South Carolina is a snapshot of the best parts of the Deep South with breezy coastal vibes. It’s one of our favorite places to visit on the East Coast — especially when you know all the best places to visit in South Carolina.
People come here for richly seasoned Southern dishes and seafood, charming cities and towns with a warm, historic feel, and oceanfront fun with activities from swimming and fishing to crabbing and kayaking.
Take a gander at South Carolina’s highlights with all the spots you can’t afford to miss when you’re in the Palmetto State!
The 18 Best Places to Visit in South Carolina
Historic cities, beaches, mountains, and coastal plains and wetlands make South Carolina truly special for a visit. It’s a haven for the outdoorsy, history buffs, and people who enjoy a good ol’ Southern time in the Lowcountry.
Whether you’re looking for things to do in the state on a quick weekend trip or ideas to fill out a longer stay, we have some great suggestions for you!
South Carolina’s historic coastal city, Charleston, is the quintessential Southern town. This waterfront city feels almost lost in time.
We love its cobblestone streets downtown, palms and oaks blanketed in Spanish moss, and historic architecture with still-standing shops, museums, plantations, and churches hearkening to a long-past time.
And it’s all right on the Atlantic, perfect for walks by the shore and a visit to Waterfront Park!
The historic district downtown is where you’ll want to spend at least a day or two taking in the sights, visiting shops, sampling seafood and Southern classics at restaurants, and enjoying drinks at trendy bars that pay homage to the city’s history and tradition.
Take a horse-drawn carriage tour, order a platter of oysters on the half shell, hit up the Charleston City Market, and marvel at the adorable Rainbow Run string of colorful houses.
2. Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach is the hotspot beach tourist destination in South Carolina. This massive stretch of shoreline draws 19+ million visitors each year to engage in sandy, saltwater fun at the beach and enjoy the huge range of activities on the boardwalk and promenade.
It’s a family-friendly city where you can visit Ripley’s Aquarium and Believe It or Not! museum, check out Alligator Adventures, head to Family Kingdom Amusement Park or a thrilling water park, and ride the famous SkyWheel by the ocean.
Things do get crowded here in the peak summer season, but the beach is big enough to accommodate even the most dense of crowds.
You’ll have fun enjoying all kinds of restaurants with plenty of nightlife options if that’s your thing. Shopping is great around the city with big-name stores and boutiques, and you’ll also find tons of golf courses and outdoor recreation options.
Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, is one of the best places to visit in the state with so many attractions to take in and plenty of great places to eat, drink, and immerse yourself in the Lowcountry culture.
From the South Carolina State Museum and Columbia Museum of Art to Edventure (the biggest children’s museum in the region) and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, this place is a true haven for appreciators of culture and history.
Stroll along the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park to witness some of the best views of this Southern city. Stick around for the Saturday Soda City Market to browse wares and grab a tasty bite to eat from local food trucks.
Saluda Shoals Park is the spot for nature lovers who want to hike and walk down pretty paths. You can even tour historic homes-turned-museums with lush gardens!
4. Hilton Head Island
If you’re looking for some seaside fun without the big crowds of Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island should be on your list. This quiet and serene island town has a refined coastal village feel and still offers plenty of fun attractions and activities that are kid-friendly.
Take the Breeze, the free Hilton Head Island trolley, around town between April and September to stop at favorite spots like Harbour Town’s lighthouse, shops, and restaurants, Park Plaza, and Coligny Beach.
Grabbing lunch or dinner at one of the HHI restaurants, like the famous Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks or the Sea Shack, is always a hit.
Breweries, wineries, and bars make it easy to imbibe when you’re in the mood for a drink. But HHI is really famous for its vast selection of 26 championship golf courses — it’s nicknamed the “Golf Course Island!”
5. Congaree National Park
Just outside of Columbia, you can pay a visit to the popular Congaree National Park. Spanning over 26,000 acres, this peaceful park overflows with wildlife and protected trees, animals, and plants that thrive in its rich, fertile soil.
This is where you come to hike scenic trails, canoe and kayak down Cedar Creek, go camping (cabins and tent sites), and cast a line. The park holds regular ranger-led programs that include options for everyone, from yoga in the park to guided hikes through easy to challenging terrain.
