South Carolina, known for its historic charm, beautiful coastlines, and Southern hospitality, is a popular summer destination. However, for those seeking a more tranquil experience away from the crowds, hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. From historic towns to pristine beaches and natural wonders, the following underrated destinations in South Carolina offer a quieter, more relaxed summer getaway that does not compromise on scenic beauty and amenities!
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Beaufort, a charming coastal town, offers a serene getaway without the crowds. Explore the Waterfront Park, a picturesque spot for picnics and dolphin watching. Visitors will want to take a guided tour to learn about the town's antebellum architecture and its role in the Civil War. Historic sites like the John Mark Verdier House and the Santa Elena History Center are a must for tourists who are interested in delving into the area's historical heritage. Art enthusiasts can browse the vibrant galleries along Bay Street. Beaufort's rich history, scenic riverfront, and cultural attractions make it an ideal destination for a tranquil summer escape.
Edisto Island's untouched beaches and natural beauty beckon those seeking a quiet coastal retreat. Explore the Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve, known for its driftwood beach and historical relics. Birdwatching is exceptional here, with opportunities to spot bald eagles and herons! To interact with reptiles, amphibians, and other wildlife in an educational environment, make a stop at the Edisto Island Serpentarium for an experience like no other. The water-side destination has a plethora of fun activities, whether it is kayaking through the tidal creeks, or simply relaxing on the uncrowded shores. Edisto Island's laid-back ambiance and pristine landscapes provide an idyllic summer vacation.
A historic waterfront town like no other, Georgetown will envelop all who visit its maritime heritage. Start the day with a stroll along the Harborwalk, lined with shops and restaurants overlooking the gorgeous Sampit River. Visitors can learn about rice cultivation at the Rice Museum and check out the Kaminski House Museum to explore more about the local history of the town. Additionally, there are boat tours available for booking that guarantee a chance to see local wildlife, including dolphins and eagles, while exploring Winyah Bay.
Huntington Beach State Park
The unspoiled beauty of Huntington Beach State Park is a mesmerizing must that all who visit South Carolina ought to check off their bucket list before the end of the summer. The pristine sandy beach is great for relaxing with family or taking time to explore the salt marshes and freshwater lagoon. Birdwatchers will delight in the diverse avian species that call this park home. Take a tour of Atalaya Castle, the winter home of Archer and Anna Huntington, and discover its unique architecture and gardens. Whether picnicking, hiking, or simply unwinding by the water, this park offers a remarkable escape, suitable for all ages and with much lesser crowds than typical tourist spots.
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Renowned for its equestrian culture, Aiken provides a blend of history and outdoor activities. The historic district draws visitors in for an experience of the past, with horse-drawn carriages that share the streets with charming boutiques and galleries at the Aiken Antique District. To learn about the town's equestrian legacy, visit the engaging Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum. Meanwhile, outdoor enthusiasts can explore the Hitchcock Woods, one of the most extensive urban forests in the United States, offering hiking and equestrian trails. Particularly in spring, you will want to wander through the beautifully landscaped Hopelands Garden for its azalea blooms this season.
For a slice of Southern hospitality, Walterboro invites visitors to explore its well-preserved architecture in its historic district and variety of local eateries. A self-guided tour can guarantee a fantastic day lined with nostalgia, visiting historic homes, churches, and museums, including the Colleton Museum. Visitors here can even discover the local craftsmanship at the South Carolina Artisans Center, where artists showcase their creations. Outdoor activities are also many, such as kayaking on the Great Pee Dee River or hiking in the nearby Francis Beidler Forest for a balance of culture and nature. Walterboro provides a calm setting to savor the charm of the Lowcountry.
Located in the Upstate, Lake Jocassee is the mountain escape ideal for a summer break. The breathtaking sight of clear waters, surrounded by lush forests and waterfalls is not something you want to miss. Rent a pontoon boat or kayak to navigate the lake's pristine shoreline and hidden coves. Visitors often hike along trails that also provide access to waterfalls, such as the stunning Laurel Fork Falls, and stay in a cozy bed-and-breakfast. There is a variety of wildlife-watching tours to observe deer, black bears, and a variety of bird species. The Devils Fork State Park is another great option both for hiking and staying the night in its camping facilities.
The answer to a beach vacation away from the hustle and bustle is certainly Pawleys Island. One of the oldest seaside resorts on the East Coast, the tranquility of this beach destination will lure you to stay for a week. Relax on the unspoiled beaches, known for their quiet charm, or take time to explore the Pawleys Island Nature Park, offering scenic walking trails and salt marsh views. As for the dining options, food lovers will find themselves lost, choosing among the quaint local eateries serving fresh seafood.
Located in the Savannah Lakes Village, McCormick offers outdoor enthusiasts an escape to remember. Visitors can enjoy golfing at one of the area's golf courses at the beautiful Hickory Knob State Resort Park's golf course. Visiting Baker Creek State Park for boating or picnicking surely needs to be on your list, relaxing or fishing in the waters of Lake Thurmond. To learn about the history of McCormick, the MACK - McCormick Arts Council at the Keturah has much to offer, aside from local arts events and festivals in the town, such as the Gold Rush Festival. The acitivities are also plenty at Hickory Knob State Resort Park with breathtaking hiking trails and opportunities for wildlife observation.
Cheraw is steeped in history all while offering a blend of cultural experiences and nature activities. The town's historic district is characterized by well-preserved architecture, charming streets, and great food options. Visit the Southern African American Heritage Center to learn about local history and culture, or the Dizzy Gillespie Birthplace Park for insight on the famous jazz musician's early life. Lovers of the outdoors can enjoy kayaking or hiking in the nearby Sandhills State Forest. You can end your day at River's Edge, a Southern-style diner with a variety of comfort food options
Congaree National Park
Its diverse ecosystem makes Congaree National Park an adventure of dreams. Explore the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States. There is nothing like a leisurely hike along boardwalks and trails that wind through the ancient floodplain forest to indulge in the beauty and grandeur of the surrounding nature. Experience kayaking in Cedar Creek, where you can witness wildlife and towering bald cypress trees. Join guided ranger programs to learn about the park's ecosystem and history. Surely, do not miss out on stargazing in one of the darkest night skies in the eastern United States.
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Each of these underrated destinations in South Carolina offers a unique mix of culture, history, and natural beauty, providing a peaceful summer vacation for travelers seeking to avoid the typical tourist areas. These 11 spots among South Carolina's lesser-known destinations are worth the trip. From historic towns to serene coastal retreats and natural wonders, the hidden treasures offer a chance to connect with the Palmetto State's local communities and marvelous landscapes.