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The 20 Best South Carolina Attractions in 2024

The 20 Best South Carolina Attractions in 2024

South Carolina attracts travelers like a magnet with its beaches, rugged mountains, pine and Palmetto forests, oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and abundant wildlife. The state’s rich history can be seen and felt in grand plantations, noteworthy museums, and cobblestone streets. We’re sharing the best attractions in South Carolina that are most worth seeing!

20 Best Attractions in South Carolina in 2024

The Palmetto State is one of our favorite states to visit because it’s delightfully diverse — miles of sandy beaches, genteel cities exuding Southern charm, historic architecture, and gorgeous national and state parks are just a few of the highlights.

It’s one of those destinations where anything is possible. A day at the beach in Hilton Head, strolling cobblestone streets in Charleston, and sightseeing in Columbia can all be on your list. We’ve created a list of the 20 best attractions in South Carolina to help you dive in and enjoy the best this beautiful state has to offer! 

You don’t want to miss out on the sights and destinations that show you the true South Carolina. From historic landmarks to blissful beaches, take a look at the places that are most worth seeing in South Carolina below. 

1. Middleton Place Plantation

The old gentlemen's quarter built in 1755 in front of a green lawn at Middleton Place is one of the best South Carolina attractions

Ovidiu Hrubaru/Shutterstock

Surrounded by pines, Sabal palms, and manicured gardens, the stately Middleton Place plantation is the perfect place to start your visit to South Carolina, especially if your crew appreciates historic landmarks.

This elegant plantation is a National Historic Landmark sitting on the Ashley River near Charleston and dates back to 1675. With the plantation home museum, an onsite inn, a restaurant with delicious Low Country cuisine, and over 65 acres of gardens, farmland, and grounds to tour, there’s much more than meets the eye at Middleton Place.

You’ve got several tour options to choose from. General admission gets you self-guided access to the home museum exhibits with period-decorated rooms, formal gardens, and the Stableyards. But if you’re really here to learn about the history, take a guided tour (included free with admission). 

Guided tours take you deeper into the plantation’s past, from a 30-minute educational walk through the oldest landscaped gardens in America to an important look Middleton Place enslavement history with a 40-minute Beyond the Fields guided tour. Animal lovers will enjoy the Historic Livestock Breeds tour! 

Finish up your tour with brunch or lunch at the Restaurant at Middleton Place (if you’re coming for dinner, be sure to make reservations in advance). 

How to Visit

The Middleton Place plantation is in historic Charleston, SC, located just 30 minutes from the bustling downtown district in a natural and secluded area. If you’re staying in Charleston, you can arrange transportation to the plantation along with a traditional lunch and tour.

But it’s even better to stay at the Inn at Middleton Place on the grounds with river-facing rooms, free breakfast, afternoon happy hour, evening night caps, and an outdoor pool to relax under the trees. 

  • General admission: $29 (ages 14+), $15 (students 14+), $10 (ages 6-13), free (5 and under)
  • Additional tours: $15–$300 (Museum tour, Combined tour, VIP tour)
  • Hours: Daily from 9AM–5PM; closed on Christmas Day

2. Brookgreen Gardens

Spanish Moss infested Live Oaks shading a path at Brookgreen Garden, Murrells Inlet, one of the best South Carolina attractions, in spring

Craig Zerbe/Shutterstock

Botanical gardens, a Low Country zoo, and sculpture garden sprawl across 9,127 acres at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. This is where you’ll see Spanish moss clinging to the oaks, exotic flowers in bloom, impressive sculptures contrasting with the natural landscape, and native animals enjoying their Low County habitats. 

A butterfly garden, roses, 250-year old oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and a Palmetto garden with a gushing fountain are some of the botanical garden highlights. Endless paths stroll through fragrant blooms and trees offering deep shade in the gardens. 

The sculpture garden and indoor art galleries add an artistic touch to the otherwise natural grounds. Walk through thousands of figurative sculptures by American sculptors, made even more beautiful in their garden placements and the modern galleries indoors (perfect for a rainy day). 

One of our favorite parts of the gardens is the Low Country Zoo. Native animals, like alligators, bald eagles, foxes, hawks, deer, and river otters are here — all bred in captivity or wild rescues. Join the free 50-minute Mother Nature’s Cafe experience to watch zookeepers feed the animals! 

There are special picnic areas where you can enjoy lunch surrounded by blooms, sculptures, and trees (just don’t bring food into the zoo). Streams, ponds, and lovely garden paths make it a truly scenic spot that everyone in your travel group can enjoy for an hour or two.

How to Visit

The Brookgreen Gardens are in the charming little town of Murrells Inlet, SC, about 30 minutes south of Myrtle Beach. Events like the Spring Wine Festival happen annually (for an additional cost, but includes general admission).

General admission ticket grants you entry to the gardens for 7 consecutive days, so this is a great deal if you’ll be hanging out around Murrells Inlet for a few days! 

  • General admission: $22 (ages 13-64), $20 (65+), $12 (4-12), free (3 and under)
  • Special events: $50 (members), $60 (non-members)
  • Hours: Gardens and zoo open daily from 9:30AM–5PM

3. Huntington Beach State Park

A long boardwalk over an expanse of salt marsh at Huntington Beach State Park, titled as one of the best South Carolina attractions, on a clear sunny morning


If you’re into beaches that are less crowded and totally unspoiled by development, head to Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet. This 2,500-acre park is practically next door to Brookgreen Gardens and together, they make an excellent weekend trip close to the busier Myrtle Beach! 

The park boasts a wooden boardwalk and 3 miles of natural beaches where wildlife and seagrasses thrive, primitive and luxury campsites, a National Historic Landmark (Atalaya), and incredible hiking and biking trails that lead you to discover the wild beauty of Huntington Beach. 

The park’s protected status means wildlife is abundant, from colorful birds and land mammals to fish swimming in the waters that lap the sandy shores. Anglers will love casting a line here with some of the best surf fishing in the state! 

History buffs and architecture appreciators can check out Atalaya, a gorgeous old home in the Moorish style that was once the winter home of sculptor Archer Huntington and his wife, Anna. This park and Brookgreen Gardens nearby were donated by the couple to prolong their legacy in the state. 

Nature lovers and kids will get a kick out of the park’s abundant animal life, like loggerhead turtles, alligators, minks, and 300+ bird species. Native plants fill the park with Palmetto trees and pines creating a storybook scenery along the rugged hiking and biking trails in the park.

How to Visit

Huntington Beach State Park is located in coastal Murrells Inlet, SC, just 8 minutes from Brookgreen Gardens if you’d like to visit both! Parking is limited, so arrive when it’s less crowded: before 10AM or after 2PM. Call the park to ensure parking is available before you head out at 843-237-4440. 

Visiting in September makes it possible to check out the Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival that draws thousands annually to the park’s historic winter home estate. 

  • Admission: $8 (ages 15-64), $5 (65+), $4 (6-15)
  • Atalaya admission: $2 (ages 6+), free (5 and under)
  • Hours: Daily from 6AM–6PM; 6AM–10PM during Daylight Saving Time

4. Fort Sumter National Monument

Aerial view on Fort Sumter National Monument's green open field, known as one of the best South Carolina attractions, where people are gathered at an old structure for a historical exhibit


South Carolina’s extensive history is one of the reasons it’s such an interesting place to visit. If you’ve got a Civil War buff in your group, you’ll have to stop by the Fort Sumter National Monument. Soldiers at this storied fort defended the Charleston Harbor during the Civil War in the 1860s. 

Fort Sumter was the site of attack from Confederate forces in 1861 — marking the start of the devastating Civil War with shots fired in the early pre-dawn hours of April 12. Union forces holding the fort surrendered to the Confederate soldiers and the war raged on. 

Today, the historic fort is a museum filled with artifacts, exhibits, and the stories of hardship, death, and victory that permeate its barracks, grounds, and cemetery.

Take a tour of the fort to learn about the importance it held during the Civil War and see rows of cannons still stationed at their battle sites. You can adopt a cannon to aid the park in restoring these historic bastions and leave a legacy here at the fort. 

Fort Moultrie, with history defending the Charleston Harbor from British forces in 1776, is just 15 minutes away on Sullivan’s Island and makes an excellent addition to your historic tour around the Charleston area. 

How to Visit

Fort Sumter National Monument is only reachable by ferry (a 30 minute cruise with an informative guide) through Fort Sumter Tours in cooperation with the National Parks Service.  

Book your ferry tickets in advance to ensure availability and depart from either the Fort Sumter Visitor Center on Liberty Square (8:30AM–4:30PM), the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, or the National Parks Service Visitor Center (8:30AM–4:30PM). 

  • Ferry cruise and fort tour: $37 (ages 12-61), $33 (seniors & military), $23 (4-11)
  • Dinner cruise and fort tour: $69.95 (ages 12-61), $67.95 (seniors & military), $41 (4-11)
  • Hours: 9AM, 12PM, or 2:30PM departure; closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

5. Falls Park on the Reedy 

Cascading water at Reedy River Falls shown at dusk in downtown Greenville, SC for a list of the best attractions in South Carolina

Kevin Ruck/Shutterstock

In Greenville, South Carolina, there’s a charming park in the downtown district that’s close to all the restaurants, shops, and breweries the city is so well-known for. It’s Falls Park on the Reedy, and we’re sure it’ll be one of your favorite parts of the state to visit. 

This park might not seem like much — it’s only 32 acres and sits in an area where old textile mills once operated, but it’s so picturesque and pretty with its location on the Reedy River with the cascading Reedy Falls located down the walking path. 

In the historic West End District of downtown Greenville, you’ll start your stroll over cute little footbridges along the Reedy River with amazing views of the city skyline around you. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a day exploring the city’s revitalized Main Street. 

Things quickly turn from city to country as you continue along through landscaped gardens, stone paths, and river landscapes, finally reaching Reedy Falls in a naturally serene nook tucked away from the buzz of downtown. 

There’s a nice restaurant inside the park, Passerelle Bistro, where you can stop for a bite. Bring a picnic to the River Lodge pavilion (first-come, first-served) if you’d prefer. 

From Falls Park, you can walk to the best eateries and shops downtown, enjoy a picnic on the park grounds, see wildlife, and enjoy views of sights like the Liberty Bridge and public murals that wrap you up in what Greenville’s all about: Community. 

