For any traveler drawn to old world elegance and history at every turn, a road trip from Savannah to Charleston may be just what your wandering soles need.
Draped in Spanish Moss, cloaked in history of centuries past, and boasting a vibrant, unique culture, the Lowcountry has too many offerings to count.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through my own family’s road trip itinerary, our stops along the way, and share our experience in the hopes that yours will be wonderful — with a lighter planning load, to boot!
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What is the Lowcountry?
If you clicked on this post and have no clue what the Lowcountry even is, I’ll explain a bit more about that here.
In the southeastern USA, the Lowcountry is a cultural, historical, ecological, and geographical region spanning the coastal area of Mid-Georgia through South Carolina. Some sources with more Low Country knowledge than I confine this region specifically to South Carolina, while others expand it from Georgia through the Carolinas.
Regardless, it is a fascinating area of the United States. This is especially true for Civil War history enthusiasts, foodies, and anyone who swoons a little bit at photos of sweeping Spanish Moss ().
One of the best ways to learn more about the Lowcountry is to drive through it on a road trip from Savannah to Charleston. Which brings us to…
Savannah to Charleston Road Trip Itinerary Map
This is our map. You’re welcome to use it as your own.
Additional stops we didn’t take that you may want are Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach in South Carolina. Our local friend recommended Isle of Palms instead, and locals know best.
You will notice in this post that I didn’t say anything about Hilton Head Island. Our experience there was anti-climactic. I felt it was very closed off instead of open and inviting. Maybe a bad first impression? Let me know in the comments if I should give it another chance!
Savannah, Georgia: 2 Nights
First stop on our road trip is Savannah, Georgia. In theory, of course, you can do this road trip in any order you like. But after following it myself, I found a benefit of starting in Savannah in its laidback charm, with Spanish Moss every five feet (or so it seemed).
If you’re coming to this vacation from the hustle and bustle of your 8-6, or you’re a 24/7 homemaker taking a break for a few days — then an easy, breezy destination for your first stop can make all the difference between an amazing vacation and a stressfully scheduled chore.
All of that being said, I recommend a Savannah start. But this is your journey — so start where you should.
Where to stay in Savannah
Unless you’re paying a few hundred dollars in cleaning fees alone for an Airbnb, you’ll likely stay at a hotel in Savannah. Although there are some charming boutique hotels convenient to several attractions in Savannah, we opted for a Hilton property in the historic district. Hello, points!
We had a lovely experience at a Hampton Inn in the Historic District, and I do recommend it for your own time in Savannah. Just know up front that valet parking is not optional, and costs an extra $39 per night. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable if you plan to stay in the Historic District, and even applies to some hotels in Midtown.WARNING: I will preface this by saying that, in 20+ countries and counting, I have compromised on hotels in some regards. I’ve stayed in places many would never stay in, and count it all joy because I have the privilege to travel. So it was with a great shock that I read some of the most awful reviews of my life on hotels in Savannah, Georgia.
I honestly don’t know what the heck is going on, but the reviews for many properties (even with typically reputable names) were horrible. Be careful in choosing where you’ll stay on your road trip, my fellow traveler! Oh, and don’t let the bed bugs bite…
How to budget for Savannah
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know that I am primarily an international traveler. I do have a U.S. travel bucket list, but it’s not my top priority. That being said, my perception of how much travel should cost makes Savannah feel expensive for me.
In my experience, you should expect to spend at least $200 per night in accommodations, $15 per meal, and attractions are mostly free. These will only cost if you decide to take a ghost tour, or ride a dinner steamboat. I’ve shared some options in the next section if that sounds like a good time to you!
Otherwise, you can have just as fun a time in Savannah with some walking shoes and a few hours to kill.
Things to Do in Savannah
See the Fountain at Forsyth Park
If you’ve ever typed “Savannah GA” into your search engine of choice, then you were likely presented with a photo of Forsyth Park.
This place speaks for itself, so I won’t say too much here. The only piece of advice I have for you is this:
Don’t just go to Forsyth Park once. Go twice. Once at night, and once at daytime.
Because the park at night? Wow. Just wow. You really should see it in its moonlit splendor.
And, unless I become some über-famous travel writer, you won’t have hordes of people fighting for their spot in front of the fountain. It’ll be the zenith of serenity. I see what all these ghost tours are about after witnessing the haunting beauty of the clouds behind this fountain at night.
