Things To Do Near Charleston, SC

Boardwalk through a cypress swamp near Charleston, SC.

Charleston offers a huge array of historic attractions, beautiful architecture and other things to see and do, and many visitors to the area find no need to look beyond the city itself when planning an itinerary.

Only a few miles outside of Charleston, however, are dozens of rewarding historic sites and spectacular nature spots, from picturesque boneyard beaches to the South’s iconic cypress swamps.

Most of the best things to do near Charleston are accessible by car, but for the more adventurous there are also some barrier island destinations that you will need a boat – or kayak – to access.

Lowcountry highlights not far from Charleston include the impressive sculpture collection and botanical gardens at Brookgreen Gardens; Hunting Island and Huntington Beach State Parks; a series of historic plantations; and the beautiful and wild Capers and Bulls Islands and the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

See also:
Things to do in Charleston
Plantations near Charleston
Charleston food festivals
Music festivals in Charleston and the lowcountry
– Charleston events by month: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, or December

Historic Attractions

Colonial History

Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site

Summerville, SC – 23 miles, 40 mins

Ruins of a colonial-era trading outpost on the Ashley River, with tabby fort ruins and interpretive history and nature trail. More details

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site

Charleston, SC – 7 miles, 20 mins

Site of the original English settlement of Charleston (then Charles Towne), with a 17th-century replica sailing ship, visitor center, history and nature trails, small zoo and occasional special events. More details


Boone Hall Plantation

Mount Pleasant, SC – 12 miles, 30 mins

Boone Hall Plantation is best known for its beautiful avenue of live oaks, but it also offers house and garden tours, programs on the history of slavery at the plantation, and exhibits on African-American history in the original enslaved people’s cabins. More details

McLeod Plantation Historic Site

James Island, SC – 4 miles, 15 mins

This county-owned plantation on James Island explores the lives of enslaved people, sea island cotton cultivation, and Gullah/Geechee culture before and after the Civil War. More details

Drayton Hall

Charleston, SC – 12 miles, 25 mins

Drayton Hall on the Ashley River is one of the oldest surviving plantation houses in the Charleston area, with tours of the unrestored mansion, self-guided nature trails and special programming. A new visitor center is under construction. More details

Magnolia Plantation

Charleston, SC – 13 miles, 25 mins

Another of Charleston’s Ashley River plantations, this one famed for its beautiful historic gardens. Other attractions include boat tours of the old rice fields and the Audubon Swamp Garden. More details

Middleton Place

Charleston, SC – 16 miles, 30 mins

Charleston’s third surviving Ashley River plantation, with extensive terraced gardens, working stableyards and frequent special events. More details

Charleston Tea Garden

Charleston, SC – 22 miles, 40 mins

For a more modern plantation experience, visit this working tea farm (the only working tea plantation in the country) on picturesque Wadmalaw Island. There is a trolley tour and free factory tour, and many different teas to sample.

More details

Hampton Plantation State Historic Site

McClellanville, SC – 46 miles, 1hr

Colonial-era rice plantation with tours of the historic Georgian-style plantation house, nature trail past former rice fields, and occasional special programs. More details

Hobcaw Barony

Georgetown, SC – 65 miles, 1hr 20 mins

Research reserve on the site of an 18th-century plantation, with bus tours of the plantation’s history and ecology, boat tours, ecology programs and a visitor center. More details

Arts & Culture

South Carolina Artisans Center

Walterboro, SC – 48 miles, 1hr 10 mins

Retail center displaying and selling folk art and craft items made by 300+ artists from across South Carolina. More details

Brookgreen Gardens

Murrells Inlet, SC – 80 miles, 1hr 40 mins

The 9000+ acre Brookgreen Gardens is one of the lowcountry’s most popular attractions, with a huge sculpture collection set amidst beautiful botanical gardens, plus indoor art galleries, a zoo featuring animals native to the area, nature trails and history tours of the former Oaks Plantation. More details

Wildlife, Nature & Outdoors Activities

Angel Oak

Johns Island, SC – 12 miles, 30 mins

This beautiful natural landmark on Johns Island is one of the oldest live oak trees in the southeast, reckoned to be many hundreds of years old. There is a small park and gift shop at the site. More details

Charleston Area Beaches

There are several beaches within a short drive of downtown Charleston. Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms are the most accessible, each offering several miles of beachfront and a variety of watersports and other beach activities.

Caw Caw Interpretive Center

Ravenel, SC – 17 miles, 30 mins

Wildlife preserve with several miles of trails, wetland boardwalks and interpretive exhibits, on the site of former rice fields cultivated by enslaved people. More details

Avian Conservation Center & Center for Birds of Prey

Awendaw, SC – 19 miles, 30 mins

Avian wildlife center with dozens of birds of prey from around the world, flight demonstrations, and special programs focused on particular bird species, photography, and other topics. More details

Charleston Zipline Adventures

Awendaw, SC – 20 miles, 30mins

Charleston Zipline Adventures offers a aerial zipline course through the forest and a separate zipline course for younger children. More details

Capers Island

20 miles from Charleston

One of the Charleston area’s more accessible boat-only undeveloped barrier islands, with frequent boat and kayak tours available from Isle of Palms and vicinity. Capers Island’s boneyard beach is very popular with photographers, and the island also offers excellent bird-watching, plus fishing, beach hiking, wilderness camping and other outdoor activities. See details of tours to Capers Island

Francis Marion National Forest

Various recreation sites north east of Charleston – 20-50 miles, 35 mins to 1hr 20 mins

This 260,000 acre forest not far from Charleston offers hiking, kayaking, biking and horseback trails, camping, boating and other outdoor activities in forest, swamp and marsh environments. More details

Cypress Gardens

Moncks Corner, SC – 29 miles, 45 mins

Beautiful swamp gardens, with swamp boat tours, nature trails, reptile center and butterfly house. More details

Edisto Island Serpentarium

Edisto Island, SC – 43 miles, 1hr

Reptile center with indoor and outdoor displays of a variety of snakes, alligators, turtles and other reptilian wildlife from the United States and around the world. More details

Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve

Edisto Island, SC – 44 miles, 1hr 5 mins

Botany Bay is best known for its stunning boneyard beach, but it also offers plantation ruins, nature trails, and a self-guided driving tour of the preserve’s historic sites. More details

Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

43 miles, 1hr 10 mins

66,000-acre wildlife refuge comprising barrier island, salt marsh, beach and creek environments, the historic Cape Romain Lighthouse, a visitor center, and the wild Bulls Island, accessible by ferry or kayak. More details

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary

Walterboro, SC – 50 miles, 1hr 10 mins

This 600-acre wildlife preserve offers a unique opportunity to see a braided swamp landscape (a network of intertwining creeks), with boardwalks through the hardwood forest swamp, hiking and biking trails, and paddling trails. A visitor center is under construction. More details

Huntington Beach State Park

Murrells Inlet, SC – 79 miles, 1hr 35 mins

This popular state park near Myrtle Beach offers beautiful beach and marsh environments, abundant birdlife, nature trails, frequent special programs focused on the area’s ecology, camping facilities, and Atalaya, a Moorish-inspired historic home. More details

Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island, SC – 88 miles, 2hrs

Miles of beaches and marsh and maritime forest environments are the main attraction at this popular barrier island park, with several miles of trails and boardwalks, a visitable historic lighthouse, and camping facilities. More details

Congaree National Park

Hopkins, SC – 106 miles, 2hrs

Congaree National Park preserves the largest area of bottomland hardwood forest in the southeast, with 40+ miles of hiking trails, a 2.4 mile boardwalk trail, a 15 mile canoe/kayak trail, and campsites. More details