From Greenville to Raleigh, Durham to Wilmington, Southport to Charleston, and finally back to Greenville, we saw it all! Ilir and I had such a fun time roadtripping around North and South Carolina, making it the perfect week-long Southern adventure. I took a week off this summer to fly down and visit Ilir and together, we hit some of the top Southern cities we have had on our travel list.
After our trip was all said and done, we talked about what cities we would do differently and we decided we honestly wouldn’t have changed much. We had SUCH an incredible time and would love to do it all over again and explore even more. So, today, I’m diving into where we stayed, what we ate, where we drank, and what all we did during our amazing week-long trip.
First, I wanted to give you a little map and timeline of our trip. We honestly couldn’t recommend this journey more – if you are in need of a vacay and don’t know what to do, I couldn’t be more passionate that this trip is WORTH IT!
- Saturday-Sunday: Greenville
- Monday: Raleigh & Durham
- Tuesday: Wilmington
- Wednesday: Wilmington, Southport & Charleston
- Thursday: Charleston
- Friday: Charleston & Greenville
- Saturday: Greenville
- Sunday: Greenville
Raleigh & Durham, North Carolina
WHERE TO EAT + Drink
Poole’s Downtown Diner
Poole’s was Ilir’s choice and he KILLED IT! It was absolutely delicious. Poole’s is a part of AC Restaurants, a huge restaurant group in the Carolina’s. We looked at so many of their restaurants for our visit and with only one evening to spend in Raleigh, we ultimately decided on this one and could not have been happier that we did! With an old school diner feel and a reimagined menu, you are guaranteed to find something amazing. Their mac n cheese was one of the best I’ve ever had… and I eat mac n cheese a lot (a lot a lot).
Another amazing find by Ilir, Whiskey Kitchen was the cutest little stop on our way to dinner! I couldn’t decide what I liked more: their stringer Edison light bulb-topped patio or their amazing interior with the coolest vintage designs. If I lived in Raleigh, this would be a regular spot for me!
Boxcar Bar + Arcade
Our last stop for the night in Raleigh was Boxcar Bar + Arcade – and let me tell you, if you are heading to Raleigh and have just an ounce of inner child in you, this is a MUST! I bet you can guess who picked out this place (ha) but man did he do a good job! Boxcar Bar + Arcade is filled with throwback arcade and video games from ski ball to DDR to Pacman to Mario Kart. Plus, they had $1 mimosas on the Sunday we went (hey, it was vacation) so that made things even better.
Where to Stay
Aloft Durham Hotel
We had such an enjoyable stay at the Aloft in Durham! The team there was so hospitable and the hotel is just lovely. If you are visiting the Raleigh/Durham area, the Aloft Durham is a perfect choice for a hotel away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Raleigh or Durham, but just a quick drive into town for the fun, too.
WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
WHAT TO DO
Visit the Wrightsville Beach
Just a few minutes away from the downtown is the most stunning beach. Since Wilmington isn’t as booming as some of the other coastal towns, it is also pretty relaxing and not too busy which was such a wonderful change of pace for us. I wish I could have spent my entire week laying on that beach (but hey, we had places to go, things to see!). A visit to Wrightsville Beach is a MUST!
Head Downtown to the Wilmington Riverwalk
The quaint little town lines up the cutest shops, galleries, boutiques and cafes along the Wilmington Riverwalk. Strolling down the two miles of beautiful river views surrounded by the friendliest people will make your heart burst! My absolute favorite part of our stop in Wilmington was watching the sunset on the riverwalk. Hands down, it was the most STUNNING sunset I have ever seen in my life. Those pictures above don’t even do it justice – which is amazing, because even the pictures take my breath away. Add a Wilmington sunset on the Riverwalk to your bucket list STAT! I promise you, you won’t regret it.
If we were to re-do our trip, I’d add an extra day in Wilmington. Even though it is a small beach town, there is so much to see and do. I cannot wait to go back one day and explore even more. Here is a link to even more Wilmington activities.
WHERE TO EAT + DRINK
I am SO happy we stopped by Cruz in Wilmington! I can safely say it was one of the best meals I had throughout the entire trip. I absolutely fell in love with their coastal-California design and their baja-inspired menu! It was AMAZING! I am dying to go back as I type this. I got their enchilada del mar and Ilir got their umsteak. So ridiculously good. Highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend!
We received so many recommendations to head over to Oceanic and I am so glad we did. If you go, you MUST eat out on the boardwalk. The view is amazing and not like any other view in Wilmington. You are truly out on the ocean.
Our last stop on our way out of town was SUNdays Cafe, the cutest little surf shop on the Wrightsville Beach coast. It was also the perfect stop if you’re spending the day on the beach. Their smoothies are delish and the acai bowls definitely caught our eyes!
Southport, North Carolina
WHAT TO DO + Where to Eat
I am so happy Ilir and I stopped by Southport on our way from Wilmington to Charleston. We spent half a day here which was perfect. It is a small, small town, but it has so much character. What actually brought us here is that it was the set for Safe Haven (which also happened to be our first movie date ever – so mushy gushy). It was so fun seeing the site and finding little gems in this tiny town.
Explore the Town’s Character
Southport is definitely a VERY small town, but it was so fun walking around. We stopped in a couple small town shops, of course picked up the yummiest salt water taffy, and enjoyed a (very) hot afternoon here.
Visit the Safe Haven Movie Set Spots
There are two significant Safe Haven spots to visit in Southport. First is the Old American Fish Co., which was transformed into Ivan’s Fish Shack where Katie worked as a waitress during the movie, which now serves as just a bar. The other Fishy Fish Cafe which was the exact location of the general store. We ate at Fishy Fish which was so fun to feel like you were right on set.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville earned its own travel guide, linked below. I couldn’t love Greenville more! It is the sweetest little southern town that just has a feeling of home every time you visit. Ilir lives just half an hour away from Greenville, so every time I visit him, we take a trip to Greenville. During our South Carolina Tour, we stayed downtown and spent a full two days, which was SO much fun. Read more about our amazing trip below.
And that’s a wrap! We had such an incredible time roadtripping around the Carolinas. If you are planning out your next vacation and want to do a little East Coast exploring, I couldn’t recommend this plan more. If you have any questions, of course, please drop them below! Thanks for reading!