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  • Sightseeing near the Harbour Town Lighthouse on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
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    Hilton Head Island: A True Southern Beach Retreat

  • Strolling alongside the colorful houses known as ‘Rainbow Row’ in Charleston, South Carolina
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    Charleston: South Carolina’s Historic Crown Jewel

  • Walking the shores of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, near the SkyWheel
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    Myrtle Beach: Sand, Sun and Fun

  • Captivating views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Caesars Head State Park near Greenville, South Carolina
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    Greenville: Blue Ridge Mountain Beauty

A romantic sail around Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
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South Carolina Road Trip: Beaches to the Blue Ridge Mountains

By Idoia Gkikas

  • Route distance:
    919.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

South Carolina is one of those enviable states that has a great variety of terrain and attractions to suit any holiday mood.

Find a beach paradise in the east, scenic mountains in the west and charming Southern towns all along the way. This coastal state also loves authentic barbecue (there are four styles to try), good beer (pick from more than 60 craft breweries to visit) and quality time with Mother Nature in splendid state parks. Hit the road and discover all that South Carolina has to offer.

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Sightseeing near the Harbour Town Lighthouse on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
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Hilton Head Island: A True Southern Beach Retreat

Catch a flight into Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), where you can pick up a rental car and head straight for the beautiful shores of Hilton Head Island.

Beloved for its gorgeous beaches and low-key, all-ages attractions, Hilton Head Island is a true beach retreat. Have a rental bike delivered to your hotel – the island is covered with a web of 100-plus kilometers of multi-use paths, allowing easy access to beaches, shopping, dining and entertainment. If you’re an explorer, ride down lesser-known trails to historic sites such as Mitchelville Freedom Park, the first community in the U.S. founded by freed slaves, and Greens Shell Park, site of a Native American farming village that dates to 1335.

On the southern end of the island, pay $6 to enter Sea Pines Resort, where you can explore the Harbour Town Lighthouse. This photogenic red-and-white-striped lighthouse is a local icon. Inside, discover a museum with South Carolina artifacts and a gift shop full of lighthouse-themed mementos, and climb to the top to find panoramic views. Get in touch with nature on a dolphin-watch tour and end the day with dinner in Coligny Plaza, a hub of shopping, dining and entertainment. Fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping at the shore before tomorrow’s drive to Charleston.

158 km
2 hours by car
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Strolling alongside the colorful houses known as ‘Rainbow Row’ in Charleston, South Carolina
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Charleston: South Carolina’s Historic Crown Jewel

Make time to drive through Beaufort, where you can relax on waterfront benches at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and take frame-worthy photos on secluded beaches at Hunting Island State Park.

Founded in 1670, Charleston is South Carolina’s oldest city. The best way to get an introduction to this historic city is with a carriage ride along downtown’s cobblestone streets. Not only is it an enchanting throwback to another era, it’s an excellent way to learn about Charleston’s past and see important historic sites. Have your camera ready for photos of Rainbow Row, a distinctive strip of historic homes painted in eye-catching rainbow hues, and a stop at the Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park. Later, visit Fort Sumter National Monument, a fort in Charleston Harbor where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired in 1861. Walk through the Charleston City Market to pick up a sweetgrass basket made by Gullah artisans, Lowcountry descendants of African slaves.

When hunger strikes, you’ll find a tempting selection of Lowcountry specialties including shrimp and grits, first-rate seafood, Southern comfort foods, international flavors and local breweries, too. A visit to Charleston isn’t complete without a ghost tour. The city’s history of slavery, piracy and conflict make it prime ground for after-hours spirits. Then settle into a historic hotel and head to Myrtle Beach in the morning.

154 km
2 hours by car
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Walking the shores of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, near the SkyWheel
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Myrtle Beach: Sand, Sun and Fun

On your way into Myrtle Beach, stop by the historic fishing village of Murrells Inlet. Stroll along the MarshWalk, a wooden boardwalk that’s lined with dockside restaurants including an oyster bar, brick oven pizza joint, a fish house and more. Pay a visit to Creek Ratz, a rustic waterside bar with live music. Then head to undeveloped beaches and an (almost!) real castle at Huntington Beach State Park, and the largest outdoor sculpture collection in the USA, gardens and zoo at Brookgreen Gardens.

Myrtle Beach is an easy place to visit. Affordable beachfront accommodations, casual dining and non-stop entertainment make it popular with families, couples, friends and solo travelers alike. Start with classic fun at the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. This oceanfront promenade is an updated version of the boardwalks of yesteryear and features arcades, thrill rides, haunted houses, a mirror maze, casual food and lively bars. Take a ride on the SkyWheel, the tallest Ferris wheel on the East Coast, for unbeatable shoreline views.

Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach’s other main entertainment district, will keep you entertained all day and night. Visit the aquarium and WonderWorks museum, enjoy classic fair rides and midway games, play at the water park, tour the wax museum – you can easily spend all day here. After sunset, move the fun to internationally known bars such as Señor Frog’s, Fat Tuesday and Hard Rock Café, or check out other options such as a comedy show or late-night dance club. Rest up for tomorrow’s drive across the Piedmont region into the mountains.

414 km
4 hours by car
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Captivating views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Caesars Head State Park near Greenville, South Carolina
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Greenville: Blue Ridge Mountain Beauty

On your way to a more mountainous landscape, stretch your legs in South Carolina’s capital city, Columbia. Stroll by Main Street’s shops and restaurants and see the State House, South Carolina’s capitol building, which features stunning architecture and a fascinating history. It’s about halfway to Greenville and well worth a tour.

Greenville is the anchor city of the Upstate, South Carolina’s northwestern region, which includes a portion of the ancient Blue Ridge Mountains. If you enjoy time outdoors, hike the 10-kilometer Raven Cliff Falls Trail at Caesars Head State Park. From the trail’s overlook, you’ll see the 128-meter-tall Raven Cliff Falls. On your way back to Greenville, pause for a pint at the Birds Fly South Ale Project, an urban farmhouse-style brewery in the West End Water Tower District. Expect a unique range of beers, two distinctive bars, an outdoor patio, an expansive lawn and live music.

Not far from the brewery is the popular Swamp Rabbit Trail, a paved former railroad bed that connects Greenville to the town of Travelers Rest. Keep this in mind as an option for more outdoor fun. In the decidedly quaint town of Travelers Rest, stop at the Café @ Williams Hardware for delicious, locally sourced comfort food right on Main Street.

Greenville is the perfect place to wind up your road trip. Enjoy art at the free Greenville Museum of Art, Broadway shows and concerts at the Peace Center, and family fun at the Greenville Zoo and Children’s Museum of the Upstate. Downtown, explore the trails, pond, gardens, waterfalls and pedestrian bridge at Falls Park on the Reedy. Find a spot for dinner downtown before flying out of Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP).

Official South Carolina Travel Site

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
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