Steeped in a rich history, Savannah is one of the most charming cities to visit in Southeast USA. But if you’ve got extra time to spare on your vacation, the Southern city is also a great base for exploring Georgia and beyond. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation or a fun family adventure, the best day trips from Savannah, GA, offer something for everyone.
Within a couple of hours’ drive of Savannah, you’ll find famous military forts, ancient forests, barrier islands, and historic towns. The surrounding marshes, forests, and river deltas offer a natural habitat for a wealth of birds and wildlife.
Savannah is also surrounded by miles of pristine beaches. Head to Tybee Island, where you can relax on the white sands of the Atlantic Ocean. Or, if you prefer quieter digs, check out Jekyll Island. This island is home to the famous Sea Island Club, once frequented by presidents and celebrities.
Ready to plan the perfect Georgia vacation? Check out our complete guide to the top-rated Savannah side trips.
Top-rated Savannah side trips
Tybee Island, GA
Looking to enjoy a languid day on the sand and heaps of outdoor activities? Take a drive to laidback Tybee Island. Located on a barrier island, the famed beach town is little more than a 30- minute drive from downtown Savannah.
Tybee Island has a full five miles of beach with a pavilion and pier that’s perfect for an easy day of fishing. Locals and visitors alike love to picnic on the soft sands and enjoy its warm blue waters.
Hire a kayak or a bicycle and get some exercise or charter a boat for an adventure amongst the dolphins. History buffs will love paying a visit to the Tybee Island Lighthouse and Museum. Built in 1736, the Tybee Island Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Georgia. Climb the 178 steps to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy its spectacular views over the Atlantic.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat while visiting Tybee Island, you’re spoiled for choice. Choose from over 25 restaurants. Many offer outdoor dining areas where you can enjoy your meal in the soft and salty ocean breeze.
Hilton Head Island, SC
Need more seaside pleasures during your Savannah visit? Squeeze in a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Although Hilton Head Island is known for its beautiful beaches, there’s plenty more to pull travelers to the popular resort island.
Hilton Head Island draws golfers from miles away. The island boasts a staggering 33 golf courses, numbering among some of the best on earth. In Hilton Head, you’ll find a professionally designed course to tee off on any day of the week. The area also has a number of golf schools. If you’re a golfing novice, don’t give up: You can learn the sport from a professional player.
Feeling a little hungry? Hilton Head offers more than 250 restaurants, serving everything from casual snacks to fine dining. For something a little more casual, hit the waterfront to share a bucket of shrimp on the beach with drinks as the sun dips behind the horizon.
And then there’s the beach. Hilton Head Beach is often touted as one of the top ten family beaches in the United States. You’ll love lazing along its sandy shores, especially in the buzzing Coligny Beach area. For a more active outing, take a fishing trip, paddle along the coastline, or hire a bike to explore the island.
In town, you’ll also spot a museum, an art gallery, and a theatre. Prefer to shop? Boutiques and malls offer something for even the most discerning shopper.
Hilton Head Island is just 30 miles northeast of Savannah. It takes around three-quarters of an hour to get there by car.
Jekyll Island, GA
Want to escape from the crowds of the city? Take the scenic drive southward to Jekyll Island. You’ll be blown away by the natural beauty of the area and the island’s interesting architecture. (There’s a reason, after all, why the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers once made Jekyll Island their summer vacation hotspot.)
A 1.5-hour drive from Savannah, Jekyll Island is home to a National Historic Landmark District. Its mansions once housed some of America’s richest and make for interesting viewing.
One of the best ways to explore Jekyll Island is to rent a bike. Even on a day trip, you should be able to find time to explore the island’s many well-maintained bicycle trails You can also hike across ten miles of pristine beach or tee off at one of its four golf courses.
Looking for some of the finest beaches near Savannah? Beach bums can grab a picnic table at Great Dunes Beach or, for a quieter experience, pay a visit to Driftwood Beach Park. Located in the north of the island, Driftwood Beach is a great place to spend a night roughing it up at a camping site. Only 35% of the land on Jekyll Island is developed; it’s the perfect place to experience Georgia’s coastal nature at its finest.
If you’re a fan of marine life, pencil in a trip to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to learn about how turtles are rehabilitated.
Skidaway Island State Park, GA
Just a 25-minute drive from Savannah, Skidaway Island State Park is a different experience than other islands in the area. To escape the crowds and take some time out in nature, it’s one of the top side trips from Savannah. Located on a marshland, forest, and salt flats, Skidaway Island sits just inland from the Georgia coast.
Skidaway Island contains both a residential area and a state park. Skidaway Island State Park teems with wildlife, home to egrets, deer crabs, and much more. Raised platforms, an observation tower, and hiking trails make it easy to spot the park’s animals and beautiful natural scenery.
To get the full experience, you can walk along its many miles of hiking trails. Or, better still, on a day trip, you can hire a bike to squeeze more sightseeing in.
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Skidaway Island State Park opens its gates at 7 am and closes at 10 pm.
If you have time before heading back into Savannah, you can also try to fit in a visit to the University of Georgia’s Marine Education Centre and Aquarium. Located in the northern part of the island, the center is a great place to learn about local marine life.
Fort Pulaski National Monument, GA
Located on Cockspur Island, Fort Pulaski National Monument has stood since the middle of the 19th century. This impressive building, complete with a moat, played a major part in the American Civil War, with the Union grasping control of it from Confederate soldiers.
Fort Pulaski has been fully restored. Today, it’s furnished with period pieces and houses several canons. Just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah, the monument is one of the most convenient Savannah day trips.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of trails surrounding Fort Pulaski to explore. The beaches, marshlands, and wooded spaces house plenty of interesting wildlife. You can expect to see birds and deer aplenty.
If you have a fishing license you can try your hand at fishing in the Savannah River, or at night, off the Cockspur Island Bridge.
Cumberland Island, GA
The southernmost barrier island in Georgia, Cumberland Island is as wild and lonely as it can get in the densely populated Southeast. The island is privately owned but a large part of it is preserved by the Cumberland Island National Seashore. The island boasts sandy beaches, salt marshes, and a 17-mile oak forest draped in Spanish moss.
For seeing Georgia’s nature at its most pristine, Cumberland Island is the perfect escape. You’ll find no infrastructure or amenities. To visit, you’ll need to bring your own supplies. It’s well worth it though. (Where else in the USA can you find wild horses living in harmony with nature?)
For a trip to Cumberland Island, you will have to get to St Mary’s, 110 miles from Savannah. A ferry ride, departing twice daily, will take you to the island.
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, SC
Just 15 minutes from downtown Savannah, the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 30,000 acres of land. The lovely park has been a favorite Savannah side trip since it was established in 1927.
The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge boasts a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its woodlands, fresh river marshes, and river deltas create diverse habitats for wildlife. In the refuge, 250 species of birds share space with otters, alligators, and deer.
See all the park has to offer by paddling along the waterways or cycle the trails and enjoy the solitude. The park has fifty miles of walking trails. You can also take a 4-mile wildlife drive in the comfort of your vehicle.
Start your day at the exhibition center and get the maps to plan your route. The wildlife refuge is open from 9 am to 4 pm seven days a week.
Under an hour’s drive from downtown Savannah lies Bluffton, South Carolina. Located on the backs of the May River, this historic Southern town is a favorite escape from the Savannah city buzz.
In Bluffton, riverside restaurants offer excellent cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. Streets lined with leafy oak trees showcase the antebellum architecture of the historic homes that live there. Arrange a tour of Bluffton’s eight remaining antebellum homes at the Heywood House Museum.
Find some time to visit one of the many art galleries and museums in Bluffton. The Neo-Classical Church of the Cross is also well worth a visit. Shop in the artisan shops in the old town and enjoy Lowcountry cuisine at the famous FARM Bluffton restaurant.
If you’re in Bluffton on Thursday, take some time to wander around the farmer’s market.
Founded in 1711, Beaufort is the second oldest town in South Carolina. The magnolia-lined streets of this historic Southern coastal town offer a rich history, boasting a smattering of lovingly restored 18th-century historic homes.
On your day trip to Beaufort, enjoy a historic tour of the Beaufort Historic District on a traditional horse and buggy, or go for a relaxing bike ride around town. With its beautiful historic setting, Beaufort has stood in as the backdrop of several major movies, including GI Jane and Forrest Gump.
Admire the sea views from the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Military history buffs will also love taking a slow walk through Beaufort National Cemetery. It’s considered one of the oldest and most beautiful Civil War cemeteries in the country.
And at the end of the day, make time to enjoy a tasty meal at one of the waterfront diners or under the palm trees along the beach.
Beaufort sits on beautiful Port Royal Island, an hour northeast of Savannah.
Although it’s a two-hour drive from Savannah, a trip to the coastal city of Charleston, SC, is a must. This 17th-century port city is the oldest city in South Carolina and one of the most beautiful cities in the Southeast USA. Whether you’re looking for historic architecture, art galleries, churches, cemeteries, or some of the best restaurants you’ll find anywhere, Charleston has it all.
If you’re only visiting Charleston in a day, start by checking out the memorials and relics at White Point Garden. Apart from its history, the park offers lovely views of the harbor and is one of the city’s best sunrise spots.
From the park, head northwards for a walking tour of The Battery. Filter past its stunning antebellum mansions overlooking the tranquil waters of Charleston Harbor.
On the way to the Historic District, you’ll pass through Charleston’s colorful French Quarter. In the district, keep on the lookout for Rainbow Row. The row of pastel-colored Georgian townhouses is the perfect complement to your IG holiday feed.
If you like to shop, drop in at Charleston City Market for trinkets and souvenirs. Take the time to watch Gullah men and women weave traditional West African baskets from sweetgrass. Established in the 18th century, the Charleston City Market market is one of the oldest markets in the country.
From the market, you can spend the rest of your day trip visiting some of its many museums and beautifully restored historic houses. End the evening with delicious Southern comfort food at one of the city’s fine restaurants.
Located in Northeast Florida, Jacksonville is Florida’s biggest city and the largest city by area in the United States. With the longest shoreline of any city in Florida, Jacksonville is blessed with miles and miles of sandy beaches.
Need a relaxing day trip to Jax? Pack your bathing suit and plan a languid day in the sun around Jacksonville Beaches. Jacksonville also boasts the country’s largest urban park system. It’s perfect for hiking, biking, or paddling through the many waterways.
If you’re traveling with the family, plan some time at Adventure Landing. One of the biggest family entertainment centers in Florida, the attraction’s games and rides will keep the little ones entertained for hours.
Alternatively, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is another great choice for the kids. Overlooking the river, the zoo boasts 2,400 animals and over 1,000 plant species.
Native Florida wildlife is more to your taste? Plan a trip to Little Talbot Island. Here, the shoreline forest is home to a variety of indigenous wildlife.
For shopping, make your way to St John’s Town Center. This massive open-air shopping center is home to more than twenty restaurants and nearly 180 retail stores.
By road, a side trip from Savannah to Jacksonville, FL, will take just over two hours.