Savannah to Charleston road trip

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Don’t miss out on the scenery between Savannah and Charleston by driving the direct, unrewarding 2-hour-or-so route. Instead, embrace the Lowcountry, where history elegantly meets nature, with this beautiful itinerary showing off its salty waterways, estuaries and marshes as well as those tranquil islands and long sand beaches.

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Map showing the scenic route from Savannah to Charleston
Click for interactive mode.
  • Total distance: 173 mi / 278 km
  • Total driving time: 4 h

1. Savannah

The magnificent Lowcountry stretches out along South Carolina’s coast. At its southern end, where the state of Georgia begins, charming Savannah knows all about a good ol’ time.

Breathe in Savannah’s historic downtown

On the Savannah River, upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, Savannah’s historic district enchants visitors with its cobblestone streets, antebellum homes and oaks covered in Spanish moss — exactly how you imagine a city in the American South.

Among several pretty park squares, especially be sure to check out Forsyth Park. Its centerpiece, a jaw-dropping fountain, is a great first photo opportunity for your Savannah to Charleston itinerary.

A much livelier venue is the waterfront River Street. Stroll along the vibrant street and browse its abundance of shops, restaurants and bars.

Historic home in Downtown Savannah, GA, framed by oak trees draped with Spanish moss
Welcome to Savannah, GA.

Soak up the sun on Tybee Island

A delightful escape from the buzz, Tybee Island is the beach closest to Savannah. Here — on the Atlantic Ocean, an 18-mile drive from the buzz — unfurl a towel and enjoy a day under the Georgia sun.

From the beach, you can see the 145-foot (44 m) 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 neighboring Cockspur Island, iconic Fort Pulaski National Monument calls for your attention. The Civil War landmark is yet another highlight for history buffs in the Savannah area.

Sunset by Savannah River in Downtown Savannah, where Georgia Queen, a historic riverboat, has docked
Wander along the Savannah River.

2. Hilton Head Island

  • Driving distance: 31 mi / 50 km
  • Driving time: 45 min

Picture 12 miles (19 km) of glistening beaches lined by sprawling resorts. Then add world-class golf courses and countless tennis courts — there you have it, Hilton Head Island in a nutshell.

Feel sand between your toes on a Hilton Head beach

Spend some time relishing Hilton Head’s biggest treasure, its shoreline. There’re countless of access points and beach parks available for everyone to take advantage of. A lively favorite, Coligny Beach Park features a long lineup of amenities, including outdoor showers, chair and umbrella rentals and, at nearby Coligny Plaza, an array of eateries and shops.

Red-and-white-striped Harbour Town Lighthouse on HIlton Head Island, SC, during sunset
Hilton Head’s Harbour Town Lighthouse.

Go past the facade at the Coastal Discovery Museum

While Hilton Head Island has been developed with several planned communities and resorts, you can still see the island’s old self. Venture past that shiny facade at the Coastal Discovery Museum, a center for preservation, education and celebration of Hilton Head Island.

First, explore the indoor section, presenting how Hilton Head was before it was connected to the mainland in 1956. Then, go outside to hit the 2-mile (3 km) trail, roaming through a slice of the island that, thankfully, remains unchanged.

Empty boardwalk on Hilton Head Island, framed with one palm tree on each side
Recharge on Hilton Head Island.

3. Beaufort

  • Driving distance: 35 mi / 56 km
  • Driving time: 45 min

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

Tour Beaufort’s historic sites

Beaufort is located on Port Royal Island in the very 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.

Explore the history-steeped, oak-framed streets of Beaufort using your own two feet. Or, for something more unique, join a guided horse carriage tour through the cityscape.

Outside the historic district, but within the county, you find additional historic sites to discover. Make sure to pay a visit to the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, beautifully ringed by oak trees.

Red-brick Old Sheldon Church Ruins, Beaufort SC, surrounded by live oaks
Stop at the Old Sheldon Church Ruins.

Venture to undeveloped Hunting Island

Hunting Island lives a quiet life a 15-mile (24 km) drive east of Beaufort. Having been a state park since 1935, the island has managed to remain undeveloped throughout the years.

