- 1 Week
With a good set of wheels and an appreciation for seafood, history and natural beauty you'll be covered on this little trip.
Chances are you'll fly into Charleston. Many of the states's best experiences and restaurants are concentrated in and around the city, so spend three days visiting top sights like the Aiken-Rhett House, the Old Slave Mart Museum and a couple of the plantations either on the Ashley River or over on James Island (hit the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island while you're at it). Then roll over to laid-back Folly Beach for a night, where you can get a fabulous rental house or stay in a charming B&B right on the water.
Venture south the next day, with a stop at Edisto Island to explore some unadulterated coastline at Botany Bay. Double back and make a stop at the seductively swampy ACE Basin to look for whooping cranes before pressing on to Beaufort, South Carolina's friendliest, most delightful small town. It's sort of like a mini-Charleston, with an adorable downtown and abundant antebellum mansions in The Point neighborhood (see them by carriage). Stay two nights before retracing your steps back toward Charleston.
South Carolina Sampler
- 2 Weeks
For those hungry for a taste of the whole dang state, including Upcountry hiking, Lowcountry adventuring, capitol crashing and even a stopover in tacky Myrtle Beach.
Begin in Myrtle Beach, so you can get your putt-putt and deep-fried-seafood hankerings out of the way (it only gets better from here). It's usually cheap to fly in. Base your number of nights in Myrtle on how much you love America, and continue on to the state capitol, Columbia, which is far more interesting than it usually gets credit for. You can tour the State House, eat pretty well and party with college students at Five Points before continuing on to 'it city' Greenville.
Spend a few nights here, giving yourself time for day trips to the nearby state and national parks, which offer superb hiking. Be sure to also stroll over the stunning Liberty Bride in Falls Park on the Reedy and take a peek at up-and-coming art galleries and locavore restaurants in West Greenville. Try a few craft beers but not so many that you can't drive back through Columbia to Beaufort, South Carolina's most darling little town.
Spend at least two nights, possibly three, chillaxing by the waterfront and paddleboarding out to the sandbar, where the whole town goes to be wild and carouse with dolphins. On the neighboring St Helena Island, visit the Penn Center and hop on a Gullah tour for a wonderful introduction to the Gullah people, who have fought for centuries to keep alive the customs of their enslaved ancestors brought from West Africa.
Finally, finish the trip with South Carolina's crown jewel, Charleston. Spend at least five days here exploring the downtown, wandering the Historic District's cobblestone and brick alleyways and admiring the meticulously preserved antebellum mansions and historic churches. Pop over to McLeod Plantation for an inside look at a typical Sea Island cotton plantation, which was at one time occupied by both the Confederate and Union forces, along with a federal agency that helped transition emancipated slaves.
Head back up the coast to Myrtle if you've got a round-trip flight, and be sure to stop for lunch along the way at TW Graham & Co in McClellanville for the best fried seafood in the state.