16 Things to Do in South Carolina

By Janet Benoir – December 21, 2023

South Carolina is among the most beautiful and evocative states in America. Its rich tapestry of historical landmarks, lush gardens, and sun-drenched coastlines beckons you in. Full of wonderful history, great landscapes and charms aplenty, a visit here is a must if you’re after fascinating culture, majestic mountains, historic monuments, and natural wonders.

This coastal gem marries the charm of the old with the vibrancy of the new. It invites you to explore its historic estates, take in cultural tours, or simply relax under the shade of its iconic oak trees. Regarded as the birthplace of public libraries in the United States, it is also renowned for its prolific peach production, so whether it’s mind or body you want to stimulate, South Carolina has something to offer everyone.

As you traverse the state, from the vibrant streets of Charleston to the vast tranquil beaches that sprawl along the Atlantic, be prepared to embrace the unexpected. Why not diverge from the usual itinerary to uncover hidden gems, like a trolley ride through iconic tea plantations, or a unique kazoo factory tour? South Carolina’s diverse tourist experiences extend from the heart of its cities, to the traditions of Gullah culture in the Lowcountry, all the way to the richly storied shores of its wonderful islands.

Charleston’s Historic District

The Charleston District is at the heart of not just South Carolina’s history, but American history. Begun in 1772, it contains the Georgian architectural masterpiece that 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 fantastically complete urban estates in America. It poignantly reveals the lives of enslaved individuals, with interiors preserved from the 1850s. At Aiken-Rhett you’ll feel the echo of the haunting experiences of those who lived there two centuries ago.

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Exploring further, 181 Church Street offers a unique blend of history and modern style at Hotel Emeline. This site, a former grocery store, now houses a unique hotel boasting a fascinating private collection of artifacts from the 1920s to WWII. Adjacent to it, Clerks Coffee Co. celebrates the building’s commercial heritage. Pop in as you tour and have a well-deserved reviving drink!

For nature and history enthusiasts, White Point Garden in the downtown district is an absolute must, with its famous bandstand and rotunda, elegantly positioned among avenues of ancient oak trees.

Myrtle Beach

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 an incredible 90 golf courses at your disposal. Notably, the internationally renowned Dunes Golf and Beach Club offers breathtaking vistas of the ocean and has a reputation as one of the nation’s premier golf destinations.

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Your adventure continues at the beautiful Huntington Beach State Park. It is a haven for nature-lovers looking for a tranquil stroll or for avid bird watchers. With its abundant bird life, it is recognized as one of South Carolina’s prime birdwatching spots. This is a must-see place if you love nature. You’ll also find the historic Atalaya Castle proudly situated there, which stands as a testament to the Huntington family’s legacy.

Immerse yourself in the area’s dynamic 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 admirable 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.

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Navigate through the labyrinths of their rich 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 the Gullah people’s longstanding and fascinating traditions.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Central to your exploration of South Carolina must be the moment you ascend to the state’s highest point at Sassafras Mountain, which towers to 3,560 feet. These elevated terrains are part of the mesmerizing ranges that cascade through the region. The brilliant green sassafras trees peppering the lower inclines are a majestic sight.

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Your journey may lead you along South Carolina’s slice of the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway. This route, also labeled Highway 11, unfolds through 100 miles of exceptional natural vistas showcasing South Carolina’s eight state parks. Among these oases is Table Rock State Park in Pickens, an atmospheric haven where Carrick Creek Falls cascade among lush forests and magnificent views. Brilliant trails help you 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 exceptional biodiversity. Towering loblolly pines punctuate the skyline within the park’s expansive 20,000 acres. For hiking enthusiasts, over 25 miles of diverse trails beckon, including a 2.4-mile elevated boardwalk that serenely snakes above the wetlands.

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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 mighty 50-mile journey from Columbia to the park. Encouraging exploration, this waterway delivers you into the beating heart of nature. Great news is that the park’s splendours are free to all.

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, that 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 such an extraordinary and pivotal period in American history.

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To experience this moving 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 deep dive into the Civil War, providing a powerful encounter with America’s unique history.

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 fire – and Eliza’s House, which pays homage to the enslaved individuals who lived there. Beyond these, discover the fascinating working stable yards and the beautiful 65-acre gardens, originally inspired by the illustrious Versailles.

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Should you choose to stay at The Inn at Middleton Place, the experience is enhanced with complimentary access to the wonderful gardens. You can find this fascinating heritage site at 4300 Ashley River Road. A location steeped in history and blooming with natural beauty, it will be a highlight of your South Carolina tour.

Drayton Hall

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 beautiful Hall sheltered seven generations and maintains its original appearance. It is a true reminder of a vital part of America’s history.

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The foundation of this estate’s national importance was John Drayton’s extensive landholdings, numbering around 100, and the labor of enslaved individuals, including Native Americans, whose moving history you can discover here. Today, despite renovations to preserve its structure, you can engage with archaeologists on site, gaining real insight into the excavation work that brings the past to light.

Sullivan’s Island

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, the now renowned writer Edgar Allan Poe, when a young academic dropout turned soldier, spent 11 months here. His sojourn might have been brief, but the impact of the place was deep, inspiring elements of his work. “The Gold-Bug,” one of Poe’s tales, portrays the island hauntingly.

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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 extraordinary 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 truly glorious Southern oak, a species revered for its expansive canopy and longevity. Between 300 and 400 years old, this arboreal titan likely took root around 1620, making it a majestic silent witness to centuries of American history.

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With its impressive stature reaching up to over 70 feet, and its longest limb stretching out a staggering 187 feet, the Angel Oak is rightly judged “A Lowcountry Treasure.” Visiting this unique specimen at 3688 Angel Oak Road, Charleston, offers an opportunity to capture a moment with a tree whose grandeur is unrivaled. This wondrous tree encapsulates the South Carolina’s richly storied oak lineage.

Oyotunji African Village

Established in 1970 and spanning 27 acres in Seabrook, the Oyotunji African Village is an amazing 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.

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This unique enclave serves as a cultural beacon, offering insight into the rich heritage of these African societies. During your visit, you can discover a wealth of cultural life, from monthly celebrations of song and dance, through to incredible historical records and authentic artwork. To truly immerse yourself, take one of the brilliant guided tours of the village. The OAV website has all the details you’ll need.

Charleston Tea Garden

Located a stone’s throw south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island is the Charleston Tea Garden, covering 127 vibrant acres of land dedicated to cultivating a truly world-class array of 320 black and green tea varieties. Steeped in history, Wadmalaw Island has been on the map since 1666. Acquired by Bigelow Tea Company in 2003, the Tea Garden offers fantastic complimentary tours. If you’re after somewhere relaxing, beautiful and refreshing to visit, this really could be your cup of tea!

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Furthermore, Kiawah Island, which lies nearby, enhances the region’s appeal for tea enthusiasts. Venture just 25 miles north of Charleston to Summerville and you’ll uncover the origins of the American South’s famously celebrated sweet tea. Sweet tea enthusiasts will relish the local customs, from exploring fascinating trails adorned with tea-themed murals to joining a unique sweet tea cocktail bar crawl!

South Carolina State Museum

In this brilliant museum you can explore an exceptional 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. It is a must for all who want to immerse themselves in the state’s incredible past.

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The museum isn’t just for history enthusiasts; families will enjoy a brilliant 4D interactive theater and superb planetarium shows. Not far from other attractions in Columbia, such as the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, the museum is an essential and enriching stop in South Carolina’s capital.

The Kazoobie Kazoo Factory

At the heart of Beaufort lies a fantastic 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. Here you have a 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.

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It’s a one-off experience not to be missed, especially for children. The tours are a lot of fun as well as being educational. You can also enjoy the museum’s free and unique exhibits, and there’s an excellent gift shop for souvenir hunters.

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. The restaurant now stands alone as the last remaining place in the US to taste sweet Yogi chicken!

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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 is not just a local gem but a national treasure, so be sure to give it a visit.

Fluor Field

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.

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Features to note at the stadium include the iconic Green Monster replica and a counterpart to Fenway’s Pesky’s Pole, ensuring a memorable and authentic baseball experience. It has a famously great atmosphere.