View of the city from an aerial POV, fiery sunset over the water

Road trip from Jacksonville to Charleston

Published by Dianne Titos on December 11 2023

Known for its beautiful, well-preserved architecture and deep-rooted cultural heritage, Charleston is a city that is synonymous with Southeastern charm and picturesque coastal views. The road trip from Jacksonville to Charleston is dotted with quaint towns and beautiful Atlantic views.

The 270-mile road trip from Jacksonville to Charleston will take about 5 hours to drive. On the way, you can visit Camden County, Jekyll Island, Brunswick, Savannah, Hilton Head Island, Yemassee, Lake City, Valdosta, Macon, Augusta and Falling Creek Falls.

Read on below to learn more about our recommended routes, top places to stay, must see highlights, and the best seasons to travel. Even though the drive from Jacksonville to Charleston is short, this epic journey is not to be missed.

How far is Charleston from Jacksonville, and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of road trip routes between Jacksonville and Charleston
RouteDistanceDriving Time
Direct Route270 miles4 hours 50 minutes
Inland Detour540 miles9 hours 10 minutes

The Direct Route from Jacksonville to Charleston passes through historic Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It's a smoother journey covering 270 miles in approximately 4 hours and 50 minutes.

Alternatively, the Inland Detour offers an extended adventure through Valdosta, Macon, and Augusta in Georgia, covering a total distance of 540 miles with a drive time of about 9 hours and 10 minutes.

You could complete both routes in a day. However, with all the cultural and natural attractions along both routes, we recommend putting aside at least 2-3 days to enjoy this drive to the fullest.

Sunset view of lush and manicured gardens and iconic pineapple fountain Waterfront Park
The waterfront views of Charleston will take your breath away - especially if you plan your itinerary around a magical sunset like this!
Sean Pavone/

Best road trip route from Jacksonville to Charleston

While both routes take you through three diverse southern states, each offers a distinctly unique experience. Which one you choose depends on what you want to see and experience the most.

The Direct Route is a shorter, more straightforward drive. You'll see breathtaking views of the glittering Atlantic Ocean to your right as you travel north.

This route takes you through Savannah, Georgia, and then to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, famous for its golf courses and beaches. The coastal scenery and historical charm of these destinations make them ideal if you're looking for a blend of historical sites and beachside relaxation.

In contrast, the Inland Detour is a longer journey. This route takes you inland, passing through smaller, lesser-known cities like Valdosta, Macon, and Augusta in Georgia.

You'll explore these unique destinations at your leisure, giving you more time to experience this wonderful part of America. As you leave Jacksonville, you'll pass through the lush Osceola Wildlife Management Area and National Forest, enjoying a backdrop of green landscapes along well-maintained highways.

This route is perfect if you want to drive through serene, green countryside and smaller towns.

How to drive from Jacksonville to Charleston

The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between Jacksonville and Charleston. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.

Direct Route

Starting from Jacksonville, Florida, you'll head north on Interstate 95 (I-95), taking in the coastal ambiance of Northeast Florida. Your first significant stop could be at the historic McIntosh Sugarmill Park.

Continuing north on I-95, consider a slight detour east to Jekyll Island, known for its tranquil beaches and rich history. Back on the interstate, continue driving north and consider a stop at Pinball Palace in Brunswick.

You will soon reach Savannah in Georgia. Here, you can explore the iconic Olde Pink House, stroll through Forsyth Park, and wander around the Savannah Historic District for some of the best cuisine in the USA. Resume your journey heading north towards Hilton Head Island.

On and around Hilton Head Island, you'll enjoy the ocean views and get to explore the Victoria Bluff Heritage Preserve.

The final leg of your journey takes you through the serene Lowcountry landscapes of South Carolina. As you approach Charleston, consider a slight diversion to the Dungannon Plantation Heritage Preserve before making your way to your final destination.

Aerial view of boats moored in the marina and a lighthouse on the pier in HARBOUR TOWN, HILTON HEAD ISLAND
Beautiful Hilton Head Island is a destination of its own on the Direct Route.

