Heading out of Charleston means a romantic drive through the area’s Lowcountry. Whichever direction you head in, there’s history and phenomenal natural beauty at every turn. You may wish to go inland to the swamps and forests of South Carolina, or choose to cruise along the coast to discover beaches or more established cities. The journey will be as much fun as the destination, whether you escape to play sports, follow trails or simply sit and enjoy the bustle of a new city with a drink in your hand. Here’s our pick of the best day trips around.
If you like scenic drives, the trip to McClellanville is the one for you. This relaxed fishing village half-way between Charleston and Georgetown is only one hour and 20 minutes away but offers the relaxation you may be searching for. As a close-knit but friendly community, this spot famously celebrates the Lowcountry Shrimp Festival every spring and is also home to a visit-worthy village museum honouring the settlements of the Sewee Indians. Time permitting, head inland to the Francis Marion National Forest where you can follow some stunning trails.
Only 35mi from downtown Charleston and right on the Edisto – the longest blackwater river in North America – Givhans Ferry State Park is a natural retreat. Whether you want to go kayaking, canoeing or fishing, you can escape the forceful glare of the summer sun and find peace in the shade here. Even just floating down the river on an inner-tube sipping a beer (you are legally allowed to) is a very cool way to spend a day.
The famous city of Savannah – only two hours away – is Georgia’s oldest and arguably most scenic spot. Stroll through any of its 22 historic squares, along the charming cobblestone streets by the river or head to Forsyth Park to gaze upon the renowned hanging Spanish moss or simply sit and eat very well. Thirty minutes away is Tybee Island, five miles of white-sand beaches with a light station you will want to photograph as soon as the sun begins to set.
Only a 30-minute drive from Charleston on the flatwater of the Folly River is a company that will introduce you to the genteel sport of paddleboarding. Fantastic for beginners, any introductory lessons you may need before you dive in are quickly covered. How else could you combine a guided tour, the languid appreciation of Lowcountry scenery and some sports activity all at once? It’s a breeze.
Less than a two-hour drive from Charleston is St Helena Island where, in 1861, white Southerners were exiled by Union troops which in turn liberated 10,000 slaves. Many generations of those freed have resided here. The York W Bailey Museum recounts this important slice of African-American history and how the culture here merged with that of the Native Americans. After absorbing the area’s history, enjoy the local food at Gullah Grub which includes chowder, gumbo, ribs and shark.
Those searching for wild natural beauty should head for Botany Bay on Edisto Island – a ghost island, as such. Where once there were coastal plantations and a world abundant with sea cotton, there are now only ruins. The area has no shops, boardwalks or activities and only the rugged coastline that presents itself to the sea. The beach throws up all kinds of bones and the lagoons are teeming with birdlife and other creatures. A contemplative and haunted paradise.