Having spent a lot of time traveling in Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee last year… I thought it was time to shake it up a bit. After all of South Carolina travel I’ve done over the past year, I have learned a lot about the state and I want to share it all with you!

The state has a special place in my heart, because as a kid my mom brought me to Myrtle Beach several times and those trips have made me some very special memories. So this year I decided to take a road trip along the SC coast, visit castles and plantations, see what all the Charleston hype is about, visit state and national parks, and take my kids to see what the South Carolina zoos and aquariums have to offer.

After months of exploring South Carolina, this is what I’ve learned.

1. The most underrated beach in South Carolina is Pawley’s Island

Without a doubt, the highlight of the past year of South Carolina travel is the coast. What is there to do in South Carolina? Go to the beach. The state doesn’t have mountains that people from all over will have heard of and other than Charleston the state doesn’t have big cities that are well know either. It’s really about the coastline.

You may have heard Coligny Beach, Myrtle Beach, or Hilton Head. But have you heard of Pawleys Island? I hadn’t until this year. After researching and visiting the island.. OH MY GOODNESS why isn’t this town more visited?? As of 2017 Pawleys Island had a population of only 106. You won’t find any chain hotels, stores, or restaurants there. Looking for accommodations? Your choice is a number of inns that date back as far as the 1840’s.

When I visited this perfect little barrier island in the heat of summer, there were only a handful of people on the beach. I was in shock. I actually make a point to not visit beaches during peak season, I hate the crowds. But, Pawleys Island is different. Things are calm there, historic, relaxing, and you don’t have to deal with crowds. From now on when someone asks me for a destination recommendation in South Carolina, I’ll always say Pawleys Island.

Pawleys Island: A First Timers Guide

2. Charleston is visited and loved by people from all over the world

This spring I was thrilled to take a trip to Charleston with my whole family. We took a walking tour of the town and really just enjoyed each others company while exploring the charming, historic town. Once our trip of Charleston came to end and I came home and begin my writing and social media posts on the city, I realized two of my favorite travel bloggers had been in the Charleston around the same time I was there.

{New Zealand based Liz from Young Adventuress & Ireland based Tara from Where is Tara?}

For some reason, I didn’t realize just how popular Charleston was. Being from the southeast, it’s easy for things to feel normal to me, but in fact they are quite popular and enthralling to people abroad.

3. It would take months to see all of the incredible places the state has to offer

Despite South Carolina being a small state, it has so much to offer in the way of travel destinations. When researching where to go in the state, I had such a hard time narrowing down where to go. So, I decided not to. The state just fascinated me and I had such a desire to explore all different parts of the state.

For someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to spend in South Carolina, you can definitely experience the highlights in about 7 days, but to really explore the coast and some of the other attractions, plantations, zoos, parks, etc… you would need months to really see the state.

4. South Carolina reminded me of my love for the American south

Ever since my mom and I took a vacation to Saint Augustine, Florida one summer when I was 16 the American South has held a special place in my heart. I remember now how enthralled I was with the architecture, history, and the Spanish moss that hung all through out the town.

Exploring South Carolina reminded me of the love I have for the deep south. The swamps, moss, alligators, the history, and even the heat. OH and the food! The south just has so much to offer and is so enchanting. The history is a plus for me as well. I always dive into the history of wherever I am visiting and the history of the south is most special to me because so much of my family history in The United States was started there.

In fact, while in Charleston my husband found the road that one of his great uncles use to own in the city, the churches he planted, and other locations that lined up with his family history. I just LOVE the south.

5. There is much more to South Carolina than Myrtle Beach and Charleston

People on Trip Advisor have ranked Myrtle Beach and Charleston the two top South Carolina travel destinations in the state. They are also two of the top travel destinations in The United States. As popular as these two cities are, I have learned that there is so much more to enjoy in South Carolina.

One of my favorite places in South Carolina that I have visited so far, is Murrells Inlet. Only a 25-30 minute drive south of Myrtle Beach is the much less crowded, Murrells Inlet. The town and the area surrounding it has a lot of attractions and restaurants to enjoy. It’s also very beautiful. Unlike Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet has a lot of natural and historic activities.

Other great places to visit in South Carolina are The Santee Coastal Reserve and The Conagree National Park. Both places have boardwalks winding through gorgeous southern swamps giving views of the water and wildlife. There is so much to do in SC and I’m making it my goal to share that fact with others!

Family Travel Guide: Charleston, South Carolina

6. I learned what peanut plants look like

Something totally unexpected that I learned while in South Carolina is how peanuts grow. Hours and hours of driving through the state and I finally learned that the crop I had been puzzling over is in fact, peanuts. I was big into FFA and agriculture when I was in school and I still have knowledge and an interest in it to this day.

My years of living on farms growing up and my agriculture education never taught me what peanut plants look like. So, when I saw field after field after field of these plants I was getting so agitated that I didn’t know what it was! Once I got home and did some research I learned what it was and really kicked myself for not being able to figure it out, haha!

{If you haven’t tried boiled peanuts before, you should! They are a popular snack food in the deep south.}

7. I have no interest in returning to Myrtle Beach

After having visited Myrtle Beach a lot as a child, I no longer have any interest in visited again. Heres why. The city is FULL of stuff to do and is of course very touristy. They have a famous boardwalk, loads of shops and typical tourist-like arcades and “museums”, as well as restaurants that churn out 1000’s of plates of food during peak season.

I don’t mean to be overly contrarian or to diss popular destinations by any means. But, Myrtle Beach is way too touristy for me. Way too many people, and honestly way to uninteresting. There aren’t enough historical places for me to explore. It’s just not the type of travel that I like, so I don’t plan on going back.

8. Don’t even think about visiting the state without bug spray

MOSQUITOES. Oh, the mosquitoes. They are bad in south easter Kentucky where I am from, bu the skeeters in the south are a whole different kind of crazy. They are huge and they are EVERYWHERE. There have been two instances on my South Carolina travels that I have deeply regretted not having bug spray with me.

The first time I desperately needed bug spray but didn’t have any was when we visited Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in the month of May. My daughters and I could not step foot in the gardens because the bugs were so bad. And you definitely want to bring your own with you to avoid paying $14 for a thing of bug spray..

Again, I was short a can of bug spray when I visited the Santee Coastal Reserve in the beginning of August. Even after I bought a can at a local gas station, still the bugs were horrendous. That is why not only do I say don’t visit SC without bug spray, I also say don’t visit the swamp in the summer. I though I was smart by avoiding the months of June and July, but they were still terrible in May and August as well.

Visiting Santee Coastal Reserve With Toddlers

9. South Carolina & North Carolina are VERY different states

I’ve explored both South Carolina and North Carolina extensively. Let me tell you, the states may be small and very close together, but that does not mean they are a lot of like. Of course they are both southern coastal states, South Carolina travel is wayy different than traveling through North Carolina.

In North Carolina, you have the ocean to the east and in the western part of the state there are mountains giving you tons of waterfalls, hiking opportunities and gorgeous views. The coast of North Carolina has the famous Outerbanks, as well as beaches that are home to herds of wild horses.

In South Carolina you have a much less mountainous state and one that is much more swampy. Since the state is further south, you have to deal with higher temperatures and high humidity as well. Right now, I’m preferring South Carolina to North Carolina simply due to the richer history and the more southern landscape that I love.

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A Day at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

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