South Carolina Vacations & Things to Do

Wide beaches, historic mansions, rolling hills and southern hospitality continue to draw a steady stream of tourists to this coastal state. Charleston is a charming and elegant seaside city with easy access to the beach and everything offered by the barrier islands. Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, and other hot-spots for beach-lovers also draw many to the state each year. South Carolina isn’t just beaches though, more central cities such as Columbia and Clemson offer a range of attractions for visitors including museums, parks and historic sites. With several state parks and national parks offering a range of opportunities for exploring the beautiful mountains, lakes and beaches of the state it’s easy to see why may visitors come back again and again.

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach draws beach-lovers from all across the eastern half of the United States and beyond. Myrtle is known for having particularly wide, sandy beaches and is a very well-developed area with many amenities. There is a selection of challenging golf courses, many beach-shops and shopping outlets, and the world’s highest density of mini golf courses. The beach is close to bars and nightlife attractions and a wide range of excellent seafood restaurants. Myrtle Beach is much more crowded and heavily developed than the nearby Outer Banks in North Carolina and other beaches nearby. The amenities tend to attract family travelers but singles and couples will find plenty to do as well.

Charleston

Charleston is a seaside city and port with its historic downtown located on a peninsula flanked by two rivers, the Cooper and the Ashley. The historic downtown saw little damage from the Civil War which ravaged other towns in the South, therefore the historic section of town still has buildings that are several hundred years old. The Charleston Visitor Center offers history tours of the downtown and several companies offer horse-drawn carriage tours but it’s possible to see much of downtown on foot as well. There are also many other museums, old churches and other historic sites located throughout Charleston. Charleston is located nearby many beach towns with Folly Beach being the most popular.

Charleston SC: Things to Do, Drayton Hall, South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston Restaurants

Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is a barrier island just off the coast of Savannah Georgia. The island is a paradise for vacationers with many beautiful beaches, and top-notch golf courses with views of the Atlantic Ocean. The island is loved by cyclists and has many rental shops and more than 25 bike paths that provide access to much of the island. The nine miles of public beaches are all open to the public and several public parks also have beach access. Be careful if you go in the water though, Hilton Head is known for having the most aggressive population of great white sharks in the world.

Columbia

Columbia is South Carolina’s largest city and its capital. It is located near the center of the state and is home to both Fort Jackson Army base and the University of South Carolina. Many historical attractions are located in Columbia including the South Carolina Statehouse and the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens. Families will love the Riverbanks Zoo which is a walkable zoo with a petting zoo and pony rides for children. Edventure Children’s Museum provides yet another attraction for families to enjoy. Other museums include the South Carolina State Museum and the Columbia Museum of Art which is the most extensive international art museum in the state.

Greenville

Greenville is a picture of the Old South meeting the New South with both historic homes and modern developments making up the city skyline. The city offers many cultural attractions such as the Greenville County Museum of Art and Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery as well as performing arts centers like Centre Stage, Peace Center and The Warehouse Theatre. Falls Park on the Reedy is located along main street and is one of the most beautiful and unique municipal parks in the country. The park is centered around the 60-foot waterfall Reedy Falls and is a great place to relax.

North Myrtle Beach

North Myrtle Beach is a small town near the North Carolina border. The town is part of the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand but has a somewhat different personality than its southern sister. North Myrtle is a quieter, more laid back beach town than Myrtle Beach. For those with an interest in the paranormal, the town offers the Myrtle Beach Ghost Walk where visitors travel to remote areas by moonlight and listen to storytellers spin creepy tales. The Ghosts and Legends Theatre is a family-friendly theater that puts on a live-action show that explores the areas spooky history. Additional activities include golf, watersports, casino gaming, scenic and dinner cruises, shopping, horseback riding and a number of noteworthy restaurants.

Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a barrier island off the Atlantic coast about 25 miles to the southwest of Charleston. Most of the island is occupied by the Kiawah Island Golf Resort which is a beach and golf resort that offers luxury accommodations in spacious villas as well as beautiful stretches of sand and large golf courses. The island has thirty miles of paved trails and 10 miles of walkable beach which make biking and walking the perfect way to get around the island. The island offers many access points for canoes and kayaks to explore the Kiawah River, creeks and marshes. Beachwalker County Park is operated by Charleston County and has one of the most beautiful beaches in the area.

Clemson

Clemson is a city in South Carolina’s Upcountry. It is a small, college town with a popular football team. The Clemson University Visitors Center is a comfortable and educational center and base for exploring the campus and the Clemson area. The University has several museums and attractions which are open to the public including the Bob Campbell Geology and Natural History Museum, Carillon Garden, The Fran Hanson Discovery Center, and The South Carolina Botanical Garden. The downtown features a vibrant nightlife for a small town, with many bars. For outdoor-enthusiasts, nearby Lake Hartwell offers an opportunity to get out of town and onto the water for a day of boating or fishing.

