As my birth state, South Carolina holds a special place in my heart. And although I didn’t spend much time there growing up, I have spent a lot of time as an adult visiting places in this fantastic state in the South.
Through my visits, I have learned that South Carolina is unique.
The marshes and biodiversity found in the low country are unique to the area and give South Carolina that special something that you just have to experience.
Likewise, The beaches are beautiful. It’s almost like you walked onto shore 200 years ago in some places.
So, let’s see which places in South Carolina you should put on your radar when planning a low country, mountain or beach vacation!
Keep reading for an overview of the most interesting and beautiful places to visit in South Carolina.
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Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is one of my first vacation memories. I was eleven and just coming into my own as a pre-teen. My mom let a friend and I walk around by ourselves, around Shelter Cove Marina and all of the nearby shops… We really thought we were hot stuff!
The Hilton Head of today still exudes all the charm of thirty years ago, but with a bit of modern flair.
Harbortown Lighthouse continues to be the fixture it was so many years ago and there are still the gorgeous golf courses and forest preserves that keep people coming back year after year.
In addition to Coligny Beach, the best beach on the island, there are recent developments such as Lowcountry Celebration Park, a ten acre playground that will be the best your kids have ever played on. The Coastal Discovery Museum is also a place to delve into the history and the natural heritage of the island.
If you’re looking for good eats, try Chow Daddy’s for its famous tacos or if you have a craving for some of the best seafood in the Lowcountry, then you have to give Skullcreek Boathouse a visit.
Sit and dine with an amazing view at sunset as you sample and choose your own ceviche platter or sushi rolls.
Hilton Head exemplifies what South Carolina is all about and if you want an authentic Low Country experience, you must come here for your beach vacation.
Known as “the most important garden in America”, Middleton Place was first conceived by a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Arthur Middleton. The gardens have since been a work in progress for almost 300 years.
Over the centuries, famous landscape architects from all over the world have worked to make Middleton Place what it is today. But, none of it would be a reality without the tireless work of the enslaved over the centuries.
Middleton Place highlights this fact in historic tours on the grounds that show what life was like for the African American slaves that were plucked from their homeland so that the wealthy could benefit from their toils.
Their work is not in vain, as the over 100,000 azaleas, 4,000 camellia bushes and scores of other ornamental plants, shrubs and grasses cover the 65 acres of gardens at Middleton Place have been lovingly cared for since their inception.
Middleton Place is not only a lesson in history and how this country was built on the work of others, but an enlightenment of hundreds of years of the love and care it takes for a garden so magnificent. Middleton Place is one of the most beautiful places to see in South Carolina and should most definitely be on your list.
I’ve always said that if I were to move to a smaller town, it would have to be Greenville. I am from Atlanta, and I think that Greenville exudes all the best parts of the city but with one addition: a waterfall running through downtown. Now that is what makes a good city great!
Ranked as one of the top ten fastest growing cities in America by CNN Money, Greenville is definitely a city you should put on your radar. From its bustling yet laidback downtown, to its proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville has it all.
While downtown enjoying the city by bike or on foot, stop by one of the many breweries. If visiting on a Saturday, don’t miss the TD Saturday Market, where you can enjoy perusing hand crafted wares, fresh produce and other goodies right in the downtown area.
For the art enthusiasts, there’s the Greenville County Museum of Art where admission is free, but you can see an impressive art collection featuring everything from folk art to abstract pieces from notable Southern artists.
I have friends that live in Greenville and I’m always excited to visit and enjoy this little gem in the South. Greenville is a stop that should be on you vacation agenda and is one of the coolest places to visit in South Carolina.
Caesars Head State Park
If you want some of the best mountains views available in the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina, then Caesars Head State Park should be on your list. Caesars Head is located atop a 3,200 foot rock escarpment and will give you views of the surrounding states, and a sunset that is unimaginable.
However, if you are a waterfall chaser, you are in the prime spot in South Carolina! There are five waterfalls to hike and view in this park.
The crown jewel is Raven Cliff Falls, a 420 foot cascading waterfall that has the most fantastic view at its peak. Get more bang for your time and go in the Fall when the leaves are changing for some incredible photography opportunities.
Magnolia Plantation exhibits all the charm and refinement you expect from a place that has existed in Charleston since 1676. It is absolutely gorgeous and is a unique place to visit in South Carolina.
Travel and Leisure Magazine had it right when they selected Magnolia Plantation as “One of America’s Most Beautiful Gardens”. It is one of the last large scale Romantic Gardens in the United States.
A Romantic Garden is said to be an “Extravagant Liar”, built to lie to you and take you from the worries of everyday life, and this is exactly what this garden does.
From its countless hydrangeas, to its Spanish moss laden oaks, to its amorous bridges that link one stunning scene to the next, this place is an exceptional stop in South Carolina and can’t be missed.
