Fuel your car and heart because we are going on a North Carolina to South Carolina road trip.
Hitting the roads has always been equated with experiencing happiness in the rawest and most endearing forms.
Interstate drives like a road trip to North and South Carolina taking only 3 hours 28 minutes without any stops.
However, stopping in between and enjoying the place makes the journey stand out. I have spent time living in North Carolina and traveling to the south to meet my cousins.
I always wanted to move to North Carolina, so this itinerary is tried and tested. The dog-friendly beaches, Abandoned places, and Beach towns always intrigued me.
Without exploring the incredible places, soaking the local energy, tasting foods, enjoying Christmas, or following offbeat hiking trails, the North and South Carolina Road trip is incomplete.
if in winter you’re in South Carolina you have to visit my favorite places. SC is equally gorgeous.
So, here I am sharing a minimum 3-4 days North Carolina to South Carolina road trip itinerary that offers to explore the cities, towns, and best sites in a unique way.
However, if you have time you can adjust the days to suit your schedule and extend my North and South Carolina Road trip itinerary for 10-12 days.
So, let’s start.
Read: 11 Best Christmas Towns In South Carolina 2022
North and South Carolina Road Trip – 12 Stops
I will take you through unique road trips, magnificent waterfalls, a variety of landscapes, equestrian traditional food, and plenty of opportunities to explore.
So, look ahead and enjoy the ride. Here goes the North Carolina to South Carolina road trip itinerary.
Stop 1: Chapel Hill – North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Chapel Hill is a beautiful college town in North Carolina that is well known for its gorgeous gardens, greenways, romantic parks, festival lining, and offbeat attractions.
Picture courtesy- unc.edu
The antebellum vibe here is so worth visiting. Travel.us news ranked Chapel Hill as 17th in Best Places to visit in the Carolinas.
In your North Carolina road trip, Chapel Hill is a hidden gem. Spend a few hours (4-5 hours) and have mouth-licking delicious food before starting the journey.
Soak in the beauty of witnessing beautiful azaleas, tree-covered walkways, and the romantic downtown in Chapel Hill.
Things to do in Chapel Hill
- Stroll around the oldest public university in North Carolina. You can explore the elegantly restored gorgeous walkways and majestic premises watching the dogwoods. I would recommend you to come to the north campus and take the Wormhole trail.
- Right outside the campus sits Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Morehead Planetarium is home to the largest full dome planetarium in the southeast and a great place to visit in North Carolina with kids. At the Science Center, there are educational programs narrating stories of Starry Nights and Skywatching.
- Seek some blessings at The Old Well and drink the lucky water from the fountain before starting the North and South Carolina road trip. Click pictures and experience unique art in downtown Chapel Hill. The painted murals on the walls by Michael Brown and Scott Nurkin are awe-striking.
- Have Indian food at Vimala’s Curryblossom Café, the most unique and beloved restaurant in North Carolina. Vimala Rajendran is an Indian and he will offer you tandoori chicken, pork vindaloo, kofta curry, uttapams, Kerala beef, and more. I can bet, you have never had such food in your life. They are the best!
Stop 2: Raleigh- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Raleigh, the most incredibly beautiful city in South America, is the capital town of North Carolina, and also has been ranked as #9 in Best Places to visit in the Carolinas.
Not limited to that, Raleigh is also called the “Smithsonian of the South”. This is mostly smart modern meets historic destinations filled with passionate minds.
Here you can explore a lot of free museums filled with extraordinary world stories. Yes, I mean it, when I say “a lot of museums”. Also, Raleigh has some good cafes!
Therefore, Raleigh should be there in your North Carolina Road trip itinerary. You can pack some dry foods from the local market. Spend 3-4 hours at Raleigh.
Things to do in Raleigh:
- You are never too old to visit Marbles Kids Museum and revive your thrilling childhood memories filled with fun and love.
- Enlarge your knowledge and learn the fascinating history of Raleigh from The Mordecai House. Take a photo against the heavy yellow color making it one of the most remarkable photos of your life.
- Enjoy time at JC Raulston Arboretum among the Muku tree, golden chain train, twin-flowering abelia, twisted tongue agave and so much more.
- Go on a tour to the North Carolina Executive Mansion which was home to the State Government from 1891 and on.
- Have food at Tazza Kitchen, the modern, stylish kitchen that serves the best sizzling meat in Raleigh.
Stop 3: Emerald Isle- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Emerald Isle is the crystal coast of North Carolina that is famous for excellent fishing, abundant aquatic activities, heritage sites, and a laid-back atmosphere.
In your north and South Carolina road trip, this 12 miles coastline of North Carolina is a must. It is also ranked #13 in Best places to visit in the North Carolinas.
Emerald Isle offers you the chance to soak your toes in the white sand, enjoy the moist air of the Atlantic Ocean, meet people, and indulge in a vast number of water activities.
