Our Southern States Road Trip: Part I

Blue shutters in Charleston, South Carolina

For those following my Instagram account, you will have seen that Adam and I have just returned from a two week road trip across the southern states of America.  We previously visited Charleston, South Carolina in 2019 and loved it so much we decided to return there for the starting point of our road trip. From Charleston we crossed the State border and spent a few days in Atlanta, Georgia and Pigeon Forge in the Smoky Mountains before ending our trip in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ll be covering our road trip over a two-part blog series, with this first post featuring Charleston, and the second part featuring Atlanta, the Smoky Mountains and Nashville.

Charleston, South Carolina - USA Road Trip
Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, SC

Charleston, South Carolina

For the first few nights, we decided to stay in a city that we’ve previously visited and love: Charleston, SC. We checked in to the Francis Marion Hotel and spent the first five minutes of our arrival in awe of the magnificent view over Marion Square and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge stretching across the harbour to Mount Pleasant. We were fortunate to get booked in to the hotel’s restaurant, the Swamp Fox, specialising in traditional southern dining, where we enjoyed a relaxed first evening.  The location of the hotel was amazing – on King Street, seconds away from its pretty boutique shops, cafes and bars.

We decided to explore the local boutiques on King Street the next morning and despite it being over 30 degrees, I clearly had Autumn on my mind and purchased cardigans, jumpers, trousers and tops in earthy shades of brown and green.  Some of my favourite shops were Copper Penny with its wonderfully southern and elegant interior (pictured below left), Mix, V2V (below right) and Anthropologie. Adam purchased a tweed flat cap from Goorin Bros. Hat Shop and a new outfit from Vineyard Vines.

Copper Penny fashion store on King Street, Charleston
V2V fashion store on King Street in Charleston

After a day of shopping, we hired a bike taxi to Hometeam BBQ; a low-key restaurant recommended to us by several of the store owners.  As soon as we arrived, we understood why…if rustic decor, delicious BBQ food, sports and a reasonably priced bill appeal to you then Hometeam BBQ is a must!

The bike taxi was a fantastic way to travel around Charleston, but if travelling any further than a couple of miles it works out quite pricey so we caught an Uber back.

Following dinner, we spent the evening in a bar just around the corner from our hotel, the Dueling Piano Bar. If you’re staying at a city in the USA and it has one of these bars, it’s a must-do! Two pianists battle against each other, taking requests and playing everything from classics like Elton John, to some less obvious choices such as Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ and Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ (one guess who requested these)!

Home Team BBQ, Charleston
Home Team BBQ in Charleston

Charleston Tea Garden

I’m a tea drinker, so when I saw that Charleston was home to the USA’s only tea plantation, I knew we had to visit. This turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the holiday. We took a trolley tour across the plantation on Wadmalow Island and soon realised how little we knew about the tea-making process! We learnt a huge amount and loved every second of exploring this stunning location.

Sullivan’s Island

The Obstinate Daughter on Sullivan’s Island was another restaurant that had been recommended to us, along with a nearby sandy beach, so we took the short trip across the bridge to Sullivan’s Island to explore this region.  Our first stop was the restaurant where I tucked into a delicious wood-fired pizza and took many photo’s of the beautiful coastal-inspired interior decor and traditional southern white wooden exterior.

We then went for a stroll around the surrounding area, enjoying the beautiful picket fenced homes and made our way down to the expansive sandy beach.

The Obstinate Daughter restaurant on Sullivan's Island, Charleston
The Obstinate Daughter restaurant, Charleston
A cottage with picket fence on Sullivan's Island, Charleston
Sullivan's Island Beach with lighthouse

Boone Hall Plantation

The oak tree-lined drive with draping moss leading to the Boone Hall Plantation is one of the most iconic scenes of Charleston and a photographer’s dream. It leads to a spectacular colonial-style home that is open to the public along with the former brick slave cabins that now house museums of the cabins’ distressing history. There are several tours of the home and grounds, which are still used as a working farm producing a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.

The gardens back onto swampland and waterways that were the location of the famous boat scene from the film ‘The Notebook’.

Oak tree-lined drive of Boone Hall Plantation
Swampland at the rear of Boone Hall Plantation
Boone Hall Plantation Charleston

A stroll through Charleston

We began our final day in Charleston with a minibus tour of the city from Pineapple Tours, learning all about the history or Charleston with our locally-based guide.  This is also a great way to discover recommended places to eat and visit. Following our guide’s recommendation, we followed this with a trip to La Patisserie at Hotel Bennett – what he describes as the best patisserie in town. It lived up to its recommendation.

For our final evening, we decided to walk down to the seafront to catch the sunset, admiring the beautiful shuttered southern mansions that lined the streets on the way down.

A walk through Charleston, South Carolina
Southern style home in Charleston

I would like to say huge thank you to Romy Frow from Travel Counsellors for your assistance in organising and booking this holiday.

Stay tuned for the second part of this blog exploring Atlanta, the Smoky Mountains and Nashville.