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For your next vacation, are you craving a warm destination in the USA that is both scenic and adventurous? Then a road trip from Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA is the perfect choice!
For the longest time, I craved turning the two-hour drive from Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA into a week-long escapade. I’d previously visited these two gorgeous cities, and had become super curious about the Spanish-moss shrouded scenery that lies in between. Having now just returned, I can attest that the trip was epic and my heart feels warm just thinking about it.
This itinerary assumes it is your first time in both Savannah and Charleston, so has you spending extra time in these two cities. However, if you have visited either Charleston or Savannah before, feel free to reduce your time in either place. You can either add time to Beaufort in between, explore some tiny sea islands, or even take some additional day trips around either city.
Are you ready to get swept off your feet by endless beauty, history and folklore, as well as decadent Lowcountry cuisine? Without further delay, let’s get into this magnificent Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA one week road trip itinerary.
The Perfect Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Charleston
What you do on your first day will depend on your arrival time and energy level. If you’d like to hit the ground running, here are some things to do in Charleston in the evening:
- Take a carriage ride
- Take a walking tour. You can typically find Charleston pub tours and ghost tours that run in the evening.
- Catch a show at the Dock Street Theatre
- If there’s still daylight, get lost admiring the gorgeous homes south of Broad Street.
Day 2: Explore Charleston
Your first full day in Charleston will include a sightseeing walk, foodie spots, and top historical sites.
On your first day in Charleston take a sightseeing walk past some of the best sites in the “Holy City”. This easygoing walking tour I created is two miles long and takes about forty minutes to complete without stops.
Below are all the sights you will pass, in order. For more detail on all of them, check out my 3 Days in Charleston Itinerary.
- Charleston City Market
- Philadelphia Alley
- Waterfront Park
- Rainbow Row
- The Battery
- Church Street
- “Four Corners of Law”
Lunch in Charleston
After a morning of walking, take a lunch break. Try Fleet Landing for comforting seafood dishes on the water or Magnolia’s for Southern sophistication.
Explore Charleston’s Historical Sites
After lunch, tour a historical site (or two). Here are a few top choices to consider, which only take about an hour to tour:
- Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon: Built in 1771, this building has served as a custom house, commercial exchange, and more under several governments.
- Powder Magazine: Notable as South Carolina’s oldest government building, where gunpowder was once stored during the 18th century.
- Old Slave Mart: Thought to be the last surviving indoor slave auction space in South Carolina, and often staffed by descendants of former slaves. While the exhibits are mostly posters to read, the information is evocative and moving.
Dine Out in Charleston
End your day by dining at one of Charleston‘s best restaurants. I highly recommend making a reservation in advance for either Circa 1886, FIG, or Husk.
All serve upscale southern fare, but Circa 1886 and Husk both have more romantic atmospheres. That said, FIG has my favorite food of the three. All three require a reservation at least a month in advance, or it can be near impossible to get a table.
Day 3: More Charleston Adventures
On your second day, dive deeper into Charleston’s history and further explore the awesome foodie scene.
Ferry to Fort Sumter
One of the most popular sightseeing opportunities is taking the ferry to Fort Sumter. First, the ferry ride delivers great views of Charleston‘s waterfront along the Cooper River. Next, you will get to tour Fort Sumter, which is where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
The ferry and tour of Fort Sumter cost $32 and it takes about two hours and fifteen minutes in total (book your tickets here). During your visit, you’ll receive a history presentation from a park ranger, and have free range to explore the entire site at your leisure.
Shops on King Street
During the afternoon, take a leisurely stroll to peruse the shops on King Street, or Charleston’s main shopping thoroughfare. You’ll see everything from high-end local boutiques to every day stores you’d find at the mall. It can be very difficult to keep your wallet in check, so be prepared!
If you need a bite to eat along the way, I recommend a delightful biscuit snack from either Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit in the City Market or Handy and Hot.
