17 Best Weekend Getaways in South Carolina

Tanya Byelova
May 8, 2022

If you're the person looking for a weekend getaway and adventure, South Carolina has plenty to offer. Mountain biking, kayaking, ziplining, and horseback riding are just a few of the exciting options available at the state's most popular tourist destinations.

Were you planning a weekend with your family? There is always something new to discover. As a state with year-round sunshine, kid-friendly restaurants, mountains, and beaches to explore, it's all here! Enjoy some of the best deep-sea fishing, or bring the kids to the zoo or planetarium while you're in the state.

Are you planning for a weekend with your friends and travel buddies? Beaches, golf courses, historic plantation homes, and theme parks are some of South Carolina's many attractions. South Carolina has something for everyone, whether you're looking for an adrenaline rush in the mountains or a laid-back vacation in the sands.

Are you traveling alone or with the love of your life? Learn how a peaceful morning in nature can change your outlook on the day. The state offers breathtaking views, unique experiences, and a wide range of lodging options so that you can wake up each morning smiling. You choose from a broad array of parks, each offering different amenities, sights, and experiences to explore.

This list of the best weekend getaway in South Carolina has something for everyone.

1. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Have you known that there are more than 2,000 plantations in South Carolina, and many of them are open to visitors? One of America's oldest publicly accessible gardens, Magnolia Plantation, was established in the early 1700s and opened to the public in 1870. They are the last great Romantic-style garden in the United States.

If you've ever wanted to see one of America's most beautiful drives, look no further than the three-quarter-mile Avenue of Oaks at nearby Boone Hall Plantation. Drayton Hall, the oldest unrestored plantation residence in the United States, is open to the public and offers a rare glimpse of 18th-century craftsmanship in its ornamental details.

Overlooking one of the country's oldest landscaped gardens, Middleton Place has been restored to its original splendor. Along with displaying how well the owners and their family members lived, these plantations now include exhibits, tours, and programs about the daily life of the enslaved people that made the plantation lifestyle possible in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

The enslaved and freedmen who worked for the Middletons are also discussed during the tours of Middleton Place. Archaeological excavations at Drayton Hall continue to unearth artifacts that shed light on the lives of previously unknown and undocumented people.

Enslaved people and their role in preserving and conserving Magnolia's magnificent gardens are featured in an educational 45-minute program by Magnolia's Cabin Project, which preserves former slave dwellings. The Gullah culture, established by enslaved Africans, is on display at Boone Hall, in which successors of the Gullah people show the history of this heritage through song and storytelling.

2. Huntington Beach State Park

Huntington Beach State Park is a popular tourist attraction and is widely regarded as South Carolina's best birding location, home to more than 300 different species of birds. Tourists who enjoy wildlife are drawn to more than just bird watching. At the park's freshwater lake, visitors can almost always see alligators and loggerhead turtles, and other endangered species, thanks to a wide range of park programming.

Every September, art lovers flock to the Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival, held in the former winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. Both the philanthropist and the sculptor are in charge of Brookgreen Gardens, located next door.

3. Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

There are over 2,000 animals in the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden alone, representing over 350 different species. When you go to the two-acre African Plains exhibit, you can see giraffes, zebras, and other animals in their natural habitats. African lions and other animals live there, too, but in their separate areas.

In the Ndoki Forest area, gorillas, elephants, and meerkats live in relative peace. Asia is represented by Siberian tigers and Komodo dragons, among other species, while grizzly bears and California sea lions represent North America. A botanical garden and ziplines are among the attractions at the zoo.

4. Charleston

Charleston is one of the most popular attractions in the state. It is the state's oldest city and home to a plethora of historic structures. Magnolia Plantations and Gardens, one of several well-preserved plantation homes and gardens dating back to 1672, is a popular stop for history buffs.

