Top Picks For You
Charleston Travel Guide

The 10 Best Day Trips From Charleston

Believe it or not, Charleston can be a gateway to some equally fabulous Southern cities.

Drive just a few miles in any direction outside of Charleston, and you’ll be greeted by scenic Lowcountry marshes, beautiful beaches, and charming small towns dripping in Spanish moss at every turn. If you have some extra time on your hands, or if you’re eager to experience what it is Charlestonians love so much about this beautiful part of the country, here are ten of the best day trip ideas, from traveling back in time to Beaufort and the beaches of Hilton Head Island to the most beautiful botanical gardens in the Lowcountry.

1 OF 10


WHERE: South Carolina

The second oldest town in South Carolina, Beaufort is a little less than an hour and a half from downtown Charleston and can feel like you’re stepping back in time into a bygone era. Spend some time walking along the waterfront, where you might recognize the old swing bridge from Forrest Gump, which was filmed here. Scattered throughout downtown, old oaks dripping in Spanish moss line the streets where antebellum-style manor homes that date back to the early 18th century abound.

Home to one of the largest concentrations of Gullah-Geechee community – descendants of West and Central Africa who were enslaved and displaced – and plan a visit to the Penn Center, which was the first integrated school in the South for enslaved people. Stop for drinks at The Fillin’ Station and lunch at Beedos Budgers as you make your way to Hunting Island State Park, the most popular beach in South Carolina. Don’t leave Beaufort before grabbing dinner and drinks at Old Bull Tavern.

2 OF 10

Hilton Head Island

WHERE: South Carolina

Beautiful beaches, world-class golf courses, excellent dining, and a heady dose of nostalgia sum up a visit to Hilton Head Island. For some of the best waterfront views in town, post up at Hudson’s on the Docks. One of the only two remaining local fishing fleets on the Island that brings in fresh-caught seafood from the docks to the tables. Nectar Farm Kitchen is another local favorite, serving up a mix of Lowcountry classics. Day-trippers can choose between kayaking and paddleboarding through one of the Island’s vendors, including Outside Hilton Head. An access point to the Island’s idyllic shores, Coligny Beach is a fully equipped beach park with outdoor showers, changing rooms, and several lounging areas and shaded gazebos. Don’t miss The Jazz Corner, hailed as one of the best jazz clubs in the South, before you go.

3 OF 10


WHERE: South Carolina

Nestled along the May River, travelers who are looking to embrace “the heart of the Lowcountry” should look no further than Bluffton. Stroll through charming Old Town and visit The Heyward House and the Church of the Cross. Owned and operated by the Pringle family, sign up for a Hidden Treasures Tour, where you’ll make stops on a golf cart as your tour guide shares accounts of natives and provides history on the area’s Gullah community. Get out on the May River to spot local wildlife. There are plenty of excellent eats to be found here, including West African meets Caribbean fusion found at Okán. Just across the street, Executive Chef Brandon Carter’s farm-to-table concept FARM continues to be one of the best restaurants in the South. Top off the afternoon with a tasting at Burnt Church Distillery as you sip your way through a thoughtfully crafted assortment of Lowcountry spirits.

4 OF 10

Daufuskie Island

WHERE: South Carolina

Only accessible by private ferry and water taxi, with a year-round population of around 450-year-round residents, Daufuskie Island is arguably the most intriguing of all the Sea Islands. Just off the coast of Hilton Head Island, you’ll likely spot dolphins splashing around in the water as you make your way over. Once the home of several prosperous plantations known for growing wild indigo and Sea Island cotton, when plantation owners fled at the start of the Civil War, Daufuskie became a place where formerly enslaved people, known as Gullah, lived and flourished. Today, Daufuskie’s history remains intact thanks to a contingent of locals like Sallie Ann Robinson, a sixth-generation descendant of Gullah Daufuskian and cookbook author who offers weekly tours. While you’re on the island, stop by Daufuskie Island Rum Distillery​​, The Old Daufuskie Crab Company, and D’Fuskie’s Store and Eatery for some of the best local eats on the island.

