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South Carolina, Georgia & North Carolina

A friend and I are planning a trip to Charleston in September. We have 5 nights. Her son is in Charlotte, so at first she suggested we could fly in there to see him, then go to Charleston. I'm fine with that. But then last night she suggested we fly RT to Atlanta (we will be traveling separately from California & Oregon), then we could travel to Charleston and Charlotte from there. I told her that I wasn't interested in spending so much time in transit. She thought there might be interesting places to stop along the way. I still think we will be short changing Charleston and won't have much time there if we try to see Charleston, Charlotte and Atlanta.

What suggestions do you have for Charleston and how many days should we plan for there? I would like to do a day trip to Beaufort. Or would it be better to spend a night in Beaufort for more time? Anywhere else in the Charleston area? Is there anything worth stopping for between Charlotte & Charleston? Atlanta & Charlston?

Thanks!

Posted by
16883 posts

Atlanta sounds like a totally unnecessary detour that will eat up driving time. When I visited Charleston and Savannah, I think I actually spent 5 nights in Charleston. I was happy enough with a half-day stop in Beaufort. It would have been quite relaxing to stay longer, but I happened to need a last-minute detour to Knoxville, instead. Even from Knoxville to Savannah, I was advised to avoid the Atlanta route and likely traffic there.

Posted by
1000 posts

Avoid Atlanta unless you're making it a destination in which you'll spend some time. It will take you 5-6 hours to drive from Atlanta to Charleston. Depending on flights and connections, you could potentially drive in less time that you could fly, if you're connecting in Atlanta.
We spent a week in Charleston a couple years ago. Actually, we stayed in a VRBO in Wild Dunes on Isle of Palms, and made day trips from there to Charleston area attractions we wanted to hit. Ours was primarily a beach vacation, but there's plenty to do in Charleston and the area to spend a week. I highly recommend IoP and Wild Dunes if the beach is your goal.
Can't speak much about Charlotte except it's never been a destination for me, a life-long resident of the South, except for business. Maybe her son can meet you in Charleston??

Posted by
6871 posts

Hi Andrea!
I would politely decline your friend's plan because with 5 nights, you just don't have enough time to cover all the "in betweens" and they're not exactly connected in a straight line. Charlotte is a really nice business city with gleaming high rises, golf courses, restaurants, etc, but it's not exactly a "must" - it's a nice place to live and the downtown has really benefitted from the financial sector being located there. It's clean and has a lot of cultural activities (and of course barbecue). Greenville is the only place I can think of that may be worth side-tripping to in South Carolina, but I would even skip that on this trip because it makes more sense if you were heading toward Atlanta, not Charleston. The drive from Charlotte to Charleston is dull, I've done it many times because my b-friend lived in Charlotte. There are many interesting places in Georgia (Augusta, Macon, etc.) but they're all over the place and in different directions. I think trying to "rope in" such a big geographic reach (South Carolina, Georgia and a sliver of North Carolina) in just a 6-day trip would be a mistake....you'll be on the road a lot and it won't be pretty road trips either (just ugly highways).

I would spend all 5 nights in the Charleston area (best to fly right into there directly if you can) so that you can really enjoy the place, surrounding areas, and some quick day trips. Set aside 1 full day (that's all you'll need really) to drive down to Savannah...it's a perfect day trip from Charleston and you'll have two wonderful cities to compare. Then spend the other 4 days in Charleston proper and little side trips to Beaufort, Summerville (very quaint little town to the north), Mt. Pleasant, even North Charleston, and the many surrounding plantations and gardens you could choose from (you'll even have to be selective with those on such a short trip). Maybe even Hilton Head if you have extra time (which I doubt you will). I spent over two weeks in Charleston (Mt. Pleasant actually) at a friend's house once, and it was pure heaven. I never tire of Charleston and the immediate area. Charleston has gotten so popular and expensive (with romantic B&Bs and the like) that staying outside of the old town proper may be a good idea if you have any budget constraints. I usually stay in North Charleston or Mt. Pleasant and it's a very easy drive in (and I can tell you where to park for free easily...just send me a PM).

