In the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, lies the Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway. a route that reflects the state’s rich history, natural beauty, and cultural heritage. Stretching approximately 13 miles from Summerville to Charleston, this picturesque highway meanders alongside the serene Ashley River, offering travelers a glimpse into the past while surrounded by stunning landscapes and historic landmarks.

A Journey Through Time

Once you begin your journey along the Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway, you’re transported back in time to the colonial era of South Carolina. Lined with centuries-old oak trees draped in Spanish moss, the road exudes a sense of timeless elegance and Southern charm. The landscape is dotted with preserved plantations, historic homes, and moss-draped gardens, each telling a unique story of the region’s past.

Magnolia Plantation | I-95 Exit Guide
The home that now sits on the grounds of Magnolia Plantation is actually the third home to be on this location. The first home was burned accidentally, the second was burned by Union troops during the Civil War.

Historic Plantations and Landmarks

One of the highlights of the byway is the opportunity to visit several historic plantations that dot its path. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, one of the oldest plantations in the South, welcomes visitors to explore its lush gardens, scenic pathways, and iconic plantation house. Drayton Hall, another architectural gem along the route, stands as one of the finest examples of Georgian-Palladian architecture in the United States, offering guided tours and educational programs for visitors. Middleton Place, a sprawling Ashley River rice plantation dating to the 1730s, with gardens and refined lodging is also a must-visit.

Middleton Place | I-95 Exit Guide
The only remaining of the three largest structures of Middleton Place, this home serves as a museum of possessions owned by the original owners and their descendants. | Photo by Kellie Thorne

Natural Splendor and Wildlife

In addition to its rich history, the Ashley River Road Byway also offers nature enthusiasts a chance to immerse themselves in the area’s natural splendor. The river itself is teeming with wildlife, including egrets, herons, and even the occasional alligator basking in the sun along the banks. Nature trails and scenic overlooks provide ample opportunities for birdwatching, photography, and peaceful reflection amidst the tranquil surroundings.

Cultural Heritage and Artisanal Craftsmanship

As you journey along the byway, be sure to take time to explore the vibrant cultural heritage and artisanal craftsmanship that define the region. From charming roadside stands selling locally-grown produce to quaint artisan shops showcasing traditional crafts, there’s no shortage of treasures to discover along the route. Visitors can also immerse themselves in the vibrant arts scene of nearby Charleston, known for its galleries, theaters, and live music venues.

Charleston, South Carolina | I-95 Exit Guide
The symbolic pineapple represents hospitality in South Carolina, and Charleston is full of both the symbol and the hospitality! | Photo Credit: Discover South Carolina

Planning Your Ashley River Road Adventure

When planning your adventure along the Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway, there are a few things to keep in mind. Be sure to allow plenty of time to explore the various points of interest along the route, as each offers its own unique charm and appeal. Consider taking advantage of guided tours and educational programs offered by local historic sites and plantations to gain a deeper understanding of the area’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway


The Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway offers travelers a truly unforgettable journey through the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry. From its historic plantations and natural beauty to its vibrant culture and artisanal craftsmanship, the byway invites visitors to slow down, explore, and savor the timeless charm of this iconic Southern landscape. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the Ashley River Road Byway has something to offer everyone who ventures along its storied path.

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