Known for its beautiful beaches and warm Southern hospitality, South Carolina is nestled between mountainous foothills and sandy beaches. From historical monuments to world-class museums and beautiful state parks, South Carolina lures you in with its outdoor adventures, world-class golf courses and family-friendly attractions. From seeing wildlife up close at the Greenville Zoo to soaking up the sunshine in Myrtle Beach, here are the best things to do in South Carolina.
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Soak Up the Sunshine at Myrtle Beach
Take in the picturesque coastline of Myrtle Beach, where you’ll find 60 miles of pristine sands that draw in sunseekers around the country. Have some fun in the sun with a day at the beach, tossing a frisbee, collecting seashells or splashing around in the water. If you’re looking to kick your vacation up a notch, look for water sports rentals where you can enjoy a day of boating, surfing, parasailing or windsurfing or stay at one of the city’s exciting resorts with on-site waterparks.
Tour the Charleston Historic District
Charleston’s quaint streets are meant to be explored on foot, as you walk along its cobblestone alleyways and admire centuries-old mansions and architecturally astounding churches. Learn the history of historic landmarks and explore the variety of art galleries and studios. Make sure to see The Battery, where you’ll find a row of Southern-style mansions that overlook the Charleston Harbor, which was formerly the heart of the city’s maritime activity.
Play Golf at Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is known as the “The Golf Island,” as its abundance of fairways makes an ideal spot for golf enthusiasts. You’ll find courses with coastal lookouts, and others that are draped by a canopy of mossy live oaks. Practice your swing at courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Greg Norman, from the links at Oyster Reef to Hilton Head National and the courses at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.
Explore the Outdoors at Caesars Head State Park
Outdoor adventurers won’t want to miss out on exploring Caesars Head State Park in Cleveland, S.C. This gorgeous park is abundant with natural beauty. You’ll find scenic hiking trails to explore and rivers suited for fishing if you’re looking for a peaceful day out in nature. Sitting atop the Blue Ridge Escarpment, you’ll find rocky peaks and spectacular views. Hike along the four-mile Raven Cliff Falls Trail, where a suspension bridge reveals an overlook to the falls.
Learn Something New at the South Carolina State Museum
The largest museum in the state, the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia has a large collection of interesting art, history, natural history science and technology. Meander through the four floors of permanent and temporary exhibits, then admire the large sculpture of a megalodon shark and life-sized replica of the first locomotive built in America. Explore the hands-on exhibits, and make sure to explore the 4D science theater, planetarium and outdoor telescope viewing terrace.
Get Wild at the Greenville Zoo
Located inside Cleveland Park, the Greenville Zoo offers you the chance to get up-close and personal with exotic wildlife in the 14-acre facility. It’s home to a wide array of animals, from monkeys and giraffes to African lions. Visit the reptile house to see the snakes and lizards, while those intrigued by unique animals should make sure to observe the giant anteaters and Griffon vultures. Make sure to say hello to Yin and Bubba, the resident tortoises.
Meet Colorful Creatures at the South Carolina Aquarium
The entire family will enjoy exploring the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, where you’ll get an intimate look at the native animals and plants that come from the mountains and sea. Venture past the bald eagle in the Mountain Forest to spot river otters swimming by, then observe alligators and a Venus flytrap in the Coastal Plain. Don’t miss the 385,000-gallon Great Ocean Tank with sharks and loggerhead sea turtles or the 6,000-gallon stingray tank in the Saltmarsh Aviary.
Discover the History of Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
You’ll see some of South Carolina’s local wildlife in their natural habitat at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. This 4,053-acre refuge located in between the mainland and Hilton Head Island offers more than 14 miles of hiking and biking trails, where you’ll likely encounter shorebirds, alligators, herons and deer. A hot spot for hikers, cyclists and nature photographers, it offers landscapes of open water views and vast expanses of native landscapes. It has a rich history, with at least 115 prehistoric and historic sites identified within the island.
Go Birdwatching at Huntington Beach State Park
Regarded as the best birdwatching spot on the East Coast, Huntington Beach State Park is a great place to see local wildlife. Spot alligators and loggerhead turtles in the park, then spend a day surf fishing or soaking up the sea-breeze on an overnight camping adventure. Held each September, the park hosts a popular Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival that attracts thousands of art fans.
Admire Lush Foliage at Brookgreen Gardens
For a quiet day surrounded by nature, visit Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. Built on the site of four rice plantations, you’ll find 9,100 acres of lush greenery to enjoy. Divided into three areas that include the gardens, the Lowcountry Center and the zoo, this family-friendly area is a great place to take the kids. Admire the sculpture garden and wildlife preserve, then join a boat ride, trekking tour or see the winged-creatures in the butterfly house.
Explore Habitats at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
Home to more than 2,000 animals, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia also boasts an impressive botanical garden. The lush 170-acre site features a diverse collection of natural habitats, scenic river views, valley overlooks and fascinating historic landmarks. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, you can see structural remains that date back to the early 1800s with South Carolina’s textile industry and the Civil War.
Take a Stroll Through Middleton Place
Stop and smell the roses at Middleton Place, a mesmerizing mansion in Charleston that was once the home of Arthur Middleton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. See the impressive collection of period furniture, meander through the 65-acre garden and watch historical re-enactments of life on an 18th-century plantation. When you’ve worked up an appetite, sample traditional low-country Gullah cuisine at the on-site restaurant.