South Carolina Bucket List

Since we’re based in central South Carolina, we’re always looking for new and interesting places to visit in the Palmetto State. After some crowd sourcing, I created a bucket list of 25 “must dos” in South Carolina.

(All photos were taken by us on our travels.)

  1. Drive Horse Pasture Road to Jumping Off Rock Overlook – Sunset, SC
    We drove Horse Pasture Road to Jumping Off Rock Overlook in July 2020, and it’s my favorite place that we’ve visited in South Carolina so far. Check out our post from that trip to learn more.
    (Read our blog post about exploring the SC Upstate.)

  2. Stand at the top of Sassafras Mountain – Sunset, SC
    We haven’t been to Sassafras Mountain yet, but we plan to go soon. Sassafras Mountain is South Carolina’s highest point at 3,553 feet above sea level. An easily accessible observation tower officially opened to the public on April 22, 2019.


  3. Stroll through the synchronous fireflies at Congaree National Park – Hopkins, SC
    This is another one we haven’t done, but hope to catch next year! Each year for a few weeks in May or June a variety of fireflies (or lightning bugs) that light in unison arrive at Congaree National Park.


  4. Climb to the top of the Hunting Island State Park Lighthouse – Hunting Island, SC
    We fell in love with Hunting Island State Park when we visited in February 2020, but we didn’t climb the lighthouse, which is the only publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina since the boys weren’t tall enough. Children must be at least 44” inches to climb the lighthouses 167 stairs. I’ve heard the view is well worth the wait though!
    (Read our blog post about camping at Hunting Island State Park.)


  5. Relax under the Angel Oak – John’s Island, SC
    The Angel Oak is second only to Jumping Off Rock on my list of favorite places in South Carolina. The majestic tree is considered to be the largest Live Oak Tree east of the Mississippi estimating to be 300 to 400 years old.
    (Read our blog post about visting the Angel Oak Tree.)


  6. Kayak through the spider lilies at Landsford Canal State Park – Catawaba, SC
    In 2019, I saw an article on the SC State Parks site about the spider lilies at Landsford Canal State Park, and I knew we had to check them out. The park is home to the world’s largest population of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies, which bloom in late May. There is an easy trail that leads to an observation deck, but I’d love to go back and kayak down the river for an even better view of the gorgeous blooms.
    (Read our blog post about going to see the spider lilies at Landsford Canal.)

  7. See Campbell’s Covered Bridge in Landrum, SC
    I was unfamiliar with Campbell’s Covered Bridge until I started asking for ideas for this list and it was suggested multiple times. The bridge was constructed in 1909, and is the only remaining covered bridge in the State of South Carolina.

  8. Watch the sun rise over the mountains at Pretty Place – Cleveland, SC
    Symmes Chapel, also known as “Pretty Place,” is located at the YMCA Camp Greenville and offers panoramic views from the top of Standing Stone Mountain. Admission is free, and the chapel is open from sunrise to sunset, unless there is a private event.



  9. Visit Stumphouse Park to see Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls – Walhalla, SC
    Stumphouse Park is home to two interesting sights – Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls. Both are easily accessible and have a storied history. We enjoyed a quick visit before getting rained out in July 2020. 
    (Read our blog post about exploring the SC Upstate.)

  10. Hike to Rainbow Falls at Jones Gap State Park – Marietta, SC
    This is another one that wasn’t really on my radar, but I can’t wait to check it out! It looks to be an easy hike down to the falls.

  11. Take a boat tour of Lake Jocassee – Salem, SC
    I’ve seen the bird’s eye view of Lake Jocassee, but I’m itching to go back and get on the water. The lake features crystal clear water and has a number of waterfalls along its bank, but most are only accessible by boat or kayak. The lake is accessible from Devil’s Fork State Park in Salem, SC.



  12. Walk around the UofSC Horseshoe – Columbia, SC I might be a bit bias on this one, as a graduate and employee of the University of South Carolina, but the historic downtown campus is beautiful! When you step through the brick walls, it’s easy to forget you surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the capitol city.



