Charleston has something for everyone, so there’s always plenty to do. But if you get restless for a little more variety, the city’s central location on the South Carolina coast offers plenty of easy day trips to explore the Southeast.
Here are six popular destinations within two hours’ drive of Charleston:
MYRTLE BEACH: The broad, sparkling sands along the “Grand Strand” provide a classic beach experience more commonly associated with Florida or the Jersey shore. Amusement parks, arcades, miniature golf, Ripley’s Aquarium, and a new 1.2-mile boardwalk anchored by the “Skywheel” Ferris wheel make this a popular destination for youngsters and their families. Myrtle Beach is known as the “Golf Capital of America” for its numerous, well-manicured courses. Nightlife includes theaters with live musical performances, fresh seafood restaurants, and clubs where you can learn the Carolina shag – a Southern style of beach dancing that originated in Myrtle Beach. For a more laid-back outing, check out nearby Murrells Inlet (the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina”); the mansions and grounds at Hopsewee Plantation, built in 1735; or the dramatic collection of outdoor figurative sculptures at Brookgreen Gardens.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND: Located midway between Charleston and Savannah, Hilton Head is consistently ranked as one of the “Top 10 Best U.S. Islands” by Conde Nast readers. “Golf Island” is home to more than 20 championship courses and regularly hosts the PGA Tour. The island also boasts a number of top-rated tennis facilities, with more than 350 courts in all three Grand Slam surfaces – including covered courts so play can continue during the occasional rain shower. Hilton Head has also been voted one of the Top 10 beaches for families. Explore the tidal waters by kayak or paddleboard, or sail the Atlantic Ocean. Upscale resorts, shopping at 200-plus retail and outlet stores, and more than 250 restaurants complete the picture.
COLUMBIA: The “River City” is the capital of the Palmetto State, drawing visitors to cosmopolitan restaurants, live music, theaters, public art, and historic buildings. Tour the Hampton Preston Mansion and Gardens, originally constructed in 1818. Explore Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens, home to more than 2,000 animals and one of the country’s top botanical gardens. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike or canoe through the old growth bottomland forests of Congaree National Park. Or head to 50,000-acre Lake Murray for boating, fishing and picnicking.
FLORENCE: A regional center for sports, shopping and the arts, the “Magic City” area offers diverse cultural and recreational opportunities. Hop into a pace car and challenge the Darlington Speedway — the NASCAR track billed as “Too Tough to Tame”. Or for a quieter outing, visit the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in Bishopville, where the self-taught artist has created a stunning collection of living sculptures.
BEAUFORT: Imagine a colonial seaport with antebellum mansions overlooking the Atlanta Ocean, and you’ll picture Beaufort – the location for such films as “The Big Chill” and “The Great Santini”. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride in the Landmark Historic District, or paddle down the Beaufort River on a guided kayak tour. This charming city provides a perfect quiet Lowcountry getaway.
AUGUSTA, GA: The world comes to Augusta each April for the Masters Golf tournament. But there’s plenty to see and do year-round at this thriving city on the Georgia-South Carolina border. Relive the musical career of Augusta’s own James Brown at the Augusta Museum of History, which recently expanded its permanent exhibit honoring the “Godfather of Soul”. Ride a Petersburg flatboat along the historic Augusta Canal. Or look for blue heron, red-shoulder hawks, bobcats and alligators in their natural habitat at 1,100-acre Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.
Once you’ve had a taste of these nearby coastal and inland destinations, it will be time to head back to Charleston for more fun!
If you are interested in visiting Charleston, South Carolina check out our Charleston Vacation Packages and start planning your next vacation!
Bobby L. Hickman is a freelance travel and business journalist based in Atlanta who specializes in the Southeast. His work has appeared in such publications as Southern Living, Georgia Trend, and TravelMuse.com. You can contact him through www.blhickman.com