Myrtle Beach. Charleston. Greenville.
These cities help make South Carolina one of the most desirable vacation spots in the country. But the Palmetto State has so much more to offer.
The array of waterfalls, state parks, lakes and festivals are great for tourists and in-state residents who want to explore for a day or weekend.
Are you looking for a new place to visit or a new outdoor adventure?
If so, The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail have compiled a list of 43 places to visit in South Carolina this summer — some well-known, others not quite so much.
With so many things to experience in South Carolina, there is no all-inclusive list. Consider this a starting point. And feel free to share your own favorite spots.
1. Treehouse camping on the Edisto River
Go off the grid and spend the weekend near Canadys in Colleton County. Your destination is the 150-acre Edisto River Refuge, where a 13-mile paddle downriver takes you to your own private cabin perched high up in the treetops. There’s no electricity, no signal – just the rushing water and nature in all its glory. Visit canoesc.com/treehouses.html for more information.
2. Rainbow Falls
Enjoy a hike to this waterfall nestled in the scenic Jones Gap State Park. The hiking trail will take you across the Middle Saluda River and Cox Camp Creek until you reach the falls. You can take a dip in the water to cool off along the way and flood your Instagram with pretty nature photos that will make all of your friends think you’re Paul Bunyan. Location: 303 Jones Gap Road, Marietta.
3. Lexington County Peach Festival
The 60th anniversary of this one-day festival is July 4 in Gilbert. It's a family-friendly event for all ages with live entertainment, fresh peach treats, the peach parade, and fireworks!
Enjoy a week in this historic city, voted the No. 1 city in the United States, according to Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards in 2017. From strolling the picturesque beaches and cruising its scenic harbor to shopping in the famed City Market and touring its antebellum plantations, Fort Sumter and even a haunted jail, Charleston has something to offer for everyone in the family.
5. Old Sheldon Church
Stop and see the ruins of the colonial-era church on your way to a Lowcountry vacation in Beaufort County.
Stepping onto the grounds of the church that was burned during the Revolutionary War and, maybe, again during the Civil War is an otherworldly experience, especially if the time of day is right and the lighting is perfect.
The church, which had its first service in 1757, is on Old Sheldon Church Road in Yemassee.
6. Falls Park on the Reedy
Greenville's iconic setting along the Reedy River is essential viewing for Upstate visitors, and a perfect place for a scenic lunch stroll to get away from downtown cubicles if you live or work here. The Liberty Bridge straddles the heart of the park and shines at night – a sight best enjoyed from benches across the river at the base of the falls. The park also features a river walk with restaurants and retail that connect to the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
7. Go to a drive-in movie
Yes, they still exist!
Drive out to the "The Big Mo," located at 5822 Columbia Highway North in Monetta. With three screens and blockbuster food prices, this nostalgic drive-in theatre offers double features of newly-released action thrillers, romantic comedies and family-friendly films. And it isn't the only option. There's also 25 Drive In, located at 3109 Highway 25 South in Greenwood.
8. Lake Murray
Head down to Lake Murray to view the purple martins this summer. Every year millions of birds migrate to Bomb Island and each evening during the summer they begin to funnel creating an impressive sight.
Don’t have boat? Public cruises can be booked for as low as $44 per person on The Spirit of Lake Murray.
9. Cherry Hill Recreation Area
This location in Sumter National Forest near Mountain Rest in Oconee County features 29 nice-sized campsites for $10 per night —$19 if you reserve online — with amenities that include flush toilets and hot showers. A babbling brook runs by the campground and it is also close to several hiking trails and the Chattooga River. An excellent place for an inexpensive camping getaway.
10. The PIT (Pawleys Island Tavern)
When you go to this shabby chic community south of Myrtle Beach, you have to kick off your vacation with a stop at the “well-hidden” PIT, 10635 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island. There’s classic pub fare and beverages to kick off vacation right. And one other thing, if it’s your first time, sign a dollar bill and staple it to the wall and be among thousands of others who have made a similar contribution.
11. Hilton Head Island
With plenty of outdoor activities to keep your family busy, be sure to take a dip in the cool Atlantic Ocean and rent a bike to ride around town, particularly Sea Pines. And while you're in Sea Pines, stop by the Salty Dog Café to snag one of those T-shirts that nearly anyone who lives in the South happens to own.
Insider tips: Vacation with family and friends and opt to rent a house instead of a hotel room. It’s much more communal and usually cheaper. Nowadays, Airbnb makes that task much easier. Also, you can rent beach umbrellas and chairs from the Beach Patrol, which will set them up at a designated area for you on the shore throughout your stay.