In addition to the historic Charleston Music Hall and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, there are plenty of other museums and galleries worth visiting while in town. If you're a beer connoisseur looking to sample some of the best local brews, a Charleston Brews Cruise or a Charleston Culinary Tour are great options for you to try.

5. Columbia

Columbia, the state's capital, has many things to see and do to keep tourists entertained during their stay. Many historic homes and gardens, such as the 1818 Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens, can be visited by those with an interest in South Carolina's past.

Families can spend a day learning and having fun at the South Carolina State Museum, which features an observatory, planetarium, and 4D interactive theater. They can also visit the EdVenture Children's Museum or the Riverbanks Zoo and Botanic Garden.

Visitors to the MAMM (the Museum of Modern Art in New York) should not miss it, while foodies should consider taking a tour of Columbia's culinary offerings.

6. Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island, a South Carolina island just a few miles south of historic Charleston, is a golfer's paradise. It is one of the most beautiful barrier islands off the coast of South Carolina and is home to more than a decade's worth of sandy beaches and five championship golf courses.

You can take a kayak or stand-up paddle boat tour of the island's many waterways. You also can rent a bike and explore the island on two wheels. You can charter a fishing boat or take a motorboat tour of the coast if you'd instead go fishing. Tennis (as well as lessons) is available on the island, as are four spas and a wide variety of mouthwatering dining options.

7. Falls Park on the Reedy

Greenville's Historic West End is home to Falls Park on the Reedy. In this urban oasis, residents and visitors alike can socialize, enjoy the great outdoors and cultural attractions, and take in the beauty of the gardens.

Tours of the park are available for those interested in learning more about the gardens or those who prefer to take a stroll to simply admire the flowers and landscaping.

Two on-site restaurants allow visitors to enjoy a picnic or a meal while relaxing on the sprawling lawns. There are several public sculptures scattered throughout Falls Park, making it a great place to start your journey on the 20-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail.

8. Litchfield Beach

Litchfield Beach is one of the best beaches in South Carolina and is located on the Pawleys Island section of the Grand Strand. A wide sandy beach is ideal for walking, sunbathing, and swimming at this location, away from the crowds. Several Pawley Island outfitters, including Surf the Earth, sell gear for those who want to go biking, surfing, or paddling.

You can play golf at one (or all) of the five golf courses in the area, enjoy a relaxing spa treatment, or eat at one of the many excellent restaurants in the neighborhood.

Visiting Brookgreen Gardens, which features a zoo, sculpture garden, children's garden, and other attractions, is an absolute must when visiting Litchfield Beach.

9. Hunting Island Lighthouse

The Hunting Island State Park is home to the Hunting Island Lighthouse, which provides visitors with a unique opportunity to learn about the island's history while enjoying the beach. South Carolina's only open-to-the-public lighthouse has been decommissioned since 1933. Ascending 167 steps to a viewing platform (132 feet above the beach), you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of both park and seascapes

In 1889, when the lighthouse was threatened by beach erosion, it was dismantled and relocated farther inland using overlapping steel plates instead of bricks.

10. Angel Oak Tree

Angel Oak Forest on John's Island is located 12 miles outside of Charleston and is home to the Angel Oak Tree. If you're in the area, don't miss out on the opportunity to see one of the country's oldest and most impressive trees.

With a reputed age of 400-500 years, the Angel Oak has stood tall and strong in the face of many storms along the coast, including a few powerful ones. If you're brave enough, you can pose for a picture in front of the 66.5-foot-tall tree, 28-foot circumference.

11. North Charleston

There are unique museums in North Charleston, vibrant art and culture scenes, and easy access to Charleston's historic landmarks. The H.L. Hunley Museum, where a recovered 1864 submarine can be seen, and its significance explained, is a must-see for history buffs, as is River Park's Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial.

Fire engines of all ages are on display at the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Education Center. The North Charleston City Gallery and the North Charleston Coliseum both host art exhibits and concerts for the community's enjoyment.