Things to do in Emerald Isle:
- Come to Emerald Isle Woods Park, walk along nature, smell the sweet yet moist flowery scent in the air, and enjoy the bird chipping and chill in the atmosphere.
- Explore the 17th-century fort at Macon State Park and enjoy the vistas surrounding it. You can also spot dolphins swimming offshore.
- Emerald Isle is a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina offering stunning views of ocean vistas. At The Point, you can look for shells like conch, sand dollar, or many
- Kayak to Hammocks Beach State Park for a more intimate experience with your partner in the North Carolina Road trip itinerary.
Stop 4: Wilmington- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
On the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean sits the most thrilling and exciting Wilmington city that needs to be included in your North Carolina itinerary.
How can you skip Wilmington, the evergreen riverfront city and Hollywood’s favorite location? It is also called “Wilmywood” and “Hollywood East”.
Also, there are always some events happening in Wilmington starting from garden tours, food events, and coastal competitions to craft beer festivals and beach music.
Things to do in Wilmington city:
- Come to Wrightsville Beach and test your running stamina here. The biggest attraction is The Loop which offers gorgeous views and the best sunset views
- Just two miles from Wrightsville Beach sits Airlie Garden which is surrounded by a blanket of tranquillity and wildlife. You can see a 500-year-old Airlie Oak, azaleas, spellbinding lakes, and plenty of butterflies.
- Enjoy the retro vibe, remarkable trolley and carriage rides at Historic District
- You can also drive to Carolina Beach State Park to explore varied terrains, and witness Venus Fly Trap in the wild.
Stop 5: Fontana Lake- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Fontana Lake is renowned for its gorgeous location which sits eastward to Bryson City. This escape point awaits for you to unfold many water adventurous activities.
The gorgeous shoreline with emerald green water beneath scenic surroundings and a backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains is the most exotic sight to witness.
Fontana Lake is one of the must-visit places on the North Carolina road trip itinerary. You can spend the night at Lakeview at Fontana, with accommodation and a shared kitchen.
Things to do in Fontana Lake:
- Take a walk along the iconic dam which was featured in Bill Bryson’s book – A Walk in the Woods”. The dam and the panoramic views are media-worthy.
- If you want some adrenaline rush, take a zip-line adventure in the Smoky Mountains.
- Say bye to your stress by taking a guided cruise tour or fishing tour in Lake Fontana.
Stop 6: Myrtle Beach- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Enjoy the gorgeous 60 miles of coastline of the Atlantic Ocean at Myrtle Beach which is a must in your South Carolina road trip itinerary.
Also, this is a quiet fishing village surrounded by tree-lined paths making it one of the best places to walk in the morning.
Things to do in Myrtle Beach:
- If you can, try to be at the beach during the sunrise. Relax at the beach, the beautiful stunning white sand is perfect to play Frisbee at the beach.
- Come to Plyler Park and Promenade to enjoy lush green surroundings with a view of the rustic deck at the bay.
- Bring your children to Pavilion park and let them enjoy high-energy thrill rides.
Stop 6: Huntington Beach State Park- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Just 17 miles southeast of Myrtle Beach sits Huntington Beach State Park, a jewel of the Grand Strand. Here, you get a taste of beaches, trails, woods, sands, and marshes.
Picture courtesy: visitmyrtlebeach
The beautiful 3 miles of Huntington Beach coastline are suitable for boating, fishing, and bird watching. Yes, it is also home to 300 bird species.
Also, do not miss the chance to explore the guided tour of Moorish-style Atalaya Castle, the home of the famous sculptor Anna Huntington and her husband.
Things to do in Huntington Beach State Park:
- The most obvious but the best thing is to hit Huntington Beach and enjoy the most air of the Atlantic Ocean.
- For your road trip north and South Carolina a visit Atalaya Castle is a must. The iron grates on the window, arches, and the design of the courtyard are so worthy of visiting.
- You can hike at Kerrigan Nature Trail, a 0.30 miles nature trail into the woods.
Stop 7: Fort Moultrie- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
On Sullivan’s Island stands Fort Moultrie, the oldest fort along the Eastern Seaboard that can never be skipped from your north and South Carolina road trips itinerary.
Also, Fort Moultrie is a place for history lovers as they can unfold stories from the Revolutionary War. Apart from this, the view of the gorgeous landscape from the top is unforgettable.
Things to do in Fort Moultrie, Sullivan Island:
- Fort Moultrie is an inspiration for South Carolinas to design their flag. It has also earned a name as “The Palmetto State”.
- Come to Fort Sumter.
- Meet the pop and seek blessing from Stella Maris Roman Catholic Church, the oldest catholic church in the Charleston area
- Explore the modern Light House called “Charleston Lighthouse”
Stop 8: Charleston- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Charleston is appealing to every soul, every mood, and every appetite. The welcoming nature of this oldest historic town in South Carolina is unbeatable.