Here's a great resource for Charleston/ Savannah planning:
www.charlestoncvb.com
www.visitsavannah.com

Posted by
2233 posts

Getting in and out of the airport in Atlanta can be a real hassle and, as you mention, would require 2 full days of driving to get to and from your specific areas of interest. I think I'd avoid it unless there's some overriding reason to go there.
Why not fly into Charlotte, rent your car there, then meander down the coast to explore the pretty southern cities of Charleston and Savannah at your leisure...maybe with a side trip over to Hilton Head Island. With only 5 days (nights?) at your disposal you'll need to keep your itinerary as compact as possible to preclude spending all of your time in transit. Comfort and convenience does count for something. Then fly home from Charleston - or perhaps take a look at fares returning from Jacksonville,FL.
Suggest looking at Google flights https://www.google.com/flights/ to conduct your fare search to see what might work best for you. Would check both open jaw (or multi-city in airline speak) as well as pricing it as 2 one-way flights, which sometimes can be quite cost-effective.

Posted by
4473 posts

The only reason I can think that she wanted to fly RT to Atlanta would be the cheaper flight cost. But, 5 nights is too short to add the extra transit time & cost to your trip.

We had a lovely trip to Savannah, Charleston & Myrtle Beach a few years ago. We were in Savannah & Myrtle Beach 2 nights and Charleston 3 nights.

Savannah - we stayed at a wonderful B&B, Forsyth Park Inn, having our first real Southern food experience! We toured the town & a museum the second day. We flew into Savannah & felt that 1 1/2 days there was fine.

Charleston - I made reservations on-line before we arrived at this restaurant - excellent food: Slightly North of Broad, or SNOB, is an eclectic Lowcountry bistro located in Downtown Charleston. We stayed at a cheap Marriott-brand hotel that had a free shuttle run to the historic area of Charleston. That was very convenient to not mess with parking. I enjoyed leisurely walking through the area, taking photos of historic homes. Also, I enjoyed the Gibbes Museum of Art. (My hubby went to see the Augusta Masters Golf Practice Day.) Our last day was spent at the Magnolia Plantation; very educational, and I recommend the full tour, including going out on the boat to see the alligators.

Myrtle Beach - I reserved an inexpensive condo at North Myrtle Beach through Barefoot Resorts, and they ended up giving us a fully furnished 4-bedroom townhouse with lots of room. We enjoyed the change of pace from Savannah & Charleston - explored the boardwalk & beach at Myrtle Beach, went to a variety show at the Carolina Opry, and attended an Improv show.

Posted by
8774 posts

Thanks everyone! I'm not on board with Atlanta at all. She has some relatives there. We were both talking about red eye flights that would get us into Charlotte in the morning, so we would save some time there. It takes so long to get to the east coast from the west coast. She will be flying from Portland, so probably has more options. I'm flying from Sacramento and I know there won't be a direct flight. If we fly into Charlotte and have that day and one night there with her son, we could still have 4 nights in Charleston. We have both been to Savannah, so I think we won't go down that far. If she really wants to go to Atlanta I think I will suggest she could go there after I leave. I would prefer to fly RT to Charleston.

I appreciate all the good tips.

Posted by
5488 posts

I live on Saint Simons Island, 80 miles south of Savannah, GA. With only five days, I would stick to the coastal area. Charlotte and Atlanta have things to see, but they don't measure up to the GA and SC coast.

Travel magazines have indicated that Charleston and Savannah are both one of the top most beautiful cities in the US. Both are historical and have well preserved pre Civil War buildings.

Both Charlotte and Atlanta are hundreds of miles away and require air travel that will just eat up your valuable time.

Consider Starting in Charleston, moving down to Savannah and on to Saint Simons and Jekyll Island ending in Jacksonville, to fly on to the west coast. You could rent a care in Charleston and turn it in at Jacksonville. If you want to stick with Charleston and Savannah, then turn in the car in Savannah and fly out there.

Posted by
8774 posts

Geovahgriffith, if I could I would go to SSI just to go to Barbara Jean's. The best crab cakes and she crab soup I've ever had. I ordered some by mail once for a special occasion. The shipping cost more than the actual order. My husband and I spent a wonderful 4 days on SSI 10 years ago. That was the trip that I also went to Savannah.

My friend and I have a tradition of taking a birthday trip every 10 years. The goal is to visit a new destination. We are both pretty well travelled, so it gets harder to find a place neither of us has been. Charleston meets our criteria. I went to AAA today and got a South Carolina tour book. I will look it over before she calls me tonight.

