Gaffney South Carolina Downtown

These Towns In South Carolina Have The Best Main Streets

While South Carolina has its fair share of vibrant and beautiful cities, it is primarily a state filled with small towns. And many of these small towns still have timeless, postcard-perfect main streets that serve as hubs of commercial and social activity. It would be impossible to point out all of the picturesque main streets in South Carolina, and it is a tall task to narrow the list to just seven! So, consider the following list of South Carolina’s most charming main streets as a jumping-off point for your next exploration of the great small towns of the Palmetto State.


Downtown Abbeville, South Carolina.
Downtown Abbeville South Carolina. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr.

The town of Abbeville has been called the “birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy” because South Carolina’s secession movement began there in 1860, while the Confederate government was dissolved there in 1865. Although the town continues to recognize this historic connection to the Civil War, today’s Abbeville is a quiet, lovely community of about 5,000 in the “Upper Western” region of South Carolina, nestled among lakes, forests, and hills. As the seat of Abbeville County, the town’s hub is the courthouse square, which hosts several festivals throughout the year. Among the numerous historic buildings, many of which house local businesses, the 1908 Abbeville Opera House is a particular architectural highlight.


Table Rock Mountain, Pickens, South Carolina,
Aerial view of Beaufort, South Carolina.

Located on Port Royal Island, one of the Sea Islands along South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast, Beaufort (population 13,500) is affectionately known as the “Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands.” As one of the oldest colonial settlements in South Carolina, Beaufort is full of historic architecture, and has one of the best-preserved collections of pre-Civil War homes and buildings in the state. Beaufort has been named to numerous “best small towns” lists over the years, and more than 300 acres of the downtown area has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Visitors to Beaufort who take an evening horse-drawn carriage ride can easily feel like they have been transported to a different time.


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

Situated along the Great Pee Dee River in northeastern South Carolina, Bennettsville is a county seat with a population of around 7,000. The town is known in the region for its large collection of Victorian era homes and buildings, especially in the downtown area that has been named a National Historic District. This impressive architectural heritage harkens back to Bennettsville’s heyday as a commercial hub in one of the state’s most prosperous agricultural regions. While that prosperity has largely departed, downtown Bennettsville still houses a range of local shops, restaurants, and antique stores. The Welcome Center on West Main Street is a great starting point for walking tours of downtown.


The Downtown Historic District in Clover, South Carolina.
The Downtown Historic District in Clover, South Carolina. Image credit: Bill Fitzpatrick, via Wikimedia Commons

Now part of the fast-growing Charlotte (NC) metro area, the northern South Carolina town of Clover has seen its population nearly double since 1990. That said, Clover still has only about 6,500 residents and retains its small town look and feel. The influx of new residents has given a jolt to the downtown area, so that it is both a picturesque place to explore and a lively place to hang out. Downtown Clover is a great getaway for visitors to Charlotte, visitors to the nearby Kings Mountain National Military Park, and travelers who are interested in Scots-Irish history and culture (as many of Clover’s early settlers were of Scots-Irish descent).


 Downtown historic building at corner of Limestone and Frederick Streets.
Downtown historic building at corner of Limestone and Frederick Streets in Gaffney.

The seat of Cherokee County and home to about 13,000 residents, Gaffney is one of the small gems in the Upstate region of South Carolina. Affectionately called the “Peach Capital of South Carolina,” Gaffney does indeed have a long agricultural heritage, as well as former boom times due to the textile industry. While downtown Gaffney hit hard times when the interstate highway opened nearby, an ongoing revitalization effort has produced strong results. Historic buildings have been restored and filled with local shops and restaurants, new parks and cultural centers have been developed, and a range of festivals, farmers markets, and other attractions have been added to the community calendar.


Aerial View of a large public State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina
Aerial View of a large public State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Orangeburg already has a colorful sounding name, but when you add in its nickname, “The Garden City,” you get an even better idea that this is a lovely central South Carolina town! Located about 40 miles from the state capital and the seat of the county of the same name, Orangeburg has a population of about 13,000. As home to two historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Claflin University and South Carolina State University, downtown Orangeburg has a youthful energy to go along with a range of historic structures. A downtown revitalization project initiated in 2000 continues to pay dividends in adding to the vibrancy of an already charming main street corridor.


Table Rock Mountain, Pickens, South Carolina,
Table Rock Mountain in Pickens, South Carolina.

Situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western South Carolina, Pickens is a lovely little town that nearly matches the beauty of its natural surroundings. The town’s 3,000 or so residents appreciate both the access to natural treasures and the charms of their own downtown area. Architectural highlights include the stately Pickens County Courthouse and the imposing Old Pickens Jail, while the public amphitheater on West Main Street regularly brings crowds to the downtown area. Downtown Pickens houses several shops and restaurants that draw in visitors who are looking for a break from exploring the nearby mountains and state parks, or the historic 1845 gristmill located just outside of town.

South Carolina welcomes millions of tourists every year, many of whom are drawn to the sunny beaches along the Atlantic shore or the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains on the other side of the state. In both of these regions, however, as well as in as the territory in between, South Carolina is full of charming small towns with picturesque and vibrant main streets. So, on your next visit to the Palmetto State, make time to explore some of the best little downtowns found anywhere.

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