The visitor’s center will equip you with trail maps and park history to learn about the significance of the wildlife and plants here for an educational and fun natural getaway.
Founded in 1711, the Lowcountry town of Beaufort, South Carolina (including Port Royal and The Sea Island) is a historic hotspot where you can spend an entertaining and educational weekend exploring all the city has to offer.
You can see and tour stunning antebellum mansions and plantations in the downtown district, enjoy a stroll through the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, and take in amazing views from the Woods Memorial Bridge.
Beaufort has a rich Gullah culture and honors the customs and traditions with annual festivals and landmarks at special sites.
Getting out in the sunshine is always a good idea here, with nice beaches, golf courses, and scenic paths you can walk throughout the city when the weather is nice. Food and drink options are especially abundant downtown by the waterfront.
Greenville, South Carolina is a really fun and festive spot to spend a weekend enjoying the attractions, restaurants, festivals, and outdoor activities in this warm, Southern city.
Greenville has become a foodie destination, offering a fun Taco Trail with delicious stops along the way and regular culinary-themed festivals to sample fare from food trucks and local restaurants.
Get out and enjoy the natural beauty of the area by visiting Chimney Rock State Park and Paris Mountain State Park.
Falls Park on the Reedy begins in the downtown area, features a cool suspension bridge, and leads you right to Main Street where you can shop, dine, and drink to experience Greenville at its best. Check out the Greenville County Museum of Art and Upcountry History Museum to learn about the history of the town and state!
8. Kiawah Island
About 25 miles south of Charleston, you’ll find the hidden gem of Kiawah Island. This is an island oasis with protected beaches, wildlife, and forests that will make you rethink what an island can be.
You’ll have the chance to spot sea turtles, alligators, seabirds, whitetail deer, and bobcats when you’re here, but it’s not all wild on Kiawah! Explore 10 miles of pristine beaches that back up to shady forests, saltwater marshes, and sand dunes for a truly scenic experience.
Enjoying the sunshine is a big thing here, so you’ll want to get out and fish, take a boat ride, go golfing, hike or bike the winding trails, and try water sports on Kiawah Island.
Last year, I went to Seabrook (take a right at the roundabout instead of the left to go to Kiawah) and loved it. My only complaint was that outside of the gated communities, there wasn’t much to do unless you drove into Charleston.
But that was also a blessing, as the beach was enormous and there was almost nobody on it; it was only accessible to people staying in the gates.
Close to the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, Spartanburg is an artsy area that’s packed with culture and history. You’ll find the South Carolina Arts Commission cultural district perfectly ripe for spending a Saturday out and about with art on every street, galleries, studios, museums, and music venues to explore.
Spartanburg loves its festivals and events, so there’s always something going on that you can join in.
The downtown area is immaculate and charming with its perfectly-maintained topiaries and walkways paved with stone. Check out Hatcher Garden, Croft State Park, and Cleveland Park’s amphitheater sitting by the lake.
Near the border of North Carolina, Mauldin overlooks the Appalachian Mountains and has a rich past as one of the state’s agricultural and textile centers.
The city has been meticulously preserved and restored to reflect its long-spanning history and feels like stepping back in time when you visit. Appreciators of local culture will find tons of things to do in Maudlin.
With over 78 acres of parks and 11 bike paths winding through this little Upstate South Carolina town, spending time outdoors is a favorite activity in Maudlin.
The nearby Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River is a great spot for kayaking, rafting, and fly fishing! The Cultural Center hosts multiple weekly events where you can check out local arts and crafts, food trucks, theater performances, music, and cultural celebrations.
11. Cleveland and Caesars Head State Park
Cleveland (not that one) is a tiny town in South Carolina’s Greenville County. It’s a unique little community that was once home to a theme park done in wild western fashion.
It was called Echo Park, and the name lives on today at a Saturday-night dance hall where you can cut a rug with locals. There’s a winery and mountainside open-air chapel to check out. But this place is really focused on outdoor recreation and scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Caesars Head State Park overlooks the mountains with hundreds of trails, swimming spots, and fishing holes that make it easy to spend a day or weekend soaking up the natural beauty.
