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5 Epic Day Trips From Charleston, SC

Charleston is the kind of city you could visit a million times over and still find new things to do. The streets are brimming with history, the harbor offers endless activity and the city itself is filled with enough restaurants, bars & cafés to last a lifetime.

Of course, what made Charleston the place it is today is its location. A port city, surrounded by barrier islands and some of the South’s most loved coastal towns, there’s endless exploration within an hour or two’s drive.

Adding a Charleston day trip to your itinerary will only add to the city’s charm. Get to know the local islands, historic towns and wild beaches that define the area, and you’ll leave loving Charleston more than ever before.

Kiawah Island

Just 45 minutes outside of Charleston you’ll find one of the city’s favorite getaways—Kiawah Island. Despite the short driving distance, it feels worlds away with its wild marshlands, miles of biking trails and world-class golf courses.

Come to explore the area’s intricate salt marshes, scanning for dolphins in the Kiawah River and watching the landscape change with the tides. Or, rent a bike to tour the area’s endless trails, winding through Night Heron Park or pedaling along the beach on smooth, packed sand.

Golfers will want to schedule a tee time at one of Kiawah Island’s golf resorts, while shoppers can browse the open-air storefronts at Freshfields Village.

Whatever your taste, you’ll find that there are so many things to do on Kiawah Island and all in less than an hour’s drive from Charleston.


a tree in front of a house with Ralph Waldo Emerson House in the background

Image by Elisa.rolle on Wikimedia

A scenic one and a half hour drive will lead you south along the coast to Beaufort. A coastal town on one of the region’s sea islands, it’s best known for its long history, Lowcountry heritage and natural landscape.

While outdoor lovers will find plenty to do here, from exploring the 10-mile Spanish Moss Trail to kayak tours along the river, you come to Beaufort for the history.

With over 500 years of American history under its belt, a visit to Beaufort is like a step back in time. The town’s story includes relics from Native Americans, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and Antebellum era.

Get a taste of the city’s past with a visit to the Beaufort History Museum or a stroll through the city’s historic downtown. Snap photos of Antebellum mansions along the way, or stop in to local galleries and shops.

Be sure to learn about the Gullah Geechee culture while in Beaufort. A cultural heritage unique to the area, the Gullah Geechee people are descendants of the region’s African slaves. Their rich traditions live on in Beaufort, forming an important part of the area’s history that’s worth the visit alone.

Edisto Island

a path with trees on the side of a tree

To escape from it all, journey an hour south of Charleston to Edisto Island. Now known for its wild simplicity, Edisto Island comes with a long, storied past—both of which are worth exploring while visiting the island.

Once a patchwork of cotton plantations driven by slave labor, Edisto Island has transformed over the years to a serene coastal town with endless outdoor activities.

You’ll want to start your visit with a trip to the Edisto Island Museum. Here, educational exhibits give you an overview of the local history. Learn about the people and events that shaped the island before heading off to enjoy it.

Notably more slow paced than many of Charleston’s neighboring sea islands, your time on Edisto Island will likely be characterized by time spent outdoors. Visit the Botany Bay Plantation for hiking among woods and wetlands, go dolphin watching, visit a wildlife refuge, state park or take in the views on a boat tour.

Hilton Head

a boat is docked next to a body of water

If it’s your first time in the area, you’ve probably already Googled, “How far is Charleston from Hilton Head?” And we can’t blame you—year-over-year, Hilton Head ranks as one of America’s favorite vacation destinations.

And between the white sand beaches and upscale resorts, world-class golf courses and miles of seaside trails, Hilton Head has more than earned it.

So what should you do while in Hilton Head? Hit the beach, of course. There’s tons of beautiful beaches to choose from, plus you can always opt for a beachside bar or restaurant to enjoy the view. Go shopping at Coligny Plaza or Shelter Cove or visit Sea Pines for a little bit of everything.

Sitting just 2 hours outside of Charleston, Hilton Head is easily one of the best day trips in the south.

Folly Beach

a sign on the side of the street

If you’re short on time, but still interested in visiting one of the towns near Charleston, SC, add Folly Beach to your list. Less than 30 minutes outside of the city, this is one of the easiest (and coolest) local beach spots to visit.

Pack a sun hat and a beach towel, because the thing to do here is chill. You can watch surfers out front, cruise along the stretch of sand or head up into town for happy hour.

The main strip in Folly Beach is lined with funky beach bars and seafood restaurants. Grab lunch here or head up the road a bit to Crosby’s Fish and Shrimp Co. for some truly authentic eats.

If you want to see more of the area, grab a boat charter or marsh tour where you can get up close and personal with the landscape of the Sea Islands.

Back To Charleston

We love a day trip as much as the next person, but in this show, Charleston’s the star. When you get back to the city, keep the good times rollin’. No matter what activity you choose, any time spent getting to know this historic area of South Carolina better is well worth it.