Charleston, South Carolina is constantly praised by travel publications for its charm and history, named one of America’s best destinations. But it isn’t South Carolina’s only one! Not even by a long shot. There are plenty of towns worth a visit that are matched in regards to top-notch restaurants, historic inns, and attractions. Come see a few of our favorites, most of which are a short drive from major cities, but feel worlds away. This post contains affiliate links.
Incorporated in 1835 around the railroad terminus that connected the Savannah River area to Charleston, Aiken was the main city within the greater Edgefield District, known for its pottery. In the 19th century, the Aiken Winter Colony was established as a place for the north’s wealthy, including Astors and Vanderbilts, to spend the mild winters. They kept their horses here, starting a tradition that continues today with the Aiken Steeplechase.
Today, Aiken has a thriving downtown with antique stores, boutiques, and restaurants like Aiken Brewing Company. The Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum educates visitors on the history of horses in Aiken. Hopeland Gardens is also worth a wander. The Aiken County Historical Museum is located in Banksia, a historic home, with exhibits on local history. The Willcox Hotel is a 1900s hotel that closed in the 1950s but reopened a few decades later.
Nearby Redcliffe Plantation is an important place to visit for its honest look into life on a working plantation and slavery. North Augusta, a short drive away, also has the Living History Park that does reenactments of the colonial years.
Founded in the 1750s by European settlers, Newberry, near Columbia, was the site of a number of cotton plantations and later a Civil War hospital. Formed from the Ninety-Six District, it contains a number of different historic districts. Newberry College was established in 1856 to educate Lutheran students and continues to do so to this day.
Downtown Newberry retains many of the original structures from after the Civil War, including shops and restaurants. Figaro Restaurant is set inside an old bank building. The Newberry Opera House is an icon in the community, welcoming performances since 1882. The Wells Japanese Garden is another must-see. Visitors can stay at the Hampton Inn, just steps from the Opera House.
Once inhabited by the Yamassee people, Bluffton was settled by Europeans, who created plantations for indigo, cotton, and rice. Not far from Beaufort and Hilton Head Island, the town was home to a strong secession movement and despite heavy damage from the Civil War, they still have eight antebellum homes and a few churches in the Old Town historic district. Downtown is home to a weekly farmers market as well as stores and restaurants.
The Church of the Cross is one of these iconic locations, built in 1857 in the Gothic style. The Heyward House and Historical Center in a 1800s farmhouse informs visitors about the local history and provides tours of some of the area’s historic homes, including a freedman’s cottage. Old Town has antique shops like Eggs-N-Tricities and restaurants like The Pearl and Old Town Dispensary. The area around Montage Palmetto Bluff also has its own businesses.
Settled in 1732 as “Kingston,” Conway is a community within the greater Grand Strand, inland from Myrtle Beach , along the Waccamaw River. The Chicora people inhabited the land before European arrival and some of their descendants still live there. This area was the site of encampments during the Revolutionary War and it was later renamed for General Robert Conway. It’s also home to Coastal Carolina University, one of the state’s largest.
Today, the Conway Riverwalk is where many of the historic landmarks are located. Robert Mills, the architect behind the Washington Monument, designed the town’s city hall. Downtown shops and restaurants welcome visitors, like the Crafty Rooster and Rivertown Bistro. The Horry County Museum is one of the best in the area, with exhibits on the origins of this community from its early days to the present. The free museum also has a living history farm.
Traveler’s Rest was formerly home to Catawba, Creek, and Cherokee tribes and a popular stopover on the Conestoga wagon trails. A local couple operated an inn on this site as a “rest for travelers” and the town became incorporated in 1891.
Today it’s a small town not far from downtown Greenville, home to Furman University, the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and a number of shops and restaurants. Tandem Creperie and Swamp Rabbit Brewing are favorite hangouts of students. Visitors can stay at the cozy Swamp Rabbit Inn, a house-turned-inn, or the luxurious Hotel Domestique, a European-style resort with cyclists in mind.