5 OF 10

Sullivans Island/Isle of Palms

WHERE: South Carolina

About a 25-minute scenic drive from Charleston, Sullivans Island and neighboring Isle of Palm are two of the most charming beach towns in the South. There are some can’t-miss eats while you’re in the area, starting with Italian seafood-centric fare at The Obstinate Daughter, which is hands-down the best grub in town and well worth the drive alone. For something a bit more lowkey, Sullivans Fish Camp and The Co-Op Frosé & Eatery don’t disappoint. On Isle of Palm, or IOP as the locals call it, head to The Windjammer for live music right on the water, grab some lightly fried snacks and sugary drinks for happy hour at The Dinghy just across the way, or for something a little more upscale, head to The Boathouse for some of the best seafood and waterfront views in town.

6 OF 10

Edisto Island

WHERE: South Carolina

About an hour south of Charleston, Edisto Island is not only one of the South’s most scenic sea islands, but it’s also home to one of the area’s best beaches. Spanning 4.5 miles of coastline, to access the beach, visitors need to pay the $8 entrance fee to the state park. Don’t miss a walk along beautiful Botany Bay Island, which has earned the nickname Boneyard Beach thanks to the trees buried beneath the sand. Join an Edisto Eco Tour, and before you go, check out the Edisto Island Museum for a lesson in Gullah history. Whaley’s is an old filling station serving up seafood and all the dive bar vibes. Ella & Ollie’s for tomato pie, shrimp and grits, and she-crab soup.

7 OF 10

Kiawah Island

WHERE: South Carolina

One of South Carolina’s most popular destinations for all things golf, Kiawah is home to ten miles of pristine beaches, sand dunes, and wild marshes. On your way, plan a pit stop at the Angel Oak Tree, one of the oldest and most photographed trees in the country. On Kiawah, it’s dealers’ choice, from a round of golf at The Ocean Course or Turtle Point, join a naturalist-led bike tour through the wetlands overhead to Loggerhead Bar & Grill at The Sanctuary, FortyEight – Wine Bar & Kitchen for some great local eats.

8 OF 10


WHERE: South Carolina

Twenty minutes from downtown Charleston, McClellanville is a coastal town bursting with unexpected charm. Plan a stop at Sewee Outpost to stock up on snacks, gas, and homemade biscuits, and TW Graham & Co for some tried and true local seafood. It’s a sleepy town chock full of charms, including some beautiful pre-Civil War homes and streets lined with Spanish moss. Oscar + Cornelius is an adorable local store with gifts and jewelry. Halfway between McClellanville and Georgetown, Hopesewee is a former rice plantation that has been preserved for historical Gullah tours and is well worth a visit. Venture a bit further, and you’ll find yourself in Georgetown. Called “Little Charleston” thanks to its charming architecture, take a stroll along Georgetown’s Harborwalk, check out the historic Kaminski House museum, or set out on a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe to nearby Pawley’s Island.

9 OF 10

Brookgreen Gardens

WHERE: South Carolina

An hour and a half north of Charleston, Brookgreen Gardens is not only home to one of the country’s most beautiful botanical gardens, but it’s a hidden gem that is well worth a day trip from Charleston. Spread across 9,000 acres, make your way through the sculpture garden and wildlife preserve. During the months of March-November, you can head out on a creek excursion via pontoon boat to get up close with local wildlife, including alligators, waterfowl, and osprey. If you happen to be here during the festive season, be sure to get tickets to The Night of a Thousand Candles, one of the most magical spectacles you’ll ever bear witness to.

10 OF 10


WHERE: Georgia

We’d be remiss not to include Savannah, Georgia, on the list of best day trips from Charleston. While this historic Georgian city deserves at least a few days of exploring in its own right, if you’re pressed for time, there’s still a lot you can pack in on a day trip. Start with a hop-on, hop-off trolley ride and a walk through the city’s historic district, and make time to amble your way through Forsyth Park before stopping for lunch at Collins Quarter at Forsyth. Don’t miss a walk through the hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery and enjoy a round of drinks at The Olde Pink House, both of which are a requisite for first-time visitors. Head to Starland Yards for some of the city’s best food trucks, including out-of-this-world pizza at Vittoria Pizzaria. If you only have time for one meal in the Hostess City, make sure it’s at Common Thread for the best elevated Southern-inspired fare in town.

margotgorske8033 March 21, 2024

However, don't miss Magnolia Plantation, oldest tea and camelias in the US I believe. Or the James Audobon rookeries. 

margotgorske8033 March 21, 2024

Loved all the places you mentioned when stationed at Ft.Stewart, GA. Beautiful area of the country if you can stand the mosquitos and humidity.