining is also impeccable, from its outdoor bars to its casual seafood eateries. Shem Creek is one of the best places near Charleston for paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating.
Only a short 15 minutes outside of Charleston, Shem Creek is the perfect destination for some waterfront fun.
A quiet, authentic retreat from city life, Wadmalaw Island is a South Carolina gem. It is relatively unpopulated, and its attractions include its untouched Lowcountry landscape and its role in the beverage industry. Wadmalaw Island is home to Firefly Distillery and Irvin House Vineyards, which is the only domestic winery in Charleston County. Both spots offer beautiful views and tastings year-round. However, Wadmalaw Island’s main draw is its soothing stretches of lush land.
A 30 minute drive from Charleston, Wadmalaw Island is the place to go for city-dwellers looking for a relaxing landscape.
Francis Beidler Audubon Forest
This ancient forest is the largest cypress-tupelo swamp forest in the world, and it has been untouched for thousands of years. The beauty of this wildlife sanctuary is unrivaled, making it a popular destination for wilderness lovers and photographers from across the world. The sanctuary encompasses more than 18,000 acres of pristine land, which can be viewed from a 1.75 mile boardwalk. There is also a newer grassland-woodland trail that winds right through the forest.
You will love this glimpse into thousands of years of natural history, at only a 50 minute drive away from downtown Charleston.
Myrtle Beach’s biggest draw is its 60 miles of sandy coastline, but it is also home to a host of other family-friendly attractions, like exciting theme parks and celebrity-designed golf courses. Myrtle Beach also offers entertainments like Ripley’s Aquarium and the Broadway Grand Prix, making it the ideal destination for families who want to kick back and relax by the shore but also take part in some classic entertainment.
A two hour drive from Charleston, Myrtle Beach, like Hilton Head, is a getaway that is best enjoyed right before or after a trip to Charleston.
Great Swamp Sanctuary
Despite being located in Walterboro, the Great Swamp Sanctuary seems, at times, to be removed from civilization. The sanctuary is a popular place to hike, bike, and canoe, with its over four miles of trails and countless creeks. Wildlife roams throughout the sanctuary, from wild turkeys to alligators, making this 600-acre retreat the perfect destination for nature lovers.
The Great Swamp Sanctuary is about an hour from Charleston, which makes it the perfect distance for a day trip.
Huntington Beach State Park
A gorgeous oceanfront destination, Huntington Beach State Park is home to thousands of wild seabirds and large stretches of coastline. Located in the park is Atalaya Castle, the home of industrialist Archer Huntington, whom the park was named after. Visitors can go on guided tours of Atalaya, which is notable for its Moorish Revival and Mediterranean Revival architecture styles, and they can explore the park’s trails and boardwalks.
If you are looking for a quiet coastal getaway with a strong wildlife presence, Huntington Beach State Park is the place to go. It is about an hour and 40 minutes’ drive from Charleston.
Another one of South Carolina’s Sea Islands, Edisto Island is known for its picturesque plantations, gorgeous beaches, and coastal cuisine. The history of Edisto Island is also fascinating, involving everyone from rogue explorers and pirates to the Native Americans and the British; Edisto Island Museum tells the island’s vibrant history. This destination’s other attractions include popular restaurants like The Waterfront Restaurant and McConkey’s Jungle Shack.
A mere 50 minute drive from Charleston, be sure to check out Edisto Island if you get the chance.
These 15 destinations are all within a two hour drive from downtown Charleston, making them incredible locations for a day trip out of the city. You can enjoy everything from sandy beaches and marshy wildlife to rich history and gorgeous architecture at these Charleston-adjacent destinations.
For a convenient home base during your explorations, book your stay at The Pinch.