  13. Explore Historic Charleston – Charleston, SC
    Charleston is full of history! You can walk through the market, stroll down rainbow row, or watch dolphins splash in the harbor from the battery. You also can get some amazing seafood. I still think about the barbecue shrimp and grits at the Charleston Crab House.



  14. Search for megalodon teeth at Edisto Beach – Edisto, SC
    Our oldest son is obsessed with all thing prehistoric, so he always wants to dig for dinosaur bones or hunt for shark teeth. The South Carolina coast is home to a wealth of marine fossils, including teeth from massive prehistoric megalodons.
    (Read our blog post about visiting Edisto Beach State Park.)

  15. Hike 40 Acre Rock Heritage Preserve – Kershaw, SC
    I haven’t been to 40 Acre Rock since college, but I remember being fascinated by the huge granite outcrop. Unfortunately, the rock has been vandalized in the past and has a very delicate ecosystem, so it isn’t typically promoted. If you decide to go, take a trash bag and help clean up any litter you find along the path.

  16. Visit the Boneyard Beach at Bulls Island at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge – Bull Island, SC
    The name Boneyard Beach provokes images of a secret pirate rendezvous, but in reality the beach is home to significant amounts of driftwood. The remote barrier island is also said to be a great destination for shelling and wildlife viewing. It’s only reachable by ferry.



  17. Go back in time at Colonial Dorchester – Summerville, SC
    The Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site is home to the ruins of a town that dates back to 1697. You’ll feel like you’re being transported back in time as you explore the fort walls made out of oyster shells and the still intact bell church bell tower.

  18. Tour Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie – Charleston, SC/Sullivan’s Island, SC
    South Carolina played a significant role in the Revolution War and the Civil War, Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie give a glimpse into those eras. Both forts are located near Charleston and are open to tour.



  19. Watch the sunset over Lake Strom Thurmond – Modoc, SC  
    At 71,000 acres the Lake J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir (also known as Clark’s Hill Lake) is the third-largest artificial lake East of the Mississippi. The lake borders Georgia and South Carolina on the Savannah, Broad, and Little Rivers. It is home to a number of local, state, and federal parks and campgrounds.
    (Read our blog post about camping at Modoc Campground on Lake Strom Thurmond.)

  20. Hunt for the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp – Bishopville, SC
    Since the 1980s there have been rumors about a creature living in the swamps near Bishopville, SC. Even if you don’t believe in the Lizard Man, the black water and swampland in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina is a great place to explore.


  21. Go birding at Dreher Island State Park – Prosperity, SC
    Dreher Island State Park is located on Lake Murray, just outside of Columbia, SC. The 50,000-acre, man-made lake is home to an impressive array of birds, many of which can be seen from Dreher Island. The park also has two campgrounds, boat ramps, and hiking trails.
    (Read our blog post about Dreher Island State Park.)

  22. Hike to the top of Table Rock – Pickens, SC
    I visited Table Rock State Park once while I was in college, but I didn’t get the opportunity to hike to the top. The hike is rated as very strenuous and is a 7-mile loop, so I may need to work up to it, but it’s definitely on my bucket list.



  23. Explore Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve – Lexington, SC
    Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve provides a look back in time to prehistoric times when the Midlands of South Carolina where under water. The layered limestone formations feature fossils of ancient marine creatures. The park also is home to a small waterfall and miles of great hiking trails.  

  24. Tour Botany Bay – Edisto, SC
    Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island offers undeveloped pine hardwood forests, agricultural fields, coastal wetlands and a barrier island with almost three miles of beachfront. The preserve also includes several colonial area structures.

  25. See the Sheldon Church Ruins – Yemassee, SC
    Sheldon Church, located near Beaufort, SC, dates back to 1757. The church was set on fire during both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, but the walls refused to fall. The ruins are located on private property owned by St. Helena’s Church, but can be visited as long as proper guidelines are followed.

Exploring the Upstate: Lake Hartwell State Park

Note: I’m behind. I was planning to write a post about our trip to Lake Greenwood State Park, but… life. So, I decided to go ahead and write about our more recent trip while it was still fresh in my mind.

During our Fourth of July trip to Lake Greenwood State Park, which was beautiful, but sweltering, I repeatedly said that next summer we needed to spend more time in the mountains. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait a whole year. In fact, we only had to wait a few weeks to escape to Lake Hartwell State Park and the mountains of the South Carolina Upstate.

We’ve made a few trips to the mountains, including a trip to Greenbrier Campground in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and a great trip to the Yogi Bear Golden Valley in Bostic, North Carolina, but this was our first time truly exploring the mountains in our own state. I booked Lake Hartwell on a whim last November during the South Carolina State Parks’ Black Friday Sale, which meant we got three nights for the bargain price of $42.

I’d heard mixed reviews of the park, and didn’t have overly high expectations. So, when we arrived I was very pleasantly surprised. We were on site 46, arguably one of the best sites in the park. As is the case at a lot of lake front parks, the sites were a bit tight, but we still had plenty of room. Plus, the view was amazing, and we had shade (win-win)! We also had great water access right from the back of our site. The bottom of the cove was pretty level and didn’t have a lot of rocks or branches, making it perfect for wading. (The only word of caution that I’ll offer is that there is a good bit of red clay on the bank and on the lake bed, so you WILL stain your bedding if you happen to bump into it with wet clothes.)

The drive up to Lake Hartwell was easier than expected too. From Lexington we took 178 up to 85, and we were able to make it in about three hours. Somehow, miraculously, we actually made the whole trip without a single stop, and both kids took naps! We spent Thursday evening relaxing with my Dad and his girlfriend, who drove down from Indiana (they were on site 48, which was smaller and didn’t have great access to the water).

On Friday, we ventured across the state line to Georgia to Harbor Light Marina (highly recommend) to rent a pontoon boat. Everyone at the marina was very friendly, and the boat was practically brand new (we rented the 65hp 18ft pontoon). We cruised up the Tugaloo portion of the lake looking for fish, but didn’t have any luck since the water was so warm. Even without fishing success, we had a great day, and the boys had a successful first boat trip.

On Saturday we decided to venture out and explore. First, we headed up to Stumphouse Park to see the Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls. The tunnel, built in the 1850s, was intended to be part of a railroad line connecting Charleston, South Carolina, to Cincinnati, Ohio, but the project ran into financial trouble and was never finished. (Fun Fact: It was later used to cure blue cheese.) The tunnel really is an impressive sight and a refreshing place to explore since it stays cool inside even in the summer.

The waterfall, one of many in the Upstate, was beautiful too. Unfortunately, our time admiring it was cut short when a thunderstorm brought a lightning strike a little too close for comfort. While we waited for the storm to pass we decided to stop at Mountain Mocha, a coffee shop and café in Walhalla, South Carolina, to get lunch. The food was great and the atmosphere was even better.

But the most memorable part of trip was still to come.

We decided to trek north toward Lake Keowee, and realized we were close to Lake Jocassee. For years Steven has been saying he wanted to drive Horse Pasture Road and take me to Jumping Off Rock Overlook, so we figured this was the perfect opportunity. We almost gave up on the mission when the directions from my iphone sent us to a dead end into a gated community. But after a little research and consulting SC DNR’s maps, we found the correct route. From HWY 178 to Jumpoff Rock is about 10 miles on Horse Pasture Road. The road itself is in good shape, but very winding, so it took almost an hour to make it to our destination.

Finally, we made it to a pipe gate marking the end of the road. The only other indicator we’d found our destination was a small sign nailed to a tree and a rough trail up the side of the hill. From the road you’d have no idea what waited at the top.

After a short walk, you crest the hill and are left awestruck by a panoramic view of Lake Jocassee and the surrounding mountains.

It is truly breathtaking. I didn’t want to leave, but Steven said DNR wouldn’t take well to me homesteading on their land, so eventually we made our way back to civilization.

The next day we even more reluctantly (a common theme on these trips) packed to head home. I may or may not have tried to convince Steven to stay another day. Our little weekend camping trips are our one escape during these crazy times, and even the boys seem more relaxed and centered when we’re out enjoying nature. Thankfully, we have more trips scheduled for August to look forward to, and until then, we have our memories and lots of pictures!