5 South Carolina Small Towns We Love!

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South Carolina has a lot to offer. Mountain spirit, coastal charm, metropolitan effervescence and country charm. We’ve explored five very different (but equally charming and worthy to visit) small towns that might not be on your radar. Have a good trip!

Bluffton, South Carolina

Located in the center of Beaufort County, Bluffton is known as the “Heart of the Lowcountry” and one of the last true coastal villages in the south. The town was incorporated in 1852 as a second home for plantation owners to escape the heat of the rice and cotton fields and enjoy the breezes of the River May and the cooler temperatures at the top of the cliff. which gave it its name. The Calhoun Street Dock was once a bustling “rest area” for boat traffic between Savannah, Beaufort and Charleston, and the city still draws visitors from near and far. Bluffton is full of artists, galleries, festivals and parades. This eclectic and rebellious reputation arose with his central role in the separatist movement of the mid-1840s. A fire destroyed most of the town in 1863 during the Union’s expedition to Bluffton, and it took many years at Bluffton to recover economically. Once done, its place as the pearl of the coastal South was cemented.

Bluffton’s windows seem straight out of a movie set! Image: Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Convention and Visitors Bureau

While you are there

The beauty, culture and joy of Bluffton permeates its shops, restaurants, inns and historic attractions. Stay at the luxurious Montage Palmetto Bluff with its Nicklaus-designed golf course, spa, clay-court sport shooting, yacht tours and exceptional dining program, or stay closer to the action at the quaint Old Town Bluffton Inn. Kayak through lagoons laden with wildlife, cycle through ancient oak forests covered in moss, and watch oyster farmers harvest oysters from the River May the old-fashioned way. The family owned Bluffton Oyster Company is the state’s last hand-hulling plant, and the area is home to some of the most delicious seafood in the Lowcountry. For breakfast or lunch, try The Cottage or The Corner Perk Cafe. FARM and The Bluffton Room are exceptional dining options. Whether you’re looking for a tee time, cozy coffee, or a bushel of fresh oysters, Bluffton has you covered.

Bluffton

Bluffton, SC is home to several quaint chapels, including the Church of the Cross (pictured) and Somerset Chapel (where Justin and Hailey Bieber were married). Image: Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Convention and Visitors Bureau

RELATED: Worth a Detour: New Restaurants in the South

Travelers Rest, South Carolina

Located in the southern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in beautiful SC Upcountry, Travelers Rest has lived up to its name for over 300 years. The Catawba, Creek, and Cherokee tribes, among others, once lived in the area. A community began to form in the 1800s, when weary travelers and herdsmen rested here on their way through the mountains to the coast and back again. Today, TR’s creative energy (as the locals call it), a wide range of outdoor activities, and proximity to nearby destinations make it a small town at the top of the list. Just 10 miles north of Greenville and very close to Furman University, there is plenty to see, eat and do here.

Domestic Hotel

Inspired by the travels around the world of professional cyclist George Hincapie, the Travelers Rest Hotel Domestique combines luxurious hospitality with serious cuisine and a thrilling adventure. Image: Domestic Hotel

While you are there

Travelers Rest is home to the luxurious Hotel Domestique, a splurge-worthy boutique hotel focused on food and the outdoors that transports you to a Tuscan estate. Or opt for the more understated Swamp Rabbit Inn, which offers free bike rentals and a central location. Ride the scenic 22-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail that connects Travelers Rest to nearby Greenville. Shop at the boutiques and antiques of Main Street; have a beer at the Swamp Rabbit Brewery, or enjoy all the outdoor activities imaginable – fly fishing, kayaking, mountain biking, tubing, rock climbing … whatever you want! For breakfast or lunch, try Upcountry Provisions Bakery & Bistro. For a lively and relaxed dinner, Farmhouse Tacos or Chicora Alley are popular with locals. For something a little more upscale, try the trendy new Topsoil Cafe or book a table at Restaurant 17 at Hotel Domestique – a great way to see the property, even if you’re not staying there.

Travelers Rest Farmers Market

The state’s largest farmers’ market, Travelers Rest Farmers Market is a must visit if it’s open while you’re there. They regularly offer bluegrass nights and special events. Image: Travelers Rest Farmers Market

Aiken, South Carolina

Located between Atlanta and Charleston and just east of Augusta, Aiken, South Carolina is the epicenter of Thoroughbred Country and its rolling countryside, lush green parks, charming downtown plazas, and historic significance. The city was developed in the early 1900s as a “winter colony” for the rich and famous, who introduced the traditions of polo and thoroughbred racing. Today, many visit the historic sites of Aiken, the award-winning farms and the charming town center lined with shops.