History and intrigue ooze from every nook and cranny at this next stop in our places to visit in South Carolina. In fact, it was founded in 1670 and has some remaining buildings from this period. This is why it is my absolute favorite place to visit in South Carolina, and one of the best vacation spots the state has to offer.
Start at one of the many streets that feature 18th century homes surrounded by flowing Spanish moss atop the live oaks. The photo opportunities are endless on these streets where carriages and horses once took travelers to their destinations.
The cuisine of the city is definitely not something to be overlooked. Try a restaurant on the famous Broad Street where you can find an amazing steak or fresh seafood from the docks. The low country shrimp and grits is a local favorite that you must try when visiting.
If you are there in the summertime, stop by Waterfront Park on Charleston Harbor and cool off with the pineapple fountains that adorn this 8 acre, stunning park. Within walking distance of the park are also the Old Slave Mart Museum, historic Lodge Alley and the Old Exchange and Provost.
A visit to Charleston is bound to give you the culture, history and scenery you are looking for in a vacation in this great state of South Carolina.
The beginning of a major American war is what this historic place in South Carolina is famous for.
On April 12, 1861, Confederate soldiers fired mortar rounds against the Union fortified Fort Sumter that would start the American Civil War.
For four years, this bloody battle would continue that would take the lives of more than 620,000 Americans, but free over 3.9 million slaves.
Today, you can tour Fort Sumter and learn what unfolded in that three day battle. Miraculously, there were no casualties on either side during the battle until a 100 gun salute signaling the end of the battle accidentally wounded one soldier and killed another.
Fort Sumter is a great place to spend a day seeing an important piece of American history.
To get there, you must board a ferry that will take you to the fort. But first, visit the Fort Sumter Visitors Education Center to orient yourself and see a 22 minute video that will teach you what you are about to see.
Myrtle Beach is everything that your family is looking for in a beach vacation and is a great place to go when visiting South Carolina. Great beaches, tons of shopping options and activities that will please anyone.
If you’re looking for a quiet and serene destination, this isn’t it. There will be crowds and competition for parking spaces in the height of summer. But, that just means this place is amazing, right?
The scene here includes high rise condos, the boardwalk and Broadway on the Beach where you’ll find surf shops, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants.
And if you’re looking for views, you can’t leave the area without riding the Skywheel, the 200 foot tall climate controlled Ferris wheel that dominates the landscape of the beach.
Myrtle Beach by Meg Jerrard on Unsplash
Bluffton is “the Heart of the Low Country”, and is quite the opposite of its neighbor Myrtle Beach.
As flashy and fast paced as Myrtle Beach is, Bluffton is a “sit on the front porch drinking sweet tea as the low country boil cooks nearby”, kind of place.
If you want to get the true flavor of the low country, come to Bluffton – one of the best places to visit in South Carolina.
While here, you can experience Old Town Bluffton by golf cart on one of the historical tours offered daily. After, you can enjoy dinner at one of the many fantastic low country restaurants in the area, and savor farm inspired cultural cuisine or grab some pizza and enjoy the views of the May River.
If you’re looking for a relaxing and beautiful place to visit in South Carolina, Bluffton is a must.
Conagree National Park
A visit to one of the smallest National Parks in the US can be fit for your itinerary if you are looking for outdoorsy things to see in South Carolina. At 18 miles southeast of Columbia, you can explore a beautiful park that offers the highest canopy of old growth hardwood trees in the world.
While here, you can enjoy a walk on the 2.6 mile Boardwalk Loop Trail from the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and gaze at the huge tupelo and bald cypress trees as you walk along the raised path. If you want to get in the water, you can go kayaking or canoeing on Cedar Creek. Take the Conagree Blue River Trail, a 50 mile paddling trail, or just do part of it. Many say this is the best way to see the park!
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled to see bobcats, deer, feral pigs, feral dogs, coyotes, armadillos, turkeys, and otters.
No doubt, if you’re looking to escape to nature for a bit, visiting Conagree National Park can be a great adventurous addition to your South Carolina vacation.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
Located in Columbia, South Carolina, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is the perfect place to get your fill of all things plant and animal all in one place.
Can you believe there are 2,000 animals that represent more than 350 species on the planet at this zoo?
Here, you can see animals such as ostriches, tigers and monkeys. But the most exciting part of the zoo is the kangaroo walkabout where you can feed and interact with kangaroos and koala bears. So fun!
But, don’t forget the gardens, where you can walk through over 70 acres of unmatched beauty. The garden features more than 4,200 native and non-native plants, making it a perfect spot for photos, or even a special event.
Did we miss any of your favorite places in South Carolina?
Let us know in the comments if there are anymore places in South Carolina you’d like to see on our list!