Waiting to be Discovered ... South Carolina

If you’re looking to explore a specific destination, click on one of the 11 tourism regions below to learn more about their eco-friendly activities, in addition to highlights of the more traditional visitor attractions and activities.  

Capital City/Lake Murray Country

Centrally located in the state, the capital city of Columbia is the hub of government and cultural attractions. The Broad and Congaree rivers flow north and south and are the base for many recreational activities. Northwest of the city is the reservoir Lake Murray, home to Dreher State Park and numerous outdoor options. The Saluda River flows thru the lake and later joins the Broad River. Southeast of the city is awesome Congaree National Park with an up-close view of its old growth bottomland hardwood forest, plus tours and educational programs.

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In additional to the South Carolina Statehouse and state museums, visitors will find Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens, historic home tours, the University of South Carolina, Columbia Canal & Riverfront Park, a solid restaurant scene along Gervais St. along with craft breweries – yeah beer! Generating hydro-electric power, Lake Murray’s favorite vantage point is from its dam.

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Historic Charleston & Resort Islands

Situated between the Ashley and Cooper rivers and Charleston Harbor, visitors have many choices for water-based activities including paddling down the Stono River. Further south, from James Island to Folly Beach on the Atlantic Ocean, opportunities abound including those by the county park system. Explore estuaries teeming with wildlife above and below the waterline. Bring your binoculars to take in numerous species of birds.

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Charleston is home to historic homes dating back to the1670s, Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina Aquarium, amazing art and history museums, harbor cruises, carriage rides, plantations and gardens, sightseeing and food tours, shopping and an exceptional culinary experiences showcasing southern and new American cuisine.

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Lake Hartwell Country

Tucked in the western corner of the South Carolina, this is the land of lakes – Jocassee, Keowee, Hartwell and Oolenoy, mountains, scenic and wild rivers, nearly a dozen breathtaking waterfalls, four scenic state parks, a national forest and the 77-mile long Foothills Trail. With a rich heritage dating back to the Cherokee Indians, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular vacation spot for those looking to get back to nature. This is a perfect place to simply stop and listen.

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Downtown Anderson, Pickens and Oconee are filled with charm. A rural area, if you’d like to know more about farm life, then drop by the Bart Garrison Agricultural Museum of South Carolina. Seasonally, visitors can take in ag and art tours in Anderson. History buffs will want to make time to visit the Cherokee Foothills Visitor Center and Oconee State Park to view structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s. Don’t miss the train depot in Westminister also a CCC project. Oconee Station State Historic Site used as an Indian Territory outpost is also a must-see.

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Lowcountry & Resort Islands

The southern tip of the state is home to an endless sea of rivers that flow to the ocean creating a unique eco-system of salt marshes and creeks that ebb and flow with the tide. Here, watch shorebirds and wading birds among other creatures. Plan to explore any of a number of heritage and nature preserves, a wildlife sanctuary and national wildlife refuges. Discover waterfowl and other nature engagement opportunities at wildlife management areas. A discovery center on the way to Hilton Head offers tours and learning programs for families and children.

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The Gullah Geechee culture – language, foods, traditions, handmade goods – reflect back on an earlier time. Truly a southern experience, the pace is slower here – sweet tea, shrimp and grits and watermelon. The communities that comprise this region each have their own unique character. Highlights include lighthouses, historic homes and plantations, museums, Atlantic Ocean beaches, Revolution and Civil War history, walking tours, golf resorts, shopping and sightseeing cruises.

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Myrtle Beach & The Grand Strand

An active beach destination, the 60-miles of coastline offers a wide range of water-based adventures from surfing to SUP paddleboarding. Steal away to quieter waters to kayak or fish from area piers and sport fishing boats. Sit back and relax on a dolphin watching, sightseeing or river tour or charter a sailboat. Two popular state parks offer camping while one features a nature center and education programs. A sleepy but busy fishing village, Murrells Inlet’s picturesque asset is saltwater tidal marsh that flows in and out of the Atlantic Ocean. Further south, find excellent fishing in the black waters near Georgetown where the Sampit, Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee rivers merge.

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In addition to its beaches and downtown oceanfront boardwalk, Myrtle Beach offers plenty of round the clock action – miniature golf, live entertainment and shows, an art museum, golf, golf and more golf and Broadway on the Beach with shopping and dining. Situated where an Air Force Base once stood, The Market Common has an easy vibe and features shops and restaurant. For an old South Carolina feel, try waterfront seafood restaurants overlooking shrimp boats at Little River. Conway’s Horry County History Museum and Paul Living History Farm to the north are worth the drive. To the south Brookgreen Gardens showcases an outstanding collection of sculpture, plus historical sites and a zoo. Georgetown’s rice plantation history is not to be missed.

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Old 96 District

​Known as the freshwater coast on the western edge of the state, this is the home to Lakes Russell, Greenwood and Thurmond. As such, fishing and camping are two of the most popular activities. How about catfish or striped bass for dinner? Natural attractions and related activities can be found at any of the areas’ six state parks. With its rural landscape, Old 96 is a popular hunting area for deer [add more species] and home to a top-rated off road park. Explore the world’s only wild turkey museum, too.

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In Old 96 small towns steeped in history, religion, education and hospitality showcase Southern-style cooking – fried chicken, collard greens, buttermilk biscuits, pound cake and locally grown strawberries. But there’s so much more – craft beer and spirits, an opera house, Old Edgefield Pottery, festivals, seasonal produce stands brimming with fresh peaches, and Ninety Six National Historic Site, the first land battle of the Revolutionary War. Museum lovers can discover local heritage, military memorabilia, renowned residents and life in the Civilian Conservation Corps.​

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Olde English District

​While its name may sound prim and proper, don’t let that fool you. Here, visitors can easily get back to nature traveling down ATV/UTV trails and blueways. How about viewing wildflowers like a field of sunflowers each July, fishing, hunting, hiking or biking? With three lakes and seven (yes seven!) state parks with camping and land and water-based activities, there’s fun for families of all ages. Select from a wealth of outdoor recreation available at a national and state forest, nature parks, greenways, two wildlife management areas with impressive hardwood stands and well-stocked ponds, and a heritage preserve with waterfalls and waterslides. Horse loves will find an equestrian center; saddle up to take in many other equine opportunities, too. A state fish hatchery provides a learning environment.

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Situated in the northern section of the state, Olde English borders our sister state North Carolina. Here cities and towns bear names like Chester, Lancaster and York. Dating back to the 1770s, it’s rich with Revolutionary War history. One national military park highlights a significant battle. Small communities with quaint downtowns dot the landscape, some with registered historic districts. Find plantations, historic homes and sites, local pottery and museums spotlighting local history, transportation and steeplechase. For those looking for a different type of adventure, a world-class theme park awaits.

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Pee Dee Country

Occupying the northeast part of the state in an area known as the “Sandhills” due to its soil and geography, this is the home to blackwater rivers – Lynches, Greater Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee, all with plenty of kayak and canoe adventures. Year-round, it’s playtime. Explore Little Pee Dee State Park, Woods Bay Natural Area with equestrian trails and a pristine wetland, Lynches River County Park, three lakes and two heritage preserves. Each invites you to get outdoors. Sportsmen gravitate to the region for waterfowl, quail and deer hunting.

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The Pee Dee is famously known to NASCAR® fans for its Darlington Raceway as well as a local stock car museum. Why travel to the beach when golfers can choose from 30 stellar courses. The area’s Revolutionary War history is tied to the land and rivers. Civil War history is also not to be forgotten. Local museums showcase history, collectibles, veterans, tobacco and cotton. A heritage trail also focuses on the cotton crop. Visitors can discover a university planetarium, plantations, and historic homes, sites, districts and landmarks, like Coker Farms. A unique building once served as the world’s largest auction site for green beans.

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Santee Cooper Country

With its two expansive lakes, water plays a huge role in this area’s recreation activities. Marinas, landings and campgrounds abound giving outdoor enthusiasts easy access. Two state parks can be found here, along with a national wildlife refuge, three state fish hatcheries and the Audubon Center & Sanctuary at Francis Beidler (swamp) Forest with exceptional birdwatching. Two noteworthy paddling trails are the Berkeley Blueways and Swamp Fox. Biking trails are also offered. This is a sportsman’s paradise with fishing and fishing tournaments, and hunting for deer, dove, duck, quail and turkey. Breathtaking gardens showcase azaleas, roses, iris and camellias.

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Situated in the eastern portion of middle South Carolina, Revolutionary War history is predominant. The Santee River flows into Lakes Marion and Moultrie which generate hydro-electric power. The Historic Trail Race Canal and Lock then connect to the Cooper River. Learn more at the Old Santee Canal Park. Get an up-close and personal view with historic lock, river, lake, swamp, paddleboard, river plantation, canoe, kayak and guided nature tours. Museums showcase the area’s heritage, culture and natural history. Visitors can travel by boat or car to enjoy lakeside dining. U-pick farms are plentiful with seasonal blueberries, okra, sweet corn, peaches and butter beans to name a few. Golf is also a favorite pastime here.

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Thoroughbred Country

Southwest of Columbia, century-old oak trees and sandy soil take hold. A rural area, it is known for its thoroughbred horses and garden estates, the forest at Hitchcock Woods with miles of trails for equestrians, nature lovers and hikers, and hunting and sporting clubs. Camping is available at two state parks along with water-based activities like canoeing and kayaking. The Savannah River and its adjoining greenway with trails are quite popular as is fishing on its upper and lower sections. Boat launches are plentiful including near the Edisto River Trail. The Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary Trail are popular for bird watching. With six heritage preserves and a state wildlife management area, it’s easy to enjoy the natural side of South Carolina.

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A region of contrasts, this rural area is known for its thoroughbred horses and its charming cities like Aiken with thriving downtowns and water fountains reminding you of a movie you’ve once watched. Discover an equine museum, a university planetarium, Jim Harrison works of art, historic districts and sites including southern plantations and a Civil War battlefield, plus antique shopping galore. Churches, education and African-American history run deep in this part of South Carolina. To soak in the flavor, make sure to order a BBQ plate for lunch or dinner.

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The Upcountry

An urban destination, Greenville and Spartanburg have placed an emphasis on nature with the creation of Reedy River Falls Park. The Swamp Rabbit Trail, a haven for recreation enthusiasts, connects with Traveler’s Rest to the north. Spartanburg’s Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve is joined with two other college and university arboretums and gardens. Heading into the mountains, find more than 100 accessible waterfalls including Issaqueena, Whitewater and Raven Cliff. Seven lakes offer scenic views while the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River and Chauga River Scenic Area, provide amazing river rafting. Wilderness management areas and heritage preserves are noted for plenty of fishing and hunting options. Eight state and county parks blanket the region allowing for an active lifestyle. A state fish hatchery provides educational opportunities for visitors.

Looking for a more traditional visitor experience?
With a mixture of old and new, the Upcountry is home to Cowpens National Battlefield, state historic sites, art museums, a plantation, a zoo and a covered bridge. The Roper Science Center is a family favorite. Downtown Greenville is well known for its many dining options, festivals and food tours. Throughout the region enjoy charming small towns with antique shops, local restaurants and walking tours, many connected via the Heritage Quilt Trail. Museums showcase local history and tennis while golfers will discover plenty of courses. Gaffney is noted for its shopping and peaches.

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