How to Visit

Situated in friendly Greenville, SC, Falls Park is right on Main Street and convenient to most of the city’s attractions. Park on the street (free with 2 hour limit) or in the parking garage (free for the 1st hour) before you get out to explore the paths and Reedy River Falls. 

We recommend downloading the Falls Park Guide and Activity Book (PDF) to take a self-guided tour of the park and learn about its history as the “Birthplace of Greenville.” 

  • Admission: Free
  • Hours: Daily from 6AM–11PM

6. South Carolina State House

A milky sky over a wide angle view on South Carolina State House, considered as one of the best South Carolina attractions, fronting a wide green lawn where people seen strolling

Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Columbia is South Carolina’s capital city and where you’ll find the historic seat of the state government at the South Carolina State House, located downtown with close proximity to eateries, shops, and other historic landmarks. 

This landmark is woven into the fabric of American history after being captured by Civil War General William T. Sherman in 1865 and damaged by fire in his city-wide path of destruction across Columbia. 

The old State House and State House Library was burned to the ground, but a new State House was already under construction at the time of the attack.

Flames licked it and Sherman’s cannons dinged the new building (brass markers on the exterior highlight these areas), but it wasn’t destroyed — and it’s still standing today. 

You’ll see a monument memorializing that fateful day on the grounds of the State House where the former building once stood. It references the building’s architect, James Hoban, and the date of destruction on February 17, 1865. 

Exhibits outside and inside the building make it worthy of an hour or two of your time for a guided tour — a chance to feel and see the effects of the Civil War all these years later. Tours begin with a 15-minute film on the history and 15-minute walking tour of the building. 

How to Visit

The State House is open to the public for tours and makes an excellent stop if you’ll be visiting historic Columbia to check out South Carolina’s capital and the many landmarks it’s home to. Street metered parking is available. 

It’s under 2 hours from Greenville and Charleston, so don’t hesitate to add it to your itinerary. There’s a gift shop inside that’s open from 9AM to 4:30PM on weekdays (10AM to 4PM on Saturdays). 

  • Admission: Free, group reservations requested
  • Guided tours: Offered every 30 minutes, walk-ins welcome
  • Tour hours: 10:30AM, 11:30AM, 1:30PM, and 2:30PM (no tours at 12:30PM)
  • Self-guided tour hours: 10AM–4PM

7. Morgan Island/Monkey Island

Morgan Island, better known as Monkey Island, is a truly fascinating place near Beaufort, South Carolina with a unique secret: It’s home to one of the largest colonies of free-roaming Rhesus monkeys in the world. 

Monkeys? In South Carolina? You bet. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, more than 1,400 monkeys were shipped to the island from Puerto Rico. In the years since, the monkeys have been important for researchers to study primate behavior due to the large size of the free-roaming population. 

While you can’t step foot on Morgan Island (unless you’re a researcher), it’s a popular place to take boat cruises. Your captain will drop anchor near the shore and in minutes, droves of monkeys will appear, climbing, swinging, and chattering to your delight. 

Most of the island is salt marsh with small highlands areas where the monkeys thrive. The monkeys are mostly female, so it’s safe to say the female monkeys rule the roost here on Morgan Island. 

If you’re always looking for quirky and interesting things to do on vacation, can you really think of anything better than boating out to an island only populated by monkeys in South Carolina?

How to Visit

Add Morgan Island to your list if you’ll be near Beaufort, Hilton Head, or Charleston. You’ll need to book a cruise over to Morgan Island, which is one of the Sea Islands in Beaufort County, SC.

It takes about 2 hours in total to get out to Morgan Island, drop anchor, see the monkeys, and return on a scenic trip through the Sea Islands. Along the way, you could see pods of dolphins! Tidal Tours is a popular option with tours that leave from Sam’s Point Boat Landing on Beaufort’s Ladies Island. 

  • Admission: Cost varies by operator
  • Hours: Cruises take roughly 2-4 hours, depending on operator and time slot

8. Boone Hall Plantation

Three people taking shade near freshly painted huge white house at Boone Hall Plantation, one of the best South Carolina attractions with vibrant flowers


If exploring the history of the Old South appeals to you, the Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant is an awesome attraction to visit. Located close to Charleston with a haunted history, it’s the oldest working plantation in South Carolina. 

The plantation was built in the 1680s by an Englishman who moved to Charleston and settled here on Wampacheone Creek. The plantation historically grew cotton, pecans, and manufactured bricks by hand across its 600 production acres. 

Today, an elegant Colonial Revival mansion made of brick stands at the center of the property with farmland, gardens, and historic slave quarters around the grounds. Fresh produce is available for sale, grown right here on the still-operating plantation. 

Tours are bundled with general admission, so you can see as much as you want when you visit Boone Hall. Take a course in Gullah Culture with a live presentation, discover the Black History in America exhibit, watch a Slave History presentation, and come inside for a full house tour of the first floor. 

Outside, a plantation tractor tour brings you around the 730+ acres of the grounds on a fun tractor ride, while the garden tour and butterfly pavilion show you the landscaped and natural side of the plantation with year-round showcases of native plants and roses. 

