6 of the best day trips from Savannah

Savannah, Georgia, has plenty of appealing qualities, like its incredible food scene and historic landmarks. But this coastal city is also well located if you’re looking to explore other nearby destinations on a day trip.

Learn about the people of the Sea Islands, spend a day relaxing on the beach, or pop over state lines to South Carolina or Florida – you’ll find these options and more in our guide to day trips from Savannah.

Hilton Head is loved by golfers for its many courses created by top golf architects © SHippensteel / Shutterstock

1. Experience a day of leisure on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Travel time: 45 minutes

Travelers come to Hilton Head Island in search of relaxation, which can be found even if you’re only visiting for the day. The island has dozens of golf courses, including those designed by the likes of Robert Trent Jones and Pete Dye. But if that’s not your speed, there are also plenty of mini-golf courses, plus miles of bike paths, making it a great family-friendly day trip.

If you plan enough in advance, you can hop aboard the ferry to go to Daufuskie Island, a neighboring island where members of the Gullah community still live. You can join one of the tours to see highlights of the island, including historic churches and the school where author Pat Conroy taught, later inspiring his book The Water is Wide.

How to get to Hilton Head Island from Savannah: The transportation options are mostly limited to driving, but you might be able to convince a taxi to take you across the state line for the right price. Otherwise, make the easy drive over the Talmadge Memorial Bridge and into South Carolina via SC-46 East.

2. Soak up the sun on Tybee Island, Georgia

Travel time: 20 minutes

If you’re spending more than a few days in the city, you’ll likely want to linger on the beach for at least one of those days. Tybee Island is the best beach near Savannah, located on one of the surrounding barrier islands.

Beyond having fun in the sun, visitors can also tour the Tybee Island Light Station Museum, which dates back to 1773. Don’t miss the island’s culinary scene, too – try the oysters at Sea Wolf, the overflowing crab leg baskets at the Crab Shack, and the artisan coffee drinks at Tybean Art & Coffee Bar.

How to get to Tybee Island from Savannah: If you have a car, that’s your best bet to get to the beach. It’s also possible to get a taxi or rideshare. The CAT bus Route 10 will get you most of the way there, stopping on Wilmington Island, but from there, you’ll still need another ride.

A cobbled street lined by pastel-colored historic houses
Learn about Savannah’s sister city on a day trip to Charleston © Peter Unger / Getty Images

3. See the other side of the Lowcountry in Charleston, South Carolina

Travel time: 2 hours

Charleston and Savannah are often seen as rivals, but the cities are more like sisters, with similar histories and culinary influences from Europe and West Africa. There’s never been a better time to see the Holy City, especially with the opening of the International African American Museum, which tells the story of the city’s role in the trade of enslaved people and the Gullah Geechee people of the Lowcountry.

Visiting plantations is a popular activity, but it’s important to consider how the history of these sites is framed. McLeod Plantation Historic Site is an excellent choice – it’s operated by the county parks system and has been recognized for its importance to the Gullah Geechee culture.

How to get to Charleston from Savannah: The most popular way to get between the cities is to drive either the faster route on I-95 or the slow route, Highway 17, which winds along the coast. Amtrak’s Palmetto and Silver Meteor lines also connect the cities twice daily, and the journey takes about 1.5 hours. Upon arrival at the station in North Charleston, you’ll need to take a taxi or other transportation downtown. Tour companies also provide shuttles between the locales.

4. Learn about Black history in Beaufort, South Carolina

Travel time: 1 hour

The city of Beaufort is small in size but has a lot to offer, especially for history buffs. It’s home to the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, which educates visitors on the period after the Civil War when the formerly enslaved rebuilt their lives.

Another important landmark in the park is on neighboring St Helena Island: the Penn Center. It’s the site of a school founded by northern missionaries for formerly enslaved people. It was also where Dr Martin Luther King Jr and his contemporaries planned many of the pivotal events of the Civil Rights Movement.

How to get to Beaufort from Savannah: If you continue past Hilton Head Island, you’ll reach Beaufort, so the transportation options are about the same. Driving is your best bet, especially as you’ll need a car to reach the barrier islands.

A vast sandy beach backed with dunes. A few loungers are lined up together
Chill on the beaches of Amelia Island, or learn about the area’s pirate history © Ruth Peterkin / Getty Images

5. Follow in the footsteps of pirates in Amelia Island, Florida

Travel time: 2 hours

The island along the Florida coast has a long and fascinating history, once the stomping grounds of pirates like Blackbeard and home to the state’s oldest bar, the Palace Saloon, open since 1903.

Amelia Island has a similar appeal to Hilton Head Island, with both top-notch golf courses and quirky alternatives, namely Gregor MacGregor’s Mini Links & Drinks. Downtown Fernandina Beach has funky shops like the Book Loft. If you have time, explore the waterways on a kayaking tour.

How to get to Amelia Island from Savannah: While it’s possible to take the train from Savannah to Jacksonville and then rent a car for the rest of the journey, driving directly is your best bet. It’s a straight shot down I-95.

6. Visit the former playground of millionaires on Jekyll Island, Georgia

Travel time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Set in what’s known as Georgia’s Golden Isles, Jekyll Island’s history dates back centuries. Indigenous tribes had long called the island home, but in 1733, the Georgia colony was founded here by General James Edward Oglethorpe. The island passed through a series of owners over the years before becoming a private club in 1886, welcoming the likes of the Vanderbilts, Pulitzers and Rockefellers.

The best way to learn about the island is to take the historic district bus tour, which brings you to some of the “vacation homes” of the rich and famous, now part of the Jekyll Island Club Resort. You’ll see where the Federal Reserve system was created and the location of the first transcontinental phone call.

How to get to Jekyll Island from Savannah: The best and really only way to get to Jekyll Island is by car. Leaving Savannah, you’ll drive south on I-95 to US-17 before crossing the causeway. Once reaching the island, you’ll have to pay a fee as the island is managed by the state park.

This article was first published Apr 7, 2021 and updated Jun 23, 2024.

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