Inland Detour

Begin your drive by heading west on I-10 towards Lake City. Here, you can take a brief detour to explore the Osceola National Forest, known for its lush greenery and tranquil trails, perfect for a nature walk or picnic.

Continue west on I-10 and make a stop at Falling Creek Falls, a hidden gem offering a picturesque waterfall and hiking trails. Proceeding further, merge onto I-75 North towards Valdosta, Georgia.

As you travel north on I-75, consider a visit to ABAC's Georgia Museum of Agriculture near Tifton. Next, drive north towards Macon, Georgia. In Macon, the Cannonball House and the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MAS) offer cultural and historical insights.

Continue en route northeast towards Augusta, Georgia, where you can enjoy the Augusta Riverwalk for a leisurely stroll along the Savannah River. For the last leg of your journey, head east and merge onto I-26 towards Charleston.

Augusta, Georgia, USA downtown skyline on the Savannah River.
We highly recommend planning to spend an extra day or two in beautiful Augusta on the Inland Detour.
Sean Pavone/

Best places to stop between Jacksonville and Charleston

Even though the drive from Jacksonville to Charleston is manageable, you're going to want to stop and rest at one of our recommended destinations below. This way, you'll get to really experience all the amazing sights and destinations this part of America is famous for.

Explore the Historic District in Savannah

Savannah, nestled just 2 hours into the Direct Route from Jacksonville to Charleston, is the perfect stopover. Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia. On top of its famous food scene and historical places are plenty of engaging activities.

The crown jewel of Savannah is its Historic District, a picturesque area where cobblestone streets meet lush squares and antebellum buildings. Here, the soul of the city comes alive through its cultural spaces and architectural marvels.

View of the fort  by the river from an aerial POV on a sunny day
Old Fort Jackson in Savannah is the oldest brick confederate fort that still stands with river view cannon firing loopholes - a must-visit for any history buff!

Another must-visit is Old Fort Jackson, a historic fort offering a unique window into Savannah's military past. You can learn about the stories and events that shaped this iconic landmark and the city's heritage.

For your stay, the Perry Lane Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, is an amazing choice. This hotel epitomizes Southern elegance, greeting you with complimentary champagne and delivering exceptional service that may make you think twice about leaving.

In this amazing hotel, you can enjoy free bikes, perfect for exploring the city's enchanting streets and landmarks. After a day of sightseeing, unwind with the hotel's evening entertainment and wonderful amenities such as a fabulous pool.

Strategically located, Perry Lane Hotel is a stone's throw away from the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, placing you at the heart of Savannah's historical and cultural riches.

Nearby highlights include the historic and educational Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, just a 10-minute walk. Additionally, the River Street Boardwalk, a mere 5-minute drive or a 20-minute walk, is perfect for an evening stroll or exploring the fun riverfront scene.

Delve deep into the soul of Macon

Macon, Georgia, about 4 hours into the Inland Detour, is an inviting halfway point on this route. Celebrated as 'Where the Soul Lives,' Macon's famous soul music heritage is worth experiencing. Here, you'll get to enjoy its delicious cuisine, intriguing history, and captivating architecture.

Key attractions in Macon include the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. Here, you'll get to learn about the lives of Native Americans who once thrived in the region.

Historical Park located in Macon with prehistoric mounds covered in greenery
Built before 1,000 BCE, Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is home to the legacy of the South Appalachian Mississippian culture.
EWY Media/

Another must-see destination is the Tubman Museum, dedicated to African American art, history, and culture.

For your stay in Macon, the 1842 Inn offers a dive into Southern elegance and history. This exquisite hotel is set in a grand antebellum-style mansion with a Victorian cottage nestled within its sprawling 2-acre grounds.

You'll be treated to free homemade cookies and evening hors d'oeuvres, adding a delightful touch to your stay. The wraparound veranda invites you to relax in a serene setting, perfect for unwinding after a day of exploration.

The Tubman Museum is just a 5-minute drive from the hotel. The Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is easily accessible by car, a short 10-minute drive away.