The haunted history can add an eerie touch to your trip, with past visitors reporting specters, phantom noises, and glowing orbs appearing on the property. 

How to Visit 

Located just 30 minutes from Charleston in Mount Pleasant, SC, the Boone Hall Plantation makes an excellent day trip when you’re visiting the Holy City. Check out Middleton Place, about 40 minutes away, to see another plantation when you visit! 

All tours are included in the general admission price, but if weather gets in the way of you taking one or more of the tours, let a staff member know and they’ll issue you a free second-day ticket to come back. 

  • General admission: $28 (ages 13-64), $25 (seniors & military), $12 (6-12), free (5 and under)
  • Hours: Mon.–Sat. 9AM–5PM, Sun. 12PM–5PM (9AM–5PM on New Year’s Day)

9. Hyman Farm & Vineyard

Appreciate a nice glass of muscadine wine? Check out Hyman Farm & Vineyard in Conway, South Carolina. This scenic spot is where muscadine grapes are grown to fullness and ripe perfection to create local wines that many locals believe have medicinal properties. 

Once farmland dedicated to tobacco crops, Hyman Farm & Vineyard was transformed when the land was shifted over to muscadine grape production. Wine, cider, jams, jellies, and juice are all produced from these prolific grapes. 

Come on out to the farm for a vineyard tour, wine tasting, and to load up on the goodies produced on the farm (like honey from the apiary and muscadine jam). You’ll find local crafts and goods, from lotion to soap and candles to salsa, as well. 

Planning a special event? The farm also hosts weddings, parties, and showers in its idyllic pastoral setting with options in the vineyard, the “Woodland,” and under an ancient oak tree. 

Can’t make it to the farm and vineyard? The Florence Farmer’s Market (10 minutes away) is your one-stop shop to pick up fresh produce and goods from the farm, from fruits and veggies to herbs, honey, and cheese. 

How to Visit

Close to Myrtle Beach (40 minutes) and Columbia (1 hour and 20 minutes), Hyman Farm & Vineyard is a great stop to add to an existing trip. It’s about 10 minutes from the small town of Florence, where you’ll find farmer’s markets, restaurants, and local shops.

Call in advance to book a tour or tasting and get details on seasonal pricing. Walk-ins are not accepted.   

  • Tours: Call to reserve
  • Gift shop hours: Mon.–Sat. from 9AM–5PM

10. Charleston Historic District

Historic French quarter at dusk in Charleston's Historic District, one of the best South Carolina attractions

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Spanning 1.2 square miles in the heart of coastal Charleston, the Charleston Historic District sits downtown amid all the action with its charming cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and historic architecture. It’s a National Historic Landmark with roots dating back to 1670, when it was called Charles Towne.

The Historic District features bumpy cobblestone streets where Palmetto trees and oaks weeping with Spanish moss line the way, old  Charleston Single homes with wooden shutters and wrap-around porches, museums, and neighborhoods with unique character and architecture. 

The Charleston Museum, Charleston Visitor Center, and the Museum at Market Hall with Confederate history are all great stops to make during your visit to the Historic District. You’ll find cozy cottages and impressive Antebellum mansion complexes with magnolias and azaleas along the way. 

Look for the Aiken-Rhett House (1820), the Nathaniel Russell House (1808), the Old City Jail, the Pink House Gallery (1712), the Edmondston-Alston House (1825), and the South Carolina Historical Society fireproof building with 350 years of historic artifacts and exhibits inside. 

The historic and impossible-to-miss Pineapple Fountain bursts with gushing water in Joe Riley Waterfront Park next to the Atlantic Ocean and makes a great photo opportunity. Walk the promenade for great harbor views. 

Visit the Charleston City Market for produce and local goods, stroll over to a restaurant or bar in a historic building, or take a ghost tour through some of the oldest historic homes in the district. 

How to Visit

We recommend starting your trip with the Charleston Visitor Center to get your bearings, pick up a map of the most iconic sights, and direct your visit around the heart of the city. Here are some must-visit spots:

  • Charleston Visitor Center
  • Charleston City Market
  • Joe Riley Waterfront Park
  • The Pink House
  • The Charleston Museum

Head to downtown Charleston to experience the historic wonder and beautiful architecture of the Historic District. You can check out the different neighborhoods: the French Quarter, Harleston Village, South of Broad, and The Boroughs, to get a taste of the different flavors in the Historic District. 

11. Drayton Hall

The three storey Drayton Hall at Charleston, photographed as a piece on the best South Carolina attractions, circled by a vast green lawn

James Kirkikis/Shutterstock

South Carolina’s plantations and the opulent homes at their centers played a major role in the state’s agricultural, social, and political history. Drayton Hall dates back to the 1700s and today, it’s the oldest and only remaining accurate plantation home that can be toured in Charleston. 

Situated along the banks of the Ashley River, Drayton Hall is roughly 30 minutes from Charleston and once spanned 750 acres. Today, it’s around 633 acres that are open to be toured and admired on a trip to this idyllic area surrounded by trees, gardens, and pasture land. 

Drayton Hall is the first and best example of Palladian architecture in the U.S. It was never a working plantation, unlike many of the other sites you can visit in the Charleston area. It survived the Revolutionary and Civil wars without being burned to the ground, making it truly fascinating to visit. 

