Charleston, South Carolina, is the epitome of southern charm and hospitality. With incredible food, a thriving art scene, and a colorful history of wars, fires, prostitutes, politicians, and pirates, Charleston is one of those cities we never tire of visiting. The region also is a great place to explore on different day trips. Here are some of our faves.


Folly Beach

Charleston is just a stone’s throw away from the sun and surf of Folly Beach, which is located on the Atlantic Ocean. This small island town is a perfect day trip for anyone yearning for a beach experience without huge crowds and traffic. Scooter and bike rentals are available for getting around the island, but if you park on or close to Center Street, you easily can walk to just about anything you’d want to do. Center Street is dotted with a variety of boutiques, bars, and restaurants. The burgers, seafood, quirky atmosphere, and street side dining at Rita’s Seaside Grille were worth the drive alone.

The Folly Beach Fishing Pier stretches more than 1,000 feet into the Atlantic, and is known for having some of the best saltwater fishing in the area. The island also is home to several deep sea fishing charter companies, where crew members are happy to help you reel in the big ones.

Water activities are plentiful in Folly Beach, too, with opportunities for kayaking, parasailing, paddle boarding, surfing, jet skiing, and swimming. Of course at our age, sometimes the best adventure can be a people-watching-beach-combing stroll down the beach while eating rocky road ice cream from a waffle cone.

Angel Oak 

Located on nearby John’s Island, Angel Oak Park is home to a Live Oak tree estimated to be around 1,500 years old. It is said to be the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River. The tree was named the “Angel Oak,” after its previous owners, Martha and Justin Angel. It is approximately 65 feet tall, and provides more than 17,000 square feet of shade. You’ll definitely want to bring your camera to capture this spectacular tree.

While you’re at it, pack a picnic as the park has a few picnic tables in addition to a public restroom and a gift shop. Best of all, admission to Angel Oak Park is free! (That happens to be our favorite price.)

Viewfinder Tip: If you intend to take photos on your day trip, consider arriving early as shadows will be less harsh in morning sunlight.

Beaufort, South Carolina

Beaufort is the second-oldest city in South Carolina, and is one of the few cities in the nation that has had its entire downtown designated as a Historic District by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Located just 70 miles southwest of Charleston on Port Royal Island, Beaufort is home to several gorgeous mansions and plantations. The city also was one of the only southern towns that the Union army chose to occupy rather than burn.

Beautiful homes and mossy trees have made Beaufort a popular backdrop for numerous movies, including The Big Chill, GI Jane, The Great Santini, Forces of Nature, Platoon, and The Prince of Tides, to name a few. The combination of antebellum architecture with an abundance of museums, shops, and restaurants make Beaufort a highly desirable day trip destination. In recent years, we have added to our bucket list staying in one of Beaufort’s historic properties such as the Cuthbert House Inn or the Rhett House Inn.

  • Folly Beach Pier

Fort Sumpter National Monument

The first shots of the Civil War were fired on Fort Sumpter. It took the Confederates less that 34 hours to seize the fort, and took the Union army nearly four years to take it back. The fort, now a National Monument, was built on a small island in Charleston Harbor at the point where the Charles and Ashley rivers merge with the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a beautiful spot.

Fort Sumpter only can be accessed by ferry, and the only authorized ferry operator is Fort Sumpter Tours. The tour with this outfitter includes a 30-minute narrated ride to the site, and passes to Fort Johnson on James Island; the site from which that first shot was actually fired.

Once you arrive at Fort Sumpter, you are greeted by National Park Service rangers, who provide more information about the significance of the fort. After that formal introduction, you are free to explore the fort, its museum, artifacts, and more. Even if you’re not a Civil War buff, a visit to Fort Sumpter will bring the pages of your history books to life and make you wish you had paid better attention when you were in school. Also, the ferry ride back offers spectacular views of the city of Charleston.

What kinds of adventures do you seek on day trips from a vacation destination?