It should come as no surprise that South Carolina is one of the best places in the USA to spend a vacation. It could be the tranquil beaches, spell-binding history, or full-blast of Southern charm and hospitality—or all of the above! We’ve rounded up 15 of the best places to vacation in South Carolina so you can decide for yourself.
Best South Carolina Getaways: Where To Stay
With so many good options, choosing where to stay in South Carolina can be overwhelming! That’s why at FlipKey, we did some of the leg work. We analyzed the lifetime average vacation rental review scores on TripAdvisor and FlipKey (FlipKey is a TripAdvisor company), for all South Carolina destinations. Then, we identified which spots were among the highest rated according to reviewer rental scores. Cities and towns needed at least 100 total reviews, and at least a 4.50/5.00 average score to rank. Travelers have rated the following 15 destinations as some of the best places to stay for a South Carolina vacation.
Seneca’s charming character is best seen in its historic downtown—walk down tree-lined boulevards full of historic homes and quaint shops to see for yourself. Aside from its cute looks and historical appeal, Seneca is one of the best South Carolina getaways because of its prime location in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and on the edge of Lake Keowee, making it a great choice for families with energetic kids or anyone with a penchant for the outdoors. Grab a paddle board or a kayak and hit the water, then round out your day with a fountain soda or an ice cream cone from Hochstetler’s Country Store.
Lowcountry natural attractions are at their best in the sleepy town of Port Royal, which offers close proximity to walking trails, a community beach, and plenty of ways to experience the area’s wildlife—especially the fish and birds that live in its estuaries. Take a fishing charter out on the marsh or walk through the Cypress Wetlands to experience the area’s nature for yourself and see why this peaceful retreat is one of the best South Carolina vacation destinations for nature-lovers.
Located on classy Pawleys Island in South Carolina’s Grand Strand, Litchfield Beach is a dream come true for golfers. Play a round on one of the town’s many golf courses before jumping into warm ocean waters or grabbing a bite at the Eggs Up Grill. To take advantage of the quiet Atlantic waters ringed by marshes, rent a kayak or charter a boat for a full day of adventure.
One of South Carolina’s Sea Islands, St. Helena is one of the last remaining places to learn about the Southeast’s distinct Gullah culture; start your trip at the Gullah Center to learn all about Gullah origin and language. Other popular sights include the striking Chapel of Ease and Fort Fremont—two historic buildings covered in Spanish moss—and Downtown Frogmore, where you can find art galleries, shops, and restaurants serving up plates of fresh seafood.
Great food, fun nightlife, tons of attractions, and history galore, Charleston is one of the best places to visit in South Carolina and aptly considered the “Gem of the South.” Though you can stroll through downtown Charleston in just a couple hours, passing pocket gardens and hidden fountains as you go, the downtown area is packed with enough boutiques, museums, and historical houses and monuments to keep you busy for days. Look for rentals in the heart of downtown Charleston for easy access to the Battery, White Point Gardens, and the Charleston Market, or choose something in the trendy Upper King district to easily walk to Hampton Park and the hippest bars and restaurants. Flat terrain and a small area means that anywhere in Charleston is just a short walk or bike ride away.
A young population and vibrant community set the coastal town of Bluffton apart from its nearby neighbors. Be sure to check out top Bluffton sites including the Rose Hill Mansion and the Church of the Cross—popular for its dramatic location overlooking the May River—and then head to Old Town Bluffton for a first-hand look at the city’s mingling of the old and the new.
Private and quiet, Harbor Island is one of the best South Carolina vacations for beach-induced bliss. Find a vacation rental right on the dunes of the 1,400-acre barrier island for a taste of total tranquility, or take a 20-minute drive across the Sea Island Parkway and into Beaufort for all the amenities of town. Because it strikes the perfect balance of away-from-it-all and close-to-everything, Harbor Island is one of the best places to stay in South Carolina for a taste of the Palmetto State’s diversity.
Up-and-coming Greenville has evolved from a sleepy Southern town to a lively urban center in the foothills of South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Stroll through the city’s pedestrian-friendly downtown to see why—plenty of boutiques, restaurants, and breweries await. Plus, Greenville boasts popular parks, museums, theaters, and a river walk, made all the more enjoyable by the area’s comparably temperate climate. Falls Park on the Reedy and the Swamp Rabbit Trail are two particularly popular destinations for outdoor enthusiasts.
Just 20 minutes from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is the the Holy City’s laid-back neighbor. Join the crowds sunbathing, surfing, and swimming on any weekend between May and October when the weather is warm, or enjoy the beach’s less-visited historical attractions such as the Morris Island Lighthouse. Folly Beach County Park is also a good choice for seeing the natural beauty of Folly Beach’s driftwood and sand dunes without the crowds.
A short drive from downtown Charleston and across the spectacular Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge drops you in the trendy suburb of Mt. Pleasant—the name says it all. The town emulates Charleston’s charm with farm-to-table restaurants and friendly boutiques, but is most popular for the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, home to the docked USS Yorktown, and the Shem Creek area. Hit the marshy tidal waters of Shem Creek on a kayak or stand up paddle board, or slurp oysters and grab a beer while watching the sunset from one of the many creek-front restaurants with outdoor seating.
Accessible only by boat, Daufuskie Island is a living museum of Lowcountry history and nature. Though many people visit to see the popular Pat Conroy novel The Water is Wide come to life, others come to explore ancient oyster mounds, visit the 135-year-old First Union African Baptist Church, and learn about the mingling Gullah, Spanish, and Native American cultures that continue to shape the island. See it all in a day with a golf cart tour, or do it yourself by walking the well-marked Robert Kennedy Historical Trail.
A beach getaway takes a classy twist on Kiawah Island, a favorite South Carolina vacation destination filled with golf courses, country clubs, and 10 miles of beaches. Even if you’re not a golfer, you’ll enjoy the picture-perfect sand dunes and swaying sea grasses that cushion the island in an away-from-it-all sense of serenity.
Consider Hilton Head your one-stop-vacation-shop: play a round of golf or tennis at more than 33 locations, ride a beach cruiser down the Hilton Head Island Bike Trails, or spend a full day playing in gentle Atlantic waves. Hilton Head is also home to a number of cultural activities, including the Coastal Discovery Museum, Harbour Town Lighthouse Museum, and a wide variety of art galleries featuring everything from pastels to metalworks. Hilton Head is no stranger to “best of South Carolina” awards, and its excellent rental review scores further confirm that it’s a great place to spend your vacation.
The kid-friendly Vegas of South Carolina, Myrtle Beach offers so much more to do than just relax on the sand. Myrtle Beach is one of the best South Carolina vacation destinations for families, known for its action-packed Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and the flashing neon lights of Broadway at the Beach shopping and entertainment complex. You can also catch a flashy music or dance performance, visit the kid-pleasing Ripley’s Aquarium or Family Kingdom Amusement Park, or take in miles of views on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel.