Located along the coast of South Carolina, Charleston is a charming city with tons of culture. If you’re visiting Charleston, SC, you’ll be amazed at the number of things to do between visiting the beaches, attending annual events, dining at top-notch restaurants and exploring the area’s history. However, if you’re in the area and looking to escape to another nearby destination for a few days, there are plenty of unique destinations close by that can offer the perfect weekend getaway. Depending on how long of a road trip you are planning, you can either stay within the state and get out to some other unique regions or travel across state lines for a totally new experience outside of South Carolina. Check out some of our favorite places to visit when you’re looking to hit the road.
In-State Weekend Getaways from Charleston
A beautiful slice of barrier island nature, Dewees Island is only accessible by boat. If you head about 30 minutes from Charleston to the Isle of Palms in Mount Pleasant, you can catch the ferry to Dewees Island and check out the unique natural environment. There are even rental homes available for those looking to visit Charleston, SC, and stay somewhere outside the city. Enjoy wildlife viewing, fishing docks and water sports like kayaking while staying on the island. However, be prepared to bring plenty of water and food if you’re spending the day or the weekend out on Dewees because there are no groceries or restaurants. You’ll have to grab some snacks from the mainland before hopping on the ferry.
A quick one-hour drive from Charleston, Edisto Beach is a beautiful area with a few quaint shops and restaurants, along with oceanfront properties and plenty of shoreline. You can easily make a day trip to Edisto to check out a different beach in the area or turn the road trip into an entire weekend getaway. During your visit to Edisto Beach, be sure to make time to visit the Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve. When you first enter the plantation, you’ll be given a pamphlet guiding you through the property to view a gorgeous avenue of oaks amongst other vegetation and wildlife. The best part of visiting Botany Bay, however, is the beach. Park your car and make the short walk to the shore, where you’ll discover hundreds of driftwood trees decorating the beach, giving it a mystic and enchanting feel. Check tides before making your trip to ensure that the beach won’t be covered by high tide when you arrive.
Another golf-centric destination, Hilton Head is a mere hour-and-a-half south of Charleston boasting 40 different golf courses and dozens of beach bars and restaurants. Spend the day hitting the green and then head to the beach for a sunset cocktail on the sand. Hilton Head is a popular destination during the summer, so if you’re looking for a bit more privacy, check out one of the more secluded beaches like the Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park. During the spring and summer, the nightlife on Hilton Head is plentiful, with bars and clubs staying open throughout the night to provide locals and tourists with a place to party.
Two hours north of Charleston, Myrtle Beach is a popular getaway destination for a beach weekend. With more than 60 miles of gorgeous shoreline, there is no shortage of beach here. Many hotels and rental properties are located right along the shore, offering quick and easy access to the beach at any time of the day. Aside from all of the restaurants, bars and shops, you’ll also discover unique entertainment venues like the House of Blues, which regularly hosts live music, or GTS Theatre for a performing arts show. For a truly unique dining experience in Myrtle Beach, head to Joe’s Bar and Grill. This restaurant serves up delicious steak and seafood in a fine dining environment. Then, after your meal, head out back to the Raccoon Cove Deck Bar to mingle with the local raccoons that live in the dock next to the deck area. Call ahead of time for a reservation, though, because sometimes the restaurant is booked up several days in advance.
Known for its championship-level golf courses, Kiawah Island is a 45-minute drive from Charleston and also offers a different kind of beach scenery. If you’re an avid golfer, you’ll definitely want to book a tee time at one of the five public courses that have been expertly designed to incorporate the island’s natural landscape. For those not interested in golf, the island still offers tons of great activities, including water sports like kayaking, paddleboarding and boating. Spend a day lounging on the secluded shores of the East or West beaches. You can also make a trip to the Kiawah Conservancy to look for some wildlife, including native birds, marine life and even bobcats.
Although there are plenty of great coastal destinations in South Carolina for a weekend getaway, you can also head inland to explore some of the other areas in the state. Lake City is an up and coming destination that used to be a small tobacco farming town. In the last 10 years, the Darla Moore Foundation has funded a private CVB to help revitalize the town and attract tourists to the area. Lake City is less than two hours from Charleston and offers a unique small-town getaway for anyone visiting Charleston, SC. The town’s biggest attraction is the annual ArtFields art festival and competition, which attracts around 20,000 people to the area each year. Aside from the other popular events like Cocktails and Cuisine, Rhythm and Qs and Writers in the Round, you can explore the art galleries, shops and restaurants.
Another city that has gone through a major restoration in the last decade, Greenville is three hours from Charleston. Because this city is closer to the mountains, you’ll find a different scope of outdoor activities available to you and your family, including hiking trails, waterfalls, a state park and the Greenville Zoo. Explore the many restaurants in town for a taste of authentic Southern cuisine and hit up some of the city’s breweries to experience the craft beer scene. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try kayaking through the waterfalls at Lake Jocassee.
Out-of-State Weekend Getaways
Asheville, North Carolina
A favorite mountain getaway spot for Charlestonians, Asheville is between four and five hours from the city. Although Asheville is said to have a similar small-city charm with many of the same intriguing old buildings and lack of skyscrapers, it also possesses an atmosphere focused on music and art, making it a more bohemian destination than Charleston. Beer lovers will jump at the chance to explore the brewery scene here as Asheville is said to have the most breweries per capita in the country. You could spend an entire day brewery hopping to try as many local beers as possible and grab some bites along the way. Wicked Weed, in particular, is known for their stellar brews and delicious burger selection. After you’ve drank your way through the city, you can head out into the more mountainous areas for a hiking adventure.
The short drive from Charleston to Savannah is worth the trip. Often referred to as Charleston’s sister city, Savannah is a mere hour-and-a-half from its South Carolinian counterpart. While many people say that the architecture and history of Savannah is reminiscent of Charleston, the city’s setup is a bit different. Savannah is known for its many squares, which are outdoor parks sprinkled throughout the downtown area. These are great spaces to enjoy a picnic or just spend some time outdoors.
The most populated part of the city is River Street, which runs along the Savannah River and features dozens of bars, restaurants and stores. While there are plenty of activities you can get involved with in Savannah, many people come here to party because of the city’s open container laws. Yup, you read that correctly. Much like New Orleans, Savannah allows pedestrians to carry alcoholic beverages on the street with them. Pop into Wet Willy’s for a spiked slushie you can take to-go and then walk along the river and do some shopping.
Savannah is also home to the Savannah College of Art and Design, so you’re sure to discover many art-related activities and exhibits throughout the city. In the spring, the college hosts its annual alumni event called Sidewalk Arts Festival. Seniors and alumni get together to create sidewalk masterpieces with nothing other than chalk on the concrete in Forsyth Park. But, you don’t have to be associated with the college to attend. People from all over the country flock to Savannah to celebrate this unique arts festival.
If you’re craving a taste of the big city life, Atlanta is the perfect getaway destination for you. You’ll find all the usual staples of a big city like skyscrapers, big concert venues and, of course, traffic. Plan your road trip timing accordingly to avoid arriving in the city right at rush hour. In Atlanta, the possibilities are endless. For travelers looking for a late-night party, you’ll discover tons of great clubs and bars with famous guest DJs and all night ragers. If you’re traveling with the family or you’re looking for a more low-key kind of adventure, you can check out the area’s hiking trails, spend the day floating down the Chattahoochee River or visit the Georgia Aquarium. Surprisingly, the aquarium is actually the largest aquarium in the entire world with more than 100,000 marine creatures living in its tanks.
Cumberland Island, Georgia
This remote island off the coast of Georgia is not the type of place that you can stay for the night unless you’re planning to camp out, but it’s definitely worth a daytime visit. The island was originally inhabited by the Carnegie family who built a mansion on the island. Today, some of the building’s remains can be seen and are now called the Dungeness Ruins. The mansion was built by the famous Andrew Carnegie’s brother in 1884, though his brother died before the building was complete. Now, the island is a national seashore protected by the National Park Service. Visitors can take guided tours, explore the shore and marvel at the wild horses that roam the island.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Another perfect destination for a mountain getaway, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee offer a quaint escape with tons of outdoor activities for people of all ages. When we take off to this part of Tennessee, we prefer to stay in a charming little cabin–preferably with a hot tub–to get into the spirit of a mountain escape. Gatlinburg is one of the most popular towns in this area of the state as it is close to many hiking trails as well as other attractions like the Ripley’s Aquarium, SkyLift Park and the Gatlinburg Space Needle. Though the town does offer many things to do, it still maintains the small mountain town charm. Head to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the day to look for wildlife and hike to the summit of one of the mountains. Don’t forget to plan a waterfall hike to snap some truly breathtaking photos. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, sign up for a horseback riding excursion through the country.
Escape for the Weekend with a Road Trip
Whether you’re visiting Charleston, SC, or you live in the area, we all need to get out and explore sometimes. Luckily, there are dozens of great places close to Charleston that you can visit on a day trip or a weekend escape. If you’re looking to stay in the state, take a quick ride to Hilton Head, Kiawah or Edisto Beach. For those interested in exploring outside state lines, Savannah is your closest escape, but you can make the trek up to Asheville, NC, or down to Atlanta, GA, depending on the type of adventure you’re looking to have. Wherever you decide to go first, don’t forget to add the rest of these beautiful and exciting destinations to your Southern road trip bucket list.