12. Hickory Knob State Park
This is a great, budget-friendly getaway that is perfect for a couple, a family, or a bunch of friends. Hickory Knob is situated along the wooded shoreline of Lake Thurmond in McCormick County.
It's remote and peaceful, but also offers plenty of amenities on site, including a motel and cabins for overnight guests, a golf course and a restaurant.
There are trails for hiking and biking, lake access for fishing or kayaking, a swimming pool for lodge guests, a boat ramp and a playground, among other options.
13. Clemson's Memorial Stadium
Summer isn’t the most action-packed season for college sports, but Clemson still has plenty to offer if you’re a stadium junkie. Memorial Stadium’s east end zone offers a picturesque view of one of college football’s loudest stadiums, with the fabled grass hill just beyond Howard’s Rock. The empty bleachers are a stark difference from their fall form, but if you listen hard enough, you may still hear a faint “C-L-E-M-S-OOOOOO-N!”
14. Visit historic museums in Columbia
Spend a day visiting museums in our state capital, with a break for a picnic on the statehouse lawn. Among your options: the South Carolina State Museum, South Carolina Military Museum, South Carolina Railroad Museum and South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.
15. Burrell's Ford
Tucked away in the foothills is a walk-to campground beside the Chattooga River in Oconee County. The view is fantastic — thick trees, graceful waterfalls, wildlife and the river.
Pro tip: King Creek Falls is an easy, half-mile walk away from the campground. The waterfall itself is towering and offers a beautiful pool and sandy beach, though you have to cross a log to get to it.
16. The Santee Cooper lakes
Have a hankering for some catfish? If so, there’s no better destination than the Santee Cooper lakes, Marion and Moultrie, two large impoundments located between Orangeburg and Charleston. Catfish of any size are delicious at the dinner table, but it’s also possible to end up with a trophy catch on the end of your line here. Paula Haney, of Anderson, broke the state record with a 113.8-pound blue catfish she pulled from Lake Moultrie just last year.
17. Beaufort Water Festival
This Lowcountry celebration is held in July along the Beaufort Waterfront Park. The 2018 event will be held from July 13-22. Check out the festival arts and crafts market and hang around for nightly entertainment. The festival also includes parades, air shows, ski shows and a Lowcountry Supper. Can't make it this year? Maybe next year. The first festival was held in 1956.
18. Myrtle Beach
Everyone needs to walk along the beach and dip their toes in the surf once or twice a year, and this is one of South Carolina's favorite destinations. Try looking for a sweet Sunday-through-Wednesday hotel deal to save a few bucks, then use that money to book a beach-front balcony. Bargains are harder to find in the summer but widely available in the off-season.
On the way to Myrtle Beach, stop at Mr. Fish. We recommend you try the blackened tuna sandwich or the crab cake sandwich.
19. Paris Mountain State Park
With 15 miles of hiking and biking trails near downtown Greenville, it’s easy to enjoy the outdoors and stick close to home. Trails range in difficulty from an easy 0.75-mile loop around Lake Placid to the strenuous 3.6-mile Sulphur Springs Trail that climbs up to Mountain Lake.
20. Glendale Shoals Preserve
This little gem a short drive from downtown Spartanburg is on the site of an old cotton mill, and sits right on Lawson’s Fork Creek. Take a picnic and sit at one of the benches near the waterfall on the old dam, or relax on one of the many smooth rocks by the creek. Short nature trails along the creek and kayak access are also available.
While its address may read Charlotte, North Carolina, this theme park is split by the North and South Carolina state line, with the South Carolina portion being in Fort Mill. Carowinds also has Fury 325, the tallest and fastest Giga Coaster in the world and the fifth-tallest roller coaster overall with its tallest point 325 feet above ground.
22. Doodle Trail
Explore the 8.5-mile Doodle Trail, which runs the route of an old railroad between Easley and Pickens. It’s a little hillier than the Swamp Rabbit Trail but covers some of the most scenic territory in the Upstate.
23. Lake Jocassee
There are few places cooler in the summer than the deep waters of Lake Jocassee. Bring or rent a kayak and launch from Devil’s Fork State Park to see the largely undeveloped shoreline wilderness.
24. Issaqueena Lake trail
Located in Central off of Highway 133, the trail is just a small part of Clemson’s 17,500 acres of experimental forest. Follow the orange trail markers up and down hills to open views of Issaqueena Lake, which is connected to Lake Keowee and Lake Hartwell by rivers.
25. Folly Beach
You'll love the laid back vibe of this place compared to, say, Myrtle Beach. You'll really love it if you're able to land a beach-front house with your friends, and walk or bike to everything. It's charm will bring you back year after year.
