With its storied history, diverse mix of cultures and distinctively Southern feel, it’s no wonder South Carolina is a popular vacation destination. And while South Carolina’s cities have a myriad of popular tourist attractions, there are also plenty of unique, off-the-beaten-path ways to spend a day in the Palmetto State. Here are eight of the best.
1. Boneyard Beach
Otherworldly Boneyard Beach is located on Bulls Island, just up the coast from Charleston. Because of the way the island is positioned, a seemingly endless array of shells wash ashore here. When you couple that with the skeleton-like remains of a water-stranded forest, you’ll easily see how the beach got its name. Because it’s located in a wildlife refuge, the island is only accessible by boat, and Coastal Expeditions can get you there. Spend the day wandering the pristine beach or exploring the almost 18 miles of hiking trails — just be sure to leave the alligators alone!
2. Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden
In the 1980s, to discredit the commonly held belief at the time that Black residents of Bishopville couldn’t keep up their yards, Pearl Fryar taught himself how to garden. He bought a hedge trimmer and, after work and on weekends, created what today is a wonderland of over 150 topiaries. The three-acre garden is free to visit, with donations for its upkeep accepted. It attracts some 10,000 visitors per year who come to marvel at the unique beauty of the property.
3. Poinsett Bridge
Located in Greenville County between Greenville and Spartanburg, Poinsett Bridge is the oldest bridge in South Carolina. A stone bridge with a gothic arch, it was built in 1820 and once was the main road between Columbia and Saluda Mountain, allowing travelers to pass over Little Gap Creek. Historians believe it was designed by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument. Today, it’s part of a peaceful, 120-acre nature preserve. It’s a beautiful stop any time of year, but vibrant fall colors make it a truly breathtaking destination every autumn.
4. Haunted Charleston
While millions of visitors flock to South Carolina’s largest city each year to marvel at historic architecture, enjoy area beaches and sample Lowcountry cuisine, many don’t know about the city’s spooky past. Charleston is considered one of the most haunted cities in the country. Multiple tour operators escort ghost-hunting travelers through town, regaling them with chilling stories of pirates, shipwrecks, murders and paranormal activity.
5. The Gullah Heritage Trail
Hilton Head Island is part of the Gullah Geechee Corridor that runs from Charleston to Savannah, Georgia. The Gullah are descendants of West African slaves and have a long history of living on South Carolina’s most remote islands. The Gullah are known for preserving more of their cultural and linguistic heritage than any other African American community in the United States, and Gullah Heritage Trail Tours let you experience it firsthand. Accompanied by a tour guide of Gullah heritage, you’ll learn about the language, food, music, religion and folktales of the area.
6. God’s Acre Healing Springs
A fountain of youth right in South Carolina? God’s Acre Healing Springs got its name during the Revolutionary War, when four badly wounded soldiers were taken by Native Americans to their sacred healing springs. So the story goes, the soldiers were healed, and the springs, located in Blackville, became a destination for those seeking healing from the mineral waters. Today, the spring is open to the public 24 hours a day, with water coming out of an unassuming pipe in the ground.
7. Rocky Shoals spider lilies
Between late May and mid-June, an area of the Catawba River in Landsford Canal State Park blooms with an incredible 20 acres of white spider lilies, a rare flower only found in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Take in the beauty of nature from the state park’s observation deck, which can be reached via a 1.5-mile hike. Or rent a kayak or canoe to paddle through the maze of flowers.
8. Tunnelvision Mural
Inspired by a dream, South Carolina artist Blue Sky painted an incredible trompe l’oeil mural on the side of a building in downtown Columbia. It’s a super-realistic 50-by-75 foot painting of a craggy tunnel that, if real, would be big enough to drive a car through. (There have been a few close calls, but to date, nobody has tried it.) Want more outdoor artwork? Across the parking lot is the same artist’s work called Busted Plug, a 40-foot-tall sculpture of a fire hydrant that looks like it’s been knocked askew by some similarly oversized vehicle, with water spewing from its broken base.
Give yourself all the time you need to explore South Carolina’s quirks, oddities and hidden treasures. As a Pacaso second home owner in South Carolina, you’ll have the perfect home base for discovering all the things that make the Palmetto State so special.