Road over the water by the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina.

7 Most Beautiful Cities In South Carolina

Taking a trip to a new destination is largely about three things: the attractions, the relaxation potential, and the friendliness of the people. South Carolina checks all the boxes with passion. The Palmetto state is home to kind and noble Southerners that exude manners and charm. It is bursting with fun ways to spend time with the family, and the views are gorgeous and very calming. Visit the beaches, stroll through towns, or take a drive and soak in the scenery, and see why so many locals call this lovely state home. With plenty of towns to visit and lots to take in, a single visit will not be enough time to fully absorb all there is to offer. The incredible beauty of these cities alone is reason enough to extend your trip or plan for a second one.

Hilton Head Island

Aerial view of boats moored in the marina and a lighthouse on the pier in Hilton Head Harbor
Hilton Head Harbor. Image credit Helioscribe via Shutterstock

Named for Captain William Hilton, who discovered the island, Hilton Head Island has become a prominent hotspot for beachgoers who want a slightly more exclusive experience. While Hilton Head and its 12 miles of beaches are available for public access, many of the resorts have private guest access. A clever concierge can clue visitors into the secret beaches that are certainly worth the drive.

Beyond all those miles of ocean views, Hilton Head Island has plenty to enrich the senses inland, including terrific restaurants, shopping, and loads of culture, which interested guests can learn more about at the Coastal Discovery Museum. Be sure to time the trip with one of the local events such as the Dove Street Festival of Lights, a brilliant display of color.


Aerial view of Rainbow Row in Downtown Charleston, South Carolina
Rainbow Row in Downtown Charleston.

Once one of the largest cities in the United States, the rich heritage of Charleston is embedded in the fabric of every aspect of this historical spot. Charleston has held firm to that small-town charm that radiates through all of South Carolina, beaconing visitors to take a glimpse into the past.

With colonial-style homes complete with huge columns to its extensive waterfront, from genuine southern hospitality to a vibrant nightlife, there is always something to see and do, and that goes double for history buffs. If venturing to the historic city in mid-spring, take a stroll to Spoleto Festival USA, a huge performing arts event, followed by some Low Country cuisine.


Aerial view of Georgetown, South Carolina
Waterfront Georgetown, South Carolina.

Never has southern charm and beauty been captured as it is on the oak-lined streets of Georgetown. This modest coastal city is a representation of all that is and can be in any visit to South Carolina, and it might just suck you into its loving grasp and hold on, welcoming newcomers into its populace. A waterfront town on the Intracoastal Waterway, Georgetown sits between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, and while many might think it would have characteristics of the two, it truly has a life and personality all its own. However, that does not mean it is not still bursting with Southern customs and flair. This friendly spot is always ready to display a high level of hospitality no matter who comes calling.


Tire swings and Spanish moss dangling from oak trees are part of the southern charm found in small, rural American towns like McClellanville.
Spanish moss dangling in McClellanville. Image credit Scott Woodham Photography via Shutterstock

When is the last time a restaurant offered fish or shrimp caught just outside their door? In McClellanville, this is a very normal occurrence as the bulk of revenue brought into this small coastal town is from fishing. Beyond the lovely shoreline beats the heart of a historical treasure trove worthy of respect and notice.

First, while small, within the town borders exists a scattered list of buildings and plantations that are on the National Register of Historic Places, and many of them offer tours to demonstrate the hardships of life during and after the Civil War. If learning about McClellan’s rich history doesn’t suit you, taking a stroll through town and enjoying the architecture is a terrific way to spend an afternoon.


Overview of the Aiken skyline with clock tower and chapel
Aiken clock tower and chapel.

Most of the older South Carolina towns and cities have historical significance due to the Civil War. While also true for the city of Aiken, this lovely town stands out for a different reason. The town was named after the president of the South Carolina Railroad, the predecessor for what many now see on the tracks, the Norfolk Southern Railway in all her glory.

There is beauty in every nook and cranny on the streets of Aiken. It is home to equine facilities with gorgeous horses bred for sports like polo and racing. For those seeking enrichment of the soul, Aidken exudes arts and culture in all its forms. Boutique shops, restaurants that will capture your taste buds, and one-of-a-kind festivals and celebrations are only the short list of reasons why Aiken should be on your travel to-do list.


Mark's Grill, on Main St., showing diners at sidewalk tables, passersby on sidewalk in Greenville, South Carolina
Mark's Grill, on Main St, Greenville. Image credit Nolichuckyjake via Shutterstock

When visiting Greenville, you might feel as if you are stepping into a work of art. The color scheme of the city, the scenic topography, and even the people paint a picture that perfectly displays a love for art and culture spanning centuries. This even stretches into the history of Carolina's music scene, featured at the Sigal Music Museum.

No matter what time of year, Greenville has activities and events to elate and excite visitors and residents alike. Take a self-guided tour through Falls Park on the Reedy and you will find yourself at an inclined railway, and since you are at the top of the hill anyway, why not try a zip line? The Greenville Zoo is always a great idea. And don't forget to pay your respects at Cancer Survivors Park. Greenville cares, about people, the land, and about history.


Tillman Hall at Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina.
Tillman Hall at Clemson University. Image credit Rob Hainer via Shutterstock

The Appalachian heritage is waiting for eager visitors to reconnect with its rich history and beautiful views, all of which you can experience the moment to enter Clemson. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, Clemson is famous for its revered college sports, but those who live here stick around for so much more than that. 

Incredible scenery, health and wellness opportunities, and a history worth exploring are just part of what draws in millions of tourists each year. And the local food, including BBQ, is out of this world. Visit one of the many parks throughout Clemson, take in the waterfalls, the lakes, then enjoy the vibrant downtown area, and delight in southern hospitality; all will enchant you.

South Carolina is a terrific place to live, a place everyone should visit, and has so much to see and do. If it isn’t already on a list of future vacation spots, add it now. Missing out on the beaches, the lovely towns, the culture, and even the swamps would be missing out on an opportunity to enjoy a part of the south that is so unique and special, you have to absorb it into the heart to truly understand.

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