12. Aiken

Aiken, a small town in the middle of South Carolina's border with Georgia, is considered a jewel. Even today, the town's equestrian industry is a major part of its identity, thanks to wealthy northerners who came to spend their winters there in the 19th century.

Races, polo tournaments, and horse barns are commonplace in the area, and Aiken is known as the birthplace of many thoroughbred champions. The beautiful hills surrounding the town and the charming downtown area can be enjoyed even if you don't plan to participate in any horse-related activities. Shopping, dining, and listening to live music are just some things you can do in this quaint town.

For three days in February, Civil War reenactors recreate life in 1865 in the town of Aiken during the "Battle of Aiken," which has become an annual tradition. There are also authentic 19th-century military encampments, living history presentations, reproductions of medical facilities, an engineer and signal service, and civilian portrayals at this event.

13. Greenville

Greenville checks all the boxes for a fun-filled family weekend away, combining outdoor activities with educational and artistic attractions. The pedestrian-friendly downtown area is a great place to relax, eat, or shop. The Peace Center is home to Greenville Symphony Orchestra, Greenville Chorale, and Carolina Ballet Theater for those with an appreciation for live music and dance.

The Roper Mountain Science Center and the Children's Museum of the Upstate offer hours of educational fun for families, while the Caesars Head State Park offers hiking, fishing, and wildlife observation opportunities. Visitors can get around town for free using the Greenville Trolley. Amazing!

14. Caesars Head State Park Visitor Center

You can see The Blue Ridge Escarpment from Caesars Head State Park in Cleveland. The park is full of photo opportunities. The most stunning view is from The Overlook, where you can see Table Rock in all its glory. The Raven Cliff Falls Trail leads to South Carolina's tallest waterfall, while the Jones Gap Trail provides access to a series of swimming holes.

Attraction to the escarpment and its count site along the Atlantic Flyway attracts hawks on their way to South America. There are fishing ponds and rivers in the park and several GPS-locatable geocaches that awaits treasure hunters.

15. Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens is on more than 9,000 acres of former farms and plantations south of Myrtle Beach. It has a sculpture garden, a zoo, and a wildlife preserve with various ecosystems, like the Lowcountry Zoo. Each garden has a different theme. There is a Kitchen Garden, a Palmetto Garden, a children's garden, and a terrace garden full of perennials and flowering plants. The Live Oak Allée, a collection of 250-year-old trees, was planted in the early 1700s during the plantation era.

Over the course of the gardens and in three galleries, more than 2,000 works by 430 artists are shown. This is the country's largest and most complete collection of American figurative sculptures and was also the first American public sculpture garden, established in 1932 by Archer Huntington and his wife, renowned sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington.

During the Night of a Thousand Candles in December, the gardens are turned into a magical realm of colored lights that looks like a fairy tale.

16. Hilton Head Island

While the Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach is known for its extravagant stage shows, the low-country beach town of Hilton Head Island offers a more relaxed atmosphere and fewer tourists. Shopping, dining, and golf courses abound, as do the region's famed vast sands and clear waters.

Cycling in Hilton Head is one of the best activities in South Carolina, and the area has several miles of flat and well-marked trails with beautiful scenery and informative signage. If you go out on a boat at low tide, you can see dolphins playing in the surf only six to eight feet away from you.

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to get up close and personal with various wildlife species, both rare and common.

17. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach's miles of pristine sands are one of the most popular summertime activities in South Carolina. There are as many traditional seaside delights to choose from here as there are beautiful beaches. A 10-minute ride on the SkyWheel provides a bird's-eye view of the beach and boardwalk while the Carolina Opry puts on musical performances.

The state's most extensive entertainment and shopping complex, Broadway at the Beach, features a pedestrian-only area around Lake Broadway with rides, mini-golf, Ripley's Aquarium, movies, specialty shops, and dining. Water parks and significant hotels are also popular destinations for families looking to spend the day because of their water slides, splash rides, and swimming pools.