The Ultimate Deep South Road Trip: Savannah to Charleston

There are so many things to love about a Deep South road trip from Savannah to Charleston

Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina are two of the most popular travel destinations in the southeastern United States and they happen to be neighbors.

With famous historic squares, delicious southern cuisine, and a lively waterfront it’s no wonder Savannah attracts nearly 15 million visitors every year.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head north from Savannah and you’ll soon hit Charleston, another historical city where you can dine, shop, and take in the fresh sea air. After walking around its colorful, cobblestone streets it isn’t hard to understand why this city frequently earns a spot as one of the best places to visit in the US.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah and Charleston are just over 100 miles apart. The Savannah to Charleston drive time takes about two hours if you drive straight through with no detours. Because these two cities are fairly close, they make a great day road trip since you’ll have plenty of time to explore attractions along the way.

Driving from Savannah to Charleston is pretty straightforward. If you’re starting in Savannah, you’ll take I-95 North to US-17 North. But along the way, there are some interesting stops that are worth a visit.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before beginning the drive, I recommend several days in Savannah beginning the drive to visit attractions like Forsyth Park, the Bonaventure Cemetery, and the River Street waterfront area.

Just a 15-minute drive north of Savannah, you’ll find the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. This 30,000-acre wildlife refuge is home to birds, alligators, and other marsh-dwelling flora and fauna.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You could easily spend an entire day hiking, biking, and kayaking at this nature-lovers paradise but for this itinerary, we’re just going to visit Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive. The Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is a scenic four-mile road through the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Along this road, you can spot wildlife from your car or one of many lookout points.

Next, you’ll drive about an hour northeast to St. Helena Island, South Carolina. St. Helena Island is the perfect place to immerse yourself in natural beauty and learn about Gullah culture.

St. Helena © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the center of the island, surrounded by Spanish moss-draped oak trees, you’ll find the Penn Center, a 50-acre historic district comprising 25 historic buildings and structures. The Penn Center was one of the first schools in the country where formerly enslaved individuals could receive an education. The center was visited by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s and continues to work toward preserving and celebrating Gullah culture to this day. Visitors can learn about African American history, art, and culture on self-guided tours and group tours.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From St. Helena, continue driving one island further and you’ll arrive at Hunting Island State Park. This State Park is known for having five miles of amazing beaches and a lighthouse that dates back to the 19th century. You can even climb the lighthouse stairs for a panoramic view of the surrounding islands and wetlands. After visiting the lighthouse, you can spend time exploring the beach or head down to Hunting Island State Park Nature Center where you can learn about local wildlife.

Related: The Perfect Georgia Coast Road Trip

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping is available at the northern end of the park near the ocean. 102 sites offer water and 20/30/50 amp electric service. Campground roads are paved while the sites are packed soil. Some sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet; others up to 28 feet. The campground is convenient to hot showers with restroom facilities, beach walkways, and a playground.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Backtrack through Hunting Island and St. Helena Island to the coastal town of Beaufort. Next, we’re heading inland to the Old Sheldon Church Ruins. Sheldon Church dates back to the mid-1700s. It was burned down during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt many years later. It’s believed that the church was burned again during the Civil War but this time it wasn’t rebuilt.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the ruins are hauntingly beautiful and surrounded by a lush landscape. The property is located right off Old Sheldon Church Road and has informational markers as well as shaded seating areas to enjoy the view.

From the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, head northeast to Edisto Island. Edisto is a peaceful vacation island south of Charleston that’s perfect for a bit of relaxation.

Related: Spotlight on South Carolina: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Edisto Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Beach has long been a spectacular place to enjoy all of nature’s beauty while enjoying outdoor activities to keep your heart (and mind!) healthy. You can hike, bike, or run on Edisto whether you’re a seasoned fitness expert or just a fan of the leisurely stroll. There are walking paths, hiking, biking, kayaking, and paddle boarding options. Edisto is sure to offer something that matches exactly what you have in mind. 

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head to Edisto Beach State Park to stretch your legs on one of the many hiking paths or visit the environmental education center to learn more about the island. The park has an impressive array of camping sites in oceanfront and maritime forest habitats and most can accommodate RVs, some up to 40 feet. There are 64 oceanside sites and 33 sites along the salt marsh. Many sites offer easy access to the sea, sand, and sun.

Botany Bay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve located adjacent to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of Edisto Island. The 3,363-acre preserve includes almost three miles of undeveloped, breathtaking beachfront. Botany Bay is very accessible; you can tour most of the property in half a day or less. The 6.5-mile route begins along a magnificent avenue of oaks interspersed with loblolly pine and cabbage palmetto.

Related: Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More

Folly Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The last stop on this Savannah to Charleston road trip is Folly Beach.. Folly Beach is just outside of Charleston and is one of the most popular Charleston day trip destinations for locals and visitors alike. Take a stroll along the Folly Beach fishing pier or spend some time meandering through the beachy downtown neighborhoods. If you have time, rent a paddleboard or a kayak for a chance to see ocean life like turtles and dolphins.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After you’ve had your fun in the sun, head north for about 20 minutes and you’ll be in the heart of Charleston. You may have reached your destination, but the adventure isn’t over. Charleston has tons of things to see and it’s a great destination to explore for a few days. You won’t want to miss walking along the waterfront park or strolling past one of Charleston’s most colorful streets, Rainbow Row. Hop aboard a historic harbor cruise for a guided tour of the city or try some of the best local flavors on a guided food tour.

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life, go to church, and say your prayers, you’ll go to Charleston when you die.

—old South Carolina saying