Beyond Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina is that charming city with a rich history and many attractions. If you're looking to explore beyond Charleston, there are a variety of nearby adventures and exhibitions for visitors to enjoy, as well as various towns that are definitely worth a visit. Most of the best things to do near Charleston are accessible by car, but for the more adventurous there are also some barrier island destinations for which you will need a boat – or kayak – to access. The following attractions comprise only the most captivating landmarks and allurements in the surrounding Charleston area from only 30 minutes away to 2 ½ hours.

Kiawah Island

About 45 minutes southwest

Kiawah is a serene beach experience. Known for its natural beauty, golf courses, and wildlife, the island is perfect for those who want to enjoy nature and relaxation.

Edisto Island

About 1 hour southwest

Edisto Island is known for its laid-back atmosphere and pristine beaches. It’s a great spot for nature lovers. Visit the Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve for scenic beauty and historic ruins.

edisto island beach

Hilton Head Island

About 2 hours south

If you're looking for a beach getaway, Hilton Head Island is a popular choice. With beautiful beaches, golf courses, and a variety of water sports, it's a great place to unwind with outdoor activities.


1.5 hours south

Beaufort is a quaint coastal town known for its antebellum architecture and charming historic district. Take a walking tour to learn about its rich history, visit the Hunting Island State Park for beach and nature activities, and don’t miss exploring the local art scene.

Myrtle Beach

About 2.5 hours northeast

Look no further than Myrtle Beach if you’re looking for a popular destination for families and those seeking a mix of relaxation and excitement. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a bustling beach resort town offering a lively atmosphere with its boardwalk, amusement parks, shopping, and entertainment options. 

myrtle beach pier


1.5 hours away to the northwest

Columbia, the state's capital city, offers a mix of history, culture, and attractions. Explore the South Carolina State House, visit the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, and enjoy the vibrant dining scene in the city.

downtown columbia

Savannah, Georgia

About 2 hours south

This beautiful city is known for its historic architecture, charming squares, and vibrant riverfront. Savannah offers a similar Southern charm to Charleston. Take a stroll through its oak-lined streets, visit historic sites like Forsyth Park and the Mercer-Williams House, and enjoy the local cuisine!

savannah georgia

Capers Island

15 miles north

One of the Charleston area’s more accessible boat-only undeveloped barrier islands, with frequent boat and kayak tours available from Isle of Palms and vicinity. It’s a state-owned barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean, separated from the mainland by salt marshes and the Intracoastal Waterway. To the southwest it is separated from the barrier island Dewees Island and Bull’s Island by Capers Inlet. Capers Island’s boneyard beach is very popular with photographers, and the island also offers excellent bird-watching, fishing, beach hiking, wilderness camping and other outdoor activities. It is one of the most dramatic spots along the entirety of the South Carolina coast.

Charleston Area Beaches

folly beach pier

There are several beaches within a short drive of downtown Charleston. Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms are the most accessible, each offering several miles of beachfront and a variety of watersports and other beach activities.

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site

1500 Old Towne Road, Charleston, SC 29407, 843.852.4200

Site of the original English settlement of Charleston (then Charles Towne), with a 17th-century replica sailing ship, history and nature trails, a small zoo, and an interactive museum in the Visitors Center. Visit the wharf area where English settlers landed in 1670, and the Animal Forest that is home to animal species that were indigenous to South Carolina at the time of the settlement such as bison, black bear, puma, otters and more. You can rent a bicycle and explore the garden and nature trail. The park provides several miles of trails along the marsh or through the 80 acres of English park-style gardens. Check for occasional special events.

Here are some towns near Charleston that will show you another side of the Lowcountry.

Moncks Corner

Moncks Corner is home to Mepkin Abbey, the monastery of a community of Trappist monks who live in silence and work their farm. The beautifully landscaped grounds, located at 1098 Mepkin Abbey Road, overlook the Cooper River. The gardens are open to the public daily. For more information, call (843) 761-8509.

Another great place to commune with nature is Cypress Gardens, 3030 Cypress Gardens Road, Monks Corner, (843) 553-0515. See a blackwater cypress swamp up close. Get a look at all stages of a butterfly's life and walk along three miles of hiking trails. View the beautiful swamp gardens with swamp boat tours, nature trails, reptile center and butterfly house.

moncks corner bridge pond lily pads


The track of a female loggerhead sea turtle is left in the sand after coming ashore to lay eggs overnight on Bulls Island in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, 5801 U.S. 17; (843) 928-3264, about 1 hour 10 minutes from Charleston. It’s a perfect "getaway" from the bustle of everyday living. In the refuge you can see a variety of wildlife, including red wolves, in their natural habitat. The 66,000-acre wildlife refuge is comprised of a barrier island, salt marsh, beach and creek environments, the historic Cape Romain Lighthouse, a visitor center, and the wild Bulls Island, accessible by ferry or kayak. Visitors can enjoy a guided kayak or ferry excursion across the wilderness estuary, beach walk or trail hike, join an interpretive tour or education outdoor classroom, explore and experience the refuge. There are wholesome recreation activities for all ages: hunting, hiking, shell fishing, fishing, birding, non-motorized boating, photography, beach coming and more. The Cape Romain NWR is known as a birder's "hotspot" with over 293 bird species and a myriad of other wildlife.

