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South Carolina is rich in history, dating back to the foundation of the United States. The state combines beautiful beaches and modern life while retaining its tradition of southern hospitality and great food.
The Palmetto State is in two parts. The “low country” has miles of beaches and resorts along the South Carolina coast and the Atlantic Ocean. The “upstate” has small mountains and rivers and is more rural. The state capital, Columbia, sits between the border of the country in South Carolina’s two regions and is one of the best destinations for visitors exploring the Palmetto state.
- Best Things to Do in South Carolina
- Myrtle Beach
- Hunting Island
- Hilton Head Island
- Try excellent Southern comfort food
- Visit the Barrier Islands
- Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
- Congaree National Park
- Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway 11
- State parks in the Blue Ridge Mountains
- Where to stay in South Carolina
- How to Get Around in South Carolina
- Travel Tips for Visiting South Carolina
- Mind the weather
- Take South Carolina’s backroads
- Use protection
Best Things to Do in South Carolina
Charleston is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. From its stunning architecture to its vibrant culture, Charleston has something to offer everyone. Visitors can explore the cobblestone streets of the historic downtown district, admire the antebellum mansions of the Battery, or take a tour of Fort Sumter.
The city also boasts several beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants, and plenty of shopping opportunities. With its rich history, unique culture, and stunning scenery, Charleston is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves to travel.
Myrtle Beach is a popular vacation destination located in South Carolina. With its miles of sandy beaches, warm climate, and vibrant nightlife, it’s the perfect place to escape for a few days. During the day, there are endless activities, from swimming and sunbathing to fishing and kayaking.
There are also plenty of local attractions, such as the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Broadway at the Beach. As night falls, the city comes alive with entertainment venues, bars, and restaurants. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a fun family vacation, Myrtle Beach has something for everyone.
The town of Beaufort is a miniature Charleston. It was founded in 1711 and is the second oldest city in the state. It is a place to experience the old South history positively. It is also famous for the movies filmed there.
It is a small town on a barrier island known for its many antebellum mansions. The harbor and waterfront are as beautiful as Charleston and not as full of tourists. It is situated on a barrier island.
Spanish explorers toured the area just 20 years after Columbus reached the Americas. It is rich in history and known for its unspoiled scenery. Beaufort is also home to America’s only plastic kazoo factory and the largest kazoo museum in the country.
Hunting Island is one of the barrier islands along the coast between Charleston and Savannah. This is a natural preserve area with miles of beautiful undeveloped beaches.
This was a new hunting and playground destination for the wealthy 100 years ago. Campgrounds and some rental units are available, but the main appeal is an undeveloped beach area for a great escape to the Palmetto state. This is home to some of South Carolina’s most stunning landscapes and amazing destinations for a sunset.
Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is known for its world-famous first-class golf courses and private gated communities and is a tennis Mecca for visitors to South Carolina.
It is the southernmost of the barrier islands and very close to Savannah, Georgia. The barrier island has 12 miles of beaches. It is a destination for serious golfers, as well as beachcombers.
It hosts a major PGA golf tournament and has national professional tennis matches. It has several pricey resorts, but they are as luxurious as possible. It has 39 golf courses, and 20 of those are professional or championship-level courses, making it a great center for golfing destinations.
Try excellent Southern comfort food
When you visit South Carolina, you will soon find that food is the most popular thing to do in South Carolina. Lowcountry cuisine is an art of its own based on the Gullah culture. Any South Carolina vacation should include enjoying the cuisine.
Fresh seafood abounds off the coast, but the Gullah adds its flavor. A low-country boil includes shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes, onions, and spices from the area.
Things like chicken bogg, okra stew, she-crab soup, and skillet cornbread get you started. In the northern part of the state, barbeque is almost a religion, and it is unique in that it is mustard-based.
There is plenty of great food almost anywhere you visit South Carolina, and the cuisine could be the best part of a South Carolina vacation. Shrimp and grits are also a Southern tradition.
Visit the Barrier Islands
Several barrier islands along the South Carolina coast preserve the Lowcountry lifestyle and much of the Gullah culture. Many enslaved people lived on these islands after the Civil War, where the Gullah flourished.
Places like Johns Island, Edisto Beach, Kiawah Island, Port Royal, and many more wait to offer you tons of beaches of the Atlantic Ocean on your South Carolina vacation. The Palmetto State offers stunning landscapes, history, and great beaches.
