Historical downtown area of Charleston, South Carolina.

7 Oldest Founded Towns To Visit In South Carolina

Established in 1663, South Carolina played a crucial role in the American Revolution, with significant battles fought on its soil, including the Battle of Charleston in 1780. The state's commitment to independence played a large part in forming the United States. Several old towns in the state showcase its historical heritage with fascinating stories to tell. Collectively, they share a connection to South Carolina’s colonial past and have contributed to the state’s history and cultural heritage.

From Charleston's historic charm to Camden's revolutionary spirit, South Carolina's landscape tells a story that unfolds through the ages, inviting visitors to step back in time and explore the colonial echoes of South Carolina on a day trip or extended weekend getaway.


Charleston, South Carolina, USA cityscape in the historic French Quarter.
Charleston, South Carolina, cityscape in the historic French Quarter.

Charleston is one of the oldest, most well-known cities in South Carolina, established in 1670. Charleston attracts visitors from all over the world year-round. Rumor has it that Charleston got its nickname, “Holy City,” from a fond admirer of the city, while another legend purports that Charleston got its nickname due to the numerous churches and synagogues featured on historic walking tours of the city.

St. Michael’s Church is the oldest surviving church in Charleston. Built in the 1750s, the church sits on Meeting and Broad Street corners. This intersection is called the “Four Corners of Law” because buildings on the four corners represent federal, state, local, and religious law (the US Post Office, the Federal Courthouse, Charleston City Hall, and St. Michael’s).

While there are numerous ways to explore the city (by horse-drawn carriage, pedicab, or official walking tour), why not consider a self-guided walking tour? You can start in Charleston Waterfront Park and see the iconic Pineapple fountain, which symbolizes hospitality. Stroll along the water to Rainbow Row, where you’ll see brightly-colored Georgian-style row houses. Take advantage of Charleston’s beautiful waterfront location by heading out on the water on a sunset cruise through the harbor on a catamaran or tall ship.

If relaxing on the beach is more your style, downtown Charleston is a short drive from three soft, white sand beaches, including Folly Beach, the residential and resort community of the Isle of Palms Beach, and the serene sanctuary of Sullivan’s Island Beach.


Beautiful antebellum house in Beaufort South Carolina
Beautiful antebellum house in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Located on the southeast Atlantic coast of the United States, Beaufort, founded in 1711, is a small town with many beautifully restored homes that have been well-maintained and are popular destinations with visiting tourists. During the Civil War, Union troops occupied Beaufort, preventing it from being destroyed like many other towns in the state.

Visitors to Beaufort who want to relive the city’s rich history should visit the Beaufort History Museum at the historical Arsenal, built in 1798. The Beaufort National Cemetery is a United States National Cemetery managed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. It has over 19,000 interments, including the graves of soldiers from every major American conflict, including the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf wars.

In addition to its historic appeal, Beaufort has a thriving arts scene that features painters, storytellers, weavers, sculptors, and more. Local galleries and craft shops showcase a dynamic rotation of work, all inspired by the rich history and spirit of the area. A visit to the Beaufort Collectors Antique Mall, with over 30 dealers offering collectibles, vintage items, military memorabilia, and beautiful glassware, is a must-see for antique collectors.


Looking down Front Street with shops and the old clock tower in South Carolina
Front Street with shops and the old clock tower in Georgetown, South Carolina. Image credit Andrew F. Kazmierski via Shutterstock

Georgetown is part of what’s known as “Hammock’s Coast”—a stretch of six towns south of Myrtle Beach and north of Charleston—a nod to the slow pace of life on the Carolina Coast. Established in 1729, Georgetown is one of South Carolina's oldest cities. It's on the coast and has a charming historic waterfront with a flip-flop dress code.

Georgetown’s downtown historic district comprises 37 blocks running parallel to the waterfront. Go for a walk and pop into the colorful shops selling snacks, homewares, and gifts, or browse the art galleries for works by local artisans. Drop in at The Big Tuna Restaurant and Raw Bar, one of Georgetown's most popular places, for a quick lunch or dinner. Enjoy a cold beer or cocktail while lounging on the back deck with a view of Sampit River. The Big Tuna guarantees the freshest local shrimp, clams, and oysters in town. 

There are a variety of museums in Georgetown that explore the area’s history, including The Rice Museum, a museum devoted to exploring the city’s rice cultivation culture. Another fascinating museum in Georgetown is the Gullah Museum, which celebrates the Gullah Geechee people—African descendants dedicated to preserving their linguistic and cultural heritage. 

While there are many beaches within 20 miles of downtown Georgetown, like Pawleys Island, Litchfield Beach, and Huntington State Beach Park, another area worth visiting is the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center. This 24,000-acre wildlife preserve hosts alligators, numerous bird species, and sea turtles. The preserve is accessible to the public free of charge by guided tour. 


The historic Price House dates to 1830 and was built shortly after the Camden fire of 1829 burned many of the homes and businesses on Broad Street.
The historic Price House in Camden, South Carolina. Image credit Around the World Photos via Shutterstock

Founded in 1732, Camden played a significant role in the American Revolution and has a historic district with well-preserved colonial and antebellum architecture. In 2022, the estimated population of Camden was 8,312. Camden uniquely blends Revolutionary War history, horse culture, and a happening arts and entertainment scene.

The Revolutionary War Visitor Center celebrates Camden’s pivotal role in the American Revolution, the Southern Campaign. To keep the invading British at bay, South Carolinians managed to keep the British at bay, giving the patriots time to regroup, come together, and fight for independence, turning the tide of the war. The Center pays tribute to South Carolina’s role in the war. 

Known as "the steeplechase capital of the world," horse lovers from all over the world travel to Camden to experience all things equine. Camden has everything from lessons to trail rides to world-class equestrian events. Visit the Springdale Training Center or the Camden Training Center to learn the differences between flat track racing, where horses race competitors over a set distance, and jump track racing, where horses clear obstacles like ditches and fences (steeplechase racing). 

Be sure to stop in at The National Steeplechase Museum on the grounds of the Springdale Training Center, where you can visit a training track to watch the horses work out and maybe meet some of the trainers and riders. The tour includes a guided museum tour, but visitors must be over thirteen for safety reasons. 


The First Baptist Church on a sunny summer day in downtown Walterboro, South Carolina.
The First Baptist Church in downtown Walterboro, South Carolina. Image credit George Howard Jr via Shutterstock

Founded in 1783, Walterboro is an ideal spot for weekend getaways or a day trip. Called the "Front Porch" of the Lowcountry, this laid-back town is known for its historic downtown area and beautiful live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. It is a great place to spend an afternoon antiquing, admiring local artwork, and simply enjoying nature. While in town, stop by the Colleton Museum and Famers Market for local history and culture, including the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, the ACE Basin, Plantation Life, and Varn’s General Store. The Farmers Market, open May through November on Saturdays and Tuesdays, offers fresh local produce, farm-fresh eggs, honey, baked goods, and more.

The ACE Basin also offers numerous opportunities to hike and bike miles of dirt roads and trails. Visitors can spot more than 265 species of resident and migrating birds can be spotted in the 79,000 acres of public lands, making it a prime location for birdwatching. You may see bald eagles, ospreys, and Mississippi kites soaring overhead. The rivers and various creeks are a paradise for canoers and kayakers, who can paddle into the narrow canals of old rice fields and watch alligators basking in the sunshine on the banks of the rivers.


Looking out over snow covered grass at the Orangeburg Confederate Memorial
Orangeburg Confederate Memorial.

Known as "The Garden City," Orangeburg was established in 1877 and is home to several historic landmarks, including the Edisto Memorial Gardens. The gardens date back to 1920 when the first caretaker planted 5 acres of azaleas. Over time, the gardens have evolved, and in 1947, caretakers added the first greenhouse with nursery facilities, and the first rose bloomed in 1951. The name of the gardens is a tribute to the fallen heroes from the Orangeburg area who gave their lives during the war.

From the Monday before Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, the Edisto Memorial Gardens hosts the Children’s Garden Christmas and Kid’s Walk from 5:00 pm. to 10:00 pm. The annual event welcomes more than 300,000 guests, and admission is free for all. Visitors can drive through part of the spectacle and see over 60 still and animated displays, then stroll along the Kid’s Walk to view an additional 40 exhibits. This experience is a delight for both young and old. During the days leading up to Christmas, younger visitors should watch for Santa Claus, who tends to visit the gardens most evenings.

Moncks Corner

Famous Religious Wood Carvings of Mepkin Abbey Gardens. Sculpture is Made from Fallen Oak Trees, Moncks Corner, South Carolina
Famous religious wood carvings at Mepkin Abbey Gardens, Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Image credit Al Munroe via Shutterstock

Founded in 1728, Moncks Corner is a historic town with a charming downtown area and proximity to natural attractions like the Santee Cooper lakes. Moncks Corner derived its name from Thomas Monck, who purchased 1,000 acres of land in 1735. The town is renowned for its abundant outdoor activities, like hiking, boating, and freshwater fishing.

Moncks Corner is the best place to enjoy Lake Moultrie and the Cooper River. Public boat launches are plentiful and provide easy access to Lake Moultrie and Cooper River. Cypress Gardens has been a family destination since 1932, with miles of pathways and gardens featured in magazines and the setting for movies like The Notebook and The Patriot.

The Old Santee Canal Park, a 195-acre park dedicated to building the first canal in America, highlights the area’s history and habitat. Its attractions include the Stony Landing House, built in 1843, and four miles of boardwalks that snake through Biggin Creek and its surrounding swamp. The park’s Interpretive Center charts the area’s history as far back as 4000 BCE. The Berkeley County Museum, located in the park, is a fantastic place to learn about the history of Moncks Corner.

Visiting South Carolina's oldest towns is a journey through the state's rich history and cultural heritage. These towns offer a glimpse into South Carolina's colonial past, featuring beautifully preserved historic districts, iconic architecture, and landmarks that recount tales of the American Revolution and Civil War. Strolling along cobblestone streets and exploring centuries-old plantations, visitors can enjoy warm Southern hospitality and an educational experience for history enthusiasts and travelers seeking an authentic taste of the past.

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