The gorgeous state of South Carolina is bordered by Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and the Atlantic Ocean. Within its borders, you will find stunning beaches, national forests, thriving cities, traditional villages and plenty of Southern charm. Coastal destinations are a top pick for many, but South Carolina is also a nature lover’s dream getaway. As you plan your trip to the Palmetto State, be sure to check out this list of best places to visit in South Carolina:
Many visitors take time to explore Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina and its largest city. The two biggest draws to the area include the Army base called Fort Jackson and the sprawling campus of the University of South Carolina. If you’re interested in architecture and history that predates the Civil War, then check out the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens. Built in 1818, this antebellum structure is beautiful, and you can still tour the interior to see many of the original furnishings. If you’re eager to snag some souvenirs, Five Points is a remarkable shopping destination in Columbia packed with independent shops and boutiques.
One of the most interesting and scenic spots in South Carolina is Caesars Head State Park. The park is situated in the northernmost part of the state, right on the border with North Carolina. Caesars Head itself is a gigantic rock formation that overlooks the entire Piedmont region below. Hiking is the most popular pastime at Caesars Head State Park, and shorter trails like the Raven Cliff Falls are an easy alternative for those who want a brief introduction to the landscape. Fishing, overnight camping and spotting hawks migrating in the fall are other amazing ways to experience the park.
In the Grand Strand Region of South Carolina, and right on the coast, is Pawleys Island. This slice of paradise is a retreat where you can unwind, stay active and kick back on beautiful beaches. Long preferred by the wealthy, Pawleys Island is an upscale spot for those in search of a South Carolina getaway. Litchfield Beach is a big attraction, offering glorious sand dunes and a long stretch of pristine white coastline. Also appealing are the many golf courses, some of which offer unparalleled sea views right from the tees.
Just outside of the capital city of Columbia is the Congaree National Park. Named for the Congaree Indians that once lived and fished in the area, the national park is an interesting mix of forested area and floodplain swampland. Here, you can find some of the largest cypress trees in the world, which are well worth a visit. Birdwatching is another popular pastime, with plenty of songbirds and the occasional hawk to be spotted. Most trails are for hiking, but the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail is a unique way to explore the landscape from the water.
One of the better known suburbs of Charleston is Mount Pleasant. The Ravenel Bridge, an iconic part of the city, links the two destinations. Mount Pleasant is primarily residential, but it has a lot to offer visitors as well. Notably, Mount Pleasant is home to the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. This museum boasts retired Navy ships, many of which can be toured including the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. Mount Pleasant is also a wonderful place to get outdoors, and the walking paths at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park and Shem Creek Park are scenic places to do exactly that.
While much of South Carolina has a historic, traditional feel, Greenville is the modern, progressive alternative. The city is often described as the melting pot of the Old South and the New South, and it boasts a growing cultural landscape. On your visit, you might opt to explore the Greenville County Museum of Art or catch a touring Broadway show at the Peace Center Theater. Don’t leave without taking the time to visit Falls Park on the Reedy, a truly stunning park right in the center of the city that features an enormous waterfall. This park is truly the heart of Greenville and was in fact the birthplace of the city itself.
The coastal town of Beaufort is just off the Intra-Coastal Waterway, and it has a history dating back to the Spanish exploration of the early 16th century. Today, Beaufort is known for its historic architecture and Southern charms. A great place to start is at the Beaufort History Museum, or you can see what an antebellum mansion looked like with a tour of the John Mark Verdier House. Walk through Beaufort’s Historic District to admire more of the town’s architecture, and then stop in at one of the charming cafes for a glass of sweet tea to cool down.
Just north of Savannah, Georgia, is the picturesque Hilton Head Island. This barrier island is only 12 miles (19 km) long, but it has earned a reputation as a playground for those who love warm weather, gorgeous beaches and an abundance of golf courses. While the rich and famous own a lot of the local property, particularly in the upscale neighborhood of Harbour Town, there are still over nine miles of public-access coastline available. There are also several bike paths, countless golf courses and the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center, which is regarded as one of the best tennis training centers in the world. Don’t forget to add a dolphin watching tour to your itinerary, as dolphins are spotted throughout the year from just off the coast.
More than 14 million people a year come to Myrtle Beach, and it is easy to see why. The coastal hotspot boasts incredible beaches, blue waters and bright white sand. Sunrise and sunset offers magnificent views that simply can’t be beat. What really sets Myrtle Beach apart is that is has a number of big attractions just off of the beach. Mini golf courses, Ripley’s Aquarium and countless dinner theater shows provide fun out of the sun. After dark, the best place to be is Broadway at the Beach, the enormous collection of bars and restaurants where you can always find something fun to do.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in the South, Charleston is a historic port city packed with antebellum architecture. Its historic downtown is on a peninsula formed by two rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper, flowing into the Atlantic, and protected from the open ocean by surrounding islands. Fort Sumter, accessible by ferry from Charleston, is an important Civil War landmark. Make your way to the French Quarter to find the Huguenot church and several wonderful art galleries. If you would like to see some of the most important sites at once, and enjoy a heavy dose of charm at the same time, consider a traditional carriage tour through the city. The Market is another must-see attraction bordered by shops, restaurants and nightlife.