In the Colonial and Antebellum eras, Charleston was one of the wealthiest cities. The cobblestone streets, the main market, and Folly beach are some of my favorites.
The historic architecture, progressive artistic works, and charming vibe to date keep Charleston one of the most visited places in South Carolina.
Spend the night here at the Holiday Inn Charleston-Riverview, one of the amazing hotels in South Carolina.
Things to do in Charleston:
- Look at the 1500 years old massive oak tree that stretches 65 feet at the top and 25 feet in circumference.
- Learn about World War II aircraft carrier history from Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
- If your North and South Carolina road trip is in January, then do not forget to attend the Lowcountry Oyster Festival at Boone Hall Plantation.
Stop 9: Columbia- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Columbia is South Carolina’s capital city and also called the Soda City is a must in your South Carolina road trip stops.
However, it received the name not because the soda was invented here but because it’s an abbreviation of Columbia to “Cola”.
Moreover, with its fueling economy and presence of High-Tec and pharmaceutical companies, Columbia is a great place to move to South Carolina.
Things to do in Columbia:
- Take a free tour of the South Carolina State House which was constructed in 1851
- You cannot miss paved paths at Columbia Canal & Riverfront Park.
- Enjoy the architectural style of Classical Revival elegance at Robert Mills House and Garden.
Stop 10: Clemson- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Clemson is a beautiful cliff town that sits on the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains against the shores of Lake Hartwell.
My sister did her college at Clemson University and I can guarantee you this place are so amazing. It is filled with a lot of adventurous activities for you to unfold.
You can stay here at night and in the morning go for outdoor adventures in the Sassafras Mountains.
Things to do in Clemson:
- Come to my favorite All In Coffee Shop that offers such fresh brewed coffee. Come here and enjoy the city vibe and a cup of coffee.
- Stroll around the University campus and their historic grounds
- Come to Lake Hartwell State Park and enjoy boating
- Hike to see gorgeous Issaqueena Falls, a 200-foot cascading waterfall
- Have food at Pixie and Bill’s. Order the classic prime rib and the famous steak
Stop 11: Asheville- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
Do you know Asheville is known as the “Paris of the South”? Its rich architecture, creative communities, and gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are picturesque.
Asheville’s streets received national attention because of their beauty. I am glad I stopped at Asheville; it was the best road trip in South Carolina.
Things to do in Asheville:
- Get a new perspective from hundreds of feet above the ground on a zipline tour in Asheville
- Take a miles away from ordinary life to the fresh mountain air
- Take a miles away from ordinary life to the fresh mountain air
- Visit Biltmore Estate, a 178,926-square-foot mansion
Step 12: Greensboro- North Carolina to South Carolina Road Trip
After Charlotte and Raleigh, Greensboro is the third largest city in North Carolina. This is your last stop on your road trip to north and South Carolina.
Greensboro in Guilford County has earned the nickname “Gate City” as it sits between North-South and East-West routes.
I would suggest you go to Elm Street’s Crafted The Art of Taco and enjoy NC staples. Also, celebrate your North and South Carolina road trip!
If you want to explore Carolina’s hidden gems, then the list of spots is perfect for your North and South Carolina road trip. Start from Raleigh, the capital city of North Carolina. Next, you will want to soak in the beauty of Chapel Hills, Emerald Isle, and Fontana Lake.
From there, head to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and enjoy several beaches and historical sites. Come to Clemson, and enjoy the cliff climate here. End your trip partying at Greensboro. If you haven’t taken the North to South Carolina road trip, it’s time you pack your bags and start your journey.
How many hours of the journey is from North Carolina to South Carolina?
The distance from Raleigh, North Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina is 206 miles via US-1 S which will take you around 3 hours 42 minutes with a driving speed averaging 60 mph.
How long does it take to drive through South Carolina and North Carolina?
From Columbia, South Carolina to Raleigh, North Carolina along US-1 S will take you around 3 hours 42 min with driving speed averaging 60 mph. However, if you drive from Charleston on the east coast to Raleigh then it will take around 4 hours and 20 minutes. Therefore, it depends on the location of the two places.
How long does it take to get from North Carolina to South Carolina by car?
If you are taking the US-1S route from Raleigh, North Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina it will take you 3 hours 43 minutes with a driving speed averaging 60 mph. If you take the SC-1435 S route to reach North Carolina from South Carolina then it would take 3 hours 49 minutes.
Is there a train from North Carolina to South Carolina?
From Raleigh, North Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina there is no direct train service. However, in total 4 trains are running among 11 destinations between North and South. You can take the train from Raleigh Union Station to Florence Amtrak Station via Selma. Remember, that Amtrak in South Carolina has more coverage.