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5 Best Weekend Getaways from Charleston

From short 2-hour treks to long weekend excursions, there's plenty to see within driving distance of Charleston.

Spanish moss trees in Savannah
Hi, I'm Alex!

Alex is a writer who has lived all over the US. More recently, he's found himself in Rhode Island, and he thinks he'll stay for a while.

The American South is a big place, making weekend road trips more like long-weekend road trips. But no matter where you reside, you can always get creative and explore new destinations that might pass under your radar. For Charlestonians, you’re in luck. No matter which direction you set your compass to, you can find some great low-country excursions and Smoky Mountain getaways alike. Here are our top five picks for weekend getaways from Charleston.

1. Savannah, Georgia

Spanish moss hangs from the trees in Savannah which has a reputation as one of the most haunted cities in the South.
Spanish moss hangs from the trees in Savannah.Foto: Ashley Knedler / Unsplash

Drive time from Charleston: 2 hours / 108 miles (173 kilometers)

Sure, it’s just two hours south of Charleston, but Savannah’s own unique history and reputation as one of the most haunted cities in the South make for a fun getaway. Tour the iconic Bonaventure Cemetery and see the Spanish-moss laden tombs of former Savannah figures, and wrap up a spooky day with a ghost tour in one of Savannah’s ever-present hearse mobiles. Just outside of town, you’ll find the idyllic Tybee Island, which is home to Savannah’s go-to beaches and marshes that make for great paddleboarding expeditions.

2. Wilmington, North Carolina

A horse leads a carriage in downtown Wilmington.
Horse-drawn carriages in downtown Wilmington.Foto: Wentao Liu / Unsplash

Drive time from Charleston: 3.5 hours / 175 miles (281 kilometers)

From one port city to another. Wilmington will give the native Charlestonian a different flavor, whether it’s a unique history, or North Carolina’s distinctive coastline. The city sits along the Cape Fear River, where you can walk along the boardwalk and discover Wilmington’s historic buildings and shopping centers. Nearby Wrightsville Beach is a stunning beach that has sand so white you may even think you went down south to Florida by accident. While you’re catching your rays on the beach, consider an evening sail at sunset, or take advantage of the ocean by embarking on a guided fishing trip. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of some Atlantic dolphins.

3. Jacksonville, Florida

A bird eye's view of a beach in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville has access to amazing nearby beaches.Foto: Lance Asper / Unsplash

Drive time from Charleston: 4 hours / 240 miles (385 kilometers)

This coastal metropolis is home to lively entertaining and sightseeing, with nearby natural wonders that bring all the tourists to the yard. Amelia Island, located just a few miles north of Jacksonville, is a popular low-key destination for outdoor lovers and adventurers. Kayaking the bucolic Lofton Creek is a must, and eco-tourism activities are a great way to see the unique botanical beauty of the area, with cypress and southern oaks providing a lush canopy from the hot Florida sun. Or if the ocean is more your speed, there are beach boat tours and even private fishing expeditions leaving right from Jacksonville’s docks.

4. Richmond, Virginia

Visitors walk down a pier in downtown Richmond.
Scenic walks outside of downtown Richmond.Foto: Stephen Poore / Unsplash

Drive time from Charleston: 6 hours / 425 miles (684 kilometers)

This southern city sits at the nexus of history, culture, food, and art. What was once the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond has a unique and important historical significance that is sure to capture the attention of history buffs. But beyond its history, Richmond is also home to a prestigious Virginia Commonwealth University, which is known for its strong art programs. Public art, galleries, and museums are a big part of Richmond’s culture, and you can easily find something for everyone in a weekend’s visit.

5. Chattanooga, Tennessee

The John Ross Bridge in Chattanooga.
Views from the John Ross Bridge in Chattanooga.Foto: Chad Madden / Unsplash

Drive time from Charleston: 6.5 hours / 415 miles (667 kilometers)

Arguably the most fun city name to say, Chattanooga flies under the radar thanks to its more rambunctious northern neighbor, Nashville. But Chattanooga has all the hallmarks of a great weekend destination, with nearby nature for outdoor escapes and plenty of breweries and pubs for a late night pick-me-up. Want to see it all in a short time? Head up to Lookout Mountain, which not only overlooks Chattanooga city, but a whopping total of seven states are visible from its perch. Now that’s pretty good bang for your buck.

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