These are the moments that make the hard parts of travel worth it, IMHO.
From one traveler to another, park next to the tennis courts for free. Here’s the Google Maps location. You’re welcome.
Walk through Centuries in the Historic District
Cobblestones. Spanish Moss. 18th century architecture. Savannah’s past meets its present in an embrace that offers the curious traveler blocks to explore.
In addition to Forsyth Park, there are several charming squares with plaques explaining that landmark’s value to Savannah’s community.
Check out some of these tours in Savannah! They may be the perfect addition to your trip.
Vegan Places to Eat in Savannah
That is all.
I’m just kidding. But, it’s the main fully vegan restaurant I got to try in Savannah, and I enjoyed our breakfast there. I recommend their Gunslinger Pancakes topped off with a delectable horchata latte. I’m fantasizing about that specialty latte as I type this at 11:16pm.
If you’re looking for delicious veg-friendly food with meat options, then I highly recommend Naan on Broughton.
And, for the most important meal of the day, head to Leopold’s for plenty of vegan ice cream offerings. Because we have a giant sweet tooth in this family, we ordered one of each dairy-free flavor: peanut butter chip, mint chocolate chip, and coconut vanilla.
All I have to say is yum, yum, yum!
Tybee Island, Georgia: Day Trip
My idea of what Tybee Island would be like was firmly rooted in my teen romance fantasies of The Last Song. Did it live up to my admittedly high expectations? Not quite. However, I’m still glad we went!
If you’re interested in visiting Tybee Island on your Savannah to Charleston road trip, then you’re in luck! It’s an easy day trip from Savannah.
The island’s main attraction is its coastline, where visitors can lounge on the beach and splash on its shores.Parking can be difficult, but there is a reasonably priced paid lot with public beach access. But maybe you shouldn’t take my advice on reasonable parking prices, because I’m from Nashville. I no longer have a healthy concept of what parking should cost.
Unfortunately, Tybee Island doesn’t have as many options for vegans as Savannah. However, I enjoyed a tasty sushi lunch at Raw Ingredients just a short walk from the beach. There are also options for meat eaters, so this is a good spot for blended groups.
Beaufort, South Carolina: 1 Night
Beaufort, South Carolina is an adorable town and an easy stop on a Savannah to Charleston road trip.
Where to stay
The Beaufort Inn is by far my favorite accommodation on this trip! I loved how deeply rooted this house was in local Beaufort history. It was originally a family home, and was then added on by its original owners once they had their 9th child. Can’t say I blame them.
Now, it is a locally owned and operated bed and breakfast with cottages as well. Unlike most bed and breakfasts, Beaufort Inn can accommodate larger families through the cottages, as well as couples and solo travelers with its rooms in the main house.
If you’re traveling with 3 or more like I was, then know that their pull-out couches are the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on! Not a detail was left out of place. Honestly, I’d go back to Beaufort just to stay here.
Things to Do in Beaufort
Because it’s more of a quaint, sleepy little town, the main attractions are its waterfront and downtown shops.
If you’re a runner like me, then their waterfront is a great place to get in a run with a view. I started the first day of training for my first marathon here! Beaufort will always be special to me.
Vegan Food to Eat in Beaufort
Sure, Beaufort isn’t some bustling metropolis with every kind of vegan dish under the sun. But what it may lack in vegan restaurants is more than made up for in its options at veg-friendly spots.
For dinner on our one night in town, we walked from our cottage at the Beaufort Inn to Breakwater. Although there weren’t clearly marked vegan options on the menu, the servers were incredibly helpful and understood what our allergy-ridden family needed. They even made me a custom dish of sautéed veggies in a thin tomato sauce with jasmine rice. It was delicious, and I don’t normally say that about a sautéed veggie dish from a restaurant.
On our way out of town, we stopped at Herban Market and Café. Holy vegan goodness! They had a plethora of delectable baked treats that were either regular, vegan, gluten-free, or VGF. All we tried were delicious — not too sweet, as is common in American desserts.
For brunch, I ordered the BLT wrap. Its flavors mended together well, and it was refreshing.
Charleston, South Carolina: 3 Nights
Ah, the grand finale of our Savannah to Charleston road trip. Charleston is a busy city with architecture that has outlived us by many, many years. Around every corner is a surprise in the intricate detail of buildings, wrought-iron gates, and curlicue ironwork fences. It is certainly a sight to behold.
