A southeast USA road trip is a fantastic way to experience the sights, food, and culture of the South. Some of the best southeast vacation spots are Orlando, Savannah, and Charleston because you get a good mix of city, small town, and coastal areas.
Here’s everything you need to know for this road trip including when to go, what to do, how to get around, and more!
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The Best 5-Day Southeast USA Road Trip Itinerary
- 2 days in Orlando to explore the local food scene and visit an amazing state park.
- 1 day in Savannah to see the best historic sites and try traditional southern food.
- 2 days in Charleston to learn about the harbor’s history and enjoy some locally-made food and drinks.
Best Time to Do This Southeast USA Road Trip
The Southeast can get hot, especially in Orlando, so try to avoid it during the summer months. The best time to do this southeast road trip is in September and October or in April and May.
September and October are great times to complete this road trip itinerary because you will get all the leaves changing colors throughout your drive in Georgia and South Carolina. April and May are when flowers begin to bloom, which is an amazing time to visit, especially important for Charleston.
Start Your Southeast USA Road Trip in Orlando
The best city to start this southern USA road trip is Orlando because it has the largest airport. You’ll want to rent a car once landing at Orlando International Airport.
Despite Orlando being a large city, public transportation is limited. Renting a car for your 2 days in Orlando will give you access to all of the things you’ll want to see when you’re there.
Stop 1 on Your Southeast USA Road Trip: Orlando
When you think of Orlando, Disney is probably the first thing to cross your mind. However, there are many things to do in Orlando besides Disney.
Orlando Day 1:
Orlando Science Center
The Orlando Science Center is just a few minutes’ drive from the downtown area. It showcases some special exhibits throughout the year, making it one of the best places to go in Orlando.
The center is focused on bringing environmentally conscious learning to the people of Florida. Many of their exhibits focus on sustainability, recycling, and the complexities of how our food supply affects the environment.
If you’re feeling hungry, stop by the 4roots Café located inside to get locally sourced items and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
The Orlando Science Center is located at 777 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803, United States. They’re closed on Wednesday and open every other day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $24.
Downtown Orlando Brewery Tour
A brewery tour is one of the best things to do in Orlando for adults. It allows you to sample all the local brews and explore the downtown area all at the same time.
Broken Strings Brewery is a great place to start. They have more than 12 different taps with a mix of in-house producers as well as special guests.
Then, you can walk to Motorworks Brewing where they have 15-barrel tanks all conveniently brewed onsite. The patio at the back is incredible for sipping a beer and enjoying the views of downtown.
Orlando Day 2:
Use your second day in Orlando to do something outdoors in the “sunshine state.” Florida is home to some of the best natural springs in the country. Wekiwa State Park is one of the best ones and it is less than a 30-minute drive from Orlando.
You can kayak, canoe, or tube down the lazy river. The park also offers hiking down various scenic trails.
When tubing or kayaking down the Wekiwa River, you can also eat at Wekiva Island. They have a bar and a cabana for lounging. Depending on the exact week you’re in Orlando, they may also hold a special food event!
Visiting Disney Springs after spending the day in the sun is a great way to experience Disney without dealing with the huge crowds at the Disney parks.
Disney Springs is one of the top Orlando attractions and has all of the traditional Disney merchandise stores if you want to go shopping. They also recently opened a Polite Brewery which is full of beer options all locally brewed in the Orlando area.
If you’re feeling like something sweet, you can get a freshly-made donut at Everglazed. Spend the evening strolling around window shopping and trying all the locally-made goodies.
Disney Springs is located at 1486 Buena Vista Dr, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, United States. They’re open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Where to Eat in Orlando
East End Market
Enjoy some of Orlando’s best culinary adventures in this food hall. Try the ramen at DOMU or the artisan grilled cheeses at La Femme Du Fromage. The best part about East End Market is that there is an option for everyone from vegan chicken to breakfast all day to Asian specialties.
The parking can be pretty limited during peak hours. So, consider trying to beat the dinner or lunch crowd by arriving early. Not many people know this, but there is also a church right down the street that lets East End customers use their lot any day except for Sunday morning!
The Briarpatch Restaurant is located in a cute Orlando suburb called Winter Park. It is situated right on Park Avenue, a street famous for beautiful views and amazing shopping.
Try the spinach and goat cheese omelet or the raspberry and lemon pancakes. They also have fantastic breakfast cocktails and craft coffee options. Make sure to make a reservation ahead of time!
There are three different Santiago’s Bodega locations in Orlando. They offer traditional Spanish tapas as well as new takes on famous European dishes. Try the bacon-wrapped dates or the lamb rack.
Santiago’s Bodega has happy hour every day from 3 p.m- to 6 p.m. Some of their most popular tapas are only $5 during this time. They also offer the best sparkling sangria in the city.
One of the best things about Santiago’s is the artwork and glass-stained bar cabinets. It showcases the Spanish influences found in central Florida and it’s stunning.
Where to Stay in Orlando
Budget— Orlando Lakefront Tiny Home Community: These rental vacation homes are pocket-friendly and feature a unique way to stay in Orlando! Their tiny homes have panoramic windows, cedar ceilings, and lake access with free use of kayaks and paddleboards.
Mid-Range— Backyard Bungalow: Backyard Bungalow on Airbnb is one of the best places to stay in downtown Orlando. It is within walking distance of many of the fun things to do in Orlando and nearby Thornton Park.
Luxury— Loews Portofino Bay Hotel: If you looking for a luxury option, Loews Portofino is amazing. It is located right next to Universal Orlando and Downtown Orlando. They have an incredible pool and boat access to any of the local sites.
You can also check out my full guide to where to stay in Orlando for more recommendations!
Stop 2 on Your Southeast USA Road Trip: Savannah
Savannah is a beautiful historic city that is very walkable. It has great photo opportunities and is absolutely unique with its cobblestone streets and the winding Savannah River.
How to Get to Savannah
From Orlando, Savannah is about a 4-hour drive. The easiest way to get there is to hop on I-4 E, then I-95 N towards Jacksonville before getting on I-16 E. The drive is pretty easy and can be scenic during certain times of the year.
Savannah Carriage Tours or Savannah Walking Tour
Taking a tour around Savannah in a horse-drawn carriage is a fun way to see the city. It’s one of the most popular Savannah tourist attractions. They also have a guide that will tell you about the unique landmarks and about all of the historic homes you pass.
Alternatively, you can take a Free Savannah Walking Tour if you feel like being active. The walking tours are about 2 hours long and take you through the historic district. The tour is free, but make sure to tip the guide at the end!
Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters
After ending your walking or carriage tour, you can walk to the Owens-Thomas House (in about 15 minutes).
Here you can learn about all the people who worked at the Owens-Thomas House over 200 years ago. While touring the mansion, you will also see how slavery shaped Savannah’s history from the 19th century.
The tour is honest and retrospective, so get ready to learn some things your history class never taught you.
The Owens-Thomas House is located at 124 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401, United States. They’re open Thursday from 12 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. and every other day from 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Savannah and St. John’s Cathedral
Next, you can walk about 10 minutes to St. John’s Cathedral. Although the artwork and stained glass are magnificent, the sunset view from the top is even better. Try to time your visit here to when the sun is setting so you see this stunning view of the city.
Savannah and St. John’s Cathedral is located at 325 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401, United States. They’re closed Saturday, open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where to Eat in Savannah
The Collins Quarter
The Collins Quarter is the place to be for brunch. Try the bananas foster french toast or the swine time Beni. A perfect mix of sweet and savory!
Savannah Seafood Shack
Don’t go to Savannah without getting a low country boil at Savannah Seafood Shack! It is a famous southern dish and Savannah has some of the best in the region. Get the traditional platter with corn, shrimp, oysters, and crab. Plan to get messy.
Where to Stay in Savannah
Apartment— George Baldwin House: This Airbnb is an apartment in the heart of the Savannah historic district. It is one of the best places to stay because you are within walking distance of all the important Savannah attractions.
Mid-Range— River Street Inn: This beautiful hotel overlooks the Savannah River. The inn has 4 amazing places to eat on the same property. The best part is it has retained all of its historic charms.
