Shaped roughly like a diamond by geography, polished by more than 300 years of American history and made gracious by a tradition of hospitality, South Carolina offers visitors a broad array of attractions and accommodation. The state is distinguished by historic districts found in former mill villages; small Southern towns and cities, most notably Charleston; more than 200 miles of beaches and coastal attractions; over 380 golf courses; outstanding outdoor destinations; and culinary specialties that draw from the land and sea.
South Carolina Highlights
- Sunrise on the South Carolina coast. As the sun peeks over the horizon, the dark blue of night turns to purple, then red, then orange and yellow. It is perhaps the best time to stroll along the beaches because the loudest sounds come from the breeze whispering through the sea grass and shore birds calling the rest of wildlife to awaken
- Sweeping view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the top of Caesars Head State Park: the highest point in South Carolina is a platform from which to view Table Rock Mountain and the valleys below. This is also the place where hawk watches are held and counts contribute to a national registry
- The bird’s-eye view of South Carolina’s tallest waterfall, Raven Cliff, from Matthews Creek suspension bridge: it’s a beautiful place from which to see the steep slopes and rugged terrain of South Carolina’s Upcountry mountain wilderness.
Classic road trip
From the bustling Myrtle Beach area in the north and down through historic Charleston to Hilton Head Island in the south, the meandering coastline of South Carolina beckons with a wide variety of alluring options. Historic U.S. Route 17 connects the coastal dots of this pretty state, making it easy to explore many treasures such as Mount Pleasant, Myrtle Beach, Beaufort, Kiawah Island and Hilton Head.
Don't leave without tasting...
- Every restaurant worth its salt offers shrimp and grits (coarsely ground corn) on its menu. The best dishes start with grits from Anson Mills, which grinds heirloom grains into the creamiest grits you’ll ever have. Shrimp must be from local waters and smothered, sautéed and seasoned with onions, sweet peppers and some sort of pork—ham, bacon, or sausage. The real deal is served at Husk in Charleston, where chef Sean Brock only uses ingredients from the South; another terrific version is available at the Blue Marlin in Columbia
- Boiled peanuts, South Carolina’s official state snack, are different from any peanuts you’ve ever eaten before—the raw, green peanuts are not roasted but boiled in salt water. They’re soft and squishy, and they sit in salty juice just waiting to be slurped down. Get them at any country store or farmers market.
Back in the days when pirates and traders trolled the shores, pineapples were often brought home as bounty. A pineapple hanging on a doorway served as a symbol that the man of the house had returned, and all were welcome. There are more risqué versions of this legend, but no matter what really happened, pineapples are a mainstay in gracious South Carolina homes. Choose one made from cotton bolls as a centrepiece on your table, along with pineapple candlesticks and salt and pepper shakers. And if you’re in Charleston, don’t miss the inviting pineapple fountain next to the harbour.
Films shot here
Notable films shot in South Carolina include Deliverance, in which four gentlemen from Atlanta go whitewater rafting in an effort to add adventure to their lives; Forrest Gump, about a young man of questionable intelligence who happens to be present at some of the nation’s most historic moments; and Dear John, about a young soldier home on leave who falls in love with an idealistic college student.
For your first visit...
- It depends on where you are. In the Upcountry, take in the spectacular view from the overlook at Caesars Head State Park, then hike to the powerful Raven Cliff Falls
- In Columbia, feed the giraffes at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
- In Charleston, take a carriage ride. The drivers are interesting, the carriage is shaded and you ride through the most lovely, historic parts of the city
- In Hilton Head, tee off at Harbor Town Golf Links, site of the RBC Heritage golf tournament
- In Myrtle Beach, fly 200 feet above the ocean on the gigantic SkyWheel, then stroll down the new oceanfront boardwalk.
Just want to indulge?
You’ll find exceptional inns and hotels from the ocean’s edge to the mountain’s crests. You can treat yourself to a manicure, massage or complete day of pampering at a world-class spa. You can play golf on some of America’s finest courses—the same ones that challenge the world’s top professionals. You can savour one amazing restaurant after another. And if you’re here during the warm summer months, you must treat yourself to succulent South Carolina peaches.
One awe-inspiring building
In a place with so much magnificent period architecture, it’s a bit of a surprise to find that one of the most talked-about structures is just a few years old. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, connecting Charleston and the town of Mt. Pleasant, is the largest cable-stayed bridge in North America, reaching a maximum height of nearly 175 metres while accommodating eight lanes of traffic as well as pedestrians and cyclists.
Top photo opportunities
- On the beaches of Bull Island—part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and accessible only by boat—you can walk through a maritime forest and see wildlife such as alligators, deer and bobcats. Don’t miss Boneyard Beach, where hundreds of fallen trees have been bleached from the sun and water
- The seven-mile hike to the top of Table Rock Mountain is demanding, but the views are spectacular
- Walk or cycle across the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge connecting Charleston and Mt. Pleasant
- Landsford Canal State Park is home to the world’s largest population of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies, which bloom in spring along the Catawba River
- Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, Charleston’s Magnolia Plantation is the oldest public gardens in America.
You might be surprised by...
For a few months in the winter, the lawn in the front of UBS Bank on Main Street in Greenville becomes a large ice rink, where families are invited to go ice skating.
Trip Ideas in South Carolina
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Hilton Head Island is a place that makes you breathe a sigh of gratitude for its existence from the moment you...