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6 day trip destinations just beyond Columbia

Sometimes you just want to get away, and when you live in a city as centrally-located as Columbia, all you need is a tank of gas and GPS. There are neighboring cities home to wildlife habitats, wineries, breweries and destination beaches. Using travel math and trip advisor, we took a look at where you can go within a 2-hour drive from Columbia.

One Hour Away

Carolina Motorsports Park
Racers of all experience levels are invited to a spin on the Carolina Motorsports Park Inc. in Kershaw Bruce C.Walls

Kershaw, SC

Just an hour north of Columbia, you’ll come across this quaint town, which happens to be home to three lures for outdoor enthusiasts: At Carolina Motorsports Park Inc., any level of race car enthusiast is welcome to take a car, kart or bike on the track for a spin. The 40 Acre Rock Heritage Preserve is home to a 14 acre rock that will make “you feel on top of the world.” According to their website, the entire 2,965 acres of the preserve includes water slides, waterfalls, a beaver pond, caves and indigenous plants and animals. If that’s not enough, Kershaw Skate Park, touted as one of the largest in South Carolina, is located in Stevens Park. In addition to getting your Tony Hawk on, the park also features a swimming pool, bowling alley, children’s playground and walking trails.

Santee State Park
A view of Santee State Park from Lake Marion Tim Dominick/The State

Santee, SC

Once a city known primarily for its factory outlet mall deals, this small town’s state park is now regarded as a great day getaway. Santee State Park sits on 2,500 acres of land that includes campgrounds, picnic shelters, boat ramps, cabins, RV campsites and a park store with a wifi lounge. If you want to see more of the picturesque Lake Marion (which is 110,000 “acres”), Fish Eagle Wildlife Tours offers a narrated scenic trip on a 30 passenger, 40 ft. pontoon boat. According to their site, the two-hour narrated tour includes cultural and natural history, stories of local lore and conversations sparked by what you may see, which varies each and every time.

One and a Half Hours Away

The Masters golf tournament is just one of the little ‘birdies’ to draw you to Augusta, GA. Tim Dominick/The State

Augusta, GA

Steeped in history, Augusta is the perfect day trip for history buffs. There’s the Augusta Canal Discovery Center which examines how the city used its waterways for importing and exporting goods, and also offers canal boat tours. You can tour the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson or visit the Augusta Museum of History, which has chronicled and preserved the city’s rich past since 1937. The Morris Museum of Art is home to nearly 5,000 works of art dating back as far as the late-18th century. Savannah Rapids Visitor Center overlooks the Augusta Canal Headgates and the Savannah River, where you can learn about the city’s wildlife and walking trails, like the famed Augusta Riverwalk. The riverwalk is known for great places to eat (you gotta check out The Bee’s Knees!), bike riding and access to things like the James Brown Statue and Riverwatch Brewery. And for those of you not afraid of Savannah’s dark side, SouthStar Trolley offers ghost and vampire tours. Oh, and did we forget to mention that Augusta is home to the world renowned The Masters golf tournament? Augusta is a great city “fore” all!

Sumter, SC

Considered one of Columbia’s neighboring cities (more or less), “Merk City” is home to three major attractions. The first is General Thomas Sumter Memorial Park, burial place for the Revolutionary War hero and former congressman and senator who was nicknamed “The Gamecock.” (And yes, it’s the same Sumter who the town is named for, as well as the county, national forest and a fort in Charleston). Sumter Opera House has played host to many national acts over its decades of existence with no signs of slowing down, and is a historic site in its own right. And last but not least, there’s Swan Lake Iris Gardens. Known for its black water, Swan Lake is not only home to all eight swan species, but also a nationally recognized abundance of the Japanese iris, which only bloom for a few weeks between May and June.

Two Hours Away

Johns Island

A huge draw to the this island (besides it being the largest in the state), is the Angel Oak Tree. Located in Angel Oak Park, the tree is said to be over 400 years old, stands close to 70 ft tall, 28 ft around and shades 17,200 sq. ft. If you’re looking to bark up a tree in the state, this is certainly the one. And since it is the largest island in the state, other major draws are of the wet and wild variety. There’s Bohicket Creek Boat Rentals, Holy City Paddle Tours and Holy City Sailing. Captain Jack’s Kiawah Sailing and Dolphin Watching has earned a glowing reputation for the captain’s knowledge of the areas waterways and where dolphins like to hang out. Relax even further with a pit stop to Low Tide Brewing, where you can not only try one (or more) of their 12 craft beers on tap, but you can tour the facility and see how the beer is made.

beach22 sullivans ec04.jpg
Beach goers soak up sun and fun near Station 18 on Sullivan’s Island, near the famed Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse. Erik Campos/The State

Sullivan’s Island

Known for its affluent residents and lifestyle, Sullivan’s Island has a few choice attractions aside from house envy. To start, there’s the Edgar Allan Poe Library. Tucked away in a hillside, what used to be a military bunker was converted into the small library, named after Poe who is said to have lived on the island when he wrote “The Raven.” The Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse can be seen and enjoyed from said Sullivan’s Island Public Beach. Sometimes called the Charleston lighthouse, the 3-sided design is worth a photo op, but then it’s back to what you really came here for: relaxing on the beach. Once you find a place to park, you can look forward to a wide beach with white sand and limited interruptions.