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Join travel photographer Sher She Goes as she shares suggestions for everything you need to know when planning a Charleston to Savannah road trip, including where to stay, things to do and what to eat!
Welcome to the Lowcountry. Known to locals as the coastal regions of (mostly) South Carolina and (parts of) Georgia, it is the perfect place for your next Southern road trip. While just 108 miles separate Charleston, South Carolina, from Savannah, Georgia, the scenery and culture you can experience on this short route are fascinating and diverse. You’re bound to see great beaches, towering palm trees, and delicious seafood joints (shrimp and grits, anyone?) wherever you are along this stretch of Lowcountry road, though truth be told, the cities of Charleston and Savannah could not be more different.
While Charleston is known for being well-preserved and proud of its heyday as one of colonial America’s most important cities, Savannah is a city that, as John Berendt’s award-winning 1994 nonfiction book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil eloquently reveals, is in love with its quirky, occult spin on Southern culture. Lying in between the two is Hilton Head Island, a gorgeous place that, unlike both Savannah and Georgia, puts golf, water activities, and generally anything related to sweet life above all else! Keep reading for where to stay, where to eat, and what to do on your next Lowcountry road trip.
Where to stay: The Dewberry Charleston
Among the best hotels in historic Charleston is the Dewberry Charleston. Overlooking Marion Square, The Dewberry is named for John Dewberry, a dynamic Charlestonian who is part real estate developer and part historical preservationist, and a former quarterback for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The Dewberry’s 155 rooms and suites feature several upscale trappings including Irish linens, Vermont marble, and an impressive amount of flora that is locally planted and grown. The Dewberry also houses a spa that is popular among locals for its emphasis on leveraging local botanicals and sea extracts to foster wellness. And, despite being a roughly 20-minute walk north of the water, guests at The Dewberry can enjoy a leisurely stroll from Marion Square to Waterfront Park, hitting the King Street shops, Historic Market, and plenty more along the way!
Where to eat: Swig & Swine
As the name adorably suggests, Charleston’s famous Swig & Swine restaurant (now with three locations) is a place to enjoy delicious drinks and even more sumptuous smoked barbecue. With custom smokers to which fresh firewood logs are added every 15 minutes, Swig & Swine offers every smoked meat you could imagine, including beef brisket, pulled pork, turkey, pork belly, ribs, and more. Swig & Swine also offers an impressive bourbon list and more than 60 craft beers from its bar, not to mention mouth-watering authentic Southern sides like pimento cheese, fried pickles, corn pudding, and Brunswick stew. The downtown Charleston location is located on the corner of South Market & State Streets, meaning you won’t be far from any of Charleston’s most famous attractions when you stop in here for a bite!
What to do: The Battery
Conceived as a defensive seawall at the mouth of the Charleston Peninsula, the Battery is easily one of Charleston’s most famous landmarks. Today, it is known for the gorgeous, Charleston-style mansions that line the Peninsula and run right to Charleston’s famous waterfront park. Whether it’s an early morning run or a romantic evening stroll, heading up and down the Battery will quickly give you a sense of Charleston’s pride in its history, architecture, and natural beauty!
Hilton Head Island
Where to stay: Marriott’s Grande Ocean
Marriott is huge down South, and few hotels on Hilton Head Island command a presence quite like Marriott’s Grande Ocean. Designed for large groups and extended stays, the Marriott Grande Ocean offers an array of two-bedroom villas each featuring full kitchens, expansive dining areas, and beachfront balconies. Outside the villas, the Grande Ocean offers everything befitting an idyllic beach vacation, including three outdoors pools, Bocce ball course, putting green, and—of course—the gorgeous Atlantic Ocean!
Where to Eat: Wiseguys
Hilton Head Island is home to a lot of Italian restaurants, but Wiseguys is my go-to dining spot on Hilton Head Island. Located right on Main Street, this steakhouse offers a great mix of traditional options, including lobster risotto, chopped wedge salad, rack of Australian lamb, any cut of steak, plus authentic Southern fare like shrimp and grits, fried seafood trio, and fried chicken and waffle. Plus, from 4:30-5:30pm, don’t miss specials such as one appetizer and one entree for $21 on the restaurant’s early dining menu. You’re gonna be on vacation and not coming from work anyway, so why not?
What to do: The beach
Most people would be perfectly happy if visiting the beach was the only thing they did on Hilton Head Island. And while it might be easy to assume that beaches are around every corner in Charleston and Savannah, the opposite is actually true. Charleston is certainly a waterfront city, but you have to travel some distance to the barrier islands to get a true beach environment; meanwhile, Savannah is largely a riverfront city. So, while you’re making a pit stop on Hilton Head before crossing the Georgia border into Savannah, make sure you stop by any of Hilton Head’s numerous pristine beaches for some well-deserved rest and relaxation!
Where to stay: The Kehoe House
Aside from being one of the best hotels in historic Savannah, the Kehoe House, which overlooks Columbia Square, is also among the most beautiful buildings in Savannah. Built in 1892 by a prominent iron foundry owner, the Kehoe House pays homage to the city’s industrial roots by adorning the Queen Anne Revival home with cast-iron balustrades, stairways, window treatments, fences, and gates. Many of the Kehoe House’s guest rooms feature a variety of Old South touches, including private balconies, private or semi-private verandas, hardwood floors, and gorgeous centerpiece chandeliers. Outside the guest rooms, the Kehoe offers complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, daily wine, hors d’oeurves receptions in the private garden, and an overall air of romance.
Where to eat: Savannah Seafood Shack
Easily one of Savannah’s most popular restaurants, the Savannah Seafood Shack specializes in seafood and fried food. What’s not to love, right? While the Savannah Seafood Shack has fried fishes you’ve never heard of along with tacos and po’ boys galore, there are two things you’ve gotta try before all else. The first are the Shack’s fried seafood cones, which are the fried fish of your choice in a waffle cone topped with coleslaw, and the second is its traditional Lowcountry boil, which features massive portions of shrimp, corn on the cob, sausage, and red potatoes.
What to do: Guided tour
Okay, I agree this one is a bit of a cop-out, but a guided tour is truly the best first thing you can do in the Hostess City of the South. First, Savannah is such a dense city that you will be able to see much of it in just a few hours, a relatively short amount of time. Second, a guided tour is truly the most efficient way to learn about Savannah’s history and architecture, two elements that are indelibly linked to the city’s culture. Finally, like all guided tours, you will pass restaurants, and boutiques along the way that you will want to earmark for checking out later!
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