Willcox Hotel

Aiken is a quirky winter colony resort with a rich history and relaxed elegance that draws travelers from all over. The Willcox is the last of the Winter Colony hotels. Image: Thoroughbred Country South Carolina

While you are there

Make your base in Aiken the white columned Willcox Hotel with its elegant suites filled with antiques, plush beds, luxurious bathtubs and sustainability-conscious restaurant. Or stay at the Rose Hill Estate circa 1898 with its exquisite staircase, cozy fireplaces and expansive gardens. Rose Hill has fabulous dining options, including a modern gourmet pub, Stables, and the recently opened, slightly higher Sheffield’s. Malia’s is another Aiken staple, whose local ingredients, small town charm, and excellent service have kept locals and visitors coming back for 30 years.

Polo in Aiken

Spring polo season at historic Whitney Field runs April through June and fall season runs September through November. Book a polo lesson with a pro to learn this special sport! Image: Thoroughbred Country South Carolina

When you’re not lounging and eating, take a stroll through the 14-acre Hopelands Gardens, visit the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, paddle the Edisto River Canoe Trail at Aiken State Park or book a lesson at the Aiken Polo Club.

Georgetown, South Carolina

Located midway between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, Historic Georgetown is a vibrant waterfront community easily accessible by car, boat or plane. Surrounded by oak-lined streets, colorful fishing boats, and rickety storefronts, historic downtown Georgetown is the third oldest city in the state and teems with history and personality. It’s a must-see small town in South Carolina for shopping, dining, boating, fishing, and soaking up the history of rice growing in Georgetown County.

GEorgetown SC Waterfront Shops

Before you go, check out Georgetown’s calendar of events to see what festivals, parades, and concerts might be happening while you’re there. Image: Discover South Carolina

While you are there

Book the luxurious 620 Prince bed and breakfast built in the 1800s, or opt for the funky Baxter Brewhouse Inn, which calls itself “bed and brew” and has been brewing craft beer for over 20 years! Most of this small town is on the water and within walking distance, so step outside and explore the galleries and cafes. Book a historical tour (or even a ghost tour!) And visit the Kaminski House Museum and the Rice Museum. Stroll along the Harborwalk for a stunning sunset over Winyah Bay, then sit down to a table at Root or Big Tuna for dinner with a view.

Georgetown Rice Museum

Georgetown’s iconic Old Market Building and Town Clock became home to the Rice Museum in 1970, and the Kaminski Hardware Building (pictured here) is home to the Maritime Museum Gallery, Gift Shop, and Prevost Art Gallery. Image: Discover South Carolina

Camden, South Carolina

Camden was home to the Cofitachequi Native American civilization and one of 11 townships decreed by King George II in 1732, making it the oldest city in the interior of the state. During the Revolution, Camden was the economic and cultural center of the hinterland of the two Carolinas. General James Chesnut’s wife Mary chronicled years of Civil War in her Pulitzer Prize winner Dixie’s Journal, much of which was written in Camden. “Come and spend a few peaceful hours where the British have had a difficult year! say the locals sarcastically.

While you are there

This pedestrianized city has a vibrant downtown, historic neighborhoods, and over 150 acres of parks and green spaces to explore. Bloomsbury Inn is the epitome of luxurious Southern hospitality. Or get out into the countryside and stay at the charming Old McCaskill’s Farm Bed and Breakfast on a working farm. You will enjoy both old and modern decor, a daily farm-to-table breakfast, and the chance to roam the farm and hang out with the animals. Explore the local vendors, farmers and artisans at the Kershaw County Seasonal Farmers Market and discover one of the state’s hidden gems, Boykin Mill. Or, dine at the Salud Mexican Kitchen for some fun with tequila.

Bloomsbury Inn

The generously appointed Bloomsbury Inn has spacious bedrooms, gourmet breakfasts and a convenient location in the historic district. Image: Discover South Carolina

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Horse lovers, Camden is for you. Visit in March and November and get ready for the Carolina Cup horse races. There’s almost always something going on at South Carolina Equine Park, and the National Steeplechase Museum is the only museum in the country dedicated solely to steeplechase. Outdoor enthusiasts can camp, fish and boating around Wateree Lake, Adams Grist Mill Lake, and scenic Goodale State Park.

Goodale State Park

Kayaking in the tranquil waters of Goodale State Park is a great way to spend a few hours in Camden. Image: Discover South Carolina

Get out there and explore South Carolina! Did I miss your favorite little town? Write to me at [email protected].

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