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Weeping Spanish moss cloaks the cobblestone streets and historic homes of South Carolina’s oldest cities while its coast beckons travelers from near and far. South Carolina is one of the original 13 colonies of the United States, and it resisted British authority. Perched on the coast just north of Savannah, Charleston has been a major port city since the Spanish first settled the area in the 16th century, and was hotly contested territory in subsequent wars. Remnants of this history still stand in places like Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie. South Carolina’s draws are heavily clustered around coastal areas like Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach — or on waterways that connect to the sea — but there’s plenty to do and see in its inland cities like the state capital of Columbia and the cultural hotbed of Greenville.
Charleston International Airport (CHA) is the state’s largest airport and a good place to touch down if you’re launching your South Carolina travels from the southern coastline. Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) is a regional airport with nonstop flights to a handful of U.S. cities, and South Carolina’s two major beach areas also have small airports with domestic service, Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH) and Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR). The closest major international airports to South Carolina are Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), in North Carolina, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), in Georgia. Amtrak has train routes that stop in select South Carolina cities throughout the week. When you arrive in South Carolina, you’ll want to rent a car to get around, as public transportation is sparse.
As one of the southernmost states on the Eastern Seaboard, South Carolina maintains a mild climate year-round, making it an ideal destination no matter when you’re visiting. Summer months are popular at the beaches, so avoid traveling in June, July, and August if you want to escape the crowds. Fall and spring are traditionally beautiful, and a bit cooler, though still T-shirt weather. Keep hurricane season in mind when planning your trip to South Carolina; it runs June through November along the Atlantic coast. Winter, which happens to overlap with oyster season, can be a pleasant time to visit due to the lack of crowds, though some businesses in coastal areas may close seasonally.
With its cobblestone streets and antebellum architecture, Charleston is one of the most charming cities in the American South. A peninsula town whose rivers empty into the Atlantic Ocean, it has a warm, welcoming vibe where visitors are treated like family, and just about anywhere you go somebody is eager to fill your cup with a heavy-handed pour of spiked sweet tea. If you want to combine urban travel with a beach getaway, Charleston is the place for you; its downtown core occupies a tight grid of streets and historic homes with thriving beach communities — Folly Island to the west and Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island to the east — on each side.
Wildlife enthusiasts, hikers, and paddlers will want to add South Carolina’s only national park, just south of Columbia, to their itinerary. The Congaree and Wateree rivers snake their way through the bottomland hardwood forest, part of the Congaree International Biosphere Reserve, making it a great place to observe the unique ecosystems by kayak via its waterways.
In the northwestern corner of the Palmetto State near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville is a melting pot of lifestyles: a city made for epicures and art lovers that also places heavy emphasis on outdoor living. While Falls Park on the Reedy is Greenville’s centerpiece, it’s not the only waterfall in town: Greenville boasts more than 30 breathtaking cascades, three state parks, and the 22-mile, multi-use Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail.