16 Things to Do in South Carolina
By Janet Benoir – December 21, 2023
South Carolina beckons with its rich tapestry of historical landmarks, lush gardens, and sun-drenched coastlines. Regarded as the birthplace of public libraries in the United States, it surprises many with its prolific peach production, outpacing even Georgia. This coastal gem marries the charm of the old with the vibrance of the new, inviting you to explore its historic estates, take in cultural tours, or simply relax under the shade of its iconic oak trees.
As you traverse the state, from the bustling streets of Charleston to the tranquil beaches that sprawl along the Atlantic, embrace the unexpected. Why not diverge from the usual itinerary to uncover hidden gems like a trolley ride through a tea plantation or a unique kazoo factory tour? South Carolina’s diverse experiences extend from the heart of its cities to the traditions of Gullah culture in the Lowcountry, all the way to the storied shores of its islands.
Charleston’s Historic District
Built in 1772, this Georgian architectural masterpiece was home to Thomas Heyward Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Its significance is heightened by President George Washington’s stay during his 1791 Charleston visit. Nearby, the Aiken-Rhett House, dating back to 1820, stands as one of the most complete urban estates nationally. It poignantly reveals the lives of enslaved individuals, with interiors preserved from the 1850s that echo their experiences.
Exploring further, 181 Church Street offers a unique blend of history and modern luxury at Hotel Emeline. This site, a former grocery store, now houses a hotel boasting a vast private collection of artifacts from the 1920s to WWII. Adjacent Clerks Coffee Co. celebrates the building’s commercial heritage. For nature and history enthusiasts, White Point Garden in the downtown district is a must-visit.
Myrtle Beach, a coastal gem stretching over 60 miles, awaits you with its velvety, family-friendly shores. If golf is your passion, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice with almost 90 golf courses at your disposal. Notably, the Dunes Golf and Beach Club offers breathtaking vistas of the ocean and has earned high ranks as one of the nation’s premier golf destinations.
Your adventure continues at Huntington Beach State Park, a haven for tranquil strolls or avid bird watching, recognized as one of South Carolina’s prime birding spots. There, the historic Atalaya Castle stands as a testament to the Huntington family’s legacy. During the cooler months from March to May, you can immerse yourself in history with tours offered by the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park.
Hilton Head Island
On Hilton Head Island, a rich cultural tapestry extends far beyond the sunlit fairways and sandy shores. The island is an integral part of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, recognising the profound influence of Gullah descendants. These individuals trace their roots to West Africans brought to the southeastern United States, and their culture is vibrantly alive, particularly in South Carolina’s low country archipelagos.
Navigate through the labyrinths of local history with Gullah Heritage Trail Tours. This immersive journey embarks from the Coastal Discovery Museum and invites you to explore the modern Gullah lifestyle. You’ll gain insight into a unique creole language and longstanding traditions, a world apart yet nestled within the boundaries of Hilton Head.
Blue Ridge Mountains
In your exploration within South Carolina, you ascend to the state’s zenith at Sassafras Mountain, which towers to a height of 3,560 feet. These elevated terrains are part of the mesmerizing ranges that cascade through the region, known for the sassafras trees peppering the lower inclines.
Your journey may lead you along South Carolina’s slice of the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway. This route, also labeled Highway 11, unfolds 100 miles of arresting vistas showcasing the state’s eight state parks. Among these oases is Table Rock State Park in Pickens, a haven where Carrick Creek Falls marries forest views with a cascading symphony, and trails beckon you to uncover cloistered corners and raised lookouts.
Congaree National Park
At Congaree National Park, your experience encompasses a diverse ecosystem that’s part of the region’s oldest broadleaf floodplain forest. Home to the endangered indigo snake and red-cockaded woodpecker, the area nurtures an impressive biodiversity. Towering loblolly pines punctuate the skyline within the park’s expansive 20,000 acres. For hiking enthusiasts, over 25 miles of trails beckon, including a 2.4-mile elevated boardwalk that serenely snakes above the wetlands.
Should you wish to take to the waters, Cedar Creek provides a serene canoeing trail, perfect for a tranquil paddle, while the more seasoned canoers can embark on the Congaree River Blue Trail, which promises a substantial 50-mile journey from Columbia to the park. Encouraging exploration, this waterway delivers you into the park’s heart. The park, located in Hopkins, extends its natural splendor to visitors at no charge.
Fort Sumter National Monument
In the midst of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, stands the pivotal Civil War battleground, Fort Sumter. It was here on April 12, 1861, where the first conflict of the Civil War erupted. Now preserved as the Fort Sumter National Monument, it serves as an educational beacon, allowing visitors to uncover the events that sparked a significant period in American history.
To experience this testament to the nation’s past, embark from either Charleston or Mount Pleasant. The site welcomes a diverse range of visitors, offering fare reductions for seniors, individuals in military service, and younger guests. Your destination address, 1214 Middle Street on Sullivan’s Island, marks the starting point for a dive into the annals of the Civil War, providing a memorable encounter with America’s storied past.
The Gardens at Middleton Place
Nestled in Charleston, Middleton Place invites you to explore an enduring piece of American history. Its gardens, conceived in 1741, offer a serene ambience mingled with a narrative stretching across nearly three centuries. As a National Historic Landmark, the estate encompasses a house museum—restored after a Civil War conflagration—and Eliza’s House, which pays homage to the enslaved individuals who lived there. Beyond these, discover the working stable yards and the expansive 65-acre gardens, originally inspired by the illustrious Versailles.
Visiting these historical grounds comes with an admission charge, though reductions are available for students and younger guests. Should you choose to stay at The Inn at Middleton Place, the experience is enhanced with complimentary access to the gardens and facilities. You can find this heritage site at 4300 Ashley River Road, a location steeped in history and blooming with natural beauty.
Drayton Hall stands as the oldest unchanged plantation dwelling in the United States with its history commencing in 1738. Over the span of several centuries, this architectural specimen sheltered seven generations and maintains its original form, focusing more on stabilization rather than modern restoration.
The foundation of this estate’s historical significance was John Drayton’s extensive landholdings, numbering around 100, and the labor of enslaved individuals, including Native Americans, which was central to the plantation’s operation. Today, despite renovations to preserve its structure, you can engage with archaeologists on site, gaining insight into the excavation work that brings the past to light.
Fort Moultrie, once a critical defense structure on Sullivan’s Island, stood as a silent witness to an odd chapter of literary history. In 1827, Edgar Allan Poe, a young academic dropout turned soldier, spent 11 months here. His sojourn might have been brief, but the impact was mutual, inspiring elements of his work. For instance, “The Gold-Bug,” one of Poe’s tales, portrays the island as nothing more than sandy terrain, extending around three miles.
Today, you can experience a homage to the writer at Poe’s Tavern. This establishment offers a unique ambiance as you relish offerings like the “Raven” or “Pit & Pendulum” sandwiches. It’s a place not just to appease your hunger but to immerse yourself in a rarely explored facet of Poe’s life.
The Angel Oak Tree
Nestled on John’s Island, the most expansive island governed by Charleston County, South Carolina, stands the Angel Oak. It’s a majestic Southern live oak, a species highly revered for its expansive canopy and endurance. Estimated to date back between 300 and 400 years, this arboreal titan likely took root around 1620, making it a silent witness to centuries of American history.
With its impressive stature reaching up to approximately 67 feet and its longest limb stretching out roughly 187 feet, the Angel Oak is often referred to as “A Lowcountry Treasure.” Should your travels bring you to South Carolina, visiting this unique specimen at 3688 Angel Oak Road, Charleston, SC 29402, offers an opportunity to capture a moment with a tree whose grandeur is unrivaled, encapsulating the essence of the state’s storied oak lineage.
