This beautiful state has it all: history from being one of the original 13 colonies, a gorgeous atlantic coastline, and beautiful nature and mountain ranges. South Carolina manages to balance sophisticated cities with quaint Southern charm tucked away in small towns. Whether you’re familiar with the region or new to town, there are dozens of South Carolina trips and hidden gems awaiting your discovery, so grab your bag and check out our recommendations!
Lets explore the best small towns to visit in South Carolina:
1. Beaufort, South Carolina
The county seat of Beaufort County, Beaufort is located at the southern tip of South Carolina and is the second-oldest city in the state, after Charleston. Founded in 1711 by the British, the town later became a shipbuilding center as well as a popular destination for plantation owners from the Lowcountry before the Civil War. The economy has shifted to tourism now thanks to its scenic location on Port Royal Island and historic district.
Spend a few days here and wander the Beaufort Historic District – we especially recommend the Fort Lyttelton Site from the Union occupation and the Seaside Plantation. The Hunting Island State Park Lighthouse is also worth the walk. Grab your hiking shoes and head over to Hunting Island, the most popular state park. Stop in at the Home Water Festival in July, or the Shrimp Festival in October. If you’re an art lover, it has been named as one of “America’s Best Art Towns” – visit ARTworks, their community arts center!
2. York, South Carolina
York is located in the north of South Carolina, and is the county seat of York County. Close to Charlotte, the town was first settled by Europeans migrating from Pennsylvania and Virginia. York is situated between two Revolutionary battle sites: Battle of King’s Mountain and Battle of Williamson’s Plantation, and was the only county in the state to not be defeated in that war.
Come visit York for its history; tour the York Historic District or visit their County Courthouse. Its downtown is one of the largest historic districts in the state. You can also visit the delicious Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill or the Peach Tree Orchards. Enjoy a relaxing getaway at Rosecrest Cottage Bed & Breakfast and enjoy the disconnect from “real life”.
3. Bluffton, South Carolina
The original “Old Town” of Bluffton is located on a bluff along the May River in Beaufort County. Known as a coastal village, Bluffton was at the forefront of the Southern separatist movement before the Civil War, and was influential in leading South Carolina to be the first state to leave the Union. Ultimately, two thirds of Bluffton was destroyed during the Civil War in the Bluffton Expedition of June 4, 1863.
Nowadays, the town has once again become a bustling community – come to the last real Southern coastal village and appreciate Bluffton’s eccentric Old Town! Check out a show at the May River Theatre or MayFest in spring. Local artists and musicians come out to showcase and celebrate Bluffton life. There is also a Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival. Enjoy some fine dining at the Pearl, and pamper yourself at Montage Palmetto Bluff before returning home.
4. Edisto Island, South Carolina
Edisto Beach is located on Edisto Island,a sea island in Colleton County, and is named after the Edistow people, a Native American sub-tribe of the Cusabo. The islands were formerly used by Native Americans as fishing camps, then later used by European settlers for plantations that cultivated indigo and rice. Now, Edisto Beach is primarily a tourist destination.
Pack some sunscreen and relax on Edisto Beach State Park beaches! You can also visit Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve, or take a boat tour at Botany Bay Ecotours – go whale or dolphin watching! Hit the trails at Indian Mound Trail or rent a kayak at Wilkinson’s Landing. Put your feet up at Wyndham Ocean Ridge and try the shrimp and grits at the Old Post Office Restaurant.You’ll walk away well rested and well fed.
5. Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson is located in between Pickens and Anderson counties, and is home to Clemson University. The community was originally called Calhoun after the owner of Fort Hill Plantation, John C Calhoun. The university now sits on land that used to be that plantation and was donated by descendants of John C Calhoun.
The town revolves around the university culture, and we recommend touring the university, to catch a local game at Memorial Stadium. Or, visit the home of the founders: Fort Hill Plantation or their their famous South Carolina Botanical Gardens. Kick back at Sleepy Hollow Bed & Breakfast and enjoy some authentic southern comfort food at the Esso Club.
6. Pendleton, South Carolina
Pendleton is a town in Anderson County, and stands on land that used to belong to the Cherokee nation. The British retained the land after the Cherokees lost the war of 1759-60, and was soon settled by wealthy families. The town and its immediate surroundings became a registered historic area on the National Register in 1970.
Stop in and visit this quaint town. Many plantations have been preserved and can be visited, such as Ashtabula Plantation or Woodburn Plantation. You can also play a round of golf at the country club or take a chance on Palmetto Moonshine Zoo on the Roof. Refuel at the Smokin’ Pig and sleep off your food coma at Rocky Retreat Bed and Breakfast.
7. Travelers Rest, South Carolina
Travelers Rest is located in Greenville County, between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the city of Greenville. The name was chosen because it is situated directly across from the border of the North Carolina mountains. Travelers would often stop here before embarking on the journey through those difficult mountains, or wait out the winter there before continuing on.
With this mentality in mind, take a few days off to rest here and disconnect. Whether you are trekking through the Wildcat Wayside Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area or golfing at Cherokee Valley Golf Club. Unwind at a tasting at the Tasting Room, or at the Copperhead Mountain Distillery. Enjoy a leisurely meal at Restaurant 17 and relax at a hidden gem, Hotel Domestique.
8. McClellanville, South Carolina
McClellanville is located in Charleston County, along the Atlantic coast. This small fishing town is surrounded by the Francis Marion National Forest and has survived off the sea and coastal marshes. Originally a seaside summer retreat from the fevers in the Santee Delta, the town became its own thriving, grounded community thanks to seafoods and naval stores.
Come visit this delightful town and explore the Wambaw Creek Wilderness Canoe Trail or Washo Reserve. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go camping at Buck Hall Recreation Area, or stay at Cape Romain B&B if you don’t want to sleep outdoors. Enjoy some fresh seafood at T.W Graham & Company Seafood Restaurant or an invigorating cup of coffee at Eleven-45 Coffee.
9. Georgetown, South Carolina
Georgetown is the third oldest community in South Carolina and part of the Lowcountry. Located on Winyah Bay, the town has a large seaport – the second largest in South Carolina, actually. It is believed that in 1526, the Spanish explorer, Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, founded a colony of European settlers and African slaves. The Spanish colony failed, and English settlers came to the region in the 1730s, the old town, now the historic district, was formed. Georgetown also was the supply port for Nathanael Greene’s army during the Revolutionary War.
Follow in the footsteps of some great Americans like George Washington or James Monroe and visit Georgetown. Tour their historic district of over 50 homes, including the Milldam Rice Mill, or walk along the Georgetown Harborwalk. Take a tour of the Lowcountry or take a boat tour at Wallace Sailing Charters. Enjoy some days off at Wentworth Mansion and treat yourself to something delicious at the Jazz Corner.
10. Greer, South Carolina
Sandwiched between Greenville and Spartanburg counties, Greer is located in the northwest part of the state. Founded by James Manning Greer, the land was formerly a Cherokee hunting ground before pioneering families began settling. A railroad town that continues to bustle to this day, people are drawn into town by its small-town charm and stay because of the good quality of life.
Take it easy here – play a round of golf at Willow Creek Golf Course or meander through Greer’s Farmers’ Market. They also put on the Barnyard Flea Market that is full of undiscovered treasures. Visit Pelham Mill Park if you’re a dog lover, and treat yourself to a spa day at MG’s Grand Day Spa! Candleberry Inn B&B and Day Spa awaits your stay, and don’t forget to grab a pint at Blue Ridge Brewing Company.
11. Clover, South Carolina
Clover is located in York County, at the northern tip of South Carolina. Founded near an earlier settlement called New Centre, which had been in decline following the Civil War, Clover is also near the battlefield of the pivotal battle of King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War. The townsfolk will tell you that the name comes from the time that the water tank overflowed from the railway that had been established there, and that a patch of clover thrived after.
Come visit this peaceful town and enjoy relaxing. You can take a car and explore the Kings Mountain battle grounds and relive that crucial point in America’s history, or maybe see if you find your lucky 4 leaf clover! Stop in for a bite at Clover Grill or spend the night at the welcoming Magnolia House & Gardens.
12. Aiken, South Carolina
Aiken was founded in 1835 and named after the president of the South Carolina Railroad, William Aiken. Formed along the rail line from Charleston to the Savannah River, Aiken was a planned town from the beginning. Now, many of its streets in the historic district are named after other towns in the state, and was a popular winter destination for wealthy tourists from the Northeast.
Visit Aiken and tour the Hopelands Gardens or the Hitchcock Woods. The town also offers a lovely Aiken County Historical Museum, and the Aiken Center for the Arts. If you’re a horse lover, spend some time at Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum. Refuel at Ridgecrest Coffee Bar or have a delicious meal at The Willcox Restaurant. The Rose Hill Estate is nearby should you wish to extend your stay and relax for a few days.
13. Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head is a resort town located on Hilton Head Island, in Beaufort County. Named after a Captain William Hilton, the founder a headland near the entrance to Port Royal sound and decided to name it after himself. There is a total of 12 miles of beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean. After the Europeans drove the Native Americans out, the island became important in cotton trade and later as a base for the Union Blockade during the Civil War.
That history is far away now, and Hilton Head has retained the charm of a beach town just beggin for your visit. Attend a play on par with Broadway at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, and treat yourself to a luxurious stay at Sea Pines Resort. Relax at Coligny Beach and take a boat tour with the Pirates of Hilton Head! The town also offers high quality eats at the Jazz Corner or Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte. You deserve a few days away to relax and rejuvenate in style here on Hilton Head.
14. Cheraw, South Carolina
Located on the banks of the Pee Dee River, Cheraw has been called “The Prettiest Town in Dixie”. Originally inhabited by the Cheraw Native Americans, the tribe was devastated by illnesses brought over by European settlers and the land was eventually claimed by the Europeans. A village was officially established in 1750 and drew in river trade, especially upon the invention of the steamboat. Even though Cheraw was damaged by the Civil War, it has come back and continues to draw in tourists with its historic appeal and natural resources.
Spend some time walking around the historic town, its historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places! You can also take a relaxing walk along the river or head out to the waterfalls where the original Native American inhabitants lived. Play a round of golf at Cheraw State Park Golf Course before enjoying a meal at Rivers Edge. Put your feet up at Spears Guest House and disconnect from the stress of everyday life.
15. Hartsville, South Carolina
Hartville is located in Darlington County, and is “a small town with a big heart” according to the locals. Formerly inhabited by many Native American tribes, including the Catawba and the Chicora, European diseases eventually wiped them out and the settlers moved in. Founded by Captain Hart, the town survived on agriculture and the railroad until drawing in tourists more recently with their historic charm.
Come visit Hartsville and walk through Kalmia Gardens, or Moland House Historic Park. Catch a show at the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center before shopping at Fleur De Lis Antiques. Enjoy a glass or two Vintage Craft Beer and Wine Boutique. You can always sleep it off at Ambrias Garden Manor Bed and Breakfast before refueling at the Midnight Rooster!