Looking to escape Columbia? Keep reading for the ultimate list of day trips from Columbia, SC.
In my last post, I shared how you can travel without leaving your home. One of the tips was to take a day trip from your town! While not exactly “home,” I added this because I feel like so many people feel that you’re not traveling if you haven’t gotten a stamp on your passport or taken a plane or train. This is just not true! In the past couple of years, I have embraced weekend getaways and day trips in my own state and neighboring states. Exploring is exploring no matter how near or far!
For me, my mindset shift to believing weekend trips and day trips were travel made all the difference. I look at weekend getaways differently now and try to soak up the culture and uniqueness of every given location. It’s made me appreciate the amazing places around me I would normally overlook and makes me feel like I’m traveling a bit more, even with a full time job.
South Carolina has sooo many gems all around the state and luckily Columbia is in the center of it all! You’ll definitely be able to hit some of these great day trips from Columbia easily. You’re equidistant from the mountains and the beach, there are hundreds of miles of trails on the that covers the whole state, and SC is rich with southern history. We’ve had the opportunity to explore much of South Carolina over the last couple of years and there are a few places we love to go back to when we have a free Saturday!
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Dreher Island State Park
Dreher Island is about 45 minutes away from downtown Columbia on the other side of Chapin. This state park is an island in Lake Murray and has camp grounds, villas, hiking trails, and beaches. We like to load up the car with sandwiches, snacks, and drinks and take Benny out to the lake for the day during the summer. Benny isn’t a big swimmer, but he loves to run around and explore! The beaches do get crowded, so I would go early if you’re looking to stick to the beach. It costs $2 per person to enter.
Located approximately 2 hours from downtown Columbia, Greenville is a great trip if you’re looking to explore a new city for the day. Greenville isn’t large, so it’s definitely doable to see a good chunk of the city during a day trip. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in character! The downtown area is built around the Reedy River so you’ll have views for days. Make sure you check out Falls Park on the Reedy, stroll down Main Street, grab brunch at Biscuithead. Check the schedule to see if the baseball team is playing and catch and afternoon game! If not, take a stroll down the Swamp Rabbit trail after lunch and then top off your afternoon with brewery hopping. I love Birds Fly South Ale Project, Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom, and Quest Brewing Co! For dinner, try Nose Dive right in downtown… it’s so good! If you don’t mind driving home late (or are staying at a hotel to extend the fun!), check out UP on the Roof for a drink before you leave.
Everyone’s favorite day trip from Columbia SC. This is a city that doesn’t need much introduction. While I think Charleston deserves a whole weekend of exploring, you could do a day trip if you’re selective about what you want to see. You definitely won’t be able to hit all the highlights in one day, but you could choose to explore downtown, visit a couple museums or just eat your way around the city! Michael and I took a day trip here back in 2019. We are pretty familiar with Charleston, so we knew what we wanted to see. We grabbed a to-go breakfast at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit then walked along the gorgeous streets of downtown, took pictures on Rainbow Row and explored the Battery, then grabbed lunch at Hometeam BBQ. Actually, I think we may have wanted to go here for lunch but decided to just eat Jeni’s ice cream for lunch instead, ha! We dedicated our afternoon to snacking on food truck eats and grabbing a beer at Palmetto Brewing Co.
There are plenty of beaches in South Carolina that you could make a day trip to, but Folly Beach is undoubtedly my favorite. It’s only a few minutes from downtown Charleston so it does get very crowded. We always try to go early. There are several public beach accesses, but we prefer to go to Folly Beach State Park. There’s plenty of parking, bathrooms, and a snack bar! After lounging on the sand all day, make sure you grab dinner and drinks at Surf Bar.
Peachtree Rock State Park
Peachtree is a little off the beaten path and because of that I think it makes the perfect day trip. Michael and I discovered Peachtree at the height of lockdown when we were dying to find something, anything!, to get out of the house and explore something new. Peachtree Rock State Park is aptly named because the rock which gave it its namesake is shaped like a peach tree! It’s rumored to be about 600 million years old and a few decades ago, the rock collapsed due to erosion giving it the tree shape. The park also boasts the tallest natural coastal plain waterfall in the state. There are several hiking trails but be warned, the soil here is very sandy so it’s pretty axing even though it’s flat.
Are there any golf fans out there?! Not me. I can’t play it, can’t watch it, don’t find any interest in it so I personally haven’t ventured down to Aiken. But I’ve heard it’s a great place to play a round of golf! Aside from golf, Aiken also boasts a very rich history as an early railroad hub.
Congaree National Park
I mean, how cool is it that you can take a day trip to a NATIONAL PARK from Columbia? And it’s only like 30 minutes from downtown Columbia! While I admit it is not the absolute coolest national park I’ve ever been to, it’s still pretty spectacular. Congaree boasts a very unique overgrowth forest full of amazing plants and wildlife. There’s an awesome boardwalk loop that gives a good taste of what the park has to offer. Just be warned, if you go in the summer it’s hot and buggy. Keep your eyes peeled for snakes and alligators!
Not too far from Charleston, Beaufort is another beautiful low country coastal town with tons of history! Explore downtown and meander through shops, eat delicious food, and visit beautiful churches. Take the ferry to St. Phillips Island State Park.
Just under 2 hours away, Charlotte is a large, bustling city over the NC border. Known for being a financial hub, this city has grown so much in the past several decades! We love to try new restaurants and visit one of the many breweries when we are in town. You can also visit the National Whitewater Center, go to Carowinds, or explore one of the many beautiful neighborhoods in Charlotte.
Huntington Beach State Park
Just south of the famous (or infamous) Myrtle Beach, Huntington Beach is a grand strand beach famous for its excellent surf fishing. Fun fact: because of the way the shore faces (the grand strand faces to the south), the ocean here is notoriously calm so its great for swimming and fishing! There is also a beautiful home left behind by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. Several hundred species of birds call this park home and you may even get the chance to see loggerhead turtles! It costs $8 to enter.
Located in Pickens, SC, Table Rock is one of our favorite hiking trails to tackle in a day trip! From Columbia, leave around 7 or 8 to get there and beat some of the crowds. This is a very popular trail so try to get there early! Depending on how fast you travel, you can complete this hike between 4 and 6 hours. You’ll have to register with the park ranger when you get there. It’s a strenuous hike by SC standards but definitely doable!
Traveler’s Rest is a tiny town at the bottom of the Appalachian Mountains but my friends, it is a GEM! We have driven through here a few times on our way to various hikes and we love to stop here for a meal. The main street is tiny and hard to miss but it is bustling. We like Tandem for coffee and crepes. Furman University is also not far from here if you like to explore college campuses like we do. There’s also of course plenty of trails and hiking around!
An amusement park on the border of NC and SC? Yes, please! You can spend your whole day here or split it with a short trip to Charlotte. Carowinds has some pretty great rides if you’re a fan of roller coasters. I’ll ride The Intimidator, The Nighthawk, and Fury 360 all day!!!
Not far from Beaufort and Hilton Head Island, Bluffton is slightly inland and has been named the best non-beach summer getaway by Huffington Post. Bluffton, like much of these small South Carolina towns, is full of rich southern history with antebellum homes and tons of beautiful live oaks. Bluffton is also the site of those adorable churches you see all over Instagram.
Another coastal island?! Yes, I know. South Carolina is v blessed to have so much beautiful coastline. But no lie–Kiawah might be my favorite beach town EVER. It’s tiny and quaint. It’s got beautiful beaches, big oak trees, kids and adults riding bikes everywhere. What more could you want?! Your dining options are limited but delicious (which in my mind is a good thing because I get major decision fatigue. No one wants that on vacation!). While I do think Kiawah is best suited to a relaxing weekend getaway or week long family vacation, you could definitely come down for a day and golf on one of the famous courses, ride your bike down the beautiful neighborhoods, walk on the beach, and have drinks at the bar in the Sanctuary Hotel.
Have you ever taken any of these day trips from Columbia SC? Any great day trips I missed that should be added?!