Oyotunji African Village
Established in 1970 and spanning 27 acres in Seabrook, the Oyotunji African Village is a living homage to the Yoruba and Dahomey traditions from West Africa. It’s the brainchild of a man originally named Walter Eugene King but known within the community as Oba Waja, who was inducted into the Orisa-Vodun priesthood in Cuba during the 1950s.
This enclave serves as a cultural beacon, offering insight into the rich heritage of these African societies through various means. During your visit, you can discover a wealth of cultural expressions, from monthly celebrations to a collection of historical records and authentic artwork. To truly immerse yourself, guided tours of the village are available; detailed information on tour lengths and pricing, including discounts for children and large groups, can be found on the OAV website.
Charleston Tea Garden
Located a stone’s throw south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island is the Charleston Tea Garden, covering 127 acres of land dedicated to cultivating a diverse array of 320 black and green tea varieties. Steeped in history, Wadmalaw Island has been on the map since 1666 and now Indian and Chinese teas have a rare North American neighbor. Acquired by Bigelow Tea Company in 2003, the Tea Garden offers complimentary tours.
Furthermore, Kiawah Island, which lies within proximity, enhances the region’s appeal for tea enthusiasts. Venture about 25 miles north of Charleston to Summerville to uncover the proclaimed origins of the American South’s celebrated sweet tea. Sweet tea enthusiasts will relish in the local customs, from exploring trails adorned with tea-themed murals to joining a sweet tea cocktail bar crawl.
South Carolina State Museum
At 301 Gervais St., Columbia, you can explore a comprehensive collection dedicated to South Carolina’s rich heritage. Here, you’ll experience a range of exhibits that transport you through time, from prehistoric fossils to pivotal moments of the Civil War, and into the depths of the state’s Black historical experiences.
The museum isn’t just for history enthusiasts; families will find the 4D interactive theater and planetarium shows engaging, ensuring an educational visit packed with fun for visitors of all ages. With general admission and combination tickets that grant access to additional attractions, the museum offers a versatile experience. Not far from other attractions in Columbia, such as the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, the museum is an enriching stop in South Carolina’s capital.
The Kazoobie Kazoo Factory
At the heart of Beaufort, a pleasant surprise amidst the Southern charm is a destination dedicated to the whimsical world of kazoos. The Kazoobie Kazoo Factory stands as the sole manufacturer of plastic kazoos in the United States, offering an extensive collection for enthusiasts to explore. You have the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of this distinctive instrument with activities that include a museum visit, interactive tours, and even the chance to assemble your very own kazoo.
Those who have recently stepped through the doors of Kazoobie remark on it being a delightful experience for both children and adults alike. If you opt for a tour, prepare for an entertaining and educational hour, for which a small fee applies. However, you can freely enjoy the museum’s exhibits and browse through the gift shop’s offerings to remember your visit. Find this unique attraction at 12 John Galt Road, Beaufort, SC 29906, where a buzz of activity awaits.
Yogi Bear Honey Fried Chicken
In the town of Hartsville, South Carolina, a unique eatery remains the sole survivor of a once-popular national franchise. Originally launched in 1962 by entrepreneur Gene Broome, this establishment was known for its distinctive honey-flavored fried chicken. Although once a part of a broader chain of restaurants under the Yogi Bear brand, which showcased Broome’s signature recipe, it now stands alone as other locations have ceased operations.
Your culinary curiosity might lead you to try their “Picnic Basket” filled with the famed chicken, or perhaps the smaller “Boo Boo Basket.” For those with adventurous tastes, options extend to fried liver and gizzards. This local gem is located at 14 S. Fifth St., ensuring that the legacy of Broome’s flavors continues in this South Carolina town.
Your visits to Greenville Drive’s baseball games place you in the midst of the thrilling action at Fluor Field, a diamond modeled after the legendary Fenway Park. Embrace the atmosphere from April to September, with home games lining the calendar monthly.
Features to note at the stadium include the iconic Green Monster replica and a counterpart to Fenway’s Pesky’s Pole, ensuring an authentic baseball experience. Located at 945 S. Main St. in Greenville, SC, the field is waiting to capture your cheers and applause.