15 Best Day Trips from Charleston, SC

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Founded and named in the honour of Charles II of England, and with a dance named after it, Charleston, South Carolina has several claims to fame which make it worth a visit.

The historic city is undeniably a beautiful place to stay.

Cute cobbled streets interlink colourful colonial houses, and plenty of leafy parks are interspersed throughout the city.

Culture lovers will find fun in its many museums documenting the antebellum era and beyond, while there are loads of great bars and restaurants to placate those who simply want to relax and enjoy their time away.

Stroll along to the port to witness huge cruise ships docking, or visit the theatre to take in a show – there really are options for everyone in this South Carolina gem.

And of course, there are lots of excellent places to visit just a short hop from the city – here are fifteen of the best.

1. Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island, South CarolinaSource: Kevin M. McCarthy / shutterstock
Kiawah Island

The home of golf in South Carolina, Kiawah Island is a must-visit for any avid fans, or for those who want the chance to kick back and relax while the other half traipses around the course.

With over 90 holes of golf to be played in this relatively small area, you will find plenty to entertain keen golfers.

If this isn’t your style, there are also plenty of luxury spa options available.

If you have some time outside of the sporting activities, wander down to find Kiawah’s beautiful beaches, which fringe the island with golden sand.

2. Beaufort

Beaufort, South CarolinaSource: Deborah McCague / shutterstock
Beaufort, South Carolina

A typical Old South city can be found in Beaufort, located around an hour and a half from Charleston.

This is a great day trip for history lovers; the town played a significant part in the Civil War, leaving many interesting sites for visitors to take a look at.

There are several museums around town, largely focused on the same theme.

Day trippers might also enjoy taking a tour of one of the numerous old mansions, left as a remnant of times gone by.

If such serious pursuits don’t take your fancy, you can always stop off at an entirely un-serious spot – the Kazoo Factory.

3. Savannah

Savannah, GeorgiaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is Charleston’s sister city, across the state border in Georgia.

There are many similarities between the two cities, but Savannah is definitely worthy of the trip for its prime location along the Savannah River, or simply the chance for a change of scene.

Stroll along the water’s edge, where the main strip of bars and restaurants is located, and perhaps grab a bite to eat.

On a sunny day, make sure to visit one of the verdant parks scattered throughout the city, a key feature of the city’s original design.

4. Wadmalaw Island

Wadmalaw IslandSource: Galen Parks Smith / Wikimedia
Wadmalaw Island

This island feels like worlds away from Charleston, despite actually being very close – at just over half an hour’s drive.

It is tranquillity personified, with stretches of country land covering the island and traditional farms still commonplace.

Take a tour of the Charleston Tea Plantation and Deep Water Vineyard while you’re around the area; the tea plantation is home to the only American-grown tea in the world, while the vineyard is the only one in the state.

Otherwise, just spend some time wandering round and soaking in the atmosphere, it’s always good to get away for a while.

5. Hilton Head

Hilton Head Island, South CarolinaSource: PETER LAKOMY / shutterstock
Hilton Head Island,South Carolina

Another great day trip spot for golf enthusiasts can be found in Hilton Head, though here there are perhaps more alternative options.

There is certainly a beachy feel at Hilton Head, with beachside activities like volleyball, day cruises out on the boats, and deep sea fishing all readily available.

Stay for the evening to catch some live music from one of the beach bars.

And then, of course, there’s the golf – which is well worthy of the two-hour drive to get there.

6. Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens near Myrtle BeachSource: Andrew F. Kazmierski / shutterstock
Brookgreen Gardens Near Myrtle Beach

The sculpture garden at Brookgreen is a fascinating sight and has plenty to entertain both kids and adults.

Every local will remember their first visit here, and it’s a great spot for a laid-back trip out for the day.

Founded by the wealthy Huntington family in 1932, there are countless sculptures to be spotted throughout the garden and also the option to take a boat ride through the plantation.

There’s over 9000-acres of land in total, encompassing the sculpture garden and wildlife preserve, so you certainly won’t find yourself running out of places to explore.

7. McClellanville

McClellanville, South CarolinaSource: Raymond B. Summers / shutterstock

The cutest fishing village around can be found around an hour’s drive from Charleston down the US-17. The main attraction here is the freshly caught seafood, which can either be bought to take home with you, or cooked up to perfection in one of the great, no-frills village restaurants.

Sit on the docks to watch the fishermen unload their catch or simply spend some time wandering the sea front.

8. Edisto Island

Edisto Island, South CarolinaSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Edisto Island

Another barrier island well worth the trip is Edisto Island, once home to plantations and slave owners – both of which are long gone.