Take a Food Tour
Top off your second day in Charleston with a Lowcountry food tour. I recently did this food tour here, and it was totally unique from similar culinary tours I’ve done. Not only did we try a sampling of the city’s more popular dishes, but we also learned the history of each dish, as well as the origin of its ingredients.
The tour provides plenty of food over two and a half hours, but it does end before dinnertime. If you get hungry again and want a break from heavy food, Basic Kitchen offers hearty clean-eating options.
Book Your Charleston Food Tour Here
Charleston, SC to Beaufort, SC
Day 4: Drive to Beaufort
On Wednesday, you will make your drive to Beaufort, SC, which is a charming small town on Port Royal Island about halfway between Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA. Driving to Beaufort takes around an hour and forty minutes. Therefore, you’ll have time for additional exploring in and around Charleston before heading south.
Sightsee Around Charleston
If you haven’t had the chance to check out any of Charleston’s historic house museums, I recommend visiting one before leaving. Here are the top options to consider:
Alternatively, you could check out of your hotel and drive to a nearby plantation. There are several choices, including Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation, Middleton Place, and Boone Hall.
Having already been to all the above mentioned, I drove out to James Island to explore McLeod Plantation. No joke – this is where I received the best presentation on slavery and reconstruction than I’ve had on any other plantation tour. Don’t expect a plush house and garden overview – the passionate guide tells a complete history of the property and glosses over nothing.
Afterwards, I drove to the Folly Beach Pier for lunch before taking a serene beach walk to view the Morris Island Lighthouse.
Dine in Downtown Beaufort
Upon arrival in Beaufort there will be plenty of little eateries to check out in the historic downtown. I was happy to be meeting up with my friend Anna for this portion of the trip. Our first stop was Lost Local for a delicious variety of tacos and margaritas (especially the spicy margarita).
Day 5: Explore Beaufort
Although Beaufort is a small town compared to Charleston and Savannah, there is plenty to see in just one day. I recommend rising early to visit as many sights as possible.
Spanish Moss Trail
Begin your day in Beaufort with a pleasant walk along the Spanish Moss Trail. But first, coffee.
Stop by Herban Market and Cafe right in town for a latte or other beverage of your choosing. This relaxed, airy space is covered in shiplap and features an array of fresh pastries and espresso drinks. On a nice day, linger on the patio for gorgeous river views.
Now, bring your coffee along for a leisurely walk along the Spanish Moss Trail. This 10-mile route is a also a popular bike path, and is still under expansion. When complete, it will stretch 16 miles from Beaufort to Port Royal.
Next, spend your afternoon taking a walking tour of Beaufort to get a lay of the land and learn the town’s history. If you prefer to wander on your own, there are plenty of adorable shops and eateries to check out at your own pace.
Sightsee Around Beaufort
There are also amazing sights on the outskirts of Beaufort that deserve your time. Although it was raining for our entire stay, we found a small dry window to run out and do some sightseeing.
Here are the sights worth seeing around Beaufort:
- Sheldon church ruins: the brick skeleton of a 19th century church burnt down during the Civil War.
- Frampton Plantation: a former plantation turned visitors center. There are some artifacts inside and beautiful oaks in the yard outside. You can also find the remnants of a dirt fortification made by General Robert E. Lee’s troops during the Civil War.
- Saint Helena Parish Chapel of Ease Ruins: See the remaining walls of a 1740 chapel on St. Helena Island. The chapel once served parishioners who had difficulty traveling to Beaufort’s main church.
- Penn Center: Also on St. Helena Island, the Penn School was one of the first to serve formerly enslaved people.
Dinner in Beaufort
It’s time to select another great dining option in downtown Beaufort. You can’t go wrong with either Hearth Wood Fired Pizza or Old Bull Tavern. While they are both cozy, popular gastropub Old Bull Tavern requires reservations for the best chance of getting a table.
Beaufort, SC to Savannah, GA
Day 6: Drive to Savannah
Today you will begin the final leg of your road trip. First, do one last stop around Beaufort before heading south towards Savannah. Before you depart, grab a coffee and light breakfast from Urban Brew + Co.
Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island State Park is a beautiful nature preserve outside Beaufort with a pristine, remote beach. It’s the perfect spot to catch the sunrise, and you can also view the Hunting Island Lighthouse. I happened to also see my first small alligator in a pond by the visitors center.
Entry to the park costs $8, which is a little higher than most other South Carolina state parks. Thankfully, our Airbnb provided an SC State Park pass for our use that covered the fee.
Sightsee Around Savannah
Continue taking advantage of having a car at your disposal by driving to popular sights around Savannah:
- Tybee Beach: sandy beach located just 30 minutes outside of Savannah. There are plenty of little eateries and cafes nearby. You might prefer to leave Beaufort early and come here instead of Hunting Island, or visit both like I did. Keep in mind that all parking is paid around Tybee, and you will need to buy tickets at machines along the streets.
- Wormsloe Historic Site: where you can find the ruins of an old tabby house that are considered to be the oldest structure in Georgia. The 400 live oaks leading up to the entrance will leave you awestruck, but prepare for a bumpy ride. Additionally, while slavery did once exist at the site, info covering the subject is scant.
Evening in Savannah
Next, drive into Savannah and find parking, which once again, is all paid. Your hotel might have a garage and valet, but this can be super expensive in Savannah. I’ve seen up to $40/day quoted!
That’s one big reason why I stayed at the Eliza Thompson House on picture-perfect Jones Street. I was able to find street parking and paid $15/day for a parking pass from the hotel. The only thing I needed to consider was parking on the correct side of the road to avoid weekly street sweepers.
For dinner on your first night in Savannah, make reservations well in advance for The Olde Pink House. Known for its pink exterior, this restaurant is both historic and elegant. Alternatively, Gallery Espresso is a cozy coffee house that serves sandwiches and salads if you want something simpler.
Day 7: Explore Savannah
Hit the ground running for your one full day in Savannah. Wake up early on a sunny morning to make it to Forsyth park while the sun is rising. Trust me – the fountain looks magical during golden hour.
Next, go get some breakfast. The Eliza Thompson House serves a great breakfast already, so I didn’t veer during my stay. However you could also get a delicious pastry at a local café, like Asher + Rye or have a sit down brunch at Collins Quarter. Collins Quarter conveniently has a location right at Forsyth Park, or you can check out their Bull Street spot nearby.
Take a morning tour of Bonaventure cemetery. Even though I had a car, my tour provided the transportation, so I didn’t have to worry about losing my parking spot.
This particular tour was awesome because the guide did a deep dive into the history of so many different monuments around the cemetery. He is a fifth or sixth generation resident of Savannah and has great insight into the city. Doing a tour of Bonaventure on your own is not a great idea, as the cemetery is huge and there are not informational placards for a self-guided tour.
Book Your Bonaventure Cemetery Tour Here
At noon you will head back to Savannah, which only takes about 15 minutes. At this point, take a short pause for lunch. Some great options include Fox & Fig Cafe for tasty vegan food or Treylor Park for southern food with a fresh, creative twist.
Explore Savannah Historical Sites
Spend the afternoon exploring various historical sights in Savannah. Most are nearby one another and super easy to pop in for a tour at the last minute. I recommend seeing the following in this order:
- 2:00pm – Savannah Cathedral: If there is not service taking place, visit Savannah Cathedral, or The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, to view its gothic interior. It is worth noting that Catholics were banned in Savannah’s original charter, and that this was the town’s first Catholic congregation. The basilica recommends visitors make an optional donation of $3.
- 2:30pm – Congregation Mickve Israel: Tour Congregration Mickve Israel to learn about the 3rd oldest Jewish congregation in the United States and see the oldest Torah in the western hemisphere. You do not need to be Jewish to enjoy this tour. Being somewhat ignorant to the religion’s history myself, I found learning about early Jewish colonists to be completely fascinating. In fact, these individuals were instrumental to Savannah’s initial survival as a colony.
