8 Coolest Small Towns in South Carolina for a Summer Vacation (2023)

8 Coolest Small Towns in South Carolina for a Summer Vacation (1)

South Carolina is known for its pristine beaches, historic sites, and plump and juicy peaches. Another interesting fact about the Palmetto State, as South Carolina is known, is that it was the first state in the country to secede from the Union. On the very day ofAbraham Lincoln'selection victory in December 1860, 169 delegates would troop to South Carolina Institute Hall in Charleston. Most of these delegates were men of considerable affluence. When a vote to secede was tabled, there was not a single objection. The secession of South Carolina would eventually trigger the outbreak ofthe American Civil War. That is how historically consequential South Carolina is. Today, South Carolina boasts a cornucopia of small, beautiful towns ideal for a summer vacation. Here are some of the best among them.

Hilton Head

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US News sought expert and user opinions on the best summer vacation destinations in the United States. The only South Carolina town that appeared in the list of best 21 is Hilton Head—at an impressive position 11. Therefore, while Hilton Head boasts a population of about 38,000 according to 2023 estimates by World Population Review, and on this score, it does not meet all the features of a small town, it is still a South Carolina gem worth a detour. While Hilton Head is principally a beach paradise and boasts more than 12 miles of sand-fringed beaches, the island boasts other amenities perfect for a summer getaway as well. These include several golf courses bedecked in sylvan splendor, a decent number of tennis courts, and a good deal of spa amenities. Also, among the island's natural wonders is the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge which teems with wildlife of every kind as well as breathtaking scenery.

Travelers Rest

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What's in a name? If the name Travelers Rest is anything to go by, a vacationer looking for a summer destination would quickly stop his search. According to 2023 estimates by World Population Review, Travelers Rest boasts a population of about 7,000. Incidentally, it is the only South Carolina town in Travel + Leisure's list of the 15 best small towns for a summer vacation in the United States. Curled up in northwest South Carolina, Travelers Rest is a famous gateway to theBlue Ridge Mountains. The town boasts several lodging and dining options, including Hotel Domestique, whose jaw-dropping backdrop will leave onlookers completely blown away. For outdoor enthusiasts, the 22-mile Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, the Paris Mountain State Park, and Jones Gap State Park—are all amazing options worth exploring.

Sullivan's Island

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With a population of less than 2,000, Sullivan's Island is a small-town gem ideal for a summer retreat. Sullivan's is a tinybarrier islandwhose area is just about three square miles. Reputed to be the quirkiest town in South Carolina, Sullivan's Island offers a variety of summer attractions that make it a vacation ideal. For starters, this quaint town is curled up at the entrance of Charleston Harbor, a history buff's jewel worth checking out. Charleston Harbor is, for instance, home to Fort Sumter, where the first shots in the American Civil War were fired. While the town boasts a number of pristine beaches fringed with eye-catching jetties, it has other attractions as well. These include the 140-foot-tall Charleston Light, the only U.S. light that has an elevator. For something to bite or gulp, Poe's Tavern, named after one of America's finest poets, is situated on the island's restaurant row.

(Video) 10 Best Places to Visit in South Carolina - Travel Video

11 Best Beaches In South CarolinaSouth Carolina is best known for its beautiful beaches, perfect for a sunshine and sand-filled getaway.

Edisto Beach

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Summer is the ideal time to take a plunge in some clear, sparkling waters, enjoy the feel of sand on the feet and ankles, and relish the gentle sea breeze as it sweeps across the face. In many cases, this comes with one downside: crowds. And this is why Edisto Beach is a fine alternative. Edisto Beach is often uncrowded and is just what someone who is looking for some seclusion will prefer. Aside from the town's fine-sand beaches, including the Edisto Beach State Park, Edisto Island Museum is a history goldmine worth checking out. Edisto Island Museum is a relatively small but well-kept museum. Visitors will enjoy the fascinating history of Edisto Island, right from ancient Natives — and their stone tools — to modern times. There's also a lot to discover about the Civil War period and the time of slavery.


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For being among the oldest towns in South Carolina, Newberry is a delightful small town many will want to lace up for. History buffs will revel in the town's rich history and culture, while almost everyone will be blown away by the small but wonderful town square. Besides, the town boasts beautiful old homes and buildings, such as the Newberry Opera House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Newberry Opera House, because of the quality of its acoustics, is among the best facilities in the neighborhood for concerts — if not the absolute best. Besides, the Wells Japanese Garden at 1608 Lindsay Street is an amazing slice of serenity a summer vacationer will want to explore.

Dafuskie Island

8 Coolest Small Towns in South Carolina for a Summer Vacation (7)

Famous for being the southernmost inhabited barrier island of South Carolina, Dafuskie Island is one of South Carolina's most closely guarded secrets. The island's population is estimated to be between 500 and 600, gifting it a small-town allure that is almost impossible to resist. Since this island is accessible only by boat, ferry, or charter helicopter ride, it is the ideal destination for a vacationer looking for some meditative seclusion. On reaching this almost secret island, up to three miles of beaches, all covered by sparkling sand, will be at hand to dazzle and delight. Other attractions on the island include the Billie Burn Historical Museum and the Bloody Point Lighthouse. Then again, visitors can enjoy paddling with dolphins or exploring the island on a self-guided golf cart tour.

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Kiawah Island

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According to World Population Review, Kiawah Island boasts a population of about 2,000. Located about 20 miles from downtownCharlestonand spread out on an unspoiled Lowcountry setting, Kiawah Island's claim to fame is its award-winning beaches. Beachwalker Park, for instance, has often been ranked by Dr. Beach among the Top Ten beaches in the United States. Located on the southern end of Kiawah Island, Beachwalker Park has tidal inlets visitors will enjoy paddling on. Besides, strolling on the fine sand that fringes the beach—or biking— is a favorite pastime with many visitors. While the water is not crystal clear, the beach is clean and provides delectable delicacies for seafood connoisseurs. For avid birders, Captain Sam's Inlet is a paradise worth checking out.


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Georgetown was established in 1734, about forty years before the First Continental Congress would convene at Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia. Boasting endless historic landmarks, Georgetown is arguably the third oldest town in South Carolina — after Charleston and Beaufort. Some of the town's historic gems include the Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church, established in 1721, the Kaminski House, an aesthetic wonder on the banks of the Sampit River, and the Old Market Building, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And known to be both picturesque and charming in equal measure, the downtown is lined with classy restaurants and shops that will cater to every tongue and purse. Whether one would like to explore the old plantations of the South, stroll through the Harbor Walk, or hop on a boat to see Georgetown's lighthouses, a summer trip to Georgetown is an experience to savor.

8 Most Charming River Towns In South Carolina If you have already been to the popular cities of this state, it is time to give some of the most charming river towns in South Carolina a chance!

The Takeaway

South Carolina is hugely famous for its pristine beaches and rugged shoreline. Since a summer vacation often features a beach experience, the Palmetto State is a top contender. To enjoy this shoreline feast, the state boasts several small, charming towns from which one can explore what South Carolina has to offer. Whichever destination one chooses, South Carolina is a sizzling summer destination worth experiencing.

7 Most Underrated Towns In South CarolinaThese towns offer rustic charm, a rich history, and endless nature at their back door.

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Jeff Oganga April 8 2023 in Places

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