City's skyline over Ashley River with tall buildings and a suspension bridge seen in the distance
Sean Pavone/

Road trip from Orlando to Charleston

Published by Dianne Titos on January 3 2024

Charleston, famous for its beautiful architecture and historic plantations, is the perfect place to experience Southern charm and hospitality. If you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city life, a road trip from Orlando to Charleston is an adventure calling your name!

The 395-mile road trip from Orlando to Charleston will take about 7 hours to drive. On the way, you can visit Valdosta, Daytona Beach, St Augustine, Jacksonville, Savannah, Gainesville, Edisto Island, Blue Spring State Park and Falling Creek Falls.

If you love sunshine, great food, and historical places, then this amazing road trip is for you. Read on below to learn more about our recommended routes, top stops along the way, top highlights, and the best seasons to travel.

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

Comparison of road trip routes between Orlando and Charleston
RouteDistanceDriving Time
Coastal Route395 miles6 hours 50 minutes
Inland Detour510 miles8 hours 40 minutes

The Coastal Route on a drive from Orlando to Charleston takes approximately 6 hours and 50 minutes to drive, covering a distance of 395 miles.

The Inland Detour, however, is about 8 hours and 40 minutes, covering a distance of 510 miles. This route converges with the more direct Coastal Route in Savannah.

While you can drive both routes in a day, why rush? The rich historical and cultural landmarks along the way are worth exploring over 2-3 days.

St. Michaels Church and Broad St. in Charleston, SC
Charleston is a beautiful city famous for its well-preserved architecture and is the perfect destination from Orlando for a strikingly different experience than a big metropolis.
Susanne Pommer/

Best road trip route from Orlando to Charleston

Both of our recommended routes are full of amazing sights and experiences with very similar driving times. Which one you choose depends on what you want to see the most.

The Coastal Route takes you along the Atlantic Coast of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. You'll see beautiful beaches and sunny vacation destinations on the coast if you follow this route.

You'll also get plenty of wildlife attractions as well. Don't miss the Blue Spring State Park, where you can spot some wild manatees if you are lucky!

As you drive north, you'll see dunes, forest and marshlands. On top of all the nature, you'll drive through historical places such as St Augustine and Savannah before making it to Charleston.

The Inland Detour takes you along pleasant tree-lined roads all the way to Gainesville. Here, you can relax and experience the college-town atmosphere.

Next, you'll see the prairies of Osceola County. The colorful town of Valdosta is a highlight where you can enjoy historic buildings and charming restaurants. This route then converges with the Coastal Route in Savannah, so you won't miss out on beautiful ocean views if you opt for this drive.

How to drive from Orlando to Charleston

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

Coastal Route

Start your journey heading northeast from Orlando on Interstate 4 (I-4). Your first notable stop is Blue Spring State Park, where you can see manatees in the wild.

Continue to Daytona Beach, where you can feel the adrenaline at the Daytona International Speedway and enjoy the iconic views from the Main Street Pier.

As you drive north on I-95, you'll arrive in St Augustine, known for its rich history and unique attractions. Don't miss the St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park for an up-close encounter with Florida's famous reptiles or a stroll down St George Street.

Continuing along the coast, you'll pass through the natural beauty of the Guana River Preserve before reaching Jacksonville Beach. In Jacksonville, a visit to The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary offers a chance to see rescued wildlife.

Your journey then leads you north, into Georgia, stopping at the Pinball Palace in Brunswick for some nostalgic fun. As you approach Savannah, explore the culinary delights at The Olde Pink House and wander through the Savannah Historic District.

The final stretch takes you to South Carolina, with a visit to the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center, and finally, a serene experience at the Dungannon Plantation Heritage Preserve, before concluding your journey in Charleston.

St. Augustine, Florida, USA town square.
St Augustine, on the Coastal Route, is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States with origins tracing back to both European and African-American settlers.
Sean Pavone/

Inland Detour

The Inland Detour from Orlando to Charleston begins by heading northeast from Orlando. Merge onto I-75 and make a visit to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. This stop showcases a unique aspect of automotive history.

Heading north, your next stop is in Gainesville, home to the serene Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, and the intriguing Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park. Continuing on, Falling Creek Falls offers a picturesque natural setting for a refreshing break.

Near Valdosta, the Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area is an excellent location for birdwatching and experiencing the region's diverse ecosystems.

Crossing through Georgia on US-84 and US-82 West, you'll make it to the coast. From here, drive north on I-95 to the historic city of Savannah. As mentioned above, the routes converge here, so follow the same directions to reach your beautiful destination in Charleston.

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville, Florida with banana trees growing in a grassy area leading to a pond in the background.
For a "tropical" break, you can visit the beautiful Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville on the Inland Detour.

Best places to stop between Orlando and Charleston

With so much fun and excitement along the way on a road trip from Orlando to Charleston, you're going to want to stop in one of the destinations below. This way, you can stay relaxed and ready to explore this wonderful region.

A break by the ocean in Jacksonville

Jacksonville, situated just about three hours into the Coastal Route, is a great stopover. Known as one of the most value-friendly travel destinations in the nation, Jacksonville is renowned for its 22 miles of white sand beaches, eco-adventures, art, history, and food scene.

This "River City by the Sea" is home to the largest urban park system in the nation, offering plenty of nature-filled activities.

A promenade in Jacksonville with the view of the city across the water on a sunny day
Head to the Southbank Riverwalk for a unique view of the city. This is the perfect place to enjoy a scenic but urban stroll.
Roy L Sprague/

Among the city's highlights are the Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, perfect for nature lovers and anyone who enjoys peaceful strolls among beautiful flora while learning more about these fascinating plants.

For your stay, Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park is a great and modern choice. Conveniently located between the Deerwood Business District and downtown, the hotel is just a short distance from the University of North Florida, St Johns Town Center, and Jacksonville Beach.

It also features a bar, gym, swimming pool, pool table, and a convenient snack shop where you can also order breakfast.

Nearby, you'll find the Southbank Riverwalk, just a 15-minute drive away, offering scenic views. Additionally, the Beaches Museum is about a 30-minute drive from the hotel.

Explore Valdosta's academic legacy

Valdosta, nestled in southern Georgia, is the perfect stopover on the Inland Detour, about 3 hours and 20 minutes into your journey. Fondly referred to as the "Azalea City," Valdosta is celebrated for its colorful azaleas that bloom throughout the area.

During your visit, explore the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts for a taste of local culture or delve into the region's history at the Lowndes County Historical Museum and Lowndes Couty Courthouse.

Front view of the facade of the building on an overcast day
If you are interested in architecture, then a visit to the beautiful Lowndes Couty Courthouse in Valdosta is a must.
Roberto Galan/

A fun fact for sports fans is that the Valdosta High School's football team holds the record for the most wins of any American high school!

One of our favorite places to stay in Valdosta is the Drury Inn & Suites Valdosta. This 3-star hotel's central location offers easy access to local attractions like the Valdosta Mall and Valdosta State University.

The hotel features an excellent Pantry, rooms equipped with fridges and microwaves ingeniously tucked away in dressers, and a delightful “Kick Back” evening meal with drinks. The hot tub and pool area provide the perfect relaxation spot after a day of exploring.

Nearby, you can visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, just an 11-minute drive away. The Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area, a 22-minute drive from the hotel.

Where to stay when you reach Charleston

Charleston is South Carolina's largest city and offers travelers plenty to see and do. While you're here, don't miss the South Carolina Aquarium. Here you can see breathtaking aquatic life and learn about the life of the Atlantic Ocean.

Next, make sure to see the McLeod Plantation Historic Site. This reflective space serves as a museum and educational center about the tragedy of slavery in America.

Canopy of trees lining a path in the grass in historic plantation
Charleston has a rich history, and you can learn more about this city's important past by visiting the McLeod Plantation Historic Site.
Prentiss Findlay/

On top of its history, Charleston loves sports. The first golf club in America was established in Charleston in 1787 and is still a golfer's dream destination.

When you reach Charleston, we recommend staying at the highly-rated Spectator Hotel. This luxurious space is the best address in Charleston's bustling historic district.

The Spectator Hotel evokes the exuberance of the Jazz Age and the Old South. You'll enjoy the in-room gourmet continental breakfast, prohibition-style bar, and amenities such as complimentary bicycles to borrow.

This way, you can explore the city at your own pace without having to drive.

Things to see on a road trip from Orlando to Charleston

The road trip between Orlando and Charleston is full of incredible destinations and stops. To help you plan your adventure easily, we've included our top stops below.

Coastal Route

  1. Blue Spring State Park - A natural oasis known for its clear blue waters and as a winter refuge for manatees, offering opportunities for kayaking, snorkeling, and wildlife viewing.
  2. Daytona International Speedway - This world-famous speedway is a mecca for motorsports enthusiasts, hosting major events like the Daytona 500.
  3. Main Street Pier, Daytona Beach - A historic pier offering stunning ocean views, fishing opportunities, and dining options right over the Atlantic.
  4. St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park - An exciting attraction featuring a variety of alligator species, exotic birds, and an adventurous zip-line course.
  5. St. George Street - A vibrant, pedestrian-only street lined with quaint shops, restaurants, and historical sites in the heart of St Augustine.
  6. Castillo de San Marcos National Monument - The oldest masonry fort in the continental US, showcasing centuries of history and breathtaking views of the coastline.
  7. Guana River Preserve - A pristine natural area offering hiking, birdwatching, and beautiful beach access along Florida's northeast coast.
  8. Jacksonville Beach - A popular beach destination known for its wide sandy shores, vibrant boardwalk, and lively nightlife.
  9. Pinball Palace - A unique entertainment venue filled with classic and modern pinball machines, perfect for family fun and nostalgia.
Several alligators enclosed in a zoological park with palm trees in the background
Not for the faint of heart - St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, is a great and educational place to learn more about these fascinating creatures, if you dare!
Liis Tokko/