Where to Stay in Charleston
This was my first time staying in a Choice hotel for years. I won’t be staying at one again. I won’t specifically share where we stayed, but the price was right and the reviews were good. Our experience was lackluster, and we weren’t exactly dreading check-out day.
My admonition about Savannah’s hotel reviews stand true for Charleston, too. If you’re traveling with a higher budget or are planning early enough to snag the good deals, then I’d recommend searching for a local boutique hotel or Airbnb in Charleston.
Things to Do in Charleston
Visit the Old Slave Mart Museum
This was an emotionally heavy museum experience for me, and I’m 150% glad I went. Slavery was a deeply tragic time in American history, and this museum is in the original slave mart where human beings were bought and sold for labor.
Throughout the museum are exhibits explaining how dependent wealth and commerce were upon slavery in the Lowcountry. Because indigo and sugar were grown in South Carolina, the state’s plantation economy was separate in many ways culturally from bordering areas.
In total, I highly recommend a slow, thoughtful visit to this museum. Take your time to read the exhibits, knowing many will be disturbing. Take breaks if you need. Even if you’re familiar with the history of slavery in the U.S., this museum adds to the conversation by sharing specifics of South Carolina in that time.
Hours are Monday to Saturday, 9am – 5pm.
Admission costs $8 per adult.
Learn more at the Old Slave Mart Museum’s website.
Peruse local artistry at the Historic Charleston City Market
I know most travel bloggers would tell you to shop at the market, but I’m too cheap and packing too light to buy anything when I’m traveling. Most of the time, at least. Not every time.
However, I do recommend walking through the Historic Charleston City Market because of its history and tradition with local artisans. I loved perusing work from different artists and admiring the original architecture of this market.
Just know you may not have much time at each stall, because this place was packed when we visited. It’s popular for a reason, though!
Stroll down Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row is a colorful line of historic homes in downtown Charleston area. (Here’s its location in Google Maps.) I do recommend a stroll through here just to admire the beauty of this area, but I don’t recommend a 30+ minute long photo shoot in front of people’s homes.
Also, if you’re parking nearby, pay close attention to the driveway signs! For those of us not from this area, it can be easy to miss locals’ driveways with all the street parking.
Where to Park in the Charleston Historic District
In any American city, it comes as no surprise that parking can cost you. The added challenge of parking in Charleston is just how confusing it can be to find a garage amid tight corners and streets. Here’s one on Google Maps that was cheap and easy access to all the attractions I’ve shared above!
Dip your toes in the Atlantic at Isle of Palms
A family friend moved to Charleston and offered us the local’s guide to this beautiful city. Of her recommendations was a day in the sand at Isle of Palms, and we had a wonderful time!
At the public beach access are plenty of changing rooms, some concession stand food options, and easy parking. If you’re looking to sunbathe near Charleston, Isle of Palms is a top-tier option.
Vegan Food to Eat in Charleston
Gnome Café is an adorable little restaurant with a brunch-heavy menu. I ordered the cheddar scallion biscuit with hemp sausage and pepper gravy. That was one of the best biscuits I’ve ever had! On that note, it’s probably the best meal I had on this vacation.
I loved the unique flavor combinations, the surprising taste of pepper jelly, and the textures complemented one another well. Highly recommend this dish from them!
• • •
Since we were headed back to Music City after those three days in Charleston,
Mom, Grandma, and I went back through the Blue Ridge Mountains. After visiting Asheville, North Carolina earlier this year, we decided we had to go back to Plant for my mom’s birthday. The cheeseboard, ravioli, and crème brûlée never disappoint!
What a conclusion to a long-awaited Savannah to Charleston road trip adventure. Mom and I dreamt about visiting Savannah and Charleston for years. I hope your days in the Lowcountry are as relaxing, interesting, and lovely as ours!
P.s. The oldest city in the USA and the best books of 2021.
For more general travel tips that can help you plan for a Low Country adventure, check out these blog posts:Start Here page: a.k.a. the motherboard of my travel planning prowess
5 Steps to Book the Perfect Accommodations
The Beginner’s Guide to Travel Hacking
8 Tips to Manage Money While Traveling
I will be bookmarking this page for an upcoming “sister trip” to Savannah and Charleston. LOVE the restaurant recommendations for groups with mixed eaters!!!
Oh, I’m so thrilled for you! We loved this trip and will remember it fondly for years to come. And a sister road trip sounds like so much fun. I’m so glad you found our experience helpful!