20 Famous Landmarks in South Carolina to Visit


8 min read
Buildings with trees facing a calm ocean during sunset, under a clear blue sky
South Carolina offers beautiful beaches and many historical sites

Would you prefer to live near the mountains or the sea? People lucky enough to find themselves in South Carolina won't have to wrestle with this question, as they'll have plenty of both within a few hours' drive.

In addition to its natural beauty, South Carolina is famous for its role in the country's colonial past and its bloody Civil War. Because of this, many of the 20 famous landmarks in South Carolina from this list will feel like a trip through time.

  • 20 South Carolina landmarks

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20 Famous South Carolina Landmarks

South Carolina Landmarks Map

A map of South Carolina landmarks. Use the map to explore all of the points of interest.

The Charleston Historic District is one of the famous landmarks in South Carolina
Charleston, founded in 1670, is one of the country's oldest cities

Charleston Historic District

Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the oldest cities in the United States, dating back to the European settlement of the region in 1670. The colonial past does not feel very past as you walk its cobblestone streets and take in hundreds of the historical (and colorful) stucco and brick buildings.

This beauty contrasts starkly with the Old Slave Mart Museum, where visitors can learn some stories of the millions of Africans bought and sold in this colonial port town.

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Aerial view of vehicles crossing a huge river on a cable-stayed bridge
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is one of the famous landmarks in South Carolina

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is one of the most popular landmarks in South Carolina. It allows visitors to see the tallest structure in South Carolina while simultaneously driving, biking, or walking along one of the longest cable bridges in North America.

Enjoy gazing up at the six-hundred-foot peaks of the bridge's dual towers as you cross the Cooper River from Charleston to Mount Pleasant.

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Egret hiding in long grass and looking out over marshy water
Huntington Beach State Park is home to the American Kestrel and the Savannah Sparrow

Huntington Beach State Park

The salt marshes, freshwater lagoon, geocaching, and some of the best birdwatching opportunities on the East Coast make this one of the most famous landmarks of South Carolina. The American Kestrel, the Savannah Sparrow, and the fantastically named Elegant Tern can all be spotted here.

Every September, the Atalaya Festival comes to town, and specialty crafts, live music, and southern cooking can be found from hundreds of local artisans, performers, and chefs.

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White tombstones arranged in rows on green grass and beneath tall trees
Beaufort National Cemetery was established in 1863 and is divided into five avenues

Beaufort National Cemetery

This half-circle cemetery was established in 1863 as a site for the burial of Union soldiers who died fighting in the south in the American Civil War. Five avenues diverge in spokes through the graves, giving visitors a long, peaceful walk through the solemn grounds.

Inside the cemetery, there is an obelisk monument for the Union soldiers who died far from home and two granite blocks to honor the African American soldiers that have been reinterred there.

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Wooden stable in the background with a fence and brown horse in front
Middleton Place National Historic Landmark is great for learning about US history

Middleton Place

Middleton Place National Historic Landmark's inclusive approach to history helps modern visitors to understand the integration of slavery into the early American economