Writing this post is bringing back so many wonderful memories, and all I want to do is go back!! We actually headed out for this trip a year ago this week. I have no idea why it took so long for me to type this up, but I thought posting it exactly a year later would make it just a teeny bit more special for me. So, here is the itinerary for our trip down south!
For our wedding gift, my sister planned out and booked a whole vacation for us in celebration of our 10 year dating anniversary! (which was conveniently enough, exactly 6 months after our wedding) I mean, how could there possibly be a better gift?!
She knew my deep love for southern charm, those large living oaks and Spanish moss (swoon) so naturally she thought a trip to South Carolina was perfect. Which it was. So much so that Ian and I are trying to plan a trip back!!! (And we always try to avoid traveling to the same place twice… so we obvi LOVED it)
She originally planned for a road trip from Hilton Head, to Charleston and ending at Myrtle Beach, but unfortunately our Airbnb reservation fell through in Myrtle Beach (because the owner decided to sell their house) and since it was relatively chilly, we knew we were not going to be able to enjoy the ocean there either. So instead of Myrtle Beach being our last stop, we decided to change course and stay in Asheville instead.
So, technically, this isn’t just a South Carolina road trip, but since a majority of the days are spent inside SC I’m gonna roll with it.
We drove from our home in Cincinnati to these destinations, but I won’t bore you with the details of that 10 hour drive. Instead, I will focus on the exciting stuff!
Day 1: Hilton Head, SC
Hilton Head Island is a southern island just off the coast from South Carolina. In 2018 it was voted “Best Island in America”. With lots of pristine beaches, beautiful golf courses and tons of things to do, I definitely can see why it received that title.
We left our apartment at 3am so that we could get to Hilton Head early enough to be able to check it out a bit the first day. We may have been exhausted from waking up early and driving for 10 hours straight, but we were able to actually go out and do some fun things that first day! Which I was super happy about! We had heard that Hilton Head was more of a “retirement-age” vacation spot, so we figured we wouldn’t miss a whole lot if we didn’t get to spend the entire day there anyway.
What we did:
- Bluffton Oyster Company– The Bluffton Oyster Company is one of Bluffton’s longstanding family businesses. They opened in 1899 alongside other and remains the last hand-shucking house in the state of South Carolina. Unfortunately they we arrived to Bluffton on a Sunday and they are not open on Sundays, so we were unable to eat there. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t get to enjoy the area!
- Oyster Factory Park- This park is the surrounding area outside of the Bluffton Oyster Company. They have a fire put, lots of tables to eat at and a large oak tree canopy with lights strung between the branches. (seriously what my dreams are made of) We packed some food for our road trip and decided that this park would be our first stop off the road! We grabbed a bench and ate our lunch peacefully among the oaks.
- Garvin-Garvey House- This little home located right in the middle of the Oyster Factory Park was built by Cyrus Garvin, a Freedman. It sits on what used to be the property of his former owner, Joseph Baynard. Baynard’s house burnt down in 1863 during the Union attack on Bluffton, and Garvin purchased the land (54 acres for $239.70) in 1878.
- Harbour Town– This is the epicenter for all things fun in Hilton Head. There are lots of places to shop, restaurants and bars to hang out at and live music to be danced to. This is also where the Harbour Town Lighthouse is located.
- Coligny Beach Park– Coligny Beach is such a pretty area! They really built up everything along the beach for all ages to enjoy. Since it was early spring when we arrived, we were not able to go swimming in the ocean, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy a stroll on the beach. There are also more great shopping and recreational areas located just around the bend from the park as well!
Where we stayed: We stayed at this beautiful Airbnb in Bluffton. We actually spent the night under the huge oak tree on the bed swing, and I could not have asked for a more romantic stay! I’m telling you guys, oak trees are my weakness!!! The hosts of this Airbnb were also sooo kind and welcoming!
What we ate: Salty Dog Cafe– I know you have seen at least one person wear one of those shirts that had that picture of a dog and said “Salty Dog Cafe” at one point or another in your life. I know I had before. But the cool thing is, the Salty Dog Cafe is ONLY in Hilton Head/Bluffton! So that means that every person you saw wearing that shirt had either been there before or someone else went there and bought them it as a gift! Anyway, the food was very good! And we got a nice seat right next to the entertainment for the night, so that was a lot of fun! When you go, make sure to order “The Jake-Zilla Burger”, that is one of their most popular dishes, and I am not going to spoil the surprise, but it will blow your mind!!!
Day 2: Savannah, GA
Savannah is such a beautiful, charming city that has so much history at every turn. Since it was such a short drive from Hilton Head we decided to allot one day all to itself, and I am so glad we did!
