The best small towns in South Carolina are unassuming, charming, and wonderful to visit. We consider traveling to a few of these towns one of the best things to do in South Carolina.
Whether it’s enjoying the seagulls calling in a small coastal town or listening to a summer jazz festival, there’s a South Carolina town for everyone!
The Best Small Towns In South Carolina
York packs in plenty of classic South Carolina heritage to provide a grand romantic weekend out. The downtown historic district is ripe for walking tours, and both sides of the street have maintained their original integrity to showcase small town southern American history.
The original jail, built-in 1828, sits right next to a courthouse constructed in 1914 to allow visitors an intimate look at how the town used to handle business. Modern breweries, several accommodation options, and activities to provide something for everyone are blended in with all this history.
Bed and Breakfasts give you an intimate stay right downtown, and a Natural History Museum keeps a thriving hummingbird population to support a vast swath of rare local fauna.
One of the best small towns in South Carolina, Beaufort, is a blend of land and sea, and the surrounding village has grown up with one foot in the sand and one foot in the water. The second-oldest town in the state has its industrial origin as a ship-building center for the new world. Nowadays, visitors flock to the small town to enjoy the best of both worlds as there are many things to do in Beaufort, SC.
Various barrier islands offer day trips galore, highlighted by the Hunting Island State Park. The park is one of the most popular state parks in South Carolina, and visitors can see why. The area is an entirely natural refuge with one human-made building, a lighthouse, where visitors can clamber to the top and look out towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Back in town, you’ll find a thriving dining and art scene to keep the activities rolling all weekend long. Out of so many places in the state, I consider Beaufort one of the best small beach towns in South Carolina. Make sure to check out some of these amazing Beaufort restaurants when you visit.
Walhalla is the German version of Valhalla, which means these settlers felt their town represented heaven on earth. This moniker is primarily due to the natural settings of the town, surrounded by waterfalls. The most prominent waterfalls in the state are a quick trip away from downtown.
Built by German Settlers, a unique Germanic architectural style has defined the small mountain town. Every October brings Oktoberfest to recognize the town’s early inhabitants.
October is also a spooky season, and the Stumphouse tunnel at the edge of town provides plenty of chances for fright. The incomplete railroad tunnel strikes fear into the hearts of even the bravest travelers.
South Carolina small town charm means heartfelt interactions with the locals. Anderson is filled to the brim with citizens who take southern hospitality seriously, enough to be known as the Friendliest Town in America.
That’s not the only nickname awarded to this tiny slice of South Carolina. A nearby hydroelectric dam made Anderson one of the first towns in the entire southeast to wield electricity, and the town instantly became known as the Electric City.
Wander through Anderson’s downtown historic district and find an authentic taste of American history. Several buildings in Anderson have been placed on the National Historic Register. There’s enough to learn in this town to fill even the most curious appetites.
Edisto Beach can date its European history back as far as any town in the country. Spanish colonists first washed ashore in the 16th century, and the area has developed into one of the most affluent regions of the southeast.
Edisto beach is the town at the center of Edisto Island, and visitors can have their fair share of beach and nature just a quick trip from the city center. Many consider it one of the best beaches in South Carolina.
Edisto Beach State Park offers camping, hiking, and beautiful, undeveloped beaches. The park has one of the state’s best hiking systems with plenty of trails for all levels. The sleepy coastal town is a quick trip from larger Charleston, but you’ll feel far away from the hustle and bustle of the city while having everything you need for a beautiful week at the beach.
The town of Aiken was well thought out and developed since its inception. The opposite of a town naturally popping up, this area was planned as a comfy small town for North Easterners looking to escape winter. The historic district features grand mansions the winter colony used as homes away from home hundreds of years ago.
The city planners left 2,000 acres of forestland in the heart of the area, known as Hitchcock woods, unperturbed by developments. You’ll often find horseback riders heading through the tree-lined downtown areas in this quirky bit of South Carolina.
Botanical gardens, museums, and art galleries are all within walking distance from the town hub. This town has been supporting vacationers for centuries, so you can be sure it’s well-equipped to handle your next time off.
Another fantastic small town in South Carolina is Georgetown. Georgetown’s signature Oak trees line the old guard city home to the second largest seaport in South Carolina. In the heart of the state’s Lowcountry, Georgetown’s harbor and surrounding marshlands offer up plenty of day trip opportunities.
East Bay Street is a legendary walking path that carves through the heart of the small town. Take the trail to see some of the original homes and mansions built in the area in their restored glory.
Segregationists first planned South Carolina’s influential role in the civil war in pubs in Bluffton. The coastal town held plenty of meetings of separatist leaders who eventually convinced the state to be the first to depart from the union, leading to the Civil War.
The union army retaliated by destroying two-thirds of the city towards the end of the war, but that didn’t stop the heartbeat of this coastal village on the edge of the May River.
Arts, music, and seafood coalesce every summer in the bustling South Carolina small town that features plenty of authentic southern dining and accommodation options. A town not accustomed to rebuilding, artists and architects have used the area as their playground to create an electrifying small village with plenty of history.
Claimed by the British after a war with the area’s original Cherokee inhabitants, the entire town of Pendleton is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a great example of great historic towns in South Carolina.