26. Camping at Oconee State Park
The campground at Oconee State Park in Mountain Rest offers a great family getaway, featuring large, well-shaded campsites, one lake for fishing, one for play, access to hiking trails, and a miniature golf course. More than a dozen waterfalls are nearby.
27. Sassafras Mountain
Located about 45 miles northwest of Greenville in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sassafras Mountain is the highest point in the state. It's 3,553 feet at its peak. It straddles the North Carolina border, plus Georgia and Tennessee also can be viewed from its summit in Pickens County. You can practically drive to the peak, with virtually no hiking.
28. EdVenture Children's Museum
The perfect family-friendly day trip. The museum offers a ton of interactive exhibits and EDDIE, a 40-foot replica of a 10-year-old boy that teaches kids about the human body. The museum has food, but feel free to take advantage of Columbia’s growing restaurant scene and don't forget to stop at Zesto for a soft serve ice cream cone before heading home.
29. Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve
This free and public nature preserve in Spartanburg County is an easy place to spend the afternoon getting lost in an abundance of foliage. A wide variety of plants, shrubs and flowers nestled amid mature oaks and babbling brooks fill this 10-acre space complete with paved walking trails to easily meander about the grounds. Picnic tables and benches are also on-site to make your stay worthwhile by bringing a good book or picnic lunch.
30. Moonshine Falls
This is an option for a late summer adventure as access to the trails leading to this Greenville County destination are closed from roughly mid-May to mid-August.
When you make up your mind to go, make sure to always call ahead (864-836-3711) to get access to the trails at Asbury Hills Camp in Cleveland and hike 2.5 miles to get to this Upstate gem. Scale across a two-wire bridge to get there and walk underneath the picturesque falls. It won’t disappoint.
31. Long Creek
This small town north of Walhalla — another small town in Oconee County — is perfect for either a day trip or a weeklong vacation. Once there, take your pick of cabins, horseback riding, zip lines, whitewater rafting, comfort dining, fine dining and more.
32. Lake Hartwell
Lake Hartwell is a great summer destination in Anderson County. The lake offers outdoor activities ranging from boating, fishing, and camping.
33. Fluor Field
Can't make it to Fenway Park in Boston? Here's an option with cheaper tickets and cheaper beer.
This minor league baseball field in Greenville is modeled after the home of the Red Sox and comes complete with a 30-foot high wall in left field, just like Fenway Park's "Green Monster."
The Greenville Drive are also the Single A affiliate of the Red Sox, which means you could see a future major league star, or at the very least get to publicly sing "Sweet Caroline" with a few thousand people.
34. Falling Waters Scenic Byway
The 13-mile scenic byway is one of 21 in the state and just north of the town of Walhalla in Oconee County. The byway offers several recreational opportunities and views along the route, including the Oscar Wigington Overlook with views of Lake Jocassee from a 2,000-foot elevation.
35. Larger-than-life art in Columbia
If you’re driving through the state’s capital, make sure you stop downtown to see some unusual – and oversized – public art. A mural at Taylor and Marion streets called “Tunnelvision” is a great backdrop for photos. Just a few feet away is the world’s largest fire hydrant, a sculpture known as “Busted Plug Plaza.” Nearby, on the east side of Main St., just north of Hamton St., you’ll find “Neverbust Chain,” a gigantic metal chain between two buildings. All three pieces of art are the work of South Carolina artist Blue Sky.
36. South Cove County Park
The clear, cool water of Lake Keowee is the main attraction at the tidy Oconee County park near Seneca. Its campground, flanked by water on two sides, was rated No. 1 in South Carolina in 2017.
37. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
For a glimpse into U.S. military history, head to the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. You’ll see sleeping quarters, a mess hall and impressive views of the Charleston Harbor. Tickets range from $16 to $24, and visitors can opt for a guided tour or explore on their own.
Military history comes to life in this Mount Pleasant museum anchored by the World War II-era aircraft carrier the USS Yorktown, and also featuring the USS Clamagore submarine, the destroyer USS Laffey, and military aircraft, plus the Vietnam Experience Exhibit, and Cold War Memorial. Don't miss the interactive Congressional Medal of Honor Museum. And if you're in Charleston for July 4, check out the spectacular fireworks show launched from the deck of the Yorktown.
38. Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena falls
Seven miles above Walhalla on State 28 in Oconee County, you can find a historical gem for a day excursion in this cool, dark, and damp tunnel abandoned from pre-Civil War construction project. Fair warning, you may even need a flashlight to guide you to the end of the 1,600-foot mini-adventure.
If the thought of walking by bats tucked away in the rocks is not for you, just walk to the other side of the parking lot off to see the beautiful 100-foot Issaqueena waterfall. For those worried about the scale of difficulty, we'd rate the walks as easy for most people.
