South Carolina is the best Southeastern vacation destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. South Carolina is more known for its’ college football scene, Southern style BBQ, low country cuisine, and historical significance. However, we must not forget that the Carolina countryside is also loaded with many incredible natural wonders. All too often tourists overlook the natural side of South Carolina, missing out on many of the incredible mesmerizing sights scattered about the state.
Whether you are visiting Charleston, Greenville, Columbia, or one of the touristy beach destinations, there are plenty of beautiful sights to see. Here are 10 natural wonders to add to your Carolina nature bucket list!
1. King’s Creek Falls
As the Upstate South Carolina region is loaded with beautiful waterfalls, it’s hard to decide which to concentrate on during your visit. I will make this a bit easier for you by saying that King’s Creek is one of the most gorgeous of the bunch. And fortunately, requires no more than a moderate hike to see.
King’s Creek is a picturesque 70 foot waterfall located in a secluded section of the leafy Sumter National Forest. The trail is just over a half mile and relatively easy. The best part of all is that it is never too crowded, so you really can get lost in nature here. If you are a waterfall lover, you will also want to make time to check out 2 other area waterfalls, Spoonauger and Pigpen, located just down the road.
- Address: Burrells Ford Rd (FS708) Mountain Rest, SC 29664
- More South Carolina waterfalls to check out
2. Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park, one of the nation’s newest designated park lands, is attractively undervisited for much of the year. This beautiful park is most famous for its’ preservation of one of the largest expanse of bottomland hardwood forest. Because the park remains so quiet, you can leisurely enjoy the scenery minus noisy crowds. At most national parks, it’s near impossible to enjoy the natural surroundings with so many people around.
Additionally, one of the largest collection of champion trees in the world can also be found within the park’s rare ecosystem. One of the loblolly pines stands a whopping 167 feet. Compare this to the 185 foot Boogerman white pine found within the Great Smoky Mountains which stands strong as the tallest tree in the East. A stroll along a 2.5 mile long boardwalk trail will give you a chance to get up and close and personal with some of the tallest trees on the East coast.
As one of America’s only free national parks, it’s definitely worthy of a look while in the vicinity. While it does not have the jaw dropping scenery of other national parks, it is free, quiet, close to numerous other natural wonders, and home to some pretty rare plant life. This definitely makes it a worthy Carolina bucket list contender!
Address: 100 National Park Rd, Hopkins, SC 29061
3. Hilton Head Island beaches
With twelve miles of gorgeous wide, white sand beaches, Hilton Head Island is the place to go in South Carolina to enjoy some fun-in-the-sun. Whether you prefer a low key day of sunbathing and collecting seashells, or an exciting day of surfing and parasailing, there’s something for everyone on Hilton Head’s long expanse of incredible beaches.
As one of the most relaxing getaways in the South, you really cannot go wrong with a weekend of golf, relaxing at a luxury resort, biking on the island’s huge network of trails, and basking in the Carolina sunshine at some of the finest beaches in the state.
4. Caesar’s Head State Park
Caesar’s Head is one of the more popular of the numerous Upstate South Carolina state parks. This one features an incredible overlook, several nature trails, and the largest waterfall in the state. To top it off, the scenery is amazing during fall foliage season.
The big draw here is the hike to Raven Cliff Falls. This 400+ foot waterfall is viewed via a platform after a moderately intense hike of just over 2 miles. The view is a bit further in the distance than most other Upstate waterfalls. However, the hike itself is really scenic and relaxing. Really, this is one of the more enjoyable outdoor adventures in this area. If you are not a hiker, you will want to enjoy the scenery via the Caesars Head overlook. No effort is required on your part to soak in the 360 degree panoramas of the gorgeous Blue Ridge foothills.
- Address: 8155 Geer Hwy, Cleveland, SC 29635
- More info on Caesar’s Head
5. Yellow branch falls
The Upstate SC region is loaded with spectacular waterfalls. Within a few days of a major rainstorm, you will want to make some room to check out Yellow Branch Falls. This is the most stunning of all the South Carolina waterfall wonders. It’s just 50 feet tall, although extremely aesthetically pleasing due to the numerous cascades.