The town’s economy has embraced this distinguished status, and the main street features antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants that haven’t changed their menus in decades.
This name used to have a more literal meaning before the advent of high-speed transportation. Right across the border from North Carolina, near Greenville and Spartanburg, wanderers would refuel and rest after making it through the North Carolinian section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in this tiny town with less than 5,000 full-time occupants.
Its location has provided plenty of activities for modern travelers who won’t have to spend a few weeks walking time to get there. Beautiful South Carolina waterfalls, hiking trails, and swinging mountain bridges are a hop, skip, and a jump away.
Once you get back from the woods, downtown Travelers Rest has plenty of places to unwind. Distilleries, restaurants, and honey farms are within walking distance, and the Cherokee Valley Golf Club provides fantastic alpine golfing.
Mcclellanville developed naturally as a fishing village. The area was close enough to Charleston for locals to transport fresh fish to larger markets, and the entire town embraced the sea to form their economy.
Suppose you want to be one of the fishing capitals of the south. In that case, you’d better supply some delicious local seafood, and Mcclellanville has delivered numerous options for chowing down on fresh shrimp and fish caught just a few blocks away.
Greer’s laid-back lifestyle is a far cry from the big city action of nearby Spartanburg and Greenville. The South Carolina town is in the middle of these two urban centers and provides a refuge for those looking to slow down their day-to-day lives. It’s been referred to as one of the best small towns to live in South Carolina.
The family-friendly downtown has shops and galleries intermingling with public parks, plus unique restaurants once the whole gang has walked long enough to work up an appetite. The town draws people in from all over for its weekly farmers’ markets and flea markets.
The town of Hilton Head highlights an entire island built for vacation and needs no introduction. The locals are no strangers to a good time and have decked out the town’s streets to create a great place to come back to after a day on the beach.
If you want a world-class golfing destination with a thriving beachfront and plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained, you can find everything you need. There are a plethora of amazing Hilton Head restaurants to enjoy with friends and family.
Before your day at the beach, make sure to grab a coffee at Hilton Head Social Bakery, it’s one of the best cafes in Hilton Head!
There are small towns, and then there’s Ridgeway small. A small community developed alongside a railroad stop in the South Carolina mountains, less than 1,000 people currently live here full time.
A true South Carolina small town, Ridgeway closes down shop at 17:00 besides a restaurant or two, and nothing is open on Sundays.
Just because it’s a tiny community doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in this town rich in history. Local folks have developed flea markets and thrift offerings to give an authentic taste to downtown. There are plenty of dining options per capita here. If you want to see South Carolina small towns, it doesn’t get any smaller than Ridgeway.
The prettiest town in Dixie is named for the original Native American tribe who called the area home. The town is set up on the banks of the Pee Dee River, and became a hotbed of trade during the height of the steamboat industry.
Much more than a trading outpost, Cheraw has its fair share of artistic history. The town hosts a jazz festival every year to pay homage to Dizzy Gillespie, a nationally known jazz legend who was born inside of Cheraw town limits.
You may not expect to find many jazz clubs in a small town like this one, but Cheraw’s musical acumen punches well above its weight.
Another sleepy southern destination where you won’t find much open on Sundays, Hartsville supports a high quality of life without trying to do much else. The local communities support gardens, museums, and baseball diamonds and are confident that the local’s charm is enough to bring in tourism.
You won’t find Hartsville trying to compete to break any records or do anything fancy. Wandering down the main street, you’ll be able to see the sun set over Prestwood Lake in the west, and city planners don’t feel the need for anything else.
You can soak in a day at the racetracks in Camden, South Carolina. The national steeplechase museum is the authoritative figure for the whole country, and you’ll find facts and exhibits here like no other place in America.
Once the day’s steeplechase races are over, Broadway street joins all of Camden to make shopping and dining options easy to find.
Union is all about southern charm and is probably one of the best small towns in South Carolina you haven’t heard about. Historical plantations, architecture, and museums combine to create a small town that practically exists entirely as one extensive exhibit. Downtown Union hasn’t even changed up the light fixtures, still boasting original design to keep the streets bright at night.
The highlight of this historical hotbed is the Carnegie library, which has been declared the Best Small Library in the country.
Clemson is known more for the University than its small-town feel, but there’s plenty of southern charm on campus and off-campus here to create an eclectic town with plenty going on. Fall weekends in Clemson are abuzz with activities, especially on game days. You can watch the town transform as alumni head in from around the state to cheer on the Clemson Tigers.
In quieter moments, you’ll find unique flora and fauna at the South Carolina Botanical Garden, and the town’s backdrop being the Blue Ridge Mountains, provides plenty of exploring options.
Just near the thriving city of Charleston is this charming South Carolina town. Mount Pleasant’s waterfront is dedicated to military history. Many famous US navy vessels have retired in the charming small community and are open for exploration. Once you’re finished getting your glimpse at life at sea, the old town of this area offers plenty of landlubber’s history.
Pack a picnic lunch and take your pick of dining areas. Mount Pleasant boasts many natural park areas right downtown, where lovers and loners can stroll through the shade of old-growth oak trees.
A prominent blend of naval and civilian history in a small-town background, history buffs will go nuts in Mount Pleasant.