Charleston to Savannah road trip

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  • Post last modified:February 28, 2024
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The Charleston to Savannah road trip uncovers the Lowcountry region. It’s a unique area in southeastern USA, where history elegantly meets nature. As you drive from Charleston to Savannah, you travel through time and an impeccable coastal landscape.

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  • Total distance: 172 mi / 278 km
  • Total driving time: 5 h

1. Charleston – Begin the Lowcountry road trip

South Carolina’s beloved Charleston is the perfect place to begin the awe-inspiring Lowcountry road trip. Just south of the midpoint of the state’s coastline the city is absolutely brimming with history.

Walk Charleston’s historic district

Upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, where the Ashley River and Cooper River meet, Charleston’s historic district is located. With so much to see the downtown area of Charleston is like a living museum.

The Battery is a seawall and scenic promenade lined by antebellum homes and palm trees. Overlooking Charleston Harbor, it’s an unbeatable spot for a stroll to include on the Charleston to Savannah itinerary.

As you walk along the water, don’t miss to look for Fort Sumter. The historic fort, famous for being the place where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, can be seen from the promenade.

Only steps from the waterfront another historic highlight is the Rainbow Row. The cluster of 13 pastel-colored antebellum houses is a favorite photo opportunity in Charleston.

Visit the Charleston plantations

The plantations in Charleston are like windows into the past. Although they are located a drive away from Charleston’s historic district, you reach several within 30 minutes by car.

Along Ashley River, northwest of downtown Charleston, you find not one but three historic Charleston plantations. Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place line up in unparalleled fashion.

Northeast of downtown Charleston another awe-inspiring plantation is the Boone Hall plantation. Having produced crops for over 320 years Boone Hall prouds itself as one of America’s oldest still working farms.

Between such beautiful plantations it’s not easy to pick a winner. Each one certainly is a memorable addition to the Charleston to Savannah road trip itinerary.

Where to stay

The historic district is the prime location in Charleston. However, away from the colorful neighborhood you find more inexpensive lodging.

Colorful row of Charleston buildings kicking off the road trip from Charleston to Savannah
Colorful Charleston houses.

Additional stop: Do you want to begin your road trip with some time on the beach? If so, Folly Beach calls your name. It’s just 12 miles (19 km) from the historic heart of Charleston to the barefoot South Carolina heaven.

2. Kiawah Island – Enjoy a private beach experience

  • Driving distance: 26 mi / 42 km
  • Driving time: 1 h

If you want private luxury, Kiawah Island is an unmatched stop on the Charleston to Savannah road trip itinerary. Most of the island is occupied by an exclusive resort.

Enjoy Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Kiawah Island Golf Resort is the gated luxury resort that takes up most of the island. Its guests are treated with the full Kiawah Island vacation experience.

On top of the beach other natural Kiawah Island highlights are a river, maritime forests and marshes. As the resort offers an extensive system of paved trails for walking and biking, island exploration becomes painless.

In addition there are golf courses, tennis courts, restaurants and all the other resort amenities that you expect. Kiawah island is the definition of an island bubble.

Lounge at Beachwalker Park

Much deservedly so, Kiawah Island is famous for its 10 miles (16 km) of prime Atlantic coastline. It’s a great destination for quality beach time as you road trip from Charleston to Savannah.

Although a majority of Kiawah Island is private not all of it is. At Beachwalker Park on the western end of Kiawah Island, the public can access the shoreline.

It’s Kiawah Island’s only public beach access point. But if you want to see more of the Lowcountry island, you can walk or bike further east from Beachwalker Park.

Where to stay

Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers a wide range of accommodations. In addition there’s more lodging available not far from the South Carolina island.

Empty golf course on Kiawah island, South Carolina
Kiawah Island, SC.

3. Beaufort – Uncover the heart of the Lowcountry

  • Driving distance: 81 mi / 130 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

Antebellum homes and oaks draped in Spanish moss welcome you to Beaufort. Southern charm is a key ingredient on the road trip from Charleston to Savannah, and Beaufort is just full of it.

Tour Beaufort’s historic sites

Beaufort is located on Port Royal Island in the heart of the Lowcountry region. Because of the city’s many mansions from before the American Civil War, its entire downtown area has been designated a historic district.

If you want to stretch your legs, you can tour the historic streets of Beaufort using your own two feet. However, it’s also popular to take a guided horse carriage tour through the city.

Outside the historic district but within the county, you find additional historic sites to explore. One such is the Old Sheldon Church Ruins. The ruins, ringed in by oak trees, is truly a picture-perfect spot.

With so much history and beauty to enjoy, Beaufort is a highlight on the Charleston to Savannah road trip. No Lowcountry road trip is complete without a stop in the fascinating Beaufort.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins, Beaufort SC
The Old Sheldon Church Ruins.

Venture to the undeveloped Hunting Island

15 miles (24 km) east of Beaufort you find Hunting Island. As the Lowcountry island has been a state park since 1935, it has managed to remain undeveloped throughout the years.

Home to 5,000 acres of pristine beaches, maritime forests and marshes Hunting Island State Park is a playground for Charleston to Savannah roadtrippers who love nature.

It’s one of those rare places that feels a world away.

A stone’s throw from the shoreline, the eye-catching Hunting Island Lighthouse is positioned. The historic lighthouse, built in 1875, proudly extends 136 feet (41 m) towards the blue South Carolina sky.

Where to stay

Park your car in or around Beaufort’s historic district to effortlessly experience the city. In the area bursting with southern charm your whole stay is a Lowcountry pleasure.

Hunting Island Lighthouse towers up towards the blue South Carolina sky.
Hunting Island Lighthouse, SC.

4. Hilton Head Island – Succumb to America’s favorite island

  • Driving distance: 34 mi / 56 km
  • Driving time: 1 h

Hilton Head Island is a wildly popular Lowcountry destination on the Charleston to Savannah road trip itinerary. Time after time, the South Carolina island ranks as one of the best US islands. As you visit on your tour of the Lowcountry, it’s easy to see why.

Discover the comfort of Hilton Head Island

With 12 miles (19 km) of glistening dunes, Hilton Head Island is a Charleston to Savannah road trip spot for the beach bum. The island is home to some of the best beaches in the Lowcountry and even in the United States.

It’s also an island that’s famous for the many resorts that you find along its treasured coastline.

Then there are the world-class golf courses and uncountable tennis courts to take advantage of too. So you certainly have many opportunities to be active on Hilton Head Island.

But after a round of golf or a set of tennis it’s soon time to relax again. Above all Hilton Head is the perfect destination to slow down and recharge on the drive from Charleston to Savannah.

Hilton Head Island lighthouse, South Carolina — a delightful Charleston to Savannah road trip spot
Hilton Head’s Harbour Town Lighthouse.

Go past the facade at the Coastal Discovery Museum

Hilton Head Island has been closely developed with planned communities and resorts. However, you can still see the island’s old self when you visit on the Charleston to Savannah road trip.

Because at the Coastal Discovery Museum, you really venture past the shiny facade of Hilton Head Island. Behind the facade you get to learn about the untouched side of the South Carolina island.

The museum is a center for preservation, education and celebration of Hilton Head Island. With both indoor and outdoor experiences, including a trail system that highlights distinctive environments, it’s a true Lowcountry jewel.

Sure, you enjoy the beach and the comfy resorts when you visit Hilton Head Island. Yet the historic landscape at the Coastal Discovery Museum makes you appreciate the island in a much different way.

Where to stay

On Hilton Head Island you find the amenities you crave for. Choose from beachfront resorts to more hidden Hilton Head accommodation.

Boardwalk on Hilton Head Island, SC
The peaceful Hilton Head Island, SC.

5. Savannah – Finish the Lowcountry road trip

  • Driving distance: 31 mi / 50 km
  • Driving time: 1 h

The magnificent Lowcountry, made up of marshes, waterways and islands, stretches out along South Carolina’s coast. At its southern end, where the state of Georgia begins, the charming Savannah is situated.

Breathe in Savannah’s historic downtown

On the Savannah River, upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, Savannah’s historic district enchants its visitors. The gorgeous area is characterized by cobblestone streets, antebellum homes and oaks covered in Spanish moss.

Savannah is exactly how you imagine a city in the American South.

Among several pretty park squares the renowned Forsyth Park stands out. Its centerpiece, a jaw-dropping fountain, is a great photo opportunity to include on the Charleston to Savannah itinerary.

A much livelier venue is the waterfront River Street. On the vibrant street you find an abundance of shops, restaurants and bars to check out.

Oak trees and Spanish moss in Downtown Savannah, Gerogia
Welcome to Savannah, GA.

Soak up the sun on Tybee Island

Tybee Island is a delightful escape from Savannah’s buzzing downtown area. On the Atlantic Coast, 18 miles (29 km) from Savannah’s heart, the sandy Tybee shore is the beach closest to the Georgia city.

If you want some beach time to finish of the Charleston to Savannah road trip, you have found your ideal spot.

From the dunes you can see the 145 feet (44 m) tall Tybee Island Lighthouse. It’s Georgia’s tallest and oldest lighthouse, which adjoined by a museum adds a dimension to a Tybee Island visit.

On the neighboring Cockspur Island the iconic Fort Pulaski National Monument also calls for your attention. The Civil War landmark is yet another highlight for history buffs in the Savannah area.

Where to stay

The historic district gives you the ultimate access to everything that Savannah has to offer. In Savannah’s picturesque heart you have all you need for a good time within walking distance.

Sunset by Savannah River, GA
Savannah River.

Final words about the Charleston to Savannah drive

Dotted with moss-drenched live oaks, the Lowcountry has a captivating story to tell. Touching history, both good and bad, never-ending beaches, some crowded but most untouched, and, of course, southern hospitality are all ingredients when you road trip from Charleston to Savannah.

Even though you could drive from Charleston to Savannah in around 2 hours, don’t take that course. Instead, use this itinerary and embrace everything that the gorgeous Lowcountry has to offer.

Charleston to Savannah road trip FAQ

How long is the Charleston to Savannah road trip?

This ultimate Charleston to Savannah road trip is 172 mi (278 km) long. Driving it takes roughly 5 hours, not including any stops along the way.

If you instead take the quickest route, the drive is just 107 miles (172 km) and about 2 hours. However, then you miss out on much of the scenery along the way.

Where should I stop between Charleston and Savannah?

The main stops included on the Charleston to Savannah road trip are Charleston, Kiawah Island, Beaufort, Hilton Head Island and Savannah.

Is there a scenic drive from Charleston to Savannah?

There isn’t a scenic drive connecting Charleston and Savannah. Instead, you need to take several in-and-out detours to enjoy the scenery of the Lowcountry’s barrier islands.

Which are the best beaches between Savannah and Charleston?

There are several stunning beaches between Charleston and Savannah. From Charleston in the north to Savannah in the south you on the itinerary find Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, Hunting Island, Hilton Head Island and Tybee Island.

With such a variation, from the untouched Hunting Island to sprawling Hilton Head Island, there’s a beach for everyone between Charleston and Savannah.

How many days do I need to take the Charleston to Savannah road trip?

For the best experience, we recommend allowing a week or more. Then you not only get to see the sights but also have time to embrace the Lowcountry lifestyle.

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