It spans almost 7,500 acres with great places to camp and amazing scenery around spots like Raven Cliff Falls.
Known for the hallowed football-focused university (Clemson University), Clemson may seem like it’s just a college town at first glance. But there’s a lot more to discover when you visit!
Clemson is in the perfect location to enjoy the mountains and lake activities, has a range of fantastic restaurants and bars, and tons of shops, museums, and attractions where you can spend a weekend exploring.
Book a tour of the university to see the beautiful campus that spans 1,400 acres of prime South Carolinian forests, farmland, and mountain views.
Play a round of golf, hang out at Larry Abernathy Waterfront Park, visit geology and historic home museums, and see the 1802 Stone Church in between tasty meals at pubs, restaurants, and bustling bars in the downtown district.
Blink and you’ll miss Winnsboro, a small town in the heart of South Carolina wilderness. It might not seem like much at first, but this is where the Carolina Adventure World is located.
Rugged custom trails are carved out of the forests with mud bogs, rock crawls, and oval tracks that are prime for racing or just enjoying the wild outdoors. Dirt bikes, ATVs, and side-by-sides can make their way down these trails and tracks to get muddy and test the limits.
Camping, dining, grill pits, and a shop make this a great place to come spend a weekend or a few days with friends and family. Concerts, competitions, and seasonal events take place throughout the year.
Georgetown, nestled between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, has been named “America’s Best Coastal Small Town.” It may not have as many attractions and restaurants as some of South Carolina’s bigger tourist destinations.
But it’s an ideal place for a laid-back getaway that immerses you in South Carolina’s southern coastal charm. People also call Georgetown the Hammock Coast! This is the 3rd-oldest city in the state and it has the historic architecture and landmarks to show for it.
The Kaminski House Museum, South Carolina Maritime Museum, and Gullah Museum provide hours of educational entertainment. Check out the Historic District to get a sense of what makes this town special. There are some excellent beaches and waterfront restaurants to check out while you’re here!
15. Middleton Place
Middleton Place is a national historic landmark that was a plantation on the banks of the Ashley River. Just 15 miles from Charleston, it’s worth a quick drive out if you’re in the area.
Originally owned by a key player in the war for American independence, it was a summer residence until it burned down in the Civil War. Today, you can visit Middleton Place and admire the perfectly-maintained gardens that are intricately designed to frame this historic home.
Watch demonstrations of blacksmithing, textile workers, and potters in the Stableyards when you tour the landmark. The Middleton Place Restaurant is a great spot to eat lunch while you’re on the grounds!
16. Brookgreen Gardens
Near Murrells Inlet in Myrtle Beach, the colorful Brookgreen Gardens make you feel like you’ve walked into a serene fairytale. The grounds feature thriving botanical gardens, garden sculptures, and a small Lowcountry center with a fascinating zoo that kids will love visiting.
It spans about 9,100 acres and you’ll be amazed at the variety of flowers, trees, shrubs, and wildlife you see. Tickets are affordable, and the gardens offer special exhibits for holidays if you’re looking for a fun activity to tack onto a Myrtle Beach trip.
Primarily a sculpture garden and wildlife preserve, the Brookgreen Gardens are called the Jewel of the South Carolina coast for a reason and can be just the breather you need after days of fun on the busy beach.
Aiken is a cool city in western South Carolina where you can dive into local culture, art, and the region’s fascination with horses. There are a few interesting museums to check out, like the Aiken County Historial Museum and the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.
Pottery studios, performing arts venues, and the Center for the Arts make great outings while you’re here! There’s a planetarium, the historic Gaston Livery Stable, and beautiful county and state parks in Aiken that will pique your interest.
Head to Hopelands Gardens, the local Arboretum Trail, or the Carolina Bay Nature Reserve if you’re up for a stroll or hike in this small and friendly southern town.
18. Huntington Beach State Park
Huntington Beach State Park is one of South Carolina’s most enjoyable places to visit and is close to Myrtle Beach — perfect for a day trip when you need a break from the crowds and ruckus.
This is a secluded spot where people head to enjoy the quiet beach, bird-watch, spot wildlife (including alligators and turtles), and explore the scenic coast. The park’s unspoiled beach spans about 3 miles and the entire area is absolutely teeming with native wildlife.
Check out the Nature Center onsite to learn about the species you’ll see. You can surf fish, boat, swim, kayak, bike, and hike the 2-mile Sandpiper Trail or stroll down the boardwalks to take in the natural beauty of the area.
Things to Consider
The best things to do in South Carolina span from venturing to its most popular cities and beaches (Charleston and Myrtle Beach, anyone?) to exploring its small towns with big charm and extensive history.
Keep these things in mind before you head down to the Palmetto State to make the most of your trip:
- South Carolina is a pretty laid-back destination. Depending on where you’re headed during your stay, you may not need fancy clothes or a tightly-scheduled itinerary — it’s the Deep South and things are casual for the most part! Come up with a loose idea of the places you want to see and activities you’d like to try, but don’t stress yourself with over-planning in South Carolina.
- The summer heat might surprise you. Planning a summer trip to South Carolina will expose you to humid, sticky heat that can quickly turn outdoor fun into borderline misery on a very hot day. Make plans near the water to stay cool, dress for the activity you’re doing, and consider adding some indoor activities to break up your time outdoors in the summer months.
- Some parts get crowded in summer. The summer is wildly popular with tourists visiting places like Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, and national and state parks in South Carolina. Hotels and restaurants will be booked early and beaches get crowded quickly, so you may have to plan ahead when visiting popular places.
- The South is delightfully unique. Foods are often offered fried, boiled peanuts are a way of life, tea is iced and sweet, and people are friendly and curious to know where you’re visiting from. While you’re here, relax and enjoy the slower pace of the South, sampling as many tasty foods and treats as you can!
Frequently Asked Questions
Planning a memorable visit to South Carolina starts with knowing the best places to visit. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting South Carolina!
What’s the prettiest place in South Carolina?
Some of the prettiest places in South Carolina are Falls Park on the Reedy in Greenville, Hilton Head Island, Congaree National Park, Caesars Head State Park, and Huntington Beach State Park.
The most picturesque areas are South Carolina's natural zones and islands if you're looking for wooded forests, wild beaches, and vista views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
What is the coolest thing in South Carolina?
The coolest thing in South Carolina might be visiting Huntington Beach State Park. It's really close to Myrtle Beach, but it feels worlds away with its quiet serenity and wild, unspoiled 3-mile stretch of beach.
You can see wildlife like alligators, turtles, and birds in the park with winding trails and paths that make you feel like you're discovering the area as you go.
What are the two most popular vacation spots in South Carolina?
Charleston and Myrtle Beach are the two most popular vacation spots in South Carolina, each offering something very different.
Both are coastal cities, but while Myrtle Beach is mostly beach-focused, Charleston is a historic hub with cobblestone streets, museums, and old architecture. Both get busy in the summer, but Charleston is especially nice to visit in the spring or fall.
What is the best month to visit South Carolina?
South Carolina is a great place to visit in almost any season, but March through May is the best time to go if you want to avoid the biggest crowds, hot temperatures, and higher humidity.
Late spring is best, but there's something to be said for visiting South Carolina in the early fall, too. Expect mild temperatures and minimal rain between September and October around the state.
What is the nicest part of South Carolina?
The nicest parts of South Carolina are Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, and Hilton Head Island. South Carolina's landscapes and scenery are almost impossible to compare -- it's just as beautiful up in the mountains as it is along the coasts and islands or in the charming, historic cities.
Fill Your Itinerary With the Best Places in South Carolina
South Carolina is a fascinating glimpse of where the Deep South meets the East Coast — you’ve got the seafood and lighthouses that remind you of the Northeast mixed with the fried chicken and southern drawl you’d expect in Georgia or Alabama.
Now that you know the best places to visit in South Carolina, you’ll be able to spread your stay across this state’s most worthy spots for a well-rounded visit.
From historic cities and outdoor adventures to the amazing beaches and marshes lining the coast, South Carolina’s amazing towns offer great shops and eateries to enjoy throughout any stay.