awendaw beach low tide

Charleston Zipline Adventures offers an aerial zipline course through the forest and a separate zipline course for younger children as well as a climbing wall.  1152 Guerins Bridge Road, Awendaw, SC 29429, 843-928-3947

The Palmetto Trail’s Awendaw Passage winds through Francis Marion National Forest, passing a beautiful Lowcountry salt marsh. The Passage provides both hikers and bike riders with a gateway to the maritime forests and pine ridges of the Lowcountry as well as linking to 47 miles of the Swamp Fox Passage which traverses the entire forest. Both these passages are part of the statewide Palmetto Trail and its 425 miles of trail. This trail can be accessed from either the Buck Hall Recreation Area, the Awendaw Canoe Launch Trailhead, or the Swamp Fox Trailhead. For information call (843) 336-2200.

Francis Marion National Forest, 
2967 Steed Creek Road Huger, SC 29450 
(843) 336-2200
Located in the coastal plain of South Carolina, the forest is home to a variety of species, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. This 260,000-acre forest not far from Charleston offers hiking, kayaking, biking and horseback trails, camping, boating and other outdoor activities in forest, swamp and marsh environments.

The Centers for Birds of Prey

4719 Highway 17N, Awendaw, SC 29429

(843) 971-7474
The Center not only provides medical care for injured raptors and shorebirds, but also gives visitors a chance to see birds of prey in a natural setting. In 2004 the Avian Conservation Center was established as an “umbrella” organization to accommodate distinctive educational, medical, scientific and conservation disciplines: The Center for Birds of Prey; The Avian Medical Center; and The South Carolina Oil Spill Treatment Facility. With nearly fifty species represented, the Center’s collection is one of the largest and most diverse in the United States. Visitors get an up-close view to bird flight demonstrations and unique insight into the lives and impressive adaptations of birds of prey from around the world including eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, kites and vultures.


300 State Park Road, Summerville, SC 29485

(843) 873-1740
Known as Flower Town in the Pines for its beautiful gardens and woodlands, Summerville is a small town with big charm where shopping in the downtown is truly a pleasure. It is "the birthplace of sweet tea." You can also visit the ruins of a colonial-era trading outpost on the Ashley River, with tabby fort ruins and interpretive history and nature trail. 

More of a crossroads than a town, Ridgeville is home to Givhans Ferry State Park, 746 Givhans Ferry Road, (843) 873-0692. Overlooking the Edisto River, this park offers access to the 56-mile Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail. There's also a mountain bike trail and campground. Rustic cabins are available for rent.


5200 Savannah Hwy, Ravenel, SC 29470

(843) 762-8015 or (843) 795-4386
Ravenel is home to the Caw Caw Interpretive Center, a wildlife preserve with over six miles of trails, elevated boardwalks through wetlands and interpretive trail-side exhibits. It is on the site of former rice fields cultivated by enslaved African people who applied their technology and skills in agriculture to carve the series of rice fields out of cypress swamps. It is the favored habitats for American Alligators, Swallow-tailed Kites, Bald Eagles, and others.

Johns Island

About 30 minutes

Angel Oak

3688 Angel Oak Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29455

(843) 724-7327

This beautiful natural landmark on Johns Island is one of the oldest live oak trees in the southeast, reckoned to be many hundreds of years old. The Angel Oak stands 65 feet high with a canopy providing 17,000 square feet of shade. Acorns from the Angel Oak have grown to produce authentic direct-offspring trees. There is a small park with a playground and gift shop at the site.

Edisto Island

43 miles, about 1 hour

edisto island beach

Edisto Island Serpentarium

1374 Highway 174, Edisto Island, SC 29438

(843) 869-1171
The Serpentarium is a reptile center with indoor and exciting outdoor displays of a variety of snakes, alligators, turtles and other reptilian wildlife from the United States and around the world.

Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve

Botany Bay Road, Edisto Island
Botany Bay is best known for its stunning boneyard beach, but it also offers plantation ruins, nature trails, and a self-guided driving tour of the preserve’s historic sites. The area's location near the North Edisto River is one of the largest remaining relatively undeveloped wetland ecosystems along the Atlantic Coast. 