The ruins of the main plantations on the island, Sea Cloud and Bleak Hall, are now encompassed in the wildlife area of Botany Bay.

Edisto Island is a gorgeous place to simply spend a day of no-guilt relaxation, with the atmosphere of times gone by and the three-mile beachfront stretching across the horizon.

The old-fashioned houses along the front make for a charming backdrop.

9. Georgetown

Georgetown, South CarolinaSource: Andrew F. Kazmierski / shutterstock

The historic city of Georgetown is the third oldest in Carolina, therefore has plenty of interesting stories from the past to be discovered.

Soak up the history in one of the museums, such as the South Carolina Maritime Museum or the intriguing Rice Museum.

If history isn’t your thing, then take a stroll along the pretty Harborwalk by the water front, or even grab a place on a boat and explore out to sea for the day.

There are plenty of excellent bars and restaurants, with everything from typical Southern dishes to craft beer on offer.

10. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, SCSource: StacieStauffSmith Photos / shutterstock
Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach is the most famous and well-developed resort area along the strip of coastline known as the Grand Strand, and a joyous place to spend a summer’s day away from Charleston.

It’s about two hours’ drive, but well worth it for the opportunity to spend a glorious few hours sunbathing on the beach front, surfing in the gentle waves, or splashing about in the shallows with the kids.

The town is well-equipped to provide anything you could want in terms of food and drinks, and the place is lively all year round.

Head further north or south from downtown if you want to escape the bulk of the crowds, especially in peak season.

11. Columbia

Columbia, South Carolina from FInlay ParkSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Columbia, South Carolina From FInlay Park

State capitals are always worth a visit, and Columbia is no different.

Especially for those who have an interest in history or politics, Columbia has a lot to offer, from still-present damage left over from the civil war adorning some of the buildings, and the state house standing proud in the middle of the city.

If that’s not your cup of tea, however, you can also pay a visit to Congaree National Park – South Carolina’s only proper national park – for biodiversity and a pleasant afternoon of walking or kayaking.

12. Cottageville

Bee City Zoo Cottageville SCSource: www.beecityzoo.com
Bee City Zoo Cottageville SC

Cottageville provides a unique and extremely fun day trip opportunity for families – a visit to the Bee City Honey Farm.

Kids will love getting the chance to learn how honey is made, from how the bees go about collecting pollen to the process of putting the hive’s hard work into the pot.

It’s an educational day out for everyone and you can purchase some of the delicious, locally-produced honey to take away as a souvenir.

There’s also a miniature train to ride on through the farm.

13. Walterboro

Walterboro, South CarolinaSource: digidreamgrafix / shutterstock

Walterboro is considered the entrance to Low country.

As such, it has a lot that can appeal to tourists.

There’s a wildlife sanctuary, plenty of museums and an excellent farmer’s market open during the summer months.

The highlight of the historic town, however, is certainly its focus on artisanal crafts, which can be found in the state’s Folk Arts and Craft Centre, the South Carolina Artisans Centre.

There are plenty of other shopping opportunities too, including some excellent antique stores.

14. Shem Creek

Shem Creek, South CarolinaSource: Serge Skiba / shutterstock
Shem Creek, South Carolina

For all the water-based activities you could ask for, Shem Creek is the answer.

The kids will love this day trip option, owing to the multitude of active options on offer – from kayaking and paddle-boarding to boating.

Dolphins can sometimes be spotted frolicking in the creek, too.

For the adults, there are many good waterfront dining options to be found, and the creek is a great spot for sunset.

At only 45-minutes from Charleston, this trip is a no-brainer.

Suggested tour: Charleston: Shem Creek Culture Tour

15. Francis Beidler Audubon Forest

Francis Beidler Audubon ForestSource: DMS Foto / shutterstock
Francis Beidler Audubon Forest

This forest in Harleyville might not have National Park designation yet, but it still offers day trippers the chance to get back to nature, with less of a crowd.

It’s a swamp-based park filled with dense hardwoods and is home to the largest collection of old-growth cypress and tupelo in the world.

The walks around the forest are boarded to enable visitors to explore deeper into the system than they would otherwise be able to, and there’s plenty of wildlife to be spotted from on high.

15 Best Day Trips from Charleston, SC:

  • Kiawah Island
  • Beaufort
  • Savannah
  • Wadmalaw Island
  • Hilton Head
  • Brookgreen Gardens
  • McClellanville
  • Edisto Island
  • Georgetown
  • Myrtle Beach
  • Columbia
  • Cottageville
  • Walterboro
  • Shem Creek
  • Francis Beidler Audubon Forest