Check out the Lenhardt Garden and courtyard garden while you’re here. The people that lived and worked on the grounds left behind millions of artifacts over the centuries, making it an active archaeological site today (only 2% has been excavated). 

The home itself hasn’t been restored, so when you visit, you’re seeing it just as time has left it — a true historic glimpse. Inside, the museum and gallery are highlighted as some of the best in the area with artifacts that show the storied past of the plantation. 

How to Visit

Located on the outskirts of Charleston and just 6 minutes away from the Middleton Place plantation, Drayton Hall is easy to reach from downtown Charleston and is great to combine with Middleton Place for a day trip from the city. 

The Sally Reahard Visitor Center on the property has an informative movie about the history you can watch to familiarize yourself with the grounds before your 1-hour guided tour. There are galleries showcasing historic artwork depictions of the plantation as early as 1765! 

Tip: Buy your tickets in advance online to save $3 off the price of general admission. 

  • General admission: $29–$32 (ages 16+), $15–$18 (7-15), free (7 and under)
  • Private tours: $50–$120 per person, package dependent
  • Hours: Daily from 9AM–3PM, closed on Tuesdays

12. Travelers Rest

Furman Swan Lake and bell tower in the distance on a spring day with blue skies in Travelers Rest, one of our favorite attractions in South Carolina

Kevin Ruck/Shutterstock

Tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Travelers Rest is a small town near Greenville, South Carolina that’s big on charm, natural beauty, and a warm, welcoming spirit. It’s a must-visit spot if you love poking around in local shops, trying new places to eat, and exploring trails through nature! 

Locals call it TR, and it really is a haven of rest for weary travelers. Whether you’ve just completed a big-city jaunt or are heading out to your main destination in South Carolina, this tiny town is well worth seeing and exploring. 

You’ll find the Swamp Rabbit Trail perfect for a leisurely hike or bike ride through the woodlands with mountains rising in the distance. Head over to Swan Lake for picture-perfect water views, or walk along Main Street downtown to get to know the locals. 

You’ll find cool shops, like bookstores and antique shops, along with great eateries ranging from casual local hangouts to upscale seafood restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries. Craft brew relays, art walks, and concerts are just some of the events that take place downtown and along the hiking trail. 

Want to keep the natural beauty going with outdoor recreation? You’re only 8 minutes from Paris Mountain State Park. Drive another 30 minutes to get to Table Rock State Park or Jones Gap State Park! 

How to Visit

Travelers Rest is located about 20 minutes from Greenville in Greenville County, SC. It takes about 1 hour to reach Asheville in the mountains or 3.5 hours to get to Charleston from here, so it’s pretty centrally located. 

There are a number of hotels and local inns you can stay in if you choose to extend your Travelers Rest for a day or two. Try Swamp Rabbit Inn if you’re looking for a truly local place to stay with convenient access to the trail.  

13. Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade

Scenic aerial view on Myrtle Beach's tourists strolling on the shore beside towering hotel buildings and iconic spinning Skywheel, one of the best South Carolina attractions on a late sunset

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

You can’t have a list of the best attractions in South Carolina without sunny, sandy Myrtle Beach and its famous boardwalk and promenade. As the most-visited city in the state, over 19 million people flock to its shores each year to experience the coastal beauty, oceanfront attractions, and endless dining and shopping options along the Grand Strand. 

The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade spans 1.2 miles along the Atlantic Ocean, reaching from the 2nd Avenue Pier to Pier 14. This bustling area is the hub of the city with amusement rides, a huge array of restaurants and sweet shops, bars, arcades, and museums to explore. 

Ride the massive 187′ SkyWheel to get incredible views over the ocean and the boardwalk, take the kids to spots like Ripley’s Believe It! Or Not, slurp oysters on the half shell at Dirty Don’s, load your bags up with sweets at I Love Sugar, catch live music at The Bowery, and fish from Pier 14. 

There are hundreds of places to eat, drink, and be merry here in the hub of Myrtle Beach, so come prepared for a long day of enjoying your full range of options with great views of the beach. When you’re ready to cool off, walk down to the beach for a swim or sunbathing session as the fun continues behind you. 

How to Visit

Myrtle Beach is conveniently located near Murrells Inlet (32 minutes) and 40 minutes from Conway (Hyman Farm & Vineyard), but you can also visit Myrtle Beach from Charleston (2.5 hours) or Columbia (3 hours). 

The area is packed with hotels if you plan on spending a few days soaking up the boardwalk fun and hanging out on the beach. Check out Holiday Sands North On the Boardwalk if you want a spot that’s close to all the action! 

14. South Carolina Aquarium

A curious young girl with both hands touching the glass at South Carolina Aquarium, named as one of the best South Carolina attractions, eagerly observing the corals and fishes

VIS Fine Art/Shutterstock

Visiting an aquarium is even more fun when you’re visiting a coastal town like Charleston — knowing many of these creatures swim and lurk in the waters around you makes it even more interesting! It’s worth checking out the South Carolina Aquarium when you’re visiting Charleston.  

This is one of our favorite attractions in South Carolina because there are so many great exhibits showcasing marine and freshwater life and their habitats in a really hands-on, visual way.

