10-Day Coastal Carolinas Itinerary

From Nags Head to Hilton Head, this 10-day itinerary hits all the coastal hot spots in North and South Carolina and highlights the region’s culture, history, natural beauty, and rich maritime legacy.

North Carolina Coast

Day 1

Begin at Nags Head on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, your home base for the next couple of days, and enjoying the beach and the key local sights, Jockey’s Ridge State Park and the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

people playing on the beach in front of cottages at Nags Head in North Carolina
Relax at the beach at Nags Head. Photo © Meinzahn/iStock.

Day 2

This morning head down to windswept Cape Hatteras National Seashore and climb the historic lighthouse. Then, in the afternoon, head to Roanoke Island’s Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. At night, perhaps take in a performance of “The Lost Colony” historical drama.

Day 3

This morning enjoy the exquisite historic district in New Bern, with a visit to the gorgeous gardens at Tryon Palace. After a tasty lunch downtown, head to the ocean again and walk the waterfront at Beaufort. Don’t miss a visit to the North Carolina Maritime Museum and the Old Burying Ground. Tonight drive down to Wilmington for the first of two nights at a fine B&B, such as the Rosehill Inn.

Day 4

This morning tour Wilmington’s historic homes: Bellamy Mansion, the Burgwin-Wright House, and the Zebulon Latimer House (save with a three-house ticket). After lunch, walk the decks of the USS North Carolina. Tonight have a quality meal downtown at any one of the fine eateries on and around Water Street.

battleship docked in North Carolina
Walk on the deck of the USS North Carolina battleship. Photo © DavidByronKeener/iStock.

Day 5

After breakfast at your B&B, head out to the ocean for some fun at Wrightsville Beach. In the afternoon head south toward Myrtle Beach. Stop for fried seafood along the way at Calabash, on the border between North and South Carolina. Alternately, you could continue on to Myrtle Beach for a delightfully cheesy, utensil-free dinner show at Medieval Times at Broadway at the Beach.

South Carolina Coast

Day 6

Today is your big Myrtle Beach day. Claim your patch of sand along the miles of beaches in the morning, and after lunch visit Ripley’s Aquarium, shop at Barefoot Landing, or have a round of miniature golf. Tonight enjoy some down-home entertainment by catching a show at the Carolina Opry, quaffing an adult beverage or two at The Bowery, or perhaps learning how to do the Shag at Ocean Drive Beach.

aerial view of the streets and buildings lining Myrtle Beach in South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Photo © Refocus/Dreamstime.

Day 7

Work your way southward with a stop at Brookgreen Gardens on the Grand Strand, having lunch at the waterfront in nearby Georgetown. This afternoon visit gorgeous Hampton Plantation, then it’s down to Charleston. After checking into your room at the Andrew Pinckney Inn, walk the French Quarter, including looks at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and the French Huguenot Church. Enjoy a classic Charleston dinner at one of any number of amazing restaurants nearby, such as Peninsula Grill or Husk.

path leading through mossy giant oaks in South Carolina
Stop in at Brookgreen Gardens for an afternoon stroll. Photo © andykazie/iStock.

Day 8

This full day in Charleston includes some shopping on King Street and a walk along the Battery and nearby Rainbow Row for a snapshot of these photogenic mansions. For an afternoon historical road trip, cross the Cooper River to Mount Pleasant, and visit Boone Hall Plantation and the nearby Charles Pinckney Historical Site. For more recent history, visit the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. Tonight eat and drink in style in the Upper King area.

Day 9

You have a full array of choices for this full day in Charleston, including a ferry ride to Fort Sumter, a jaunt across the Ashley River to Kiawah Island. If it’s a weekend, you can head up to North Charleston to see the Confederate submarine CSS Hunley at the repurposed Charleston Navy Yard.

a young deer standing in grass on Kiawah Island
Take in the views of wildlife at Kiawah Island. Photo © centrill/iStock.

Day 10

Finish your tour by spending the morning in historic Bluffton on the relaxing May River, browsing the art galleries. Then jaunt down to Hilton Head Island to relax on the beach, with a visit to Sea Pines Forest Preserve and Harbour Town.

Jim Morekis

About the Author

Maybe its because he was born in the same hospital as Flannery O'Connor, but there's no doubt that Jim Morekis has writing in his blood. As longtime editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Connect Savannah, the University of Georgia graduate has written about and experienced pretty much every cultural happening in the area. He credits his love of travel to his mother, Elizabeth, who was John Berendt's travel agent during his stint in Savannah while writing Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

As for the ongoing debate over which city is better, Charleston or Savannah, Jim calls it a tie: Charleston has better long-term planning, but Savannah has to-go cups (allowing anyone to explore the Historic District with a beer or cocktail in hand).

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