Last summer, my friend Annie and I decided to take our first (non-work) vacation together. After reviewing my “Where to travel in the U.S.” list, we settled on Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA.
Flights were pretty inexpensive in/out of Charleston, so we decided to rent a car to make the most out of our Low Country experience and travel through Hilton Head to Savannah. This list is simply what we did – I’m sure there are a LOT of places we didn’t hit up since we only had a few days.
This southern city is all charm. Known for its good food and historical sites, the city deserves a few days of your time.
Food & Drinks
- Check out King Street for a bunch of restaurants, dessert shops, and happy hour specials.
- Callie’s Charleston Biscuits – This is a must for breakfast! We tried a few of their little biscuits with toppings like cinnamon and blackberry jam, as well as the biscuit breakfast sandwiches. We ate a lot of biscuits for two people.
- Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens – Did you know that the movie The Notebook was partially filmed in Charleston? Click on that link and you’ll recognize that while in Charleston, they filmed at Boone Hall. Claiming to be “America’s most photographed plantation,” it’s worth the visit just to drive down the lane. Be sure to do the hay ride to get a glimpse of the working farm and grounds.
- Ft. Sumter National Monument – The first shot of the Civil War was at Ft. Sumter. Today, tourists take a ferry ride out to the island to experience the history and take in the water views. If you take the first or last ferry of the day, make sure you watch the flag ceremony with the park rangers.
- Calhoun Mansion – Another Notebook filming spot, Calhoun Mansion was a highlight for us. While the house itself is stunning, the contents inside are eye-popping. There are MILLIONS of dollars worth of artifacts and antiques; they go from floor to ceiling for 3 stories. Don’t miss this tour!
- Arthur Ravenal Bridge – Running 4 km, this bridge affords great views. We went at sunset for the cherry on top. The bridge connects Charleston to Mount Pleasant. We tried to walk the whole thing (and back, mind you!), but it was definitely too long for our shoe choice. Either wear your tennies, or walk about halfway – there’s not much to see at the Mount Pleasant end of the bridge.
- Pineapple Fountain – The state of South Carolina uses the pineapple to welcome visitors. It’s the head of the Waterfront Park which follows along the seafront.
- Rainbow Row – The series of 13 pastel-colored houses along the waterfront is one of the most iconic spots in Charleston for a photo opportunity.
- American Theatre – Notebook fans rejoice! This is another spot used for filming the movie. Built in 1942, it’s still home to lots of concerts and shows.
- The Vendue – Charleston isn’t known for its tall buildings, so by only going six floors up, you can actually get a pretty great view of the city. Go at sunset for a drink and photos. Though also a hotel, it was a just a little out of our price range.
- Free buses! Though some of the city’s buses have a fee, DASH buses are free and they stop at all of the major tourist spots.
Hot tip: The Charleston Visitors’ Center is worth the visit. Not only is it one of stops for the free bus, it has lots of helpful resources, including agents & brochures (and free bathrooms!).
The drive from Charleston to Hilton Head Island
Annie and I are Girl Scout geeks, so we knew that if we were going down south, a stop in Savannah was a must. Pull up google maps, and Hilton Head pops up as a stop along the way.
Food & Drinks
- Lunch in Beaufort – Annie’s cousin lives in Beaufort, so we stopped by for lunch on our way to Hilton Head. It’s a cute little coastal town, and a nice break from the drive.
- The Salty Dog Cafe – Admittedly not the best food town, but who cares when you have the ocean nearby.
- Tiki Hut – Right along the oceanfront, this bar/restaurant has sand, live music, and happy hour deals.
- Magnolia Plantation – Along the way from Charleston to Hilton Head, lives a mysterious and spider-webbed plantation complete with overgrown trees and flowers in bloom. We found our deal on Groupon, so check that out before heading out of town.
- Charleston Tea Plantation – The only tea plantation in all of the United States, stopping here is a must and not just for tea lovers like me! The tour is interesting and the gift shop has lots of goodies for souvenirs.
- Angel Oak – Standing over 65 feet tall, this oak tree is said to be 400-500 years old! It’s free to visit and along the way from Charleston to Hilton Head.
- Harbour Town Lighthouse – Giving way to some great views of the nearby low country, this lighthouse on Hilton Head is also surrounded by the touristy part of town.
- You do need a car to get around Hilton Head as the island is more than 12 miles long and 5 miles wide.
The birthplace of the Girl Scouts of the USA, Savannah was a must-do, must-see, must-visit locale for us. It has a lot of cool history – and not just Girl Scout history – and is becoming a foodie town in its own right.
Food & Drinks
- Cafe Mirabelle – Savannah in summer is hot! We stopped for a Belgian waffle and iced drink at this adorable little cafe while on the trolley tour (see below).
- Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour – A nice, fairly inexpensive way to get from site to site, the trolley is the main way for tourists to get around town. There are multiple companies offering similar tours; we used Old Savannah Tours stopping at places like Forsyth Park, River Street, and St. John the Baptist Cathedral.
- Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace – The founder of Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, was born and raised in Savannah, GA. Even if you aren’t a Girl Scout, this historic home is worth a visit. If you are a fan of Girl Scouts, you should check out the First Girl Scout Headquarters, too. It’s currently the Girl Scout council’s shop and program space, but the little piece of history right downtown is very cool.
- Ghost Tour – Savannah is haaauuunnted! There are all sorts of options out there for tour companies that offer ghost tours as it’s the hit thing to do in town; we did the Ghosts and Gravestones tour. I promise it’s not too scary! The tour we took included a stop at Andrew Low, Juliette Gordon’s husband’s home, and where the two lived together for a few years.
Whether you walk around town, or take a trolley or bus, there are squares all over Savannah with monuments dedicated to this southern city’s past. Savannah is also right on the water.
- Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour – Yes, I already mentioned this above, but it really is the best way to get around town. Though we didn’t take it, there is a free bus in Savannah as well.
Hot tip: If you have time, go to Tybee Island. We didn’t make it there this time, but I definitely will put it in my itinerary the next time I hit up Savannah.