There are over 5,000 aquatic animals here, from fearsome crocodiles and sharks to friendly river otters and Loggerhead sea turtles. Exhibits cover the deep ocean, salt marshes, the shallows, and coastal plains. 

Kids will love the Touch Tank where they can handle harmless critters like de-barbed Atlantic stingrays, horseshoe crabs, and sea urchins. Kids Coast is a fun interactive area that shows how the water is carefully filtered for the health of the animals at the aquarium. 

Hands-on activities that take you behind the scenes are available daily, from Animal Care Spotlight to feeding at the Great Ocean Tank and Animal Encounters with aquarium staff. 

After your visit, will you be brave enough to swim in the ocean at Sullivan’s Island or Folly Beach — where you just might see some of the creatures you’ve learned about during your visit? 

How to Visit

Located in the Charleston Harbor near Liberty Square (where you’ll find the Fort Sumter Visitor Center), getting to the South Carolina Aquarium is easy.

Parking is plentiful at the nearby parking garage, limited street metered parking is available onsite, and you can always use the Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) to get here without worrying about parking. 

  • General admission: $30–$40 (ages 13+), $25–$33 (ages 3-12), free (ages 2 and under)
  • Hours: Daily from 9AM–5PM (last entry at 3:30PM), closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day

15. Harbour Town

A red and white lighthouse and three docked boats reflected on the calm waters at Hilton Head Island during a spectacular late afternoon sky, titled as one of the best South Carolina attractions

Ken Schulze/Shutterstock

Serene and studded with Palmetto trees and Low Country pines, Hilton Head Island is known as the Golf Island and sits less than an hour from nearby Savannah, Georgia on the coast of southern South Carolina. Harbour Town, the island’s marina and hub for dining, shopping, and waterfront fun, is our favorite attraction here. 

People easily recognize Harbour Town for its red-and-white striped lighthouse, very much resembling a candy cane on the calm-water shores of the harbor. Yachts, sailboats, and fishing boats dot the harbor and make it feel like you’ve stepped into a painting. 

Harbour Town is the destination if you’re hungry, thirsty, ready to play, listen to live music, or just stroll through picturesque streets and along wooden piers as you admire the coastal views.

Venture up to the lighthouse to look out over the water, stop by the Harbour Town Playground with the kids, and make time to listen to musicians playing in open-air restaurants and along the streets that wind through the neighborhood. 

You’ll pop into local boutiques with HHI-emblazoned merchandise and art, dine on fresh seafood and tasty fried fare at casual spots like the Crazy Crab, or launch off for a sunset dinner cruise with a topside table on a Vagabond Cruise through the harbor.

While the beaches on Hilton Head Island are close by, this is a great spot to take in the scenery, mingle with other travelers and locals, and experience the charm of this Low Country paradise. 

How to Visit

You can drive to Harbour Town along Highway 278 E to Greenwood Drive, Plantation Drive, and Lighthouse Drive to reach the Harbour Town parking lot.

It’s easier to take the free Sea Pines Trolley from the beach club, Shops at Sea Pines Center, or Plantation Golf Club to reach the Harbour Town Trolley Stop. 

Be sure to check out these places while you’re in Harbour Town:

  • Harbour Town Lighthouse Museum & Shop
  • Harbour Town General Store 
  • Harbour Town Surf Shop
  • Harbour Town Christmas

16. Parris Island Museum

Parris Island, South Carolina is known for its rich military history and Marine Corps base, and you can experience some of that history and national pride at the Parris Island Marine Museum.

Although it’s on a functional military base, civilians are permitted to visit. Inside, there are over 10,000 square feet with centuries of exhibits and artifacts waiting to explore and browse. 

You’ll find the main museum building, the Rotunda, local history exhibits, World War II and Vietnam War exhibits, a recruit training gallery, and exhibits showcasing modern Marines and their accomplishments. 

The main museum contains history of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot of Parris Island, the Marine Corps as a whole, and local-specific artifacts and exhibits relating to South Carolina. 

Check out special exhibits like historical war timelines, recruit uniforms, artifacts from every war the Marines have fought in (and from enemy soldiers), and documents that tell the story of the proud legacy of the United States Marine Corps. 

How to Visit

This museum is located on a real Marine Corps base that’s gated with restricted entry. Civilians are allowed to enter only to access the museum. To get through the gate, just let the guard know you’re headed to the museum and show your ID to get access.

Arrange a guided tour by calling 843-228-2951 to book in advance or do a self-guided tour of the museum with an audio guide (download it here). Pick up a self-guided tour booklet to follow along with the audio in the museum when you arrive. 

  • General admission: Free 
  • Hours: Mon.–Fri. 10AM–4PM, Thur.–Fri. 8AM–4:30PM, Sat. 10AM–4:30PM, closed Sun.

17. Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse

Columbia’s first microbrewery, Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse, sits downtown on Main Street. It’s close to popular restaurants and bars, yet it manages to stand out as one of the most-frequented spots in the district.

How? It’s the quality craft beer and upscale pub grub. Nosh on salted soft pretzels and beer cheese while you down some of the tastiest brews you’ll find anywhere in South Carolina when you visit this bustling little beer house. 