This waterfall is located within Oconee County which was recently ranked as “one of the last great places” by National Geographic. The woody setting, numerous stream crossings, and peace and quiet of this undervisited trail make the entire experience an A+ in terms of natural beauty.
Address: Sc Hwy 28 Walhalla, SC 29691
6. Falls Park on the Reedy
Falls Park is a small, yet attractive natural space in beautiful downtown Greenville. Greenville is the newest trendy destination of the Southeast, with thousands visiting the quaint downtown each weekend. Falls Park on the Reedy, the oasis of this bustling city, is home to a powerful waterfall, lovely gardens and streams, and nature trails.
No matter the season, this is the place to escape it all and soak in some nature. While it can get quite busy during the nicer seasons, the picture perfect waterfall scenery, gorgeous flowers, and impeccable landscaping still make it the city’s prime natural escape.
- Address: 601 S Main St, Greenville, SC 29601
- A full guide to exploring downtown Greenville
7. Charleston historic district
Charleston is home to one of the largest and most beautiful historic districts in the country. Take a step back in time and enjoy the unique architecture, Southern charm, and historical sights of South Carolina’s most influential city. Not surprisingly, this charming treasure has been ranked the top US city by readers of Travel & Leisure for the past 7 years. To top it off, Charleston was the only US city to make the list of world’s best cities, placing 10th amongst the likes of cities like Florence and Kyoto.
The district, which was designated a National Historic landmark in 1960, is filled to the brim with historical attractions, museums, and amazing architectural wonders. The best way to immerse yourself in the sights and history is by taking a narrated horse drawn carriage ride.
You will also want to make your way over to Rainbow Row, a street lined with brightly colored pastel row homes. As the largest collection of Georgian row houses in the country, Rainbow Row is, not surprisingly, the top photographed site in the city. Fans of the Nicholas Spark classic The Notebook will want to stop for a photo opp in front of the American theater.
8. Isle of Palms
There are a number of beautiful beaches within close proximity to Charleston. During the city’s hot and humid summer season, you’ll likely want to escape to the beach for a few hours of fun-in-the-sun. Give your feet a rest and take a dip in the comfortable warm waters of the southern Atlantic coast. Isle of Palms is one of the least visited of Charleston area beaches. Thus, it remains a bit more peaceful than more popular tourist options like Folly Beach.
The beach is wide and quaint with plenty of room to lay out and sunbathe. If beachcombing is more your style, you are in luck as there are no shortage of exotic shells. This is a wide stretch of sand which is just perfect for morning walks along the beach. Ater your beach day, treat yourself to lunch in beautiful Mt. Pleasant. This charming suburb known for its’ historical home, friendly Southern hospitality, and low country cuisine.
Address: 14th Ave Isle of Palms, SC 29451
9. Grand Strand
The Grand Strand is the nickname given to a long stretch of pristine beaches which line the South Carolina coast. The top tourist destination along this 60 mile stretch is Myrtle Beach, a longtime spring break favorite and summer family beach vacation destination.
One of the best ways of taking in the incredible beach scenery is via the Myrtle Beach Skywheel. This 187 foot tall enclosed gondola ferris wheel comes in as one of the country’s tallest. Today, the High Roller in Vegas stands the tallest in the world at a whopping 550 feet! At number 6 in the US, the views from Myrtle’s Skywheel are nothing short of spectacular.
10. Huntington Beach State Park
Huntington Beach State Park is one of the best places for all around recreation in South Carolina. Birdwatching, hiking, biking, swimming, and strolling along one of the most beautiful of the Grand Strand beaches, are just a few of the things you can look forward to during your visit at this hidden gem.
In addition to being one of the best bird watching sites on the East Coast, the park is also a hotspot for gator sightings. Take a walk along the Sandpiper Pond nature trail and be on the lookout for spoonbills and sandhill cranes. If biking is more your style, you will want to hop on the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway, which conveniently connects to the park.
Address: 16148 Ocean Hwy, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576