Luxury— The Drayton Hotel: For a luxury option, the Drayton hotel is incredible. Make sure to check out the rooftop area to get a panoramic view of the river.
Need more suggestions for where to stay in Savannah? I have a full guide on the best hotels and vacation rentals.
Stop 3 on Your Southeast USA Road Trip: Charleston
Charleston is an amazing town in South Carolina. You can visit museums, hang out by the harbor, or visit the city market.
How to Get to Charleston
The drive from Savannah to Charleston will only take about two hours. The best route is to take GA-404 towards the US-17 N. You will then merge onto I-95 N and take it to the Charleston exit.
Charleston Day 1:
Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
There are many fun things to do in Charleston, SC, and the famous Maritime Museum is at the top of the list. It’s a great place to learn about the history of Charleston harbor and its impact on making ships for World War II and the Vietnam War.
The Patriots Naval and Maritime Museum is located at 40 Patriots Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, United States, They’re open every day from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $19.
If you love champagne, Camellias is the place for you. The whole champagne lounge is pink, making it a beautiful place to take photos. They have some of the best cakes in town and an intense cocktail list.
Camellias is located at 404 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States. They’re open Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., and closed on Sundays.
Spiritline Harbor Tour
One of the best things to do in Charleston, SC is to visit the harbor. Booking a harbor tour is a fantastic way to learn about the history of Charleston. It’s also a great way to visit Fort Sumter, Castle Pinkney, and many other sites.
Charleston Day 2:
Charleston City Market
This beautiful market is located right in the heart of Charleston. Almost everything is locally sourced and made in Charleston, so it is a great way to support the economy and local entrepreneurs. You can meet locals, buy some souvenirs, or just spend the day exploring.
Charleston City Market is located at 188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States. They’re open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Charleston’s oldest distillery offers more than 25 locally-made spirits. It’s just a few minutes’ drive from downtown. Firefly Distillery has an amazing patio and a large yard where you can sit in the grass and enjoy a drink.
Firefly Distillery is located at 4201 Spruill Ave, North Charleston, SC 29405, United States. They’re closed on Sundays but open every other day from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Walk the Battery
Exploring the city is one of many fun and free things to in Charleston SC. You will be able to see the famous sea views for a real treat. You can also see a great view of the White Point Gardens from this fortified seawall.
Here is a map of the battery.
Where to Eat in Charleston
One of the best places for brunch and mimosas is Poogan’s Porch. Try the sunrise shrimp and grits or the Poogan’s Monte Cristo. Come hungry and leave full!
Santi’s Restaurante Mexicano
Santi’s is the absolute best place to get Mexican food in Charleston. They have the best street tacos and an amazing ambiance. Make sure to order a margarita or another one of their famous cocktails.
Where to Stay in Charleston
Apartment— Charleston Retreat on Airbnb: This beautiful apartment is in a great neighborhood and just a few minutes’ drive from the historic part of downtown, the airport, and the Isle of Palms.
Mid-Range— Town & Country Inn and Suites: You can’t beat this great mid-range option including rooms with beautiful views. They also have and a great restaurant on the property.
Luxury— Wild Dunes Resort: Wild Dunes Resort has a great mix of private condos and beach house rentals as well as rooms in the hotel as well. This place offers perfect accommodation options for everyone.
For more ideas on where to stay in Charleston, check out this guide!
Why You Should Go Now on a Southeast USA Road Trip
A trip to see Orlando, Savannah, and Charleston is a bucket-list adventure not to be missed. It’s one of the best southeast USA road trips whether you’re a seasoned road tripper or taking your first one.
It’s a great experience to see all the south has to offer and it showcases some of the best places to visit in the southeast.
You Might Also Like
- Local’s Guide to the Top Things to Do in Orlando Besides Disney
- 10 Best Day Trips from Orlando
- Where to Stay in Orlando: Areas and Accommodations
- The Best 11 Things to Do in Savannah
- The Best 9 Things to Do in Charleston
- Where to Stay in Savannah: Best Areas & Accommodation
- Where to Stay in Charleston South Carolina: Best Areas & Accommodations
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