Immerse yourself in the 5,000 pristine acres of beaches, maritime forests and marshes of Hunting Island State Park — one of those rare places that feels a world away. While doing so, keep an eye out for the landmark Hunting Island Lighthouse, built in 1875 and proudly extending 136 feet (41 m) towards the blue South Carolina sky.

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

Extra stop: Edisto Island invites you to cruise the 14-mile (23 km) Edisto Island National Scenic Byway, lined by Spanish-moss-draped oak trees, to Edisto Beach. This out-and-back detour adds an hour to your total driving time.

4. Kiawah Island

  • Driving distance: 81 mi / 130 km
  • Driving time: 1 h 45 min

Arriving on Kiawah Island, you’re met by surprising gates. Most of this Lowcountry slice is occupied by an exclusive resort.

Savor Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Kiawah Island Golf Resort is the gated luxury resort that takes up most of the island. Check in here to be treated with the full Kiawah Island vacation experience.

Guests tend to gravitate towards the beach, of course. Another highlight is the extensive system of paved trails for walking and biking, revealing a river, maritime forests and marshes. Then there are golf courses, tennis courts, restaurants and all the other resort amenities you expect from a top-class island bubble.

Lounge at Beachwalker Park

Kiawah Island boasts a 10-mile (16 km) stretch of prime Atlantic coastline. Although a majority of Kiawah Island is private, not all of it is: The public can access the shoreline at Beachwalker Park, on Kiawah’s western end. If you, as a non-resort guest, want to see more of the island, just walk or bike east along the coastline from there.

Imposing water hazard on golf course on Kiawah island, South Carolina
Exclusive Kiawah Island.

5. Charleston

  • Driving distance: 26 mi / 42 km
  • Driving time: 45 min

South Carolina’s beloved Charleston is the perfect place to round off your Lowcountry road trip. Put on your favorite walking shoes and tour a city absolutely brimming with history.

Walk Charleston’s historic district

Upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, where the Ashley River and Cooper River meet, Charleston Historic District unfurls like a living museum.

Overlooking Charleston Harbor, the Battery is a seawall and scenic promenade lined by antebellum homes and palm trees. As you walk along it, gaze out across the water at Fort Sumter, the historic offshore fort where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Along East Bay Street, between Tradd Street and Elliott Street, all from young influencers to seasoned history buffs swarm the Rainbow Row. These 13 pastel-colored row-houses dating to the 1700s and 1800s create a quintessential Charleston photo opportunity.

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’ drive.

Along Ashley River, northwest of downtown Charleston, you find not one or two 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 prides itself on being 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 your Savannah to Charleston road trip itinerary.

Where to stay

Charleston’s historic district puts you in the first row for sightseeing, but zooming out can help stretch your road trip budget.

Pastel-colored row houses in Charleston, South Carolina
Capture Charleston’s Rainbow Row.

Add one more: Want to finish the road trip from Savannah to Charleston with some more quality beach time? If so, Folly Beach calls your name. It’s just a 12-mile (19 km) drive from the historic heart of Charleston to the barefoot South Carolina heaven.

Savannah to Charleston road trip FAQ

How long is the Savannah to Charleston road trip?

This ultimate Savannah to Charleston road trip is 173 miles (278 km) long, taking 4 hours. Add extra time for the stops you make along the way.

Which is the quickest route from Savannah to Charleston?

The direct route from Savannah to Charleston, via I-95 and Highway 17, is just 107 miles (172 km) with a driving time of about 2 hours. However, if you take it, you miss out on much of the Lowcountry scenery.

Where should I stop between Savannah and Charleston?

Be sure to stop at Hilton Head Island, Beaufort and Kiawah Island.

Which are the best beaches between Savannah and Charleston?

There’s a beach for everyone on the way from Savannah to Charleston. Enjoy the lovely shorelines of Tybee Island, Hilton Head Island, Hunting Island, Kiawah Island and Folly Beach.

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

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

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ryan Matthews

    Thanks for a great itinerary (saving me the hard work). We’ll use this one for our March drive.

    1. Avatar photo
      Olof Arnberg

      Hi Ryan,

      A pleasure. Have a great road trip!

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