Where to stay when you reach Charleston

Charleston, a gem of the South, is famous for its rich history, cultural attractions, and stunning natural beauty, making it a world-class destination for travelers.

Once you arrive, explore the city's past by visiting The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, where stories of colonial America and the Revolutionary War come to life. Another must-see is the bustling Charleston City Market, known for its array of local crafts and foods.

Charleston City Market in Downtown Charleston, South Carolina, USA.
Spend some time at the historic Charleston City Market during your visit to this beautiful city.
Kevin Ruck/

A quirky aspect of Charleston is the frequent sighting of pineapple imagery throughout the city, a symbol of hospitality stemming from a local legend about a ship captain who announced his return home by hanging a pineapple at his door.

For your stay in Charleston, the Market Pavilion Hotel provides the perfect luxurious experience, blending old Southern charm with modern amenities.

The hotel's rooftop pool offers a unique experience, making you feel as though you are swimming above the city, with stunning views of the Charleston skyline. In the evening, the rooftop bar becomes an ideal spot to relax, watching as the city lights begin to twinkle in the dusk.

The Market Pavilion is conveniently located close to many of the city's attractions and sights. You're just a short drive away from the French Quarter and the King Street shopping district.

Things to see on a road trip from Jacksonville to Charleston

Along both routes on a road trip from Jacksonville to Charleston, there are non-stop sights and experiences to enjoy. To help you plan your ultimate road trip, we've listed some of our favorites below.

Direct Route

  1. McIntosh Sugarmill Park - This historic site in Camden County, Georgia, showcases the remnants of a 19th-century sugar mill, offering a peek into the area's rich history amidst picturesque ruins and scenic surroundings.
  2. Jekyll Island - Known for its beautiful beaches, Jekyll Island is a serene coastal haven in Georgia, featuring historic landmarks, nature trails, and the famous Driftwood Beach.
  3. Pinball Palace, Brunswick - Located in Brunswick, Georgia, Pinball Palace is an amusement center offering a variety of classic and modern pinball machines, making it a fun-filled stop for enthusiasts and families alike.
  4. The Olde Pink House - A landmark in Savannah, Georgia, The Olde Pink House is an iconic restaurant set in an 18th-century mansion, known for its Southern cuisine and charming historic ambiance.
  5. Forsyth Park - This large city park in Savannah, Georgia, is famed for its expansive green spaces, beautiful fountain, and walking paths, providing a picturesque setting for relaxation and leisure.
  6. Savannah Historic District - The Savannah Historic District is a nationally recognized area in Georgia, celebrated for its well-preserved 18th and 19th-century architecture, cobblestone streets, and lush squares.
  7. Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist - This majestic cathedral in Savannah, Georgia, is an architectural marvel, known for its stunning stained-glass windows and intricate details, reflecting the rich history of the city.
  8. Coastal Discovery Museum - Located on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, this museum offers interactive exhibits and nature trails, focusing on the region's natural history and cultural heritage.
  9. Palmetto Oaks Sculpture Garden - This sculpture garden in South Carolina provides an artistic retreat amidst oak trees, featuring an array of sculptures by local and international artists.
  10. Victoria Bluff Heritage Preserve - A nature lover's paradise near Hilton Head Island, this preserve offers serene walking trails through diverse habitats, ideal for birdwatching and enjoying the Lowcountry's natural beauty.
  11. Old Sheldon Church Ruins - The hauntingly beautiful ruins of this historic church in Yemassee, South Carolina, offer a glimpse into colonial history, surrounded by centuries-old oaks and peaceful landscapes.
  12. Dungannon Plantation Heritage Preserve - Situated near Charleston, this preserve is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, offering a serene setting for bird watching and nature walks amidst diverse ecosystems.
Savannah, Georgia, USA at Forsyth Park Fountain.
Grab your favorite book and spend some time at the peaceful Forsyth Park in Savannah, which is the perfect way to unwind.
Sean Pavone/