Islands like Hilton Head are well-developed tourist areas, but some other islands are underdeveloped and still have beautiful beaches and gorgeous scenery. In some ways, they are the nicest places to visit in South Carolina.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
South Carolina’s capital city is Columbia. It hosts the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens. It is a 170-acre site on the banks of the Saluda and Broad Rivers and is one of the more picturesque places to visit in South Carolina. There are stunning landscapes and an incredible sunset.
There are more than 2000 animals from around the world in lifelike habitats. The gardens feature dynamic natural exhibits, inspiring river views, and significant historical areas. It draws more than a million visitors annually to the central part of South Carolina. Columbia is also home to the state’s university and is part of the Southeast Conference.
Congaree National Park
The Congaree National Park is just south of Columbia and is one of North America’s oldest preserved bottomland hardwood forests. It has 20,000 acres of land with 25 miles of hiking trails. About three miles are on the boardwalk that goes through the Congaree floodplain, a swamp most of the year.
There are also marked canoe trials. You may also follow a marked canoe trail 50 miles south to explore the heart of Columbia. There is only one park with astonishing biodiversity, with endangered indigo snakes, red woodpeckers, and many more. The national park’s headquarters is in Hopkins, and admission is free.
Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway 11
This scenic byway is a 130-mile-long drive through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina’s northwest corner. The highway was originally a Cherokee Indian Trail and a trail used later by explorers and traders. It is known as Highway 11 today.
It goes through forested areas, majestic views, small villages, and parks. Gaffney is the largest town on the route and is at the eastern end.
State parks in the Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a relatively small mountain chain in the northwest of the state and are at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. The area has eight state parks covering nearly 20,000 acres of forested mountain land to enjoy on a South Carolina vacation.
There are lakes, many trails, and waterfalls to explore. You may camp year-round, and there are a lot of small towns with motels in the area. In the fall, leaves turn colors, a major attraction in the area.
Greenville and Spartanburg are good-sized cities that have grown into one large metropolitan area in the South Carolina upstate. This is a launching point for exploring the upstate, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and all the natural areas, making this a great place when visiting South Carolina.
Southern hospitality rules and people are happy to be your South Carolina travel guide. There are museums like the Children’s Museum and a zoo in the center of Greenville.
Where to stay in South Carolina
There are many great places to stay on your South Carolina vacation. From beach-front resorts to bed-and-breakfast homes, luxury is the key to the best places to stay in South Carolina. For this South Carolina travel guide, we have narrowed down 10 of the best places to stay in the state.
- Airy Treehouse, situated in Harbour Town. On Hilton Head Island
- Marriott’s Harbour Club on Hilton Head Island
- Rhett House, In Beaufort
- Manson at Rose Hill, in Bluffton
- Omni Hilton Head Resort, on Hilton Head Island
- Embassy Suites, in Columbia
- Marriott, in Columbia
- Homewood Suites by Hilton. In Greeneville
- AC Hotel by Marriott, in Spartanburg
- Historic Log Cabin, Edisto Beach
How to Get Around in South Carolina
The capital city of Columbia, South Carolina, has a major international airport and is the largest one in the state. There are also large airports in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and the Greenville-Spartanburg area. There are airports in smaller towns like Hilton Head Island.
Beyond airports, your best bet is toget a rental car available in many cities around the state. A South Carolina Travel Guide can be picked up at any airport or city, giving you a lot of information for when you visit South Carolina.
Travel Tips for Visiting South Carolina
When you visit South Carolina, take advantage of the hospitality and southern charm. The tourism industry is strong and is there to help visitors. A South Carolina Travel Guide is easy to find, and there are also regional ones. Many of them offer discounts for hotels, restaurants, and local attractions.
Mind the weather
Summers can be unbearably hot, especially inland. Spring is the warm weather and the most beautiful time in the state, and fall is the most comfortable, warm weather.
Pay attention to hurricane warnings in the fall. Winters are fairly mild, especially on the coast. Snow is rare, even in the upstate.
Take South Carolina’s backroads
There are lots of fancy resorts and tourist areas that are crowded. There are also a lot of small towns loaded with southern charm and friendly people. Talk with locals to get first-hand information about the best things to do in South Carolina.
The environment is beautiful, but when you visit South Carolina, you must be aware of the opposing side. There are lots of mosquitos, gnats, and other insects that especially find damper areas in summer.
Also, the summer sun is scorching, and you should use sunscreen. Keeping hydrated is also very important.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.