Local, English-style craft beers are always on tap, brewed up to perfection at the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery right here in Columbia. Every palate will find its match at Hunter-Gatherer, with options like the Pale Ale, Lager 29, full-bodied Stout, and Hazy IPA.

The food menu takes you around the world with options as down-home as sausage balls with beer mustard or baked Mac and cheese to fancy takes on Low Country fare like Cheesy Shrimp and Grits with house-smoked bacon and roasted tomatoes or the Low Country Mussel Boil in a pale ale broth.

Want to get a look behind the scenes to see how the magic happens? You can visit the actual brewery and taproom at the Curtiss-Wright Hangar in Owens Airfield nearby. 

How to Visit

There are two locations: Main Street in downtown Columbia and the Hangar at Owens Airfield on Jim Hamilton Boulevard (about 9 minutes away) where the brewery and taproom are located.

Visit the location that’s most convenient for you, but if you’re really into microbrewing, it’s worth it to go out to the Hangar! 

18. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Aerial view on the humongous USS Yorktown anchored at Mount Pleasant, a pick on the best South Carolina attractions, carrying military choppers and aircrafts

Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock

Military history abounds in South Carolina, and if you’re near Charleston, you shouldn’t skip the chance to visit Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. It’s the largest museum in South Carolina and home to the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and countless naval artifacts and exhibits. 

This museum sits on the Cooper River at the Charleston Harbor. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society has its headquarters here. See the Medal of Honor Museum aboard the USS Yorktown for touching exhibits that highlight American spirit and perseverance in the face of challenges, danger, and war. 

The USS Yorktown was first brought to the harbor in 1975, and it became the first ship of the Patriots Point museum just a couple of months later. On top of the massive carrier, 29 aircraft sit on display, showcasing a historic timeline that spans from World War II to the modern day. 

But the USS Yorktown isn’t the only ship in the museum’s harbor. USS Laffey is an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer ship from World War II you’ll find here. The USS Clamagore, a GUPPY III Balao-class submarine, was retired from the museum in 2022. 

Other exhibits worth seeing are the Cold War Submarine Memorial and the interactive Vietnam Experience spanning 2.5 acres. You can even camp on the USS Yorktown overnight for a special experience you’ll never forget! 

How to Visit

The Charleston Harbor location is at the base of the Ravenel Bridge, only 5 minutes from downtown Charleston in Mount Pleasant and easy to reach by car via Patriots Point Road. The Charleston Water Taxi (seasonal) can bring you to the museum from the water. 

Parking is $5.00 at the onsite lot, but buses enjoy free parking. Hours are seasonal, so pay attention to the dates and hours listed below. 

  • General admission: $27 (ages 12-61), $21 (first responders, vets, teachers), $19 (seniors & military), $16 (6-11), free (military in uniform and kids under 6)
  • Guided Captain’s Tour: +$18.00
  • Hours: Mar.–Aug. 9AM–6:30PM; Sept.–Feb. 10AM–5PM (9AM–5PM weekends)

19. Congaree National Park, Hopkins

A boardwalk in the middle of green forest at Congaree National Park in Hopkins, one of the best South Carolina attractions

Michele Korfhage/Shutterstock

Congaree National Park is one of the best parks in all of South Carolina, including both national and state parks. It’s home to old-growth hardwood Champion Trees, which are registered as some of the largest tree specimens anywhere in the United States. 

These huge, ancient trees bestow lots of shade with their tiers of branches and leafy green canopies acting like umbrellas that filter the sunlight to the forest floor. That makes hiking the many rugged trails in the park even more enjoyable! 

Wildlife really thrives in Congaree, and chances are good that you’ll spot deer, gators, dozens of bird species, snakes, bobcats, river otters, and foxes when you spend a few hours in the park. 

The 2.6-mile Boardwalk Loop Trail is easy and takes you through stands of old-growth trees directly from the visitor center. Weston Lake Trail #3 is harder, spanning 4.5 miles along Cedar Creek where you can watch kayakers pass through. 

The park is especially popular for its kayaking and canoeing through 15 miles of Cedar Creek. Parts are quite narrow and difficult to maneuver around, but many areas are easy paddling with gorgeous natural views along the banks and through the forest. 

Take a boardwalk tour to see some of the Champion Trees in the park. Fishing and camping in primitive or site campsites are other great activities to spend your time at Congaree! 

How to Visit

Congaree National Park is located in Hopkins, SC around 30 minutes from Columbia and 1 hour and 45 minutes from Charleston. It’s easy to reach with GPS as long as you enter the actual address: 100 National Park Road, Hopkins, SC 29061. 

There are 2 great campsites around the park: Longleaf Campground and Bluff Campground. Backcountry camping requires a permit, but is an awesome option if you plan on hiking further out. 

  • Admission: Free
  • Hours: Open daily year-round
  • Visitor Center hours: Open daily 9AM–5PM, closed on most federal holidays

20. Charleston Tea Garden

A large area at Charleston Tea Plantation in Wadmalaw Island, known as one of the best South Carolina attractions, covered with ripe tea

Gabrielle Hovey/Shutterstock

Out on scenic Wadmalaw Island and not technically in Charleston, the Charleston Tea Garden encompasses acres of greenery with its picturesque tea farm that stands out as one of the best attractions in South Carolina.

You won’t find chain hotels or mega marts on the 10-mile long island, but that’s one reason you’ll love visiting the Tea Garden. They don’t charge admission to enter the glorious gardens as acres of tea plants spread out in front of you, creating a beautiful landscape that’s rare to see in the U.S. 

Here at the Tea Garden, you’ll be able to ride a trolley through the plantation for a 45-minute tour of the operations and how this American tea is grown. After getting off the trolley, the tour continues through the production plant as you’ll see the equipment and steps required to bring you that sweet, aromatic sip of freshly-brewed tea. 

Visit the greenhouse, where tea plants thrive year-round, and check out the gift shop to bring home your own mugs, brewing accessories, and flavorful loose-leaf and packaged teas grown right here in the Tea Garden. 

How to Visit

Charleston Tea Garden is located on Wadmalaw Island in Charleston, SC. It takes about 45 minutes from downtown Charleston to reach the farm. 

The only way to get to the Charleston Tea Garden is by crossing the Maybank Highway bridge over Church Creek to get to Wadmalaw Island. From there, look for the sign on the left to turn in! 

  • Admission: Free, trolley tours $16 (ages 12+), $8.50 (4-11), free (3 and under)
  • Factory tours: Free for all ages 
  • Hours: Mon.–Sat. 10AM–4PM, Sun. 12PM–4PM, closed on holidays 

Things to Consider

Congaree National Forest, one of the best South Carolina attractions

Serge Skiba/Shutterstock

With so many awesome attractions scattered around the state of South Carolina, you’ll have an easier time narrowing down the list to find the best options for your trip when you keep the following things in mind. 

  • The season of your visit matters. South Carolina enjoys a mild climate that doesn’t see very cold winters, but some areas are better visited during the warm spring, summer, or fall months. Brookgreen Gardens, the various plantations around Charleston, and Myrtle Beach are a few examples of places you’ll want to visit when it’s nice and warm (and when flowers in are in bloom). 
  • Try to book in advance. Many of the best attractions in South Carolina don’t require you to book tickets or make reservations, but if the option’s there, you should absolutely use it. During the peak season months (March to June and September to October), you might find yourself packed in tightly or unable to visit certain places without booking in advance. 
  • Be realistic. It would be incredible to be able to visit every single attraction on this list, but chances are, your South Carolina trip is limited by time. If you’re only spending a weekend, your options will be much more limited than if you’ve got a week to fill up. Be realistic about your itinerary and don’t spread your destinations out too far — you’ll spend most of the trip driving. 
  • Factor in your budget. There are plenty of free places to visit in South Carolina, like the Charleston Tea Garden, Charleston Historic District, and Congaree National Park, but many of the best attractions cost money to enter. Plantations, some museums, and aquariums will charge fees for admission, so factor this into your trip budget. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Cool path through Middletown Place, one of the best South Carolina attractions

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Make the most of your trip to South Carolina by studying up on some of the most frequently asked questions other travelers have about the best attractions in the state. 

What is the number one tourist destination in South Carolina?

Myrtle Beach is the number one tourist destination in South Carolina, with this beach town receiving more than 19 million visitors each year. Charleston sees around 7.6 million annual visitors by comparison.

What is South Carolina best known for?

South Carolina is known for the historic Old South city of Charleston and its plantations, Low Country seafood and cuisine, Palmetto trees (Sabal palms), the capital city of Columbia, Revolutionary and Civil War history, Spanish moss-draped trees, and beautiful, wide beaches along the Atlantic Coast.

What is the best city to go to in South Carolina?

Charleston is the best city to go to in South Carolina if you only have time to visit one place. The Holy City is loaded with history dating back to the 1600s (when it was Charles Towne), cobblestone streets, Antebellum mansions, waterfront views, and a bustling downtown historic district.

When should I visit South Carolina?

Generally, you should try to visit South Carolina between March and June to beat the heat while still enjoying balmy weather, lush greenery, and blooming flowers at the many plantations and gardens around the state. September and October may be drier and boast beautiful fall foliage.

What month is hurricane season in South Carolina?

June through November is hurricane season in South Carolina, with most storms historically occurring in the months of August, September, and October. South Carolina is very rarely hit by major hurricanes, with only 4 in its history since the 19th century: the Great Charleston Hurricane, Hazel, Gracie, and Hugo.

Best South Carolina Attractions: A Summary

Crimson sunset over the iconic Cooper River Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, a pick on the best South Carolina attractions


Hitting all the high notes of the Low Country will deepen your appreciation for the natural beauty and historic importance of the state of South Carolina. With so many cool attractions along the coast and further inland, you won’t run out of fun things to do on your trip. 

Will you visit grand old plantations, exploring their gardens and examining their many rooms in period decor? Will you bounce along the Myrtle Beach boardwalk, sampling seafood and fried treats in between SkyWheel rides and funhouse mirror laughs? Maybe you’ll explore a new park, hiking trail, or secluded beach on the South Carolina shore. 

Whatever you decide to do with your time in the Palmetto State, just make sure you hit at least one of the best attractions in South Carolina — it’ll add a special flair to your trip and help you see the soul of the real South Carolina.