South Carolina Coast
Historic Charleston to Myrtle Beach
|Mileage||119 miles (192 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||2 hours, 27 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||All Seasons|
|Roadways||South Carolina Highways 31, 9, and 90, and US Highway 17|
|Forest PassesSome of the adventures on this scenic drive require an admission fee that these passes cover. Please read the drive description for more information.||America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Charleston, SC▼, Folly Beach, SC▼, Hanahan, SC▼, Isle of Palms, SC▼, Johns Island, SC▼, Mount Pleasant, SC▼, North Charleston, SC▼, Bird Island, SC▼, more...McClellanville, SC▼, Georgetown, SC▼, Pawleys Island, SC▼, Murrells Inlet, SC▼, Myrtle Beach, SC▼, North Myrtle Beach, SC▼, Little River, SC▼, Longs, SC▼, Calabash, NC▼, Sunset Beach, NC▼, St. Pauls, SC▼, Charleston Farms, SC▼, Charleston Heights, SC▼, Charlestowne Estates, SC▼, Garden Hill, SC▼, Greenwood Park, SC▼, Liberty Park, SC▼, Myrtle Grove, SC▼, Litchfield, SC▼, Garden City Beach, SC▼, Surfside Beach, SC▼, Myrtle Ridge, SC▼, Myrtle Heights, SC▼, Myrtle Trace, SC▼, Cherry Grove Beach, SC▼, and Carolina Shores, NC▼|
4.2 average from 5 votes
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Get a Park Pass
Natural areas along this route require an entrance fee used to protect and maintain our most scenic treasures. Save time by purchasing your forest passes before you go.
This South Carolina coastal scenic drive travels from Charleston to the famed Myrtle Beach, ending at Little River near the border of North Carolina. A fascinating journey from Lowcountry to the Grand Strand, discover colonial architecture, once-thriving rice plantations, lush gardens, state parks, national refuges, and over 60-miles of glorious beaches, some with a little kitsch thrown in. If you’re looking to unwind or enjoy an active family-vacation, you’ll find something for everyone here. Before leaving Charleston, stay and explore plantations, forts, and stunning natural beauty along the Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway.
Our scenic drive begins on US-17 heading north after crossing the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America. The 3.5 mile span is beautifully-designed. Once you cross, stop at Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park and Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and enjoy the nautical-themed playground, 1250-foot Mount Pleasant Pier which features picture-perfect views, fishing, and special events. If you love bridges and stellar views, you can walk or bike across the bridge on Wonder’s Way, a 2.7-mile long side path. And if you haven’t already, visit Fort Moultrie (A7) on Sullivan’s Island. Learn about the history that spans from the Revolutionary War, Civil War to World War II. A self-guiding brochure is available at the Fort Moultrie Visitor Center. There is a small entrance fee or use your America the Beautiful Annual Pass. Or head to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum (M8), home of the USS Yorktown CV-10 and other ships. The museum explores the military history of the United States, the inner working of aircraft carriers, military aircraft, marine science, and so much more. There is a lot to see and easily a whole day can be spent here. There is an entrance fee.
Encompassing nearly 260,000-acres, Francis Marion National Forest is home to dense pine stands, towering bald cypress trees, swamps, and marshes. The Francis Marion Ranger District offers the perfect opportunity to get out and explore. Hike the Sewee Shell Ring Boardwalk, a 1-mile, self-guided interpretive trail that overlooks a prehistoric shell ring, the South Tibwin Hiking Trail, or the Awendaw Passage- Palmetto Trail. The Awendaw Creek Canoe Trail meanders underneath US-17 and around barrier islands along the Intracoastal Waterway. A birdwatcher’s paradise, 293 species can be found here. Orient yourself and learn more from environmental education and interpretive programs at the Francis Marion National Forest/Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center (A17). With so much to do, make it an overnight with tent and RV camping. Mid-May is host to the Bulls Bay Nature Festival featuring special events, kayaking, guided tours, food and craft vendors, music and more.
Step back to the colonial era while exploring a 12-room Georgian-style mansion and remnants of a rice plantation at the Hampton Plantation State Historic Site (A18). The house is preserved, not restored, and not furnished. Knowledgeable docents offer a wealth of historic and anecdotal information. When President George Washington visited here in 1791, he learned a great live-oak tree was to be cut down for views. He asked that it not be cut, and today you can stand alongside the tree now known as the Washington Oak. There is an admission fee for tours of the mansion. It is free to stroll the grounds and walk 2-miles of trails.
The Hopsewee Plantation (A19) was built in 1740, and was also the birthplace of Thomas Lynch, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Though it is a private residence, this National Historic Landmark is open for guided tours Tuesday to Saturday. Informative docents guide different tours such as The Attic to Cellar which explores the main house, its custom woodwork, period furnishings, and art, and the Gullah Geechee tour which explores a slave cabin and the experiences of enslaved Africans and the Gullah Geechee people. Relax afterwards with an elegant southern tea or lunch in the River Oak Cottage Tea Room. Reservations recommended.
In the charming seaside town of Georgetown, stroll along the historic Front Street Harborwalk and watch boats on the Sampit River, embark on a fishing charter, shop local, or enjoy fresh off-the-boat seafood. Learn about the rich history of the third oldest city in South Carolina through the many museums in town. Peruse a varied collection of artifacts and informative exhibits about its industries, native Americans, plantation life, famous locals, sport fishing and much more at the Georgetown County Museum (M2). Closed Sunday and Monday. The museum is free, donations appreciated. Visit the South Carolina Maritime Museum (M6) on the third floor of the Kaminski Hardware Building to learn about the area’s maritime history, shipwrecks, and see fossil discoveries. Closed Sunday. The museum is free, donations appreciated. The temperature and soil in this region are ideal for rice growing. The Rice Museum (M5) examines how rice arrived in South Carolina, its importance to the nation, slavery, and Gullah culture. There is an entrance fee. The humble Gullah Museum (M3) offers tours, story-telling, and demonstrations of traditional Gullah and Lowcountry crafts. Closed Sunday. Admission is by donation. At the Kaminski House Museum (M4), behold an elegantly-appointed antebellum home and its extensive collection of period furniture, artwork, and artifacts. Guided tours expound upon the history and local stories. There is an admission fee.
Hobcaw Barony (A20) preserves a 16,000-acre nature conservation site and historic mansion once visited by Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt. Access is by a 2-hour guided bus tour only which traverses diverse landscape and cultural sites including the only fully-intact, slave village on the Grand Strand. There is a fee for the tour and reservations are highly recommended. The Discovery Center Museum and Gift Shop features interactive exhibits and a 1200-gallon saltwater aquarium. The museum is free, donations appreciated.
Stop in one of two locations of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center (I2) for regional information.
Pawleys Island (A21) is one of the oldest summer resorts on the East Coast. Relax on this laid back barrier island where hammocks reign supreme. Spend the day on unspoiled beaches, kayaking or paddle-boarding, trek over sand dunes, or play a few rounds of golf. You’ll find beauty everywhere along with a wide range of accommodation types to create your perfect vacation. Don’t miss a self-guided historic home walking tour.
If you’re looking for small, charming beach towns with a relaxed atmosphere, consider staying in Surfside Beach (W5), Garden City Beach (W4) or Litchfield Beach (W3). Just 30 minutes or less from the action of Myrtle Beach, these towns also make a great day trip to and from one another.
Huntington Beach State Park and Atalaya Castle (A22) is a delight, featuring nature trails, wildlife observation decks, 3 ponds, 3-miles of pristine beach (in summer, look for the life-guarded area on South Beach), fishing, boating, camping, and biking. A section of the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway passes through here. The 18.6-mile (one way) paved multi-purpose path parallels US-17 from Pawleys Island to Garden City making it a fun way to get around and explore. The 2500-acre park encompasses diverse habitats including salt marsh, tidal waters, forest, sandy beach, and dunes which makes it one of the top spots for bird-watching in South Carolina. Over 300 species of birds have been seen here. Walk along the causeway to observe alligators basking in freshwater areas. Sitting within the park is Atalaya Castle. Built in 1931 and graced with Moorish-style architecture, the castle was the winter home of author Archer M Huntington, one of the wealthiest men at the time, and his wife Anna Hyatt, a well-known sculptor, who also designed the wrought iron work found here. Towering palm trees dot the landscape. At the end of September, Atalaya is host to the multi-day Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival. There is a day use fee to enter the park and a small additional fee to tour Atalaya Castle.
Brookgreen Gardens (A27) is a National Historic Landmark. Over 9,000-acres showcase an incredible array of plants, trees, flowers, and bushes including 250 year-old Live Oak trees, a palmetto garden, and seasonal plantings beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds. Wander paths in this beautiful blend of nature, art and history and discover over 2,000 sculptures by 425 artists, including Anna Huntington’s work. There is an admission fee which also includes access to the Lowcountry Zoo, home to native animals that have been bred and raised in captivity, or were injured and unable to be released back into the wild.
In Murrells Inlet, hangout with pelicans on the MarshWalk. The boardwalk is especially popular for its scenic waterfront dining, bars, and live music. Offerings are casual to fine-dining, and the nightlife vibe is kid-friendly too.
Opened in 1936, Myrtle Beach State Park (H2) was South Carolina’s first state park. Roam 1-mile of undeveloped beach, (an accessible beach wheelchair is available on a first come basis). Take the Sculptured Oak Nature Trail to observe one of the last stands of maritime forest on the northern coast of South Carolina. Stop in the Nature Center for exhibits and educational programs. There are campsites and cabin rentals. Try your luck fishing from the Myrtle Beach State Park Pier or just watch the action and take in the sublime views, especially at sunset.
Franklin G. Burroughs - Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum (M7) boasts a wonderful permanent collection and rotating exhibits throughout 11 galleries. The museum also hosts lectures and programs, as well as a pottery studio. Closed Mondays. Admission is free.
Observe old fighter aircraft such as the A-10 Thunderbolt II , F-100 Super Sabre, and many more at Warbird Park (H3). Interpretive panels offer historic information. The park is dedicated to those who served at the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. Admission is free.
Myrtle Beach (W6) is a blend of carnival atmosphere with a dizzying array of shops outlets stores, arcades, souvenir stands and food galore, kitschy and wonderful, amid breathtaking ocean views. If you’re looking for action and attractions, you’ll find many here such as the SkyWheel, a 187-foot tall Ferris wheel and light display, Ripley’s Aquarium, Hollywood Wax Museum, Family Kingdom, Myrtle Beach Speedway, Myrtle Beach Watersports, Myrtle Waves Water Park, and more! With miles of sandy beach, you’ll have plenty of space to bask, swim, beachcomb and build castles. Golfing reigns supreme, boasting over 100 nearby courses — many designed by legends Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, and Greg Norman. Among them are Caledonia, Dunes Golf and Beach Club, Myrtle Beach Golf Authority, Myrtle Beach National-King’s North, Myrtlewood-Palmetto Course, Pawleys Plantation Golf Club, River Oaks Golf Plantation, and Sea Trail-Rees Jones Course. And don’t worry if you’re not a pro, Myrtle Beach is also known as the Miniature Golf Capital of the World with 50 miniature golf courses. A plethora of festivals delight every season, including the World Famous Blue Crab Festival held mid-May and the Carolina Country Music Festival in June.
With outstanding natural resources, Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge (A24) is the perfect location for viewing wildlife along trails and boardwalks, mountain biking, and picnicking under covered pavilions. Birdwatch for swallow-tailed kites, listed as endangered in South Carolina, and over 200 other species of birds. Fish for largemouth bass, redbreast sunfish, bluegill, and black crappie on the Great Pee Dee River, a designated State Scenic River, and the Waccamaw and Black Rivers. A state fishing license is required. Or revel in the tranquil beauty while canoeing or kayaking. The Visitor and Environmental Education Center offers fascinating exhibits and programs.
The door is always open at Travelers Chapel (A25). Also known as the Tiny Church, the church seats only 12 people and is worth a detour for spiritual refection, to get married, or a photo op.
A string of quiet and uncrowded beaches await in North Myrtle Beach all the way to Little River at the border of North Carolina. You’ll find a lot of free beach parking spots and public access points to beaches such as Windy Hill Beach (W7), Crescent Beach (W8), and Cherry Grove Beach (W9). Head to the top of the two-story observation deck of the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier. Grab your camera and get ready for some of the best sunset views. Atlantic Beach (W10) is known as “The Black Pearl” and was a thriving vacation spot for African Americans who were not permitted to use the same beaches as white people during segregation. Today, Atlantic Beach is the only Black-owned beach in the U.S. and you’ll find many local African-American owned businesses. Don’t miss Black Pearl Memorial Day and Bike Fest. The weekend long family-friendly celebration features food and craft vendors, entertainment, and music. Note, that’s motorcycles, not bicycles.
There’s one last stop in Little River. The Vereen Memorial Historical Gardens (A26) offers 3-miles of trail and boardwalk that explore lush maritime forest and salt marsh. Enjoy wildlife watching and a picnic overlooking the Intracoastal. Admission is free.