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Best Day Trips: Charleston

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Charleston South Carolina has been named by travel publications as a top tourist destination several years in a row. While the downtown area is chock full of things to see and do, there are plenty of day trips from Charleston SC that provide a wealth of historical and educational experiences that should not be overlooked. 

A trolley travelling through a green field with trees in the background with title text reading The Best Day Trips from Charleston SC

To be considered one of the best day trips from Charleston, a location should be easily accessible and entertaining for all family members. If you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands in the Holy City, consider some of the best day trips ideas from downtown Charleston. 

Take a Day Trip to Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island

Just twenty miles outside of downtown is Charleston Tea Plantation. Because this is the only American tea farm in the country, this one-of-a-kind day trip from downtown Charleston should be on your itinerary.

The tea plantation grows and produces tea for the Bigelow American Classic Tea company. Guests can board a 45-minute trolley ride for an introductory tour around the property.

This tour takes you through over 100 acres of the plantation. Here you’ll learn about the various tea plants and see how tea is grown on the property and in the greenhouse. Guests can also take a free self-guided tea factory tour.   

The Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island 

The famous Angel Oak Tree is about 500 years old and worth a special day visit to Johns Island. This historic tree in Charleston is free to visit. Grab a picnic lunch from nearby Tomato Shed Cafe and bring it along to eat under the shade of the tree.

the famous angel oak tree in charleston sc

After lunch spend the afternoon at Caw Caw Interpretive Center which is just a short drive away. Because it was once part of several rice plantations, the vast property offers over 6 miles of winding trails. 

Guests can take in exhibits and experiences throughout the bottom land and wetlands. This interpretive and interactive park is a great place for bird-watching and nature walks.

Closest Beaches and Oceanfront Near Downtown Charleston 

Lowcountry area beaches are the top-rated as the best choice for a day trips from Charleston. The barrier islands and beaches provide the perfect setting for getting away from it all and relaxing by the ocean.

Sullivan’s Island

If you’re looking for a relaxed beach vibe, go where the locals go and head to Sullivans Island. Just a 20-minute drive from Charleston, Sullivan’s Island is just over 3 miles of pristine beach.

With just a handful of restaurants in the downtown area, the beach is left in its most natural state. Home to Fort Moultrie National Historic Park, this is the perfect beach to visit when traveling with young kids.

After a day on the beach, explore the nooks and crannies of the national park with the kids while they earn their Junior Ranger badges.

Folly Beach

This fun and funky boho-style beach town located on the “Edge of America” is a popular beach for surfing. Souvenir shops and restaurants line the adjacent streets making Folly Beach an ideal day trip from Charleston if you want to ride some waves. 

an ocean with a pier and a sunset in the background

Isle of Palms 

This family-friendly beach is home to  Isle of Palms County Park with picnic tables, playgrounds, changing rooms, showers, and a volleyball court. Casual restaurants and quirky shops dot the surrounding streets on Isle of Palms.  

Southern Plantations Day Trips Charleston 

Because of their rich history and representation of life in the 17th and 18th centuries in the South, exploring plantations in the Low-country is a popular day trip option of visitors to Charleston. Steeped in history, the plantations near Charleston cultivated cash crops like rice and indigo.

Meandering through the lavish gardens and fields is a relaxing yet poignant and thought-provoking way to spend an afternoon in Charleston.  

Middleton Place 

Located just thirty minutes from downtown Charleston, this former rice plantation is home to several gardens, stable yards, and employs costumed interpreters.

a rice plantation with a home in the background and several large trees

Middleton Place visitors can explore topics like slavery in the United States, the American Revolution, and the Civil War.  

Magnolia Plantation

Magnolia Plantation lies along the Ashley River and is just a short drive from Middleton Place. Plantation visits can be some of the best day trips from Charleston. Because they incorporate an educational component many seek on vacation, plantations are a popular Charleston destination.

It is possible to visit both plantations in one day when traveling from the downtown Charleston area. Guests can explore the history of the United States as it was before the American Revolution through the Civil War. There’s a petting zoo, elaborate gardens and if you want some of the best Sweet Tea in the area, stop into the onsite snack bar. 

Visit Like a Local: Favorite Day Trips from Charleston SC 

South Carolina locals have the best of all worlds, for example, the following local favorites are a short drive from downtown. Add these day trips from Charleston to your itinerary to see more of this quintessentially Southern state.

Bee City Zoo is an ideal spot to stop if you’re visiting Charleston with young children. Bee City is home to a petting zoo and exotic animals. Wallabies, coatimundi and Serval cats are just a few favorites. The facility offers educational honey-bee presentations and allows guests to pour your own honey. Because of its hands-on, educational activities, Bee City is a must-visit when traveling with kids in Charleston.  

For some fun on the water, grab an inner-tube and float down the Edisto River. Edisto River is the longest blackwater river in the United States. Since Lowcountry summers can be hot and humid, a 2-3 hour float down the river may be just what you need in a day trip from Charleston. Located just an hour from downtown, Edisto River Adventures provides everything you need for a day out on the water.

Finally, Cypress Gardens, after sustaining significant structural damage in 2015, reopened recently. The 1000-year flood in 2015 resulted in a questionable future for the gardens. Guests can walk the foot trails, marvel at the blackwater bald cypress and kayak through the tupelo swamp. Several movies have been filmed at Cypress Gardens, including The Notebook, The Patriot and Swamp Thing.  

Consider going off the beaten path to discover the beauty of South Carolina beyond downtown Charleston. From pristine Lowcountry beaches to the countless nature trails there are endless things to do just a short drive from Charleston. 

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