- 4:00pm – House Museum: Your Mickve Israel tour might run over like mine did, so plan to do a Savannah house museum tour at 4pm. One great option is the Owens-Thomas House, which has the best tour through the slave quarters I’ve experienced in Savannah. Additionally, you could tour the Andrew Low House to learn about the family of the woman that went on to start the Girl Scouts of America.
Ice Cream from Leopold’s
After all these activities, take a break for some ice cream from Leopold‘s on Broughton St., which has satisfied many a sweet tooth since 1919. I have high standards for ice cream and was initially skeptical about waiting in a line out the door for a potential tourist trap. Thankfully, I was wrong, as my generous scoop of honey almond & cream was super smooth and rich with flavor.
Savannah Ghost Tour
End you full day in Savannah with dinner and a ghost tour in whichever order you please. This ghost tour I took, which came highly recommend from my Bonaventure Cemetery guide, runs at both 6pm and 8pm.
I loved how the tour was rooted in actual historical events around Savannah, which are the basis for many an urban legend. Plus, you don’t need to put stock into fictional tales to believe the city is creepy or haunted, with many of today’s structures having been built on top of grave sites.
Book Your Savannah Ghost Tour Here
Unfortunately, my hotel was one of our haunted stops on the tour. I experienced no strange happenings, but I did lose sleep thinking about it. Thank goodness for garbage television (aka Love Island) getting me through the night.
Afterwards, dine along the riverfront at Vic’s On the River for one last elegant taste of Southern hospitality. The she crab soup and shrimp and grits are a must.
After an invigorating journey from Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA, it’s time to return home. If you have a rental car and would like to fly out from Savannah, you need to make sure a point to point car rental is allowed.
I personally rented from Budget in downtown Charleston and returned my car to the Charleston airport. This wasn’t too much of a hassle, being that Charleston and Savannah are so close to each other.
I made sure to get an afternoon flight to give myself plenty of time to drive in the morning.
Renting a Car for a Road Trip from Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA
If you are flying into Charleston instead of driving your own car, you will need a rental car to get to Beaufort and then Savannah. As parking in Charleston is quite expensive, I recommend not picking up any rental cars until you absolutely need to.
I personally didn’t pick up my rental car until Day 3, when it was time to drive to Beaufort. I simply saved any sightseeing outside downtown Charleston until that day, and was able to easily fit a couple stops in before driving south.
It only takes an hour and forty minutes or so to reach Beaufort from Charleston. Driving from Beaufort to Savannah takes about an hour.
If you also want to avoid paying a pretty penny to park in Savannah, see if you can rent from a company that allows you to drop your car off at the Savannah airport. The drawback is that you would then need to Uber or taxi back into Savannah, and then back to the airport again for your departure. The money you save might not ultimately be enough to make it worth the hassle.
Where to Stay During a Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA Road Trip
Here are a few hotels in both Charleston and Savannah that I personally enjoyed. I would highly recommend any of the below to those of you who seek both charming and well-located lodging:
Charleston has so many awesome hotel choices, although they can be pricey. The Indigo Inn and Hotel Emeline are ideally located near some of Charleston’s best restaurants and within easy walking distance to the shops on King Street. The Vendue is located right next to the Waterfront Park and close to popular restaurants like Husk and Magnolias.
In Savannah, stay in the gorgeous historic center near the squares or along the waterfront. Two recommended hotels are Marshall House and the Eliza Thompson House. Marshall House is located on Broughton Street, or one of Savannah’s best shopping streets. The Eliza Thompson House is located on picturesque Jones Street, which is lined with dreamy mansions and giant live oaks draped in Spanish moss.
Read My Review of Marshall House Here
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There you have it: an absolutely magical road trip from Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA. From beaches, to foodie spots, to curtains of Spanish moss, this Lowcountry itinerary will leave you spellbound. Even after several visits, I keep returning to further uncover the hidden charm and history that lurks beneath the surface of these popular southern cities.
Will you be planning a road trip from Charleston to Savannah soon?