Spartanburg

Spartanburg is a beautiful city full of plenty of Southern hospitality and charm. The town is tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and features a mild climate conducive to year-round tourism. The city’s Cowpens National Battlefield memorializes the site where U.S. troops defeated the British. Other historical attractions include the Walnut Grove Plantation, the Magnolia Train Depot, the Glendale Mill and several historic homes. Spartanburg is home to a host of museums such as the Greer Heritage Museum, the Pacolet Museum, Cowpens Depot and the Regional Museum of History. Explore the natural environment around Spartanburg by visiting the urban Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve, Lawson’s Fork Creek, or by walking along the Cottonwood Trail.

Georgetown

Georgetown is a historic seaport located between Charleston and Myrtle Beach on the Atlantic coast. The city is quite old having been established in 1732 and therefore has many historic attractions such as the Strand Theatre and the Historic Mansfield Plantation. Several must-see museums are located in the small town and include the Kaminski House museum, the Rice Museum, and the Georgetown County Museum. There are many companies which offer historic walking tours and boat tours of the Georgetown area. There are also ghost tours led by storytellers which are a popular attraction. Several marinas offer access to the ocean and provide rentals and any other services you may need as you explore the area by water.

Florence

Florence is the primary city within South Carolina’s Pee Dee historical region. Historically the city was a railroad hub and a key player in the Civil War. The Florence Museum of Art, Science and History is the city’s premier museum. It features exhibits of antiques, paintings, American Indian artifacts and artifacts from the Civil War. Beer enthusiasts should make sure to grab a pint at the local Seminar Brewing Company which is located beside Redbone Alley in Florence Mall. Visitors come from all over the region to shop at Magnolia Mall which includes a large variety of retail shops and restaurants. Other Florence attractions include the Florence National Cemetery, the Florence Stockade and the War Between the States Museum.

Rock Hill

Rock Hill is a city in north-central South Carolina. The city is a hub for culture and industry. It is home to several museums such as the York County Museum of Rock Hill, the Comporium Telephone Museum, the Center for the Arts, the White Home and the Main Street Children’s Museum. The city has thirty-one municipal parks as well as four recreation centers and a botanical garden. Glencalm Gardens, Ebenezer Park and Manchester Meadows Park are some of the most popular. Many nature trails pass through the town providing a nice place to walk or exercise. Canaan Zipline Canopy Tour offers a unique way to see the natural beauty of the area through a biplane and aerial adventure park.

North Charleston

North Charleston is the state’s third largest city and is a major industrial and retail center. The city is home to one of Boeing Aircraft’s manufacturing and assembly plants which has given it a bit of international significance. The area has long played a key role in the U.S. Armed Forces and this is very evident in the attractions and museums around North Charleston. The H.L. Hunley Museum is located at the old Navel Base and is a recovered Civil-War era submarine, there is also a Naval Memorial at Riverfront Park, as well as the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. In addition, the city has a nonprofit art house theater called The Park Circle Film Society as well as several city parks, and a performing arts center.

Huntington Beach State Park

Huntington Beach State Park is a small state park and coastal preserve located near Murrells Inlet. The park has a large and sandy beach that is typically not very crowded. The numerous wild birds that call the park home make it a popular destination among birdwatchers. The former winter home of Archer and Anna Huntington is located within the park. The home is called the Atalaya Castle and is open to the public for tours of the grounds and exhibits inside. Other park amenities include nature and hiking trails, board walks, a public campground and a gift shop which sells a variety of souvenirs and gifts.

Caesars Head State Park

Caesars Head State Park is a park in Greenville County. The park is noted for having particularly scenic views of the surrounding mountains. It is popular for hiking and boasts several trails. One of the most popular trails leads to Raven Cliff Falls which are 420 feet high and can be crossed by a suspension bridge. The park has five other waterfalls and several streams. Fishing with artificial lures is permitted in the park’s Julian and Matthews Creeks as well as the Middle Saluda River. Many migrating birds visit the park in the fall which is also a beautiful time to visit and see the fall foliage. Other wildlife that can be seen in the park include black bears, an endangered salamander and peregrine falcon.

Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park contains the country’s largest remaining intact tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest. Visitors can explore the park via a variety of hiking trails and waterways. The Boardwalk trail is perfect for visitors who want a short, easy walk. It is a 2.4 mile loop that begins at the Visitor Center and offers a good look at the biodiversity that is contained in the park. Other trails range from a 1.7 mile upland hike to a longer trek on the 11.7 mile out and back Kingsnake Trail, or the 10 mile long River Trail. Visitors can also camp overnight in the park, or take to the waterways their own canoe or kayak on the marked Cedar Canoe Trail.

Falls Park on the Reedy

Falls Park on the Reedy is a 32-acre park in the historic West End area near downtown Greenville. The centerpiece of the park is a pedestrian bridge that travels around a waterfall on the Reedy River. It is a 355-foot long suspension bridge that offers a clear and unobstructed view of the waterfall. The park has a 16 foot bronze sculpture called Fall Lake Falls as well as a visitor center aptly named the Falls Park Center. The Center offers a variety of visitor amenities, activities and a restaurant. In addition, there are several public botanical gardens as well as ruins from the original 1776 grist mill that was located on the grounds.

Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island is a 5,000 acre barrier island located about 15 miles east of Beaufort. The island was declared a state park in 1935. Activities in the park include fishing, birdwatching, camping and enjoying the pristine beach. The park’s historic lighthouse is the only one in the state that is open for visitors to climb. The view from the top is impressive. Several nature trails give visitors the chance to explore the island’s natural beauty and wildlife. For visitors wishing to stay overnight, Hunting Island has an RV campsites as well as tent spaces in their campground and primitive camping availability as well. The campground has convenient access to the beach.

Sea Pines Forest Preserve

The Sea Pines Forest Preserve was established on Hilton Head Island as a protected area for wildlife, plants and outdoor exploration in 1970. The park has grown from having only a few simple nature trails to include boardwalks through the wetlands, bridle paths, fishing docks, bridges, and more. There are a variety of ways to experience the reserve including guided boat tours, fishing trips, horseback rides, and wagon trails. Some highlights in the preserve include a 4,000-year old Indian Shell Ring, Old Lawton Rice Field, the secluded Vanishing Swamp and the Warner W. Plahs Wildflower Field which is particularly beautiful in spring.

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Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park

The Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park is Beaufort’s most impressive waterfront park. The park is located right in downtown on the Beaufort River waterfront. The park offers a scenic place to relax with views of the river, the tip of Lady’s Island, the side of Port Royal Island, the Woods Memorial Bridge and part of Parris Island. Many annual events are hosted at the park including the ever-popular Taste of Beaufort as well as the Shrimp and Water Festivals. Park amenities include restrooms, a playground for children, a performance stage, pavilions and a grassy amphitheater. Fishing is allowed from the park’s walkways.

Angel Oak Tree (at angel oak park)

Angel Oak Tree is an ancient tree which is thought to be 400-500 years old or more. The tree measures 28 feet around and is nearly 67 feet tall. It is a Southern live oak. The tree is a must-see for many visitors who come to Charleston even though it is actually located on Johns Island. Visitors who plan to go to Kiawah or Seabrook Islands will pass nearby it. The Angel Oak Tree is thought to be one of the oldest living things in the United States. Angel Oak Park where the tree is located has a gift shop, picnic area and plenty of shady grass and walkways to stroll and relax.

Litchfield Beach

Litchfield Beach is part of the Pawleys Island area on the South Carolina Grand Strand. The communities Litchfield-By-The-Sea and North Litchfield are all considered part of Litchfield Beach. The area is a bit more upscale than some other stops along the Grand Strand, featuring quiet charm, tennis courts, golf courses and members-only clubs. The community is carefully zoned and designed with aesthetics in mind, making it a relaxing and luxurious beach destination. The area has several delicious restaurants, chartered fishing companies and Black River Outdoors Center which offers kayak tours of the rivers and creeks nearby.

GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail

The Greenville Health System (GHS) Swamp Rabbit Trail is a 19.9 mile rail trail which is located in Greenville County. The trail mostly follows the path of a former railroad. The trail travels from the Greenville Technical College through the city of Greenville, through Falls Park and Furman University’s campus. It comes to an end just a mile north of the city limits of Travelers Rest. The scenic trail is designated as multi-use and is open for biking, walking, inline-skating and running. Most of the trail is wheelchair accessible as well. Trail surfaces include both sections of asphalt and boardwalk. Much of the trail follows the Reedy River and offers scenic views of the river.

Hunting Island Lighthouse

Hunting Island Lighthouse is a discontinued lighthouse located in Hunting Island State Park near the town of Beaufort. The lighthouse is the only one in the state of South Carolina that is open for visitors to climb. The tower is brick with a cast iron shell and is 136 feet tall. The top is painted black and the bottom two-thirds is painted white. The original Fresnel light is no longer lit but a small light has been installed to mimic a working lighthouse. At times the lighthouse is closed for structural repairs so visitors should check the website if they plan to make the climb.

Botany Bay Plantation

Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve is a state wildlife preserve on Edisto Island. The property contains more than 4,000 acres of land ranging from wetlands to fields to woods. The park has a small beach that is a popular nesting spot for sea turtles. The rare Wilson’s plovers and Least Tern which are both threatened species in South Carolina both nest on this beach as well. Botany Bay also has ruins of Sea Cloud Plantation which visitors can see. Visitors should take care to follow the preserves rules as all historic sites prohibit artifact collection, shelling is prohibited and all wildlife and plants are protected including venomous snakes.

Andrew Jackson State Park

Located only 9 miles north of Lancaster, Andrew Jackson State Park is the only American park named after a former president. This lovely park is a good combination of history, community activities, and art and has a museum with information about the childhood of Andrew Jackson, America’s seventh president, who lived and grew up in the area. One of the most popular activities in the park is a living history program. There is also an authentic-looking replica of the 18th-century schoolhouse, an 18-acre fishing and boating lake, a campground, and picnic areas. There is a 1.1-mile loop hiking trail, and the 1.3-mile Garden of the Waxhaws Trail is the best spot to see the local birdlife. The park also has a volleyball net, horseshoe pits, and board games.

196 Andrew Jackson Park RD, Lancaster, SC 29720, Phone: 803-285-3344