What we did:
- Forsyth Park– Forsyth Park was named after Georgian Governor during the time of the expansion in 1851, John Forsyth. It’s beautiful 30 acres are home to lots of monuments, fountains and history as far as the eye can see.
- Savannah Historic District– This National Historic Landmark district is the largest of its kind in the United States. It encompasses more than 20 city squares filled with museums, churches, monuments and famous forts of the Revolutionary and Civil War eras. We stayed within the confines of this district for nearly the entirety of our trip to Savannah, and there was still so much we didn’t have time to see!
- East River Street– This street sits right alongside the Savannah River and is filled with lots of antique shops, restaurants and pubs situated in which once was cotton warehouses.
- The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist– This roman Catholic cathedral was one of my favorite things to see! It’s grand stature both inside and out is awe-inspiring and the detail is out of this world!
- Wormsloe Historic Site– This historic site also known as the Wormsloe Plantation is located just outside the perimeters of downtown Savannah. It is home to one of the most breath-taking living oak lined driveways and fascinating tabby ruins (homes made from clam shells and mud) which are the oldest standing structures in Savannah. The Wormsloe Historic site was absolutely breathtaking and informative! You can go on a tour to learn about the history, or walk the grounds yourself.
Where we stayed: We stayed in the same Airbnb as the night before.
What we ate:
- Squat ‘N’ Gobble– This quaint brunch restaurant is located just outside of Bluffton, on the way into Savannah and has the most delicious dishes!!! With HUGE portions!
- Treylor Park– Themed after an old Airstream camper, they are known for their unique food/cocktail/beer menus and offer such a fun atmosphere! Be sure to order their Treylor Park Nachos Grande! To die for!
Day 3: St. john’s island, sc
This day was really set aside to just travel from Savannah to Charleston without having to rush! They are really only about 2 hours away from each other, but we knew that there was a lot in between that we wanted to see, so we figured we might as well take our time to take it all in!
What we did:
- Angel Oak Tree– The Angel Oak is the tree of my dreams! This ancient living oak is estimated to be between 400-500 years old. The long branches and hefty trunk produce shade that covers over 17,200 square feet! It was so peaceful to see this tree (that really seems to be in the middle of nowhere) because due to its hollow branches, you are not allowed to be too loud (because the sound waves could damage the limbs) or climb on any part of it. So everyone was just there to peacefully take in all its beauty.
- Folly Beach– This beach is just south of Charleston. Again, it was too cold that time of year to be able to fully enjoy the beach and swim, but that didn’t mean there was nothing else we could do! We walked the pier, which stretches more than 1,000 ft into the ocean. We also walked down center street, which is lined with surf and souvenir shops.
Where we stayed: We stayed at this cute Airbnb. Their guest room was beautiful and the hosts were so welcoming!
What we ate: We kept it basic this day with breakfast at Waffle House and Dinner at Mellow Mushroom. Oh well lol
DAY 3: CHARLESTON, SC
My heart belongs in Charleston. I think what we will do is live in Charleston, and have a vacation home in San Francisco… I mean one can dream, can’t they?!
Charleston is home to all the southern charm you could ever want! Lots of cobblestone streets, pastel painted antebellum houses, horse-drawn carriages and lots of historical sites at every turn. We spent a majority of our day in Charleston just meandering around the streets, and I would not change that for the world! I feel like that is the best way to take in the city!
What we did:
- Fort Sumter National Monument– This national park is located right in the middle of Charleston Harbor and is where the first shots of the Civil War took place. Before actually boarding the ferry to Fort Sumter itself, you get to learn all about its history in the museum where you board. We traveled mid/late March and it was FREEZING on the ferry ride over to the fort. So a word to the wise, dress warm just in case! Such a great experience to have even if it is cold!
- Waterfront Park– This 8 acre park sits along the Cooper River right in the French Quarter and houses its famous pineapple fountain.
- The Battery– The Battery is a landmark defensive seawall and promenade in Charleston. Named for a civil-war coastal defense artillery battery at the site, it stretches along the lower shores of the Charleston peninsula, bordered by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, which meet here to form Charleston harbor.
- Rainbow Row– Named for its row of thirteen colorful houses, Rainbow Row has the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States.
- Walking through Historic Charleston– Everywhere you turn there is more and more historical sites to be seen! During our walk we saw some many historic homes such as The Calhoun Mansion, Nathaniel Russell House and Edmondston-Alston House. We also were able to see Saint Michael’s Church which was built in 1751 (the original wooden church was built all the way back in the 1980’s) and was the church that George Washington attended while he was in Charleston. Those are just to name a few! Charleston has so much history!
Where we stayed: We stayed in the same Airbnb as the night before.
What we ate:
- Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts- Right before we arrived at the Fort Sumter museum, we spotted this little treasure and knew we had to stop in! They had some of the most delicious donuts I have ever had, and had some of the most unique flavors I have ever seen!
- Page’s Okra Grill– Okay guys. We drove around looking for a restaurant to eat dinner and just stumbled on this place. There was a long wait, and we almost left, but I am soooo glad we didn’t. This place had some of the best food I have had in my life. I honestly still get cravings for it from time to time… So much so that I constantly beg Ian for us to go back! We ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes that came with pickled okra and tomato relish for an appetizer and I don’t think I have loved anything more in my life.
DAY 4: CHARLESTON, SC
We knew that we had a long drive from Charleston to Asheville, so unfortunately we did not have a lot of time to do much. But honestly, what we were able to do filled up so much of my heart that I don’t think I would have had any room for anything else!!
Charleston is FULL of different plantations to check out, but we were told (and reviews online suggested) that Magnolia Plantation and Gardens was the best to see! So we listened and went, and I am sooooo glad we did!! It was absolutely beautiful!
What we did:
- Magnolia Plantation and Gardens – Magnolia Plantation was voted one of “America’s Most Beautiful Gardens” and we could see why. It’s 464 acres of gardens were founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, and is America’s oldest public garden. I am not exaggerating when I am telling you that it took us all morning to walk the grounds! And we didn’t stop to read everything they had posted about. You are able to walk the grounds as you wish, or take a tour with a group, but we decided that we wanted to take our time and look at the things we wanted to, rather than have to stay in a group. Other than the general admission to the plantation and gardens, there are 5 additional tour locations that you can pay for admission to: Historic House, Nature Tram, Nature Boat, Slavery to Freedom and Audubon Swamp. We chose to also check out the Audubon Swamp.
- Audubon Swamp – Audubon features 60 acres of black water cypress and tupelo swamp traversed by boardwalks, bridges and dikes. There were so many different unique birds and other wildlife free to roam the grounds, which was amazing to see! Especially all of the alligators!! ( which we thought were fake the entire time until we heard a tour guide talking about them being real… gulp!)
Where we stayed: We spent the rest of the night driving to our next destination: Asheville! So we decided to stay here to be close to all the activities we were planning to do the following day.
Where we ate: Another uneventful food day… Just McDonalds breakfast and Texas Roadhouse for dinner. But who doesn’t love Texas Roadhouse’s rolls?!
DAY 5: ASHeVILLE, NC
Like I mentioned earlier, we were originally going to stay in Myrtle Beach our last 2 days of the trip, but since the weather was looking rough, we decided to travel a little more inland. A friend of mine had just gone to Biltmore and told me how awesome it was so we decided to give it a try as well!
What we did:
- Biltmore House and Gardens– Biltmore is the largest privately owned house in the United States and now is a historic home and museum. It was built between 1889 and 1895 for George Washington Vanderbilt II. This home is an astonishing 178,926 square feet, and completely filled with original furnishing and adornments for the public to view. It’s so neat to walk around and see how lavish the Vanderbilt’s lived, even that long ago. You can pay for headphones for a guided tour as you walk the halls and rooms. Luckily when we went there was an elementary school touring the house with a tour guide, so we got to hear all about it without paying for head phones! 😉
- Gardens – Outside of the home lies acres and acres of lush gardens filled with every plant imaginable. They also have a conservatory among the gardens that house more exotic plants that would not survive in the North Carolina hills.
- Historic Biltmore Village– Lined with lots of cool restaurants and shops, this area is a great place to just stroll around.
- Asheville Mall– This large mall is just outside of Historic Biltmore. This was really the only time we went shopping during the entire trip!
Where we stayed: We stayed in the same hotel as we did the previous day.
What we ate:
- Biltmore Bake Shop– This little shop was filled with yummy snacks and sandwiches located right in the village in Biltmore.
- TGIFridays– TGIFridays may not be the most unique places to eat, but I wanted to highlight it on here due to the fact that we ate there TWICE this day!! haha We ate early dinner there, went back to our hotel, took a nap, woke up and went back to TGIFridays for dessert. Living that vacation life, amirite?!
Our last day was primarily spent driving back home. We also wanted to go to the Pisgah National Forest and see the waterfalls, but unfortunately there was a snow storm coming right through our drive back home, so we figured we better try to get home as soon as possible in hopes to avoid it. (spoiler alert: we did not avoid the snow storm)
Nicholas Sparks has always painted the prefect image of the Carolina’s in each of his books and made me dream to explore them myself one day. I have been to the Outer Banks in North Carolina and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina when I was younger, but its so cool to go back as an adult and just travel around to all the places I am able to!
Our trip down south was such a magical time, and we cannot wait to go back and explore all of our favorite places and discover all of the things we didn’t have time to do the first time!