Huntington Beach State Park (Murrells Inlet, about 1 hour 35 mins)
16148 Ocean Highway, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576, 843.- 37-4440
This popular state park near Myrtle Beach offers beautiful beach and marsh environments, abundant birdlife, nature trails, frequent special programs focused on the area’s ecology, camping facilities, and Atalaya, a Moorish-inspired historic home. 

huntington beach wildlife

Hunting Island State Park (about 2 hours) 
2555 Sea Island Parkway, Hunting Island, SC 29920

(843) 838-2011
This popular barrier island park has 5 miles of pristine beaches and thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, a saltwater lagoon and the ocean inlet are all part of the park’s natural allure. There are several miles of trails and boardwalks, a visitor-friendly historic lighthouse, and camping facilities 

Conagaree National Park (about 2 hours)
100 National Park Road, Hopkins, SC

(803) 776-4396
Congaree National Park preserves the largest area of bottomland hardwood forest in the southeast, with 40+ miles of hiking trails, a 2.4-mile boardwalk trail, a 15-mile canoe/kayak trail, and campsites.

However, if you're interested in exploring more of Charleston’s Lowcountry history and natural beauty, there are several plantations in the Charleston area and beyond to give you a glimpse into the region’s past.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (about 30 minutes northwest)

3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
(843) 571-1266

Historic plantation famed for its beautiful gardens and walking trails on the Ashley River. It has survived the centuries and witnessed the history of our nation unfold before it from the American Revolution through the Civil War and beyond. Attractions include boat tours of the old rice fields and the Audubon Swamp Garden.

Boone Hall Plantation

1235 Long Point Rd, Mt. Pleasant, S.C. 29464
(843) 884-4371

Boone Hall Plantation is best known for its beautiful avenue of live oaks, but it also offers house and garden tours, programs on the history of slavery at the plantation, and exhibits on African-American history in the original enslaved people’s cabins. Boone Hall is the only plantation in the S.C. Lowcountry to present a live presentation of the unique Gullah Culture adapted by African slaves. Take a 30 to 40-minute motorized Tractor Tour around the entire 738 acres that make up the plantation. You will see and learn about the history of Boone Hall and experience how it remains a working farm today.

boone hall plantation quarters

McLeod Plantation Historic Site

325 Country Club Drive, James Island, Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 762-9514 or (843) 795-4386

This county-owned, 37-acre Gullah/Geechee heritage site plantation on James Island explores the lives of enslaved people, sea island cotton cultivation, and Gullah/Geechee culture before and after the Civil War. The grounds include a riverside outdoor pavilion, a sweeping oak allée, and the McLeod Oak, which is thought to be more than 600 years old.

Drayton Hall Plantation

3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414

(843) 769-2600

Drayton Hall on the Ashley River is one of the oldest surviving plantation houses in the Charleston area, fosters a deeper understanding of colonial America and the evolution of life in the South by discovering, researching, conserving, and interpreting the history, context, and culture of Drayton Hall. There are tours of the unrestored mansion, self-guided nature trails and special programming. A new visitor center is under construction.

Middleton Place Plantation

4300 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
(843) 556-6020 or (800) 782-3608

Middleton Place is a rare survivor of the American Revolution, Civil War, economic upheavals, and natural disasters. It is Charleston’s third surviving Ashley River plantation, with beautiful terraced gardens, working stable yards and frequent special events.

Charleston Tea Garden (about 40 minutes)

6617 Maybank Highway, Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487
(843) 559-0383

For a more modern plantation experience, visit this working tea farm (the only working tea plantation in the country) on the picturesque Wadmalaw Island. There is a trolley tour and free factory tour, and many different teas to sample. For tea lovers, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Hampton Plantation State Historic Site (about 1 hour)

1950 Rutledge RD, McClellanville, SC 29458
(803) 734-1700

This plantation offers a colonial-era rice plantation with tours of the historic Georgian-style plantation house, a nature trail past former rice fields, and occasional special programs. It now serves as an interpretive site for the system of slavery and rice cultivation in the region from the colonial period through the end of the Civil War. The property also tells the story of the freed people who made their homes in the Santee Delta region for generations after emancipation

Hampton Plantation

Hobcaw Barony (about 1 hour, 20 minutes)

22 Hobcaw Road, Georgetown, SC 29440
(843) 546-4623

Hobcaw Barony is a privately-owned 16,000-acre research reserve located on the coast near Georgetown. It is the site of an 18th-century plantation, with bus tours of the plantation’s history and ecology, boat tours, ecology programs and a visitor center. 

Brookgreen Gardens (about 1 hour, 41 minutes)

1931 Brookgreen Drive, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

(843) 235-6000

The 9000+ acre Brookgreen Gardens is one of the Lowcountry’s most popular attractions, with a huge sculpture collection set amidst beautiful botanical gardens, plus indoor art galleries, a zoo featuring animals native to the area, nature trails and history tours of the former Oaks Plantation. 

These are just a sampling of options for exploring beyond Charleston. Whether you're interested in history, nature, or beach activities, the surrounding area offers a variety of attractions to enhance your visit to the region.

Remember, if you don't have time to add in a day trip to one of these outstanding places, a great option is to hop on a boat tour with Carolina Marine Group where we can take you by water to see the Charleston coast and different areas that make up greater Charleston area, all while, enjoying a relaxing boat ride with a cool breeze and your favorite drinks and snacks.

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