Posted by
914 posts

The mountain/upper region of South Carolina is nice. Greenville has a charming rehabilitated Main Street with shops, restsurants, historic Poinsett Hotel, falls park, etc. They've done a great job with their downtown. Also, if you're into nature/state parks, the Caesar's Head area (I think that's correct) is also worth a stop. Have a good trip!

Posted by
5488 posts

Andrea,
We love Barbara Jeans as well. We lived in southern Maryland for eight years and loved the great crab cakes from there. BJ has equally as good ones, with no filler.

There are many excellent restaurants here. Bennies Red Barn has great steaks. Southern Soul BBQ is rated the best in the South by Southern Living. We have a great Thai and another great Vietnamese restaurant and excellent Italian in That's Italian and Sal's Pizzeria.

Posted by
313 posts

I would suggest you spend your entire time in Charleston and surrounding area. We've flown to Charleston before and it takes an entire day from Portland. You'll end up getting in late at night and actually end up with four nights. There is more than enough to do (and eat). There are some wonderful plantations in the area. You can visit the Civil War sights. Great old home tours. We've stayed in North Charleston (Charleston is Expensive), and Folly Beach which was great fun, and we would happily go back to again.

You do not want to fly through Atlanta. Charlotte is probably a better connection depending upon your carrier, but other than her son, no reason to spend any time there. Change of planes only - let her take an extra day to visit with him. Nothing really special on the drive from Charlotte to Charleston.

Posted by
920 posts

I live near Charlotte and go to Charleston often. The drive is 180+ miles of boring interstate with sketchy traffic. If I were flying from the west coast, I would fly all the way to Charleston. If that is cost prohibitive, check into Savannah/Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach or Columbia, SC as alternatives. They are 1-2 hours away from Charleston. I would spend all 5 nights in Charleston. You may need to look at Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island and North Charleston for lodging depending on availability and budget. All are an easy drive onto the peninsula. Suggest taking a carriage tour as one of your first activities to get a feel for the city. Also, consider a ghost walking tour in the evening. Hit Jestine's Kitchen for brunch. Finer dining options include Fig, 82 Queen, Magnolias, and High Cotton. There are a lot of antique shops as well as other shopping on King Street. Take your pick for beaches, but my preference is Sullivan's Island where you can also visit Fort Moultrie.

Posted by
8774 posts

Stephen, thanks for the great information. We've both been busy, so my friend and I haven't connected yet. I'm willing to fly into Charlotte and spend one night for her to see her son, but otherwise I think we can keep ourselves plenty busy in Charleston.

Posted by
3187 posts

I agree with Mother Duck. I have spent a lot of time in both Atlanta and Charleston (I grew up in GA 2 hours from ATL near Macon, my husband's from Augusta and we lived in SC for 25 years). The SC Lowcountry is the best place on earth(although I confess I've only been to US, Central and South America and Europe). Beaufort is nice, but is a significant distance from Charleston, but is still a better place to go than Atlanta(I can't think of anything of major interest between ATL and Charleston-can't figure out what another reply finds so interesting about Augusta and Macon). Beaufort would be a long day trip-you should spend the night in Beaufort if or if you wanted to see Hilton Head, its only about 45 min further down the coast from Hilton Head. We like to eat at Poogan's Porch in Charleston. Also Water's Edge in Mt Pleasant. If you eat dinner at Middleton Place, you can walk around the gardens in the late afternoon after the crowds have gone. We've never been inside the house there, which would not be open when you eat, but Sherman didn't leave much of it. You definitely want to do a carriage ride, also do this in Beaufort if you go.

Posted by
8774 posts

Thanks for all the good tips. My friend is visiting right now, so we have been able to discuss our trip in September. We are flying round trip to Charleston and will spend all 5 nights there. Our flights arrive within minutes of each other in Atlanta, then we will fly together to Charleston. The reverse will happen when we fly home. Logistically this works the best for us. Our flight there is on a red eye, so will will gain almost a full day when we arrive. I just made a reservation to stay at the Inn at Middleton Place. It is a little out of town, but it seems to have a lot to offer there, and isn't too long of a drive to get to other places. Now that we have these things worked out I'm excited to start planning what we will see while we are there. I don't think we will have any trouble

Posted by
1000 posts

You'll love Charleston. September should be great (if there isn't a hurricane!).

Posted by
8 posts

I love Charlotte and visit Charleston often. With just 5 days, I'd skip ATL.