Looking for a southern, warm-weather getaway without the hustle and bustle of Myrtle Beach resorts? Here’s how to spend seven days along the coast of the Palmetto State outside of busy (yet beloved) Myrtle Beach.
Day 1: Settle into Charleston
North Carolina natives have an easy day-drive to the stunning city of Charleston, but those living outside of driving distance can fly into Charleston International Airport (CHS). If you’re flying, don’t skip the rental car, even though there’s plenty to do and countless options for accommodations in the Downtown Historic District within walking distance. Much of South Carolina’s coastal beauty is within a short drive of the city, but keep in mind that the large majority of downtown hotels charge anywhere from $30 to $50 per day (or night) for parking, with valet frequently being the only option offered. Although staying downtown brings hefty parking fees, the walkability of staying downtown and the proximity to historical sites and top-notch dining far outweigh the strain on your wallet.
Day 2: Explore the Historic District
Downtown Charleston combines the modern southern cuisine and accommodations north of Marion Square with the colonial beauty, walkable waterfront parks, and fresh seafood in the south. Take a stroll through the historic streets to see the picturesque Rainbow Row, a group of 13 Georgian-style homes from the 1700s and 1800s in postcard-worthy pastel colors. Tour the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, cool off at Joe Riley Waterfront Park, or purchase a ferry ticket to access Fort Sumter National Monument for a history lesson on the Civil War. There is no shortage of southern cuisine in the city for your chance to dine on some of the south’s best shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and fried green tomatoes.
Day 3: Isle of Palms
On a warm, sunny day, drive 25 minutes east from Charleston to spend a day on the beautiful Isle of Palms Beach. In the summer, weekends can be particularly crowded as many Charleston locals escape the city to spend a day in the sand. There are paid parking lots nearby, but arrive early to secure a space in the peak season. Another nearby option for beachgoers is Folly Beach on Folly Island, only 20 minutes south of Charleston with a bustling pier and local seafood haunts.
Day 4: Murrells Inlet & Huntington Beach State Park
Spend your fourth day along coastal South Carolina by spotting wildlife and walking along the marshes of Murrells Inlet. Although Huntington Beach State Park is a lengthy 90-minute drive north of Charleston, it’s a must-see for nature-lovers and those seeking a less crowded beach experience for an affordable daily access fee. Depending on the time of day, Huntington Beach State Park is a prime location for alligator sightings, turtles, coastal birds, and a less-frequented beach. Many visitors reserve campsites months in advance to spend time at Huntington Beach State Park (my parents do this annually), with delicious eateries such as Dead Dog Saloon and River City Cafe nearby in marshy Murrells Inlet.
Day 5: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Take in more of Charleston’s natural beauty by visiting a slice of pre-Revolutionary War history at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. An inland family-friendly activity, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is reportedly Charleston’s most visited plantation, with tram and boat rides, a historic garden walk, a zoo and nature center, a charming cafe, and historical tours of the grounds, such as the “From Slavery to Freedom” tour of former slave dwellings that are now dedicated to educating visitors on African-American history. Although all tickets must be purchased onsite, prices are affordable and more information can be found at www.magnoliaplantation.com.
Day 6: Edisto Beach State Park
Another must-see state park is Edisto Beach State Park, only an hour south of the city center. One of the most popular attractions at Edisto is the beautiful Botany Bay Heritage Preserve. Known for its wetlands and Driftwood Beach, Edisto’s coastal beauty is a photographer’s dream. Search for sea turtles or walk through acres of driftwood along the beach to collect seashells. Another popular camping spot, Edisto Beach State Park carries only a fraction of the crowds that Folly Beach and Isle of Palms Beach inherit, with a more pristine, untouched feel to its stretches of sand and wetlands. Close to the Welcome Center are also a few dining options, such as SeaCow Eatery serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Day 7: Say goodbye
The beauty of a getaway within driving distance is the freedom you have on your last day to depart at your leisure. Spend a few hours eating a nice breakfast before driving home, or spend even longer on a local beach as you head out. I highly suggest that those flying out of CHS find the time to squeeze in one last house-made biscuit from one of the many breakfast spots in downtown before heading to the airport.