Inland Detour

  1. Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards - Florida's largest winery offering tours, tastings, and picturesque vineyard views in a tranquil setting.
  2. Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing - A museum showcasing the history of drag racing with an impressive collection of race cars and memorabilia.
  3. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens - A 62-acre garden featuring a variety of themed gardens, including a bamboo garden and a butterfly garden.
  4. Falling Creek Falls - A scenic natural area with a picturesque waterfall, providing a peaceful spot for picnicking and nature photography.
  5. Wild Adventures - A family-friendly theme park with thrilling rides, animal exhibits, and regular entertainment events.
  6. Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park - A unique geological formation featuring a miniature rainforest at the bottom of a sinkhole.
  7. Stephen Foster Folk Center Museum Florida - This museum celebrates the life of songwriter Stephen Foster and offers an insight into Florida's folk culture.
  8. Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area - A haven for wildlife enthusiasts, offering birdwatching, hiking, and a glimpse into diverse ecosystems.

Both Routes

  1. The Olde Pink House - A historic and charming restaurant set in an 18th-century mansion, serving traditional Southern cuisine.
  2. Savannah Historic District - A picturesque area brimming with historic squares, cobblestone streets, and architectural marvels, reflecting Savannah's rich past.
  3. Savannah Riverboat Cruises - A delightful way to experience Savannah from the water, offering dining, entertainment, and breathtaking views of the riverfront.
  4. Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center - An educational facility focusing on the maritime history and ecosystems of the Port Royal Sound area.
  5. Tybee Island Light Station and Museum - One of the nation's oldest lighthouses, offering panoramic views and a rich history of the Georgia coast.
  6. Thomas Square - A historic district in Savannah known for its Victorian architecture and cultural significance.
  7. Palmetto Oaks Sculpture Garden - A short detour from the route, this outdoor sculpture garden features an array of contemporary artworks amidst natural beauty.
  8. Old Sheldon Church Ruins - Enchanting ruins of a historic church, offering a glimpse into the past amidst a peaceful, natural setting.
  9. Edisto Island Serpentarium - A fascinating attraction showcasing a variety of reptiles, particularly snakes, in both indoor and outdoor settings.
  10. Botany Bay Heritage Preserve - A breathtaking, undeveloped beach and wildlife preserve, known for its natural beauty and significant ecological value.
  11. Dungannon Plantation Heritage Preserve - A serene nature preserve known for its diverse birdlife, historic significance, and tranquil walking trails.
Dead-looking trees among the beach with the sun setting in the background
We recommend trying to catch a magical sunset at Botany Bay Heritage Preserve, a much-worthy and short detour on both routes.

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

Charleston is an all-year destination, with plenty of warm weather and little snow, and the road trip from Orlando to Charleston can be undertaken at any time. However, the road trip experience varies with the seasons.

During winter, Charleston sees temperatures ranging from cool to mild, typically around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, rarely dipping below freezing. This climate makes winter an ideal time to explore the city's outdoor attractions without the summer heat.

Traveling the Coastal Route in winter, you'll find roads around Orlando busy, but the journey becomes quieter as you head north. The winter months also bring the Nights of Lights in St Augustine, turning the historic city into a twinkling wonderland from November to January.

Once you reach your destination, the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston, from November to December, is a spectacular event, transforming the city into a festive wonderland.

As spring blossoms, both routes warm up, with temperatures reaching the comfortable 60s to 70s Fahrenheit. This season is perfect for outdoor activities, and if you take the Coastal Route in April, you might catch the St Augustine Lions Seafood Festival.

If you choose the Inland Detour, the Valdosta-Lowndes Azalea Festival in March is a not-to-miss event, showcasing the stunning blooms Valdosta is famous for.

Summer in Charleston can be warm and humid, with temperatures often in the high 80s Fahrenheit. It's a lively season to visit, full of energy and sunshine. However, be aware of the potential for tropical storms during hurricane season, which runs from July to November.

Fall in Charleston is another delightful season, with temperatures cooling down to a pleasant range, making it an excellent time for exploring the city's historical and natural sites.