I will never forget my first Charleston day trip. In April of 2010, my Senior year of college, after a long stretch of grueling college work, a handful of us got in my minivan (the man-van) at 5 in the morning and drove down to the beach.
As soon as I walked out there on the sand, I was overwhelmed with relaxation and the exciting prospect of a whole day off. Here's a picture from that day later on, when we ate lunch at Coconut Joe's.
Since then, like many Greenvillians, I have taken many Charleston day trips. It takes a little over three hours to make the trek down to the Low Country. The way there seems to fly by, the way back always seems to take forever. Either way, it's an excellent way to spend your day off.
Even though I write a lot about church and theology, I imagine this will be one of my more controversial posts as there are many strong opinions out there on how to spend your day in Charleston (particularly from friends who live there). I honor nearly all of those opinions knowing that they all serve the same great purpose - having a fantastic day off. It is simply true that a historian, an adventurer, and a lazy guy like me differ in what they think is a fantastic day off.
But it's my blog so here are my two cents. I hope this helps enhance your day trip. The main point is that you take one! Feel free to add something in the comments below.
A Charleston Day Trip:
1. Head for the beach.
Wake up at 6, get Starbucks, and start driving. You should arrive before 11 a.m. Which beach do you head to?
Like I said, this will be controversial as we all have our favorite Charleston beach, but I usually pick the Isle of Palms. I do have a reason for this; it's quiet. In my experience, you're going to see fewer people at the Isle of Palms than many other beaches.
At the same time, there is less to do on Isle of Palms. But typically when we head out for a day it's to get to somewhere quiet, at least for part of the excursion. Of course, once in a while, we go to Folly Beach as well. We've yet to get out to any of the others.
2. Eat at the beach.
If you do decide to go to the Isle of Palms, get some good Southern food at Acme Low Country Kitchen. We usually eat at Acme before we get to the beach because their breakfast is out of this world. I like what they call "The Bulldozer."
If you decide to go over to Folly Beach, more power to you. I like almost all of the restaurants there but probably had my favorite meal on Folly is at either be at Black Magic Cafe or Snapper Jacks (Taco Boy gets an honorable mention). At Snapper Jacks, I got the Oysters Rockafeller. These were so good I ordered a second serving, and I'm not that big of an Oyster fan. At Black Magic, my go to is their Chicken and Waffles.
3. Rent something at the Beach
I'm all about sitting on the beach. I bring a book, a notebook, and even my MacBook Air so I can write. I get very inspired while I'm sitting there looking at the truly remarkable creation of Jesus. I put on some tunes while I take walks as well. But I've found it's rewarding to make use of at least one other activity. There are all kinds of rental places where you can get something to ride, use, or enjoy.
I had a particularly good time last summer when my dad and I rented bikes from Folly Beach Rentals for super cheap and biked around for an hour. Next, I may try a Segway. Don't judge me.
4. Head into Charleston for Afternoon Coffee
This is a good move if you're feeling any fatigue from waking up early for the drive or, if you're like me, and prefer to spend your free time sitting in coffee shops.
If you don't want to sit for a while, but rather walk around King Street (Downtown Charleston) go to City Lights Coffee. They serve Counter Culture coffee. The only drawback is that it's a pretty small space. There probably won't be an open table. So, yeah, go walk around.
If you want a place to sit and chill, Black Tap Coffee is a little more unique and a bit more spacious. I'm a huge fan of their coffee. (I just ordered some while writing this post. Should be roasted and shipped in just 3 days.)
5. Do Some Exploring
Additionally, while some of King Street is home to some mainstream retail, there' still all kinds of shops you've never been in. A few trips ago, we went to the Pepper Palace and sampled all sorts of painfully hot sauces, leaving with some gifts on hand for the family.
Then there's the entertainment. We've done the Blues and BBQ Harbor Cruise which was pretty cool, except for the fact that we went in winter. It was actually quite freezing out on the water. We've also done a mystery dinner show at The Black Fedora Theatre. It was kind of cheesy but overall super engaging. I did have to protect my wife from having to get on stage. It's very interactive, and not everyone's into that. As you can imagine, I ended up having a couple of lines in the show myself.
6. Eat Dinner
I'm not a lot of help here, we always go to the same place. Joanna and I got Married on a Friday. We moved from Seattle to Greenville on the following Sunday. We went to Charleston to kick off our honeymoon on Monday. We followed the above pattern pretty much to the letter. Then, around dinner time randomly decided on Jim and Nicks BBQ. It was one of the first dinners of our marriage. Probably due to nostalgia, we still go there for dinner on every Charleston trip.
Luckily the BBQ there is world class and so are all of their sides. We always get Pulled Pork, Mac N Cheese, and Fries, but anything on the menu will give you a reason to smile.
A few trips later we started a new tradition of always finishing dinner with dessert at Kaminsky's. Again, even here, I keep it pretty simple with their Bourbon Pecan Pie and some coffee. Next time I plan on trying one of their milkshakes.
7. Drive back home or stay?
We usually head back to Greenville around 9, getting us home a little after midnight. It's not too tiring. And many times a day can be just enough time to feel like you got away and interrupted the routine.
Sometimes, though, you need a day and a half or two days. In that case, here are a couple of tips:
Tip #1 Stay in Mount Pleasant. At times there are cheaper, yet nice options in Mount Pleasant. It's pretty close to the Isle of Palms and not too far from a great late-night pastime of ours, Cinebarre, which is like a movie theater/restaurant combo.
Tip #2 If it's in the offseason, check the Palms Hotel. We've stayed there around the end of December for as little as $70 a night. And that's WITH an ocean view. You wake up right on the beach! Get your coffee from Joe's To Go and start another day.