Inland Detour

  1. Osceola National Forest - This expansive national forest near Jacksonville, Florida, is a natural oasis, boasting pine forests, swamps, and lakes, perfect for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.
  2. Falling Creek Falls - Located near Lake City, Florida, Falling Creek Falls features a picturesque waterfall and nature trail, providing a peaceful and scenic spot for a short hike and relaxation.
  3. Lowndes County Historical Society and Museum - This museum in Valdosta, Georgia, offers a deep dive into the region's history, with exhibits ranging from Native American artifacts to Civil War memorabilia.
  4. The Annette Turner Center for the Arts - Situated in Valdosta, Georgia, this center is a cultural hub, showcasing local art, hosting performances, and offering creative workshops.
  5. ABAC's Georgia Museum of Agriculture - Near Tifton, Georgia, this museum provides an interactive experience of the state's agricultural history, complete with historic buildings, farm animals, and educational exhibits.
  6. Lane Southern Orchards - Located near Fort Valley, Georgia, this working orchard offers tours, a market with fresh produce, and a unique insight into Georgia's peach industry.
  7. Cannonball House - An iconic historic home in Macon, Georgia, the Cannonball House is named for the Civil War cannonball found lodged in its exterior, now serving as a museum showcasing period furnishings and history.
  8. MAS (Museum of Arts and Sciences) - This museum in Macon, Georgia, offers a diverse range of exhibits, including art galleries, a planetarium, and a mini-zoo, catering to both art and science enthusiasts.
  9. Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park - Located in Macon, Georgia, this park is home to ancient Native American earth mounds, offering a unique historical perspective along with beautiful nature trails.
  10. Augusta Riverwalk - This scenic walkway along the Savannah River in Augusta, Georgia, provides a peaceful setting for a stroll, lined with gardens, restaurants, and beautiful views of the river.
  11. Pexcho's American Dime Museum - A unique attraction in Augusta, Georgia, this museum is dedicated to the quirky and bizarre, featuring oddities and curiosities from around the world.
  12. Augusta Museum of History - This comprehensive museum in Augusta, Georgia, offers exhibits on the region's history, from its founding to modern times, including a notable collection on golf and the Masters Tournament.
  13. Phinizy Swamp Nature Park - Located near Augusta, Georgia, this nature park offers trails and boardwalks through wetlands, providing opportunities to observe wildlife and learn about wetland ecosystems.
  14. Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site, South Carolina - This historic plantation near Augusta offers a glimpse into 19th-century southern life and the tragic history of slavery in America. It features guided tours, slave quarters, and beautiful grounds.
Wooden pathway over the swamp with brown, autumnal-looking weeding trees overhead
For an otherworld experience, visit the eerie, yet beautiful Phinizy Swamp Nature Park on the Inland Detour.
Linda Hendrickson/

Best time to go on a road trip from Jacksonville to Charleston

Charleston is a world-class vacation destination all year long. Each season in Charleston brings its own charm and possibilities as well as amazing highlights.

Spring in Charleston is mild and pleasant, with average daytime temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This season is perfect for exploring the city's historical streets and gardens in full bloom.

The Direct Route during this time is especially scenic, offering lush landscapes and moderate temperatures, ideal for visiting places like Hilton Head Island. On the Inland Detour, the mild spring weather makes stops like Osceola National Forest truly enjoyable.

Summer brings the heat to Charleston, with temperatures soaring between 80 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The city buzzes with activity despite the humidity and occasional afternoon thunderstorms. If you're traveling along the Inland Detour during this hot season, ensure you're well-prepared for the heat.

The summer months on both routes are perfect for attending events like the Augusta Pride Festival in June. However, on both routes, considering off-peak travel times can help avoid heavy traffic in major cities like Savannah and Charleston.

Charleston enjoys mild, comfortable weather with temperatures between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit in fall. The driving conditions are excellent, and the less crowded routes make it an ideal time to experience the city's beauty.

Winter, with its mild 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures, is still a wonderful time to visit Charleston. The city rarely experiences extreme cold, making it a pleasant destination even in these cooler months.

On the Direct Route, you can enjoy local festivities like the Bluffton Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting in December or the Savannah Black Heritage Festival in February. You can also check out the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston.