From the mountains to the midlands to the sprawling coast, South Carolina offers vacationers fabulous outdoor fun, historic sites, and great shopping and dining opportunities. A road trip is the perfect way to explore this vibrant Southern state. Whether your ideal vacation includes simply relaxing in the sun on Myrtle Beach, or embarking on a ziplining adventure at the Green River Gorge in Greenville, a road trip lets you pursue your interests and see more of this beautiful state. Remain well-rested while on your journey by staying at lovely vacation rentals in South Carolina along your route. Here are a few road trip ideas to get you started.
1. The South Carolina Lowcountry
When all you have is a weekend, the South Carolina low country makes a great quick road trip for beach lovers and history buffs. Start your trip in Bluffton with a leisurely drive through Old Town to see the gorgeous historic homes lining the streets and stop in at some of the historic shops and local art galleries, such as The Storybook Shoppe and Pluff Mudd Art. Stop at the May River for a beautiful photo op, and soak up some local history at Heyward House Historic Preservation Center. Continue on to Hunting Island State Park, for sunbathing or just exploring. Sea glass and shark’s teeth are both common finds in the area. Make Beaufort your next stop for a fantastic dinner of fresh seafood at Gilligan’s Seafood Restaurant, Dockside, or Nautilus Seafood and Grill. Enjoy a good night’s sleep at a vacation rental in Beaufort before continuing your journey to Edisto Beach for a day at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area. Take a look at the Fig Island Shell Rings which date from prehistoric times and then explore the remaining outbuildings from Bleak Hall Plantation. Botany Bay also offers long, quiet stretches of beach perfect for beach combing, bird watching, or simply relaxing.
2. Lighthouse Tour
From Harbour Town Light House on Hilton Head Island in the south to Georgetown Light on North Island in the North, the South Carolina coast has eight historic lighthouses for you to explore, and the four hour drive offers breathtaking views of the South Carolina coast. Allow three or four days for this road trip, with vacation rentals in great coastal towns, such as Beaufort, Folly Beach, and Georgetown. Be sure not to miss Leamington Light, the oldest lighthouse in South Carolina, which is located on the Arthur Hills Golf Course. Tell the person at the gate that you are there for the lighthouse to walk across the course for excellent photo opportunities. The other lighthouses on the trip are the Morris Island Light, the Hunting Island Light, the Charleston light, and Cape Romain’s 1857 Lighthouse, and Cape Romain’s 1827 Lighthouse.
3. Golf Lovers Three-Day Getaway
If you just can’t get enough golf, this three-day road trip is a perfect sampler of South Carolina golf courses. Drive into Rock Hill in the evening, and enjoy a waterfront dinner at The Pump House, followed by an overnight in a vacation rental so that you can get an early start on golfing in the morning. After breakfast at Jump N Java Cafe or The Flipside Cafe, head to the Waterford Golf Club on the south side of town. Designed by Hale Irwin, this challenging course has water elements on 16 of the 18 holes plus frequent elevation changes. When you’re not golfing, relax in Fountain Park, or take a tour of the Catawba Indian Nation and Cultural Center. Head to Fort Mill and the Fort Mill Golf Club for your next day of golfing. This par-72 track passes through scattered forests and is reminiscent of courses designed in the early 20th century. For day three, sample Cheraw State Park Golf Course in Cheraw on Lake Jupiter for a more wild experience. This gem of a course is Audobon-International certified to protect the natural environment of the area, and wildlife sightings are a common experience while playing the courses 18 holes.
4. Haunted Road Trip
Whether you believe in ghosts or are a complete skeptic, this road trip to some of South Carolina’s most infamous sites is sure to be spine-tingling good fun. Start your tour in Anderson by crossing Crybaby Bridge. This purportedly haunted historic structure was built in the 1950, and town residents claim to sounds like a baby crying near the bridge. Even if you don’t hear the mysterious crying, the bridge is a worthy attraction in its own right, and provides a great photo opportunity to mark the beginning of your haunted voyage. Head southwest out of town on Route 28 to Graniteville for a tour of Graniteville Cemetery, with graves dating back to the 1850’s and rumors of both a mysterious ghostly women dropping flowers on the graves of children. While in town, sample the down-home cooking at the Red Shed Diner, and stop by The Curiosity Shop to browse an unusual collection of vintage and new items. Charleston is the next stop on your haunted journey with a visit to the Battery Carriage House first on your list. Rumors say that this historic pink building with wide verandas is regularly visited by a variety of ghosts, and it is also a great jumping off place for a walking tour of Charleston’s historic district. Be sure to visit Battery and White Point Gardens with its historic cannons and breathtaking view of the bay where the Ashley and Cooper rivers join the Atlantic Ocean, plus possible spirits to continue the spooky atmosphere of your trip.
5. Fall Folliage Tour
Mid-October through Mid-November is the best time to enjoy the fantastic fall colors in the mountainous areas of South Carolina, and the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway is the best place to see them. This nearly 125 mile long route provides a glorious view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in all their glory. Make your first stop at Sumter National Forest, and choose your adventure. Wildwater’s Chattooga Rafting Center offers whitewater trips, or launch your own canoe or a rental for a slower journey on the Chattooga. For true high adventure, Sumter offers zipline canopy tours for expansive views and a wild ride. Make Devils Fork State Park your next stop, and hike the trails to view scenic waterfalls and the crystal-clear Lake Jocassee mountain reservoir. This is another great place for canoeing, and a vacation rental with a garage nearby Salem offers storage for your canoe when you’re not out on the water. Continue down the Cherokee Foothills Highway to Caesars Head State Park, and keep an eye out for big hawks, eagles, and other birds traveling south for the winter. Then enjoy the hike to Raven Creek Falls with a suspension bridge overlook for perfect for taking photos.
6. South Carolina’s Scenic Wonders
If you just can’t get enough of the beauty of nature, this road trip is for you. Start your adventure on Johns Island at Angel Oak Park for a look at the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi, an ancient oak tree that may be over 1,500 years old, then take the two hour drive through the low-country coastal terrain to Congaree National Park to view stunning old-growth bottomland forest. These giant trees receive nutrients from carried by the water that floods the lowlands regularly. To see the forest best take a canoe or kayak ride along Cedar Creek, and also enjoy viewing the abundant wildlife of the park, including river otters, turtles, and even alligators. Spend the night at a vacation rental in Hopkins, and then continue your journey the next day with the short drive to Forty Acre Rock in Kershaw in the northern portion of the state. This huge rock catches water in its many impressions creating miniature ecosystems. The park also includes a waterfall and a cave that is fun to explore.
7. Midlands History Tour
History buffs are sure to enjoy this road adventure that starts in South Carolina’s capital city of Columbia. Set the tone for your historical explorations at The State House with a tour of the interior of this Civil War era building and a walk among the memorial monuments on its grounds. Continue your walk through the historic Horseshoe section of the University of South Carolina, and then dig a little deeper into the historical roots of the area at The McKissick Museum, which is dedicated to the history of the state. A walk through the The Riverfront Park and Historic Columbia Canal shares information on the history of the canal and its importance to the development of South Carolina. If you have time, add The South Carolina State Museum and the Confederate Relic Room to your itinerary before moving onto the city of Cayce, across the river. In Fort Cayce, tour the historic Civil War Fort Granby, and get some home-cooking at Just Us Cafe. After a walk through the Cayce Historical Museum, spend the night in a vacation rental for the next day’s drive to Florence. In Florence, take a guided kayak trip along the South Carolina Revolutionary Rivers Trail, learning more about Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, better known as the Swamp Fox.
8. Small Town South Carolina
Every small town has its own unique character, and a road trip is a great way to sample a few different places. Start your tour in Clemson with a walk through the South Carolina Botanical Garden and a tour of the historical Fort Hill Plantation at Clemson University. Then head southeast to Pendleton for a tour of the Ashtabula Plantation Home and a fantastic Southern meal at Dyar’s Diner with homemade cheesecake for dessert. York is your next must-see, including Historic Brattonsville, a Revolutionary War historic site offering living history exhibits. If you have kids, make sure to plan for a day at Main Street Children’s Museum and a picnic at Kings Mountain State Park. Head south on Route 176 to Newberry, and spend some time shopping in the picturesque downtown, and then browse the displays at the Newberry Arts Center or take a tour at Enoree River Vineyard.
9. Antique Tour
Spend a long weekend exploring some of South Carolina’s best antique markets on this road trip, which starts in Seneca in the Upstate area. Treasure lovers are sure to enjoy shopping the unique selection of secondhand shops on Ram Cat Alley in Seneca. Be sure to peek into Arts off the Alley and Sensibly Chic, but save plenty of time for serious shopping in M. Tannery and Sons, a huge antique’s shop. When you need a shopping break, Circa 1930 is right around the corner with coffee and their specialty meatloaf sandwiches. Then tour the Lunney House Museum for ideas on how to use all your antique finds in your decorating scheme. After a night in a vacation rental, head to Mountain View Antiques for more antique shopping, and then browse the vintage wares at That’s Karma and For What It’s Worth. Don’t forget to spend some time outside admiring the views of the Saluda River. The Lighthouse Keowee Restaurant offers dinner with a view including fantastic seafood specialties. For the last leg of your trip, head to Warther’s Originals in Walhalla for a huge selection of antiques from coins to housewares to vehicles.
10. The Best Waterfalls of South Carolina
The Palmetto State is a great place to find gorgeous waterfalls, and this nearly 200 mile epic road trip takes you to a few of the best of them. If you love nature this trip is the perfect way to get close to some of South Carolina’s best. Consider making the trip in the fall to add some gorgeous foliage to the journey’s scenic beauty. The first waterfall on this route is Wildcat Branch Falls near Cleveland on US Route 276. The middle falls are viewable from an overlook at the side of the road, and steps take you up or down to the upper and lower falls respectively. Carrick Creek Falls are your next stop just outside Table Rock State Park. Be sure to stop in at Carrick Creek Nature Center for a trail map and information about wildlife in the area. Twin Falls on Water Falls Road in Sunset is your next stop. Repeatedly voted best falls in the state by locals, this pair of side-by-side falls, drop 75 feet into a churning stream. While in Sunset enjoy more nature exploration with a guided trail ride on horseback with Saddle Creek Vistas. Most rides include a picnic lunch, and wildlife sightings, such as turkey and deer, are common along the route. Finish your waterfall tour with the wide cascade at Cedar Falls Park in Fountain Inn.
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