As Southern exposure goes, it doesn’t get more picturesque than Savannah, Ga.: Each historic, oak-shaded city square and iconic church — not to mention every delicious piece of fried chicken — validates why this city charms some 14 million visitors a year. But it's worth including time in your itinerary for a daylong getaway to one (or both) of these wonderful destinations along the nearby South Carolina coast.
Hilton Head Island
From Savannah, you’re just an hour’s drive (about 45 miles) from Hilton Head Island. It'd be a shame not to visit this special place (a barrier island connected to the mainland by bridges, so you can reach it by car).
There’s a lot you can pack into one day here, depending on your interests. Hilton Head has at least 10 bike rental shops and more than 60 miles of leisure trails, including paths that wind through Harbour Town, a waterfront village full of boutique shops and restaurants, and to the Sea Pines Forest Preserve — both part of the massive Sea Pines Resort. Wander through the protected wildlife habitat (you’ll need to park your bikes to use the walking trails), home to countless birds and alligators. You can also access the beach at Coligny Beach Park by bike, and choose your towel spot from more than 12 miles of sandy coastline.
Next you’ll want to check out the 90-foot red-and-white-striped Harbour Town Lighthouse at the marina. If you’re up for it, you can climb its 114 steps to catch a panoramic view of Calibogue Sound and neighboring Daufuskie Island. At ground level, grab an ice cream next door at Cinnamon Bear Country Store, and crowd-watch in one of the red rocking chairs that line the shopping village. Break for lunch at the Crazy Crab (shrimp salads, oysters, fish sandwiches) overlooking the water.
If you're not big on beach lounging, take the ferry to Daufuskie Island, an hour’s ride each way ($35 round trip). Daufuskie’s haunting history includes First African Baptist Church, Bloody Point Lighthouse and the Mary Fields School, made famous by Prince of Tides author Pat Conroy. Guided tours are available as well as golf cart rentals for exploring on your own. (But note that the last ferry for Hilton Head leaves the island at 6 p.m.)