Kiawah Island
Photo: kmm 7553/Fotolia

South Carolina enjoys an enviable location on the southeastern coastline of America. The state boasts miles of beaches and pleasant year-round weather, making it a popular vacation destination. You can visit gracious Southern plantations, bask in the renowned Southern hospitality, or enjoy the simple pleasures of a beach holiday. Whether you love arts, culture, or outdoor adventure, you will have plenty of choice.

»Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach is a very popular weekend getaway destination for both families and couples, combining great beach activities with some interesting museums, galleries, and other attractions for rainy days. Strolling along the famous Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is one of the most popular activities for visitors and residents alike; you can watch the sunset, ride the Skywheel Ferris Wheel, and absorb the holiday atmosphere.

The beaches offer good bathing, basking, paddling, canoeing, and kayaking, and there are several great golf courses. Off the beach, the town is packed with wacky family attractions such as the Backstage Mirror Maze, Ripley’s Wax Museum, and the Family Kingdom Amusement Park. Photo: Melpomene/Fotolia

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Although Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina and is home to many historic buildings, the city is everything but boring. Here history buffs can visit several wonderfully preserved plantation homes and gardens dating back as far as 1672 – Magnolia Plantations and Gardens is one of the most popular, but there are several others.

The town has a thriving arts scene that you can explore by visiting the historic Charleston Music Hall and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, to name but a few. Charleston prides itself on showcasing Southern cuisine, and foodies can discover the vibrant flavors of the South on a Charleston Culinary Tour or a Charleston Brews Cruise to sample local craft beers. Next read: Romantic Getaways in Charleston and Romantic Restaurants in Charleston Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia

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Greenville ticks all the boxes for a fun-filled family weekend getaway, combining good outdoor activities and educational and artsy attractions. You can visit the pedestrian-friendly downtown to soak up the atmosphere, have a meal, or do some shopping. If you love the performing arts, you will find the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, the Greenville Chorale, and the Carolina Ballet Theater at the Peace Center.

Families can spend hours of educational fun at the Roper Mountain Science Center and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate or get some exercise in the Caesars Head State Park where you can go hiking, fishing, and wildlife watching. The free Greenville Trolley is a great way for weekenders to get around town. Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia

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As the capital of South Carolina, Columbia promises visitors a wealth of varied attractions to fill their vacation. If you are interested in history, you can tour the South Carolina State House and some of the many impressive historic homes and gardens, including the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens, which date back to 1818.

Families can visit the South Carolina State Museum (which incorporates an observatory, planetarium, and 4D interactive theater) for hours of educational fun or make their way to the EdVenture Children’s Museum or Riverbanks Zoo and Botanic Garden. Art lovers should not miss MAMM (the modern art museum), while foodies should consider joining a Columbia Food Tour. Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia

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The historic town of Spartanburg has been around since 1753 and is packed with historic attractions and a wealth of cultural and outdoor activities. You can join the Historic Downtown Walking Tour or go on the self guided driving tour to learn about the town’s role in World Wars I and II. If you love music, you can follow the Spartanburg Music Trail while art enthusiasts can head to the Spartanburg Art Museum and the Chapman Cultural Center.

Car enthusiasts should not miss touring BMW Zentrum, the German car maker’s only museum and manufacturing plant in America. Nature lovers can explore hiking, biking, and walking trails or take a stroll through some of Spartanburg’s arboretums and nature preserves. Photo: Spartanburg, SC

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»Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island

You are never far from the water or a golf course on beautiful Kiawah Island, situated just a few miles south of historic Charleston in South Carolina. This peaceful barrier island off the South Carolina coast lays claim to over 10 miles of beaches and five championship golf courses as well as excellent wildlife spotting and hiking, walking, and biking trails.

You can explore the many waterways on the island by joining a kayak or stand-up paddle boat tour or hire a bike and explore on two wheels. If you fancy fishing you can organize a fishing charter or admire the coastline by motorboat. The island also offers tennis (and lessons), four spas, and many great dining options. Next read: South Carolina beaches and South Carolina resorts Photo: kmm 7553/Fotolia

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»Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, Beaufort

Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, Beaufort

The Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Beaufort South Carolina is a striking example of how one man’s vision succeeded in turning a dilapidated harbor-side eyesore into an urban oasis for Beaufort locals and visitors.

The park lies between downtown Beaufort and the Beaufort River/Intracoastal waterway and is made up of several different areas, including scenic riverfront walkways, a children’s playground, swings, picnic areas, and a small pavilion, all with easy access to the National Historic Landmark District. You can come for a peaceful picnic, watch the constant nautical activities, or attend one of the annual events such as the Taste of Beaufort, the Shrimp Festival, or the Water Festival. Photo: Wollwerth Imagery/Fotolia

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»Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island

Any town featuring the word “island” in its name immediately conjures up images of laid-back summer vacations, and Hilton Head Island more than delivers on the promise. You can choose from several bustling (Coligny Park Beach) or secluded (Burkes Beach) beaches, and if you love water sports, you can head to H2O Sports for lessons and equipment.

Another option is to set off by boat to explore the coastline with one of several outfitters. You can go hiking and nature-watching in the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, take the children to the Sandbox Interactive Children’s Museum, or visit the Arts Center of Coastal California. End you day with a feast of fresh seafood at one of the island’s 250 restaurants. Photo: Michael Dalton/Fotolia

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You will find the historic coastal town of Georgetown nestled on the South Carolina coast between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, offering visitors a big helping of small-town charm, loads of history and plenty of attractions. There are several ways to learn about Georgetown – you can go on a walking tour (Strollin on the Sampit), a tram tour (Swamp Fox Tours), and even a ghost tour.

There are five museums you can visit, or you could just stroll along Front Street to admire the quaint shops and galleries or eat ocean-fresh seafood. Boat tours are also very popular, and you can spend a day picnicking on a remote barrier island with Island Picnic Cruises. Photo: Refocus Photography/Fotolia

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Florence was established as a railway hub roughly halfway between New York City and Miami and played a prominent role during the Civil War. Historians can visit the War Between the States Museum, the Florence Stockade and National Cemetery, and Veterans Park to learn more. You can admire the art of William H. Johnson and other prominent artists at the Florence County Museum or attend a concert at either the Francis Marion University Performing Art Center or the Florence Little Theatre.

If you enjoy the great outdoors, you can hike along a trail system connecting Veterans Park and Timrod Park or try the canopy walk in the Lynches River Park. Foodies should definitely not miss the City Center Farmer’s Market and the annual Oktoberfest and the Pecan Festival. Photo: Florence, SC

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»Rock Hill

Rock Hill

Rock Hill is situated in north central South Carolina, where a mild year-round climate attracts many visitors to come and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. You can take a gentle stroll in Glencairn Garden or Fountain Park or get more energetic along the Piedmont Medical Center Trail and the Carolina Thread Trail. Cycling enthusiasts can try the Rock Hill Outdoor Center, while paddlers can explore the Catawba River by canoe or kayak.

Daredevils can have fun at Camp Canaan, which offers zip-lines, climbing, and other fun activities. On rainy days, you can head to cultural and heritage sites such as historic Brattonsville, the Museum of York County, and the Children’s Museum in Old Town Rock Hill. Photo: digi dream grafix/Fotolia

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»North Charleston

North Charleston

North Charleston offers visitors an interesting mix of unusual museums, a thriving arts and culture scene, and the convenience of being close to all the historic attractions of the city of Charleston. History buffs can see a recovered 1864 submarine and learn about the pivotal role it played at the fascinating H.L. Hunley Museum and then move on to see the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial in River Park.

You can take the kids to the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Education Center where they can see both vintage and new fire engines. Art lovers can spend some time at the North Charleston City Gallery or watch a concert at the North Charleston Coliseum. Photo: North Charleston, SC

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»Huntington Beach State Park

Huntington Beach State Park

Huntington Beach State Park is an ideal coastal getaway for campers, birdwatchers, fishermen, and nature lovers. You can bring the family (and even your dog) and pitch a tent or park your RV at a serviced site to spend a few nights getting back to nature.

You can go hiking and bird watching along various trials (for all fitness levels) to wildlife observation points, enjoy sunbathing and walking along the pristine beach, and learn all about marine life at the Nature Center. The surf fishing is rumored to be the finest in the state, but you can also fish off a jetty or launch a boat at Oyster Landing. Photo: Michael Ballard/Fotolia

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»Caesars Head State Park

Caesars Head State Park

At Caesars Head State Park on the dramatic Blue Ridge Escarpment, you will find some of the best hiking in the state through the 11,000-acre forested Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. The trails vary in length from less than a mile to 10 miles, offering something for everyone. If you would like to venture further afield, you can go backpacking and sleep trailside under the stars at 18 primitive backcountry campsites.

The 2-mile Raven Falls Trail takes you to the suspension bridge overlooking the 420-foot Raven Falls and is one of the most popular. Bird watching, particularly the fall Hawk migration, is a popular activity, and you can also cast a line to catch some trout. Photo: Jill Lang/Fotolia

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»Congaree State Park

Congaree State Park

The Congaree State Park is located 20 miles outside Columbia and is one of the only places in the entire country where you can see a large tract of old-growth hardwood forest sustained by the floodplains of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers.

There are two ways to explore this amazing habitat, which supports a large variety of wildlife – you can take to the waters along the marked 15-mile Cedar Creek Canoe Trail in a canoe or kayak (you need to bring your own craft), or you can hike an assortment of hiking trails. You can pitch your tent at one of two campsites, try your hand at fishing, or enroll in a ranger-led program. Photo: Zack Frank/Fotolia

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»Falls Park on the Reedy

Falls Park on the Reedy

Falls Park on the Reedy is situated in downtown Greenville’s Historic West End, providing locals and visitors with an urban oasis where they can meet, enjoy outdoor and cultural attractions, and admire beautiful gardens. Gardeners can go on a guided tour of the park or simply stroll through Pedricks Garden to admire the landscaping and sunflowers.

You can bring a picnic and relax on the expansive lawns or have a meal at one of two on-site restaurants. Hikers and cyclists can use Falls Park as their springboard to the 20-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail, while art lovers can have fun uncovering several public sculptures dotted around the park. Photo: cvalle/Fotolia

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»Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island State Park

Located just 16 miles from the historic town of Beaufort, Hunting Island State Park is a popular beach-front getaway destination. You can simply relax on the pristine three-mile beach or explore the abundant wildlife-watching opportunities provided by the lagoon. You can visit the Nature Center and Pier to see some live reptiles and to fish or take a ranger-led guided tour of the Marsh Boardwalk.

For a great overview of the island, you can climb to the top of the historic 1859 Hunting Island Lighthouse. Other fun activities include shell collecting and crabbing. You can pitch a tent or park your RV at the campsite, which offers easy access to the beach. Photo: Wollwerth Imagery/Fotolia

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»Sea Pines Forest Preserve

Sea Pines Forest Preserve

The 605-acre Sea Pines Forest Preserve on Hilton Head Island is a great place to escape the glitzy island resorts and spend some time communing with nature. You can discover the preserve by walking or hiking along several trails, including the blue arrow trail (one hour) and the orange arrow trail (two hours), or along the wetland boardwalk through Vanishing Swamp, which will bring you into close contact with resident wildlife.

If you prefer to explore on horseback, tale advantage of the cleared bridle paths available. You can picnic at Fish Island in the center of the preserve, admire the Wildflower Field at Lake Thomas, and visit Indian Shell Ring, the site of a 4000-year old Indian Village. Photo: Nikolas/Fotolia

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Clemson, South Carolina lies in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where parks, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes provide countless opportunities to get back to nature. If you love history, you can tour several historic homesteads such as the Hanover House (1716) and the Hunt Cabin (1825) at the South Carolina Botanical Garden or Ashtabula Plantation (1790).

You can immerse yourself in the town’s vibrant arts scene by visiting the Blue Ridge Arts Center and attending one of several performing arts venues. Outdoors enthusiasts can enjoy boating and hiking at Lake Hartwell or High Falls Country Park or hike to the Big Bend Falls and Bee Cove Falls. Photo: Robert Hainer/Fotolia

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»Angel Oak Tree, Charleston

Angel Oak Tree, Charleston

Just a short detour off the road will bring you to Angel Oak Tree in Angel Oak Forest on John’s Island, 12 miles outside Charleston. The tree is one of the oldest living trees in the country, and it would be a shame to miss seeing this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon if you are in the area.

The Angel Oak is believed to be at least 400 to 500 years old and has managed to stand tall and strong, surviving much adverse coastal weather, including several severe hurricanes. You can have your photo taken alongside the imposing 66.5-foot tall tree, and it is fun to see how many people are needed to form a chain around its 28-foot circumference. Photo: gnagel/Fotolia

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»Litchfield Beach

Litchfield Beach

Litchfield Beach is perfectly located on the Pawley Island section of Grand Strand and is arguably one of the best beaches in South Carolina. Here you can escape the crowds and find an unspoiled wide sandy beach perfect for walking, sunbathing, and swimming. If you enjoy cycling, surfing, or paddling, you can get equipment at several Pawley Island outfitters, including Surf the Earth.

You can play a round of golf at one (or all) of the five golf courses in the area, treat yourself to a pampering spa treatment, or dine at many excellent local restaurants. No visit to Litchfield Beach would be complete without exploring beautiful Brookgreen Gardens, where you will find acres of color, a sculpture garden, a zoo, and a children’s garden. Photo: Litchfield Beach, SC

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»The Swamp Rabbit Trail, Greenville

The Swamp Rabbit Trail, Greenville

Walkers, runners, cyclists, and skaters can all enjoy some outdoor exercise along the (nearly) 20-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail that links the towns of Greenville and Travelers Rest, South Carolina. A large section of the trail follows the course of the Reedy River, so you can enjoy great scenery en-route.

The width of the trail varies from 8 to 12 feet, and you can cycle, skate, or walk along the paved part, while runners can use the rubberized running track. A separate section of the trail meanders through the Lake Conestee Nature Park where visitors will be making their way through 400 acres of forest and wetland and enjoying good wildlife watching opportunities. Photo: The Swamp Rabbit Trail, Greenville, SC

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»Hunting Island Lighthouse

Hunting Island Lighthouse

The Hunting Island Lighthouse is located in the Hunting Island State Park and offers visitors a chance to combine a little history with a great day on the beach. The lighthouse was deactivated in 1933 and is the only South Carolina lighthouse open to the public. You can climb the 167 steps of the steep spiral staircase to reach the viewing platform (132 feet above the beach) where you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the park and the ocean.

Interestingly, the lighthouse was built with overlapping steel plates rather than bricks, which made it possible for it to be dismantled and moved farther inland in 1889 when it was threatened by beach erosion. Photo: Wollwerth Imagery/Fotolia

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25 Best Places to Visit in South Carolina