From coastlines to mountain ridges, quiet countrysides to bustling metropolises, it should come as no surprise that South Carolina makes the perfect place for a change of scenery. Be it night life, simple life, or wildlife—whatever adventure you crave, South Carolina offers plenty of places to escape to. Whether you want to get away for a day or the whole week, you need to check out these 15 perfect South Carolina getaways. Word of warning: you may never want to leave!
Just south of the bustling Grand Strand, Pawley’s Island is a tiny barrier island town that knows no stress. While northern neighbor Myrtle Beach and southern neighbor Georgetown have both exploded in population and commerce throughout the years, not much has changed on the island since the 1700s. Many of the families who live or own property on the island are third, fourth, and fifth generations whose ancestors helped shape the history of the town. It’s a quiet, quaint little place bursting with southern charm and coastal lifestyle that you won’t find anywhere else.
As South Carolina’s sixth largest city, you can expect to find plenty of activities to keep you busy in Greenville. And some of the best ones reside in the city’s downtown historic district. Take a stroll along the Reedy River in Falls Park. Or grab your bike and ride the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 20-mile off-road stretch that highlights some of Greenville County’s best scenery without the traffic jams. Downtown represents the beating heart of Greenville’s art and culinary scenes. You will also find plenty of unique shops, breweries, hotels, theatres, museums, and other activities to make your trip memorable.
Myrtle Beach serves as a favorite vacation spot for travelers in all corners of the country, including South Carolinians. There’s plenty of things to do for every age and budget, including themed restaurants and dinner shows, comedy clubs and karaoke bars, shopping meccas and mini golf, parasailing and watersports, and much more. It’s also the golf capital of the world, featuring more than 100 beautiful courses and attracting tens of thousands of golfers each year.
What isn’t there to do in Charleston? This city can delight history buffs, food connoisseurs, craft beer authorities, wine experts, outdoor enthusiasts, and shopaholics with its variety of attractions and activities. Soaked in over 200 years of rich American history, nearly everywhere you turn exists a piece of Charleston’s backstory that has helped to create the burgeoning metropolis it is today. And if, by chance, you ever run out of things to see and do, the city is surrounded by other must-visit towns and cities that can complete the Lowcountry experience.
Right off the coast of Charleston waits the family friendly historic Folly Beach. This is where the Lowcountry locals (and dolphins!) come to play. Folly Beach offers plenty of fun on land and in the water, from fishing and surfing to bicycle rentals and a fishing pier. Folly Beach also hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Mardi Gras spinoff Folly Gras, a Taste of Folly food festival, the New Year’s Eve Flip Flop Drop, and the insane Polar Bear Plunge, in honor of local legend and actor Bill Murray.
Rich, rolling golf courses, a historic lighthouse, lots of wildlife and nature scenes, and over 250 restaurants come together to create the unique, relaxing beach experience that is Hilton Head Island. It’s been named one of the top 10 family beaches in the country, and it’s easy to see why: On HHI, there’s no rush, no traffic surges, no bright streetlights... and no worries. It’s the simple, laid back beach culture most people have only dreamed of, and once you get a taste of it you may never want to leave. You’ve been warned.
If you truly want to leave it all behind, book a stay at the Red Horse Inn in Landrum, South Carolina. Here you can escape the daily noise and distraction and catch up on some R&R. If you want to add a little daytime adventure, the folks at the inn have assembled some a la carte excursions to nearby Asheville or Greenville. But rest assured that once you return from the day’s outing you can plan to retreat in the comforting songs of crickets.
If you ever thought that tiny towns could never match the offerings of a large city, Edisto Beach buries that theory. This family beach town makes the perfect day trip or weekend excursion. There is plenty of wildlife to scope out, both on land and in the water. Or you could while the day away fishing, swimming, golfing, camping, bicycling, or simply hanging out on its clean, sandy beach.
Those who grew up in Murrell’s Inlet will tell you that it’s not just a place—it’s a lifestyle. But even if you weren’t fortunate enough to grow up there, it isn’t hard to see what makes Murrell’s Inlet so special. For one, it’s a premier fishing village, with many of the area’s restaurants serving fresh seafood straight from the boats. You can join a chartered fishing excursion and nab your own speckled trout, flounder, or—yikes—sharks. Or venture out on your own with a boat or jet ski rental. Aside from world class seafood, Murrell’s Inlet is also known for its famed Marsh Walk, a half-mile long boardwalk over the saltwater marsh that connects many of the area’s best restaurants. It makes the perfect ending—or beginning—to an evening on the town.
Don’t worry about how to pronounce it. All you need to know is that this little island serves as a reminder of what life was like in simpler times: Before the concrete jungle overtook the country. Interestingly, most people who live here are direct descendants from freed slaves. To get to the island, a boat is your only option. But once you’re there, you can choose to travel by bicycle, golf cart, or on foot (just like they did in the good ole days!). Surrounded by not much more than water and wildlife, you may forget what modern life is like—which could be a good thing.
If you work hard, you’ll play even harder in Mount Pleasant. This town combines the best aspects of city and beach into one memorable experience. From famous landmarks like Boone Hall Plantation, to historical fixtures like the USS Yorktown, to some of the south’s finest eateries, there’s a new adventure at every turn.
As the state’s capital city, you can expect plenty of happenings to abound. For starters, Columbia plays home to Riverbanks Zoo, touted as one of the best zoos in the south. Here you’ll find several interesting animal exhibits, along with the prestigious botanical gardens, a zip-lining course, ropes course and other activities. Columbia is also well known for its night life scene, namely in the Vista or Five Points districts. As with other major metros in South Carolina, Columbia sports strong art and food scenes, as well. Overall, it’s a great place to eat and play, and one day definitely isn’t enough to see and do it all.
This barrier island off the coast of Charleston is one of the top golf destinations in the state. Prestigious golf resorts dot the island landscape, enticing visitors to play a few holes on their lush greens. The golf culture here is so strong even non-golfers have a hard time saying no to a round or two.
The historic waterfront alone makes a visit to this town worth it. But aside from ocean views, the giant live oak trees and historical landmarks add the breath of Lowcountry character that brings the town to life. Beaufort hosts several popular festivals each year, including the Annual Beaufort Water Fest, Beaufort Shrimp Festival, and Light Up the Night Boat Parade. And it’s also the only place in South Carolina with a dedicated kazoo factory and museum.
Sometimes, there is no better way to experience wildlife than getting up close and personal. And there isn’t a better spot in South Carolina to do so than Hunting Island State Park. Located just off the coast of Beaufort, you can set up camp just yards from the warm sandy beach and watch wildlife abound all around you. Hunting Island also plays home to a historic lighthouse, which is also the only one in South Carolina open for the public to tour.