Horse and buggy tour in front of a beautiful antebellum house in Beaufort, South Carolina.

10 Best Small Towns To Visit In South Carolina

South Carolina, with its enchanting landscapes, historic charm, and Southern hospitality, is home to many hidden gems waiting to discover. From the pristine beaches to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, the Palmetto State offers an array of picturesque small towns that carry a wealth of history and unique local culture. These small towns in South Carolina provide a charming escape from bustling cities, promising tranquility and a step back in time.

Whether you're a history enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, these towns offer a unique blend of beauty, history, and Southern charm.


Front Street in downtown Beaufort, North Carolina.
Front Street in downtown Beaufort, North Carolina. Image credit Stephen B. Goodwin via Shutterstock

Renowned for its breathtaking vistas, charming antebellum architecture, and unique Lowcountry cuisine, Beaufort, South Carolina, is a beautiful town worth exploring. Founded in 1711, its rich history stretches back over 300 years, making it the second oldest city in the state. Its historical district is teeming with well-preserved, centuries-old buildings and lovely streets lined with moss-draped oaks.

Guided carriage tours offer in-depth insights into the town’s history, while the Beaufort History Museum offers fascinating exhibits on local culture and the area's military history. The nearby Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina's most-visited state park, is perfect for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing and attracts over a million visitors a year. With a population of just under 14,000, the town offers a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of larger cities.


May River in Bluffton, South Carolina
May River in Bluffton, South Carolina.

Situated on the picturesque banks of the May River, Bluffton is a historic town filled with antebellum homes, historic churches, and charming boutique shops. This small college town boasts a population of nearly 27,000 residents and is steeped in cultural richness. The historic district, known as Old Town, offers a delightful journey into the past.

The Heyward House Museum, situated in an 1840s Carolina farmhouse, offers insightful historic tours. The town is also known for its natural beauty, including the May River's calming vistas and the expansive Bluffton Oyster Company, one of the last hand-shucking houses in the state. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy world-class courses, while foodies can indulge in locally sourced seafood. Despite being small, Bluffton is big on southern charm and hospitality.

Travelers Rest

Aerial view of Traveler's Rest in South Carolina.
Overlooking Traveler's Rest in South Carolina.

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Travelers Rest has a big heart rooted in southern hospitality and charm. Once a rest stop for weary 19th-century travelers, it has transformed into a destination with a thriving main street filled with eclectic shops, local eateries, and breweries.

The town's proximity to the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 22-mile multi-use greenway, offers opportunities for hiking, biking, and leisurely walks. Visitors can learn about local history at the Travelers Rest Historical Society or catch a live show at the Trailblazer Park amphitheater. With its friendly atmosphere, stunning views of the mountains, and low crime rate, Travelers Rest is a delightful blend of past and present.


Opera House, Abbeville, South Carolina.
Opera House, Abbeville, South Carolina.

Situated in the state's western region, Abbeville is a quaint little town that holds a significant place in South Carolina’s history, making it a great weekend escape for American history buffs. It's famously been dubbed the "Birthplace and Deathbed of the Confederacy," referring to its role in both the initiation and conclusion of the Civil War.

The town square, a jewel of southern charm, is surrounded by shops, eateries, and the famed Abbeville Opera House, which still hosts performances. The Burt-Stark Mansion, where Jefferson Davis accepted the dissolution of the Confederacy, is another must-see. With a population just over 5,000, Abbeville offers tranquility coupled with rich history, making it an engaging destination for history buffs and culture vultures.


The boat pier at lake Paul Wallace in Bennettsville, South Carolina.
Paul Wallace in Bennettsville, South Carolina.

Bennettsville, a small town of nearly 8,000 people nestled in South Carolina's Pee Dee region, is steeped in history and small-town charm. It's an idyllic destination for those looking to explore the rich Southern culture. Visitors can tour the Marlboro County Historical Museum to learn about the town's past or take a stroll through the picturesque Lake Paul Wallace.