39. Children's Museum of the Upstate
From the time you enter this place, your imagination takes over. Almost all the exhibits are hands-on, making it fun for children and adults. Location: 300 College Street, Greenville. Website: http://www.tcmupstate.org/
In The News: 5 free things to do in Greenville this summer
40. Riverbanks Zoo
Plan to spend most of a day with children at South Carolina’s premier zoo, but don’t just go for the animals. There’s Waterfall Junction — a giant splashpad with cascading waterfalls, a dinosaur dig where children can unearth a giant replica T-Rex, and a lawn area with giant toys and games for the kids, as well as tree houses and rabbit holes to climb up and in.
That’s all in the botanical garden section of the zoo, which in itself is worth the time and price of admission — $15.95 for adults, $13.50 for children 2-12 and free for children under 2.
Bring lunch to enjoy in the shaded picnic tables outside the zoo entrance, and of course, see the variety of animals and shows at the state’s largest zoo. Pro tip: buy an annual membership at the Greenville Zoo — $70 for a household membership — ahead of time and use its reciprocal membership perks to receive half off the price of admission to Riverbanks Zoo.
41. Table Rock State Park
Table Rock off scenic Highway 11 in Pickens County offers more than 3,000 acres for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. Activities include swimming, camping, picnicking and forested hiking trails that lead to magnificent vistas and even bluegrass music.
A 3.6-mile, one-way trail is among the best hiking excursions in the Upstate. The rugged trail, while strenuous at times, offers breathtaking views once atop the 2,000-foot summit along the Table Rock outcropping commonly seen from Highway 11. Pro tip: Pack a lunch to enjoy once you’re up there to give you enough time to take in the vista and recuperate before descending back down the mountain.
Places to eat: 5 restaurants with the great outdoor seating in the Upstate
42. Historic Pendleton
Pendleton is home to dozens of structures – including manor homes – that date back to the early and mid 19th century. Stop at Hunter’s Store visitors center on the town square, 125 E. Queen St., for a quick chat with local experts and a look at pamphlets and guides.
We also recommend a self-guided walking tour around town. Mama Rae’s Scoops offers ice cream, and the Village Baker has a popular Sunday buffet brunch. For locally owned shopping diversions, check out the Art Gallery on Pendleton Square, Mountain Made gifts and antiques and The Mercantile, which is part toy store, part hobby store, part gift store. All of this is within walking distance of Hunter’s Store, and street parking is ample around the square.
43. Poe's Tavern at Sullivan's Island
Long before the late acclaimed novelist Pat Conroy acquainted readers with the colorful characters and quintessential quirkiness of the South Carolina Lowcountry, another literary light spent time there, albeit far more briefly, and under an assumed name at that.
But history nonetheless records that one Edgar Allan Poe was stationed in 1827 with the U.S. Army at Ft. Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island.
The island itself is home to Poe’s Tavern, and a stop there is always a must when vacationing around Charleston. Don’t let the “tavern” part of the title deter you if you’ll have young ones with you. Poe’s is a great spot to grab a burger and fries with the family. The burgers — with names like the “Pit & Pendulum” and the “Telltale Heart’’ — are to die for, and they are worth the wait that you’ll likely encounter during the busy summer season.
Inside, there’s a visage of Poe himself that seems to rise from the soot stains on the hearth. But the atmosphere outside is the way to go. Grab a seat at one of the large communal tables and watch the world go by … on foot, on Vespas and in golf carts. Chat with some locals and savor those distinct Charleston accents. “You can rent a bicycle just down the row-wood (road),” someone might tell you.
Or chat with some visitors from other parts of the country and impart some of that famous Southern hospitality yourself. Poe’s is at 2210 Middle St., Sullivan’s Island.
Greenville News staff members Jan Phillips, Steven Bruss, Anna Lee, Daniel J. Gross, Jason Clary, Nathaniel Cary, Eric Connor, Michael Burns, Lauren Petracca, Liv Osby, Lillia Callum-Penso, Catherine Rogers, Romando Dixson, Elizabeth LaFleur, Angelia Davis, Lauren Young, Dave Hennigan, Chris McMahon, Elizabeth Anderson, Gabe Cavallaro, Angela Tuck, Ralph Jeffery, Donna Isbell Walker, Josh Morgan, Carole Foster, Jim Rice, Manie Robinson, Bob Castello, Scott Keepfer, Anna B. Mitchell, Haley Walters, Tim Smith and Ron Barnett contributed to this report. Independent Mail staff members Abe Hardesty, Lake Morris, Mike Ellis, Jake Grove, Nikie Mayo, Ken Ruinard, Marcel Louis-Jacques and Kirk Brown also contributed.