Draped with mossy oaks, blackwater swamps, and oceanfront pleasures, South Carolina is all the best of the Deep South rolled into one. The Palmetto State charms visitors of all ilks. South Carolina is jammed with everything from pristine beaches to historic cities.
Most travelers start with Charleston, the quintessential city of the Old South. South Carolina’s most beautiful big city is a feast for the senses and brims with Southern charm. Charleston offers fine architecture and even finer food to please the pickiest of palates.
For escapades in the sun, others beeline for the Atlantic Ocean bliss of Myrtle Beach. While its kitschiness is undeniable, so too is its fun along its 60-mile stretch of white-sand beaches. Or for outside adventures, explore the stunning landscapes of the Blue Mountains in the state’s northern reaches.
Ready to plan the ultimate South Carolina vacation? Get started with this quick & easy South Carolina travel guide and travel tips.
Where to go in South Carolina
Don’t know where to go in South Carolina? Start with the historic city of Charleston. The urban jewel of The Palmetto State, Charleston is one of the best cities to visit in the United States.
Walking the cobblestone streets of Charleston’s Historic District uncovers US history itself. The area’s antebellum homes and 18th- and 19th-century architecture even pre-date the republic. The historic center is also loaded with trappings of modern culture. The area is home to Charleston’s best places to eat as well as cool museums & art galleries.
Besides admiring charming homes in the Historic District, explore Charleston’s military attractions. Thirty minutes by ferry, you’ll drift over to Fort Sumter National Monument. The military fortress is one of the most important historical sites in the country. From its walls, the first shots in the American Civil War rang out.
When you’ve had enough city life, Charleston is well-placed to take on South Carolina’s more bucolic pleasures. Outside of Charleston, a few of the state’s finest plantations and gardens dwell. Squeeze in a visit to the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. Its lush gardens are among the most beautiful in the USA.
Ready to plan your Charleston trip? Check out these resources:
- Charleston in One Day: Itinerary
- Best Places to Visit in Charleston, SC
- Best Places to Stay in Charleston, SC
While Charleston might be the state’s crown jewel, South Carolina’s most popular destination is Myrtle Beach. Sitting on an over 60-mile stretch of Atlantic shoreline, Myrtle Beach sees over 14 million annual visitors. And as you’d expect, tourism shapes the city’s vibe. (For better or for worse.)
Whether you love it or hate it, Myrtle Beach wraps everything you’d want for a beach town holiday—even if not a “trip.” Along its famous beach lies a slew of beach resorts, arcades, restaurants, souvenir shops, and kitschy attractions.
Even though it’s most famous as a spring break destination, Myrtle Beach is surprisingly family-friendly. Kids will love the thrill rides of Family Kingdom Amusement Park or cooling off in one of the nearby waterparks.
To escape the worst of the crowds, spend a day or two in North Myrtle Beach. Like the rest of the city, North Myrtle Beach offers a slew of kid-friendly attractions—with a fraction of the mayhem.
Ready to plan your Myrtle Beach trip? Check out these resources:
The title of South Carolina’s coolest destination is quickly becoming unanimous: It’s Greenville. Of all the Greenvilles in the US, none is quite as charming as The Palmetto State’s. The city’s thriving cultural scene has shaped Greenville into one of the hippest upcoming cities in the Southeast.
Hemmed into the foothills of the Blue Mountains near the North Carolina border, Greenville is a fantastic escape for nature lovers. And it all starts minutes from the center of town.
For a quick break, explore Falls Park on the Reedy. The 32-acre downtown park kisses the banks of the Reedy River. It features a unique curved suspension bridge over waterfalls, along with beautiful gardens.
Even if you’re not keen on exploring its natural attractions, downtown Greenville is one of the state’s biggest urban surprises. Stroll along its delightful Main Street. Pop into its trendy restaurants and brewpubs to tackle all your food & drink cravings and get a taste of Southern hospitality & culture at its best.
Hilton Head Island
Closer to Georgia than Charleston, Hilton Head Island is South Carolina’s largest barrier island. Among visitors, Hilton Head is most known for its golf courses. There are almost two dozen championship courses on the 69-sq-mile island.
Even if you’re not a keen golfer, there’s plenty more to experience on Hilton Head Island. Dig beyond its links and you’ll find a barrage of nature preserves & parks perfect for exploring. Or, for some well-deserved rest, spend a day soaking up the rays on sandy Atlantic beaches like Coligny Beach.
The capital of South Carolina, Columbia is more often a stopover between Charleston and Greenville than a destination on its own. Nevertheless, travelers with a keen eye will uncover plenty in the state’s second-biggest city.
In Columbia’s downtown, modern buildings jockey against pockets of historical architecture. Keep on the lookout for the South Carolina State House. The impressive Greek Revival building was the site where SC first voted to leave the Union. The fateful event paved the path toward the American Civil War.
Even more satisfying than its few urban charms are the nature escape in the area. Plan for a day trip to Congaree National Park. The popular national forest lies a half an hour by car from the city. Congaree National Park is famed for boardwalks that meander through an alluring hardwood forest. It’s the perfect place to unplug from SC city life.
Other travel destinations in South Carolina
- Edisto Island
- Port Royal Island
- Folly Beach
- Kiawah Island
- Pawleys Island
When to visit South Carolina
The best time to visit South Carolina is in late spring and early autumn. In the spring and fall, you’ll enjoy warm weather and long sunny days. These shoulder season months also offer smaller crowds and cheaper accommodation prices.
Summer is tourism high season in South Carolina. Between June and August, the state’s top tourist destinations will see their densest tourist crowds. Summer is also the hottest time of year in the Deep South. Expect hot & humid conditions throughout the state. The Atlantic beaches, although busy, offer more comfortable temperatures in summer thanks to the sea breeze.