10 Must-See Attractions Just a Short Drive from South Carolina

South Carolina, with its enviable location on the southeastern coastline of America, is a treasure trove of diverse attractions. From the historic charm of Charleston to the recreational havens like Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island, there’s an abundance of sites to explore just a short drive away. Whether you’re interested in arts, culture, outdoor adventure, or just soaking up the scenic beauty, this guide to the 10 must-see attractions near South Carolina will help you plan the perfect itinerary.

Key Takeaways

  • South Carolina’s coastline offers a mix of historic sites, beaches, and outdoor activities, catering to a variety of interests.
  • Charleston is not only a historic gem but also a starting point for numerous day trips to explore the state’s beauty.
  • Myrtle Beach is a family-friendly destination with attractions like the Family Kingdom Amusement Park and beautiful beaches.
  • Hilton Head Island and Kiawah Island are perfect for those seeking outdoor recreation like golf, tennis, and water sports.
  • State parks like Huntington Beach and Caesars Head offer natural escapes with opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and enjoying panoramic views.

1. Charleston

1. Charleston

Charleston, the oldest city in South Carolina, is a treasure trove of American history and Southern charm. Stroll through the historic streets and you’ll be transported back in time, with well-preserved plantation homes and lush gardens that whisper tales from as early as 1672. Among them, Magnolia Plantations and Gardens stands out as a must-visit.

The city’s vibrant arts scene is equally compelling, offering experiences like the historic Charleston Music Hall and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. For food enthusiasts, the Charleston Culinary Tour is an adventure into the heart of Southern cuisine, while the Charleston Brews Cruise offers a taste of local craft beers.

Charleston’s allure extends beyond its historic sites. The city’s blend of restaurants, bars, art, and fashion scenes, along with its waterfront strolls, make it a top travel destination. Its proximity to the water and rich history enhance its captivating Southern charm.

While exploring Charleston, don’t forget to check out the nearby city of Columbia for more adventures. Discover top free things to do in Columbia, SC, including visiting the State House, Historic Columbia Foundation, African American History Monument, Riverfront Park, and Congaree National Park.

2. Greenville

2. Greenville

Nestled in the heart of South Carolina, Greenville is a charming blend of urban excitement and natural beauty. The city’s vibrant downtown is a hub for arts, culture, and culinary delights, making it a perfect destination for a weekend escape.

Falls Park on the Reedy is a centerpiece of Greenville’s downtown area, offering a serene urban oasis with lush gardens and the iconic Liberty Bridge. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll, take in the scenic views, or partake in one of the many cultural events held here.

For families, the Roper Mountain Science Center and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate provide interactive and educational experiences that are both fun and informative. Outdoor enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the opportunity to explore the nearby Caesars Head State Park, with its ample hiking trails and wildlife.

Greenville’s free trolley service is a delightful way to navigate the city, ensuring that all the attractions are easily accessible without the hassle of driving.

Whether you’re indulging in the arts, savoring the local cuisine, or immersing yourself in nature, Greenville offers a memorable experience for all who visit.

3. Myrtle Beach

3. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, with its 60-mile Grand Strand coastline, is a premier destination for those seeking sun, sand, and endless entertainment. Strolling along the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is an experience not to be missed, offering breathtaking sunsets and the iconic Skywheel Ferris Wheel.

Top attractions include:

  • Myrtle Beach Boardwalk
  • Family Kingdom Amusement Park
  • Myrtle Waves Water Park
  • Broadway at the Beach
  • Ripley’s Aquarium

For a change of pace, consider the rich array of museums, galleries, and the unique Myrtle Beach Pinball Museum. Rain or shine, Myrtle Beach provides a perfect blend of outdoor fun and cultural offerings.

Whether you’re planning a family vacation or a romantic getaway, Myrtle Beach’s vibrant atmosphere and diverse attractions ensure an unforgettable experience.

4. Hilton Head Island

4. Hilton Head Island

Nestled at the southern tip of South Carolina, Hilton Head Island offers a blend of luxury and leisure that’s hard to resist. With its 12 miles of pristine beaches, visitors can indulge in the soft white sands and a variety of water activities like kayaking and parasailing. For those seeking adventure, consider the 90-Minute Private Dolphin Tour or the Daufuskie Island Guided History Tour.

Hilton Head Island is not just a destination; it’s an experience. The island’s charm is amplified by its Southern hospitality, low-key seafood eateries, and classic resorts such as Sea Pines and Palmetto Dunes. Whether you’re looking to relax or explore, Hilton Head has something for everyone.

Here’s a quick list of must-do activities:

  • Explore popular experiences like the dolphin tour
  • Relax on Coligny Park Beach or find solitude at Burkes Beach
  • Try water sports with lessons and equipment from H2O Sports

Remember, a visit to Hilton Head is an opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime. Let the island’s laid-back culture and natural beauty guide your stay.

5. Beaufort

5. Beaufort

Nestled on Port Royal Island, the city of Beaufort is a gem with its historic downtown, antebellum mansions, and moss-draped oak trees. This entire area is recognized as a National Historic Landmark District, inviting visitors to step back in time.

Beaufort’s charm extends to its vibrant community events. From garden tours to open houses, there’s always something to celebrate.

The Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park is a must-visit urban oasis, offering scenic riverfront walkways, a children’s playground, and picnic areas. It’s the perfect spot for a peaceful day or to enjoy one of the many annual festivals.

Here’s a quick look at upcoming events in Beaufort:

  • Maison Beaufort 2024 – A community event featuring a garden tour on February 29th.
  • Palooza in the Park – A festival with food, fun, and music on March 1st.
  • Spring Fling Open House & Tea Party – A family-friendly event on March 1st.
  • 8th Annual March Forth – A celebration across Beaufort and Sea Islands on March 2nd.

6. Spartanburg

6. Spartanburg

Nestled in the heart of South Carolina, Spartanburg is a treasure trove of history and culture. Discover the city’s rich past by joining the Historic Downtown Walking Tour, where you’ll learn about its pivotal role in both World Wars. For music lovers, the Spartanburg Music Trail is a must, offering a melodious journey through the city’s musical heritage.

Art aficionados will find plenty to admire at the Spartanburg Art Museum and the Chapman Cultural Center, showcasing a diverse range of artistic expressions. Spartanburg is not just about history and the arts; it’s also a haven for car enthusiasts. The BMW Zentrum is the German car maker’s only museum and manufacturing plant in the United States, providing a unique glimpse into the world of automotive excellence.

Nature enthusiasts have their slice of paradise too, with numerous hiking, biking, and walking trails that meander through the city’s arboretums and nature preserves. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure or cultural enrichment, Spartanburg offers an array of activities to satisfy every interest.

Spartanburg is a city that seamlessly blends its historical roots with a vibrant cultural scene, making it an ideal destination for travelers of all tastes.

7. Kiawah Island

7. Kiawah Island

Just a short drive from the historic charm of Charleston, Kiawah Island beckons with its serene natural beauty and upscale amenities. This pristine barrier island is not only a haven for beach lovers but also a golfer’s paradise, boasting five championship golf courses, including the renowned Ocean Course.

  • Freshfields Village: A hub for shopping and dining, perfect for an afternoon stroll.
  • Kiawah Beachwalker Park: Ranked among the top beaches, ideal for sunbathing and swimming.
  • The Ocean Course: A legendary golfing experience with breathtaking coastal views.

Embrace the tranquility of Kiawah Island, where over 10 miles of sandy shores meet lush maritime forests and winding marshes. Here, nature enthusiasts can explore 30 miles of hiking and bike trails, while the Kiawah River offers spectacular vistas from Marsh Island Park’s lookout tower.

Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, Kiawah Island delivers an unforgettable coastal retreat just a stone’s throw from the vibrant city life of Charleston.

8. Pawleys Island

8. Pawleys Island

Just a short drive from the bustling Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island offers a tranquil retreat with its laid-back, carefree lifestyle. Known as one of the East Coast’s oldest summer resorts, this barrier island is a haven for those seeking a slower pace. Here, you can indulge in activities like fishing, crabbing, and lounging in the iconic rope hammocks that have become synonymous with the island’s charm.

Historical enthusiasts will delight in the island’s historic district, where twelve residences from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s stand as testaments to the past. For beach lovers, Litchfield Beach is a gem within Pawleys Island, offering wide sandy beaches ideal for sunbathing, walking, and swimming.

Pawleys Island is not just a destination; it’s an experience wrapped in the warmth of Southern hospitality and rich history.

If you’re looking to explore the area further, consider these activities:

  • Visit the Hammock Shops for unique souvenirs from independent boutique stores.
  • Enjoy the serene beaches, perfect for a variety of water sports.
  • Immerse yourself in ghost stories and the island’s folklore.

With a driving time of about 45 minutes from Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island is an accessible escape that promises relaxation and a touch of adventure.

9. Huntington Beach State Park

9. Huntington Beach State Park

Just a short 30-minute drive from Myrtle Beach, Huntington Beach State Park offers a serene escape into nature’s embrace. With over 2,500 acres of beach and wetland reserve, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers, campers, fishermen, and anyone who loves the outdoors.

The park features miles of boardwalks and nature trails, perfect for a day of exploration and wildlife spotting. From sea turtles to alligators, the park’s diverse inhabitants are a sight to behold.

The highlight for many is the Kerrigan Nature Trail, boasting the park’s best boardwalk that meanders over a lagoon teeming with life. But the adventure doesn’t stop there; the historic Atalaya Castle awaits, offering a glimpse into the 1930s with its self-guided tours.

For a unique experience, consider the Segway Tour, which allows you to glide through the park, covering ground quickly and ending at the majestic Morrish-style Atalaya castle. Whether you’re pitching a tent or just passing through, Huntington Beach State Park is a must-see attraction that promises a memorable day out.

10. Caesars Head State Park

10. Caesars Head State Park

Nestled in the dramatic Blue Ridge Escarpment, Caesars Head State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. With over 11,000 acres of forested land in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, the park offers a diverse range of hiking trails. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging trek, you’ll find trails varying from less than a mile to 10 miles in length.

For those seeking an overnight adventure, 18 primitive backcountry campsites are available for backpacking enthusiasts. Imagine sleeping under the stars, surrounded by the serene sounds of nature. The park’s Caesars Head Overlook Trail is particularly noteworthy, providing stunning views of downtown Greenville, Table Rock, and Glassy Mountain. However, plan your visit accordingly as the park can get crowded, especially during peak seasons.

At Caesars Head State Park, every step is an invitation to explore the wonders of the wilderness and create lasting memories.

If fishing is more your style, the surf fishing here is said to be some of the best in the state. You can also fish off a jetty or launch a boat at Oyster Landing, making it a perfect spot for anglers of all levels.


As we wrap up our journey through the delightful attractions just a short drive from South Carolina, we hope you’re inspired to explore the rich tapestry of experiences that await. From the historic charm of Georgetown to the natural beauty of Congaree State Park, each destination offers a unique slice of the Palmetto State’s allure. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure, cultural enrichment, or simply a peaceful retreat by the sea, these must-see spots promise memorable moments for every traveler. So pack your bags, set your itinerary, and get ready to discover the treasures that lie just beyond the South Carolina border. Happy travels!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some must-see attractions in South Carolina?

Some must-see attractions include Charleston’s historic sites, Greenville’s vibrant arts scene, Myrtle Beach’s family attractions, Hilton Head’s golf courses, Beaufort’s Lowcountry charm, Spartanburg’s cultural landmarks, Kiawah Island’s natural beauty, Pawleys Island’s laid-back beaches, Huntington Beach State Park’s wildlife, and Caesars Head State Park’s stunning vistas.

What outdoor activities can I enjoy in South Carolina?

South Carolina offers a variety of outdoor activities such as beach bathing, kayaking, canoeing, golfing, fishing, sailing, hunting, bird watching, and hiking in the scenic parks and islands.

Are there any historical sites to visit in South Carolina?

Yes, South Carolina is rich in history with sites like the historic homesteads in Clemson, the Penn Center Historic District, and various historic buildings and museums throughout the state.

Is South Carolina a good destination for family vacations?

Absolutely, South Carolina is family-friendly with attractions like Ripley’s Wax Museum, Family Kingdom Amusement Park, and numerous beaches and parks that offer fun for all ages.

What is the best time to visit Myrtle Beach?

The best time to visit Myrtle Beach is during the spring and fall when the weather is pleasant, and the crowds are smaller compared to the busy summer season.

Can I find good seafood in South Carolina?

South Carolina is known for its ocean-fresh seafood, available in coastal towns and cities. Charleston and Myrtle Beach are particularly famous for their seafood restaurants.

What kind of tours can I take in South Carolina?

South Carolina offers a range of tours including horse-drawn carriage tours, bus tours, boat and kayak tours, as well as walking tours that showcase the state’s history, culture, and natural beauty.

Are there any unique shopping experiences in South Carolina?

Yes, you can enjoy unique shopping experiences in South Carolina, especially in the Lowcountry Region, with its quaint shops, art galleries, and local markets featuring crafts and goods.

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