The town's Victorian-era architecture adds to its charm and can be admired at the Jennings-Brown House, a Greek Revival-style building. Each year, the town hosts the Bennettsville Firecracker Festival, a delightful event featuring fireworks, local food, and live music. Bennettsville also has a low crime rate, making it a safe and appealing destination for all.


Aiken Spring Steeplechase.
Aiken Spring Steeplechase. Image credit Hedley Lamarr via

Nestled near the Georgia border, Aiken is a vibrant town with a population of around 30,000. Known for its horse-loving culture, Aiken hosts numerous equestrian events throughout the year, attracting enthusiasts from around the world. The Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum pays tribute to this horse-centric tradition.

Aiken's downtown area is bustling with boutique shops, art galleries, and a variety of restaurants serving up delicious southern cuisine. Historical sites such as the Aiken County Historical Museum and the Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site provide fascinating insights into the region's past.


Overlooking downtown Camden, South Carolina
Downtown Camden, South Carolina.

Camden is South Carolina's oldest inland city and a treasure trove of history. With a population of around 7,000, the town maintains a warm, small-town atmosphere while offering a host of cultural and historical attractions.

It's home to the Historic Camden Revolutionary War site, a 107-acre outdoor museum highlighting the town's pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. The Camden Archives and Museum, another must-visit, showcases the town's rich history and heritage. Equestrian enthusiasts can experience the town's horse-racing tradition at the Springdale Race Course.


The old square in Pendleton, South Carolina
The old square in Pendleton, South Carolina.

Pendleton, with a population of less than 3,500, is a charming town known for its historic district, which is among the largest in the nation. The town's heart is the Village Green, a large square surrounded by 19th-century buildings housing unique shops and restaurants.

Pendleton is near the Ashtabula and Woodburn Plantations for history enthusiasts, both offering guided tours that transport visitors back to the antebellum South. The town's community spirit is evident during the many annual events, including the Spring Jubilee, an arts and crafts festival held on the Village Green.


Old Rock House in Walhalla, South Carolina.
Old Rock House in Walhalla, South Carolina.

Walhalla is a small town with a population of around 4,000 near the Blue Ridge Mountains that was founded in 1850. This destination is filled with a rich tapestry of history, German cultural heritage, and stunning natural beauty. History enthusiasts can visit St. John's Lutheran Church, which is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture.

For outdoor lovers, the nearby Isaqueena Falls offers a breathtaking waterfall view and is the terminal stop on The Palmetto Trail, while the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway provides a spectacular driving experience with mountain views.

Walhalla's annual Oktoberfest celebrates the town's German roots with traditional music, food, and dance, offering a unique and festive experience.

Edisto Beach

Waves in Atlantic Ocean and beachfront homes at sunrise, Edisto Beach, South Carolina.
Atlantic Ocean and beachfront homes at sunrise, Edisto Beach, South Carolina.

Despite its size, with a population of around 600, Edisto Beach has plenty to offer visitors. It provides a peaceful seaside escape while also being a gateway to South Carolina's rich history. The Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society Museum displays artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the island's past, from the Native American era to the Civil War.

The town is a paradise for beach lovers, offering serene seascapes and an abundance of water activities. The local restaurants serve delicious seafood, often caught the same day. For those interested in wildlife, the nearby Edisto Island Serpentarium features a variety of reptiles.

South Carolina's small towns offer a rich tapestry of history, charm, and natural beauty. Each town, with its unique features, provides a different perspective on South Carolina's heritage and way of life. They transport you back to simpler times with their historic sites, antiquated architecture, and warm hospitality. These towns showcase the soul of the Palmetto State, steeped in history and rich in culture. Whether you wish to explore historic monuments, enjoy outdoor adventures, or soak in the slow pace of small-town life, these destinations are a testament to the captivating allure of South Carolina. Safe and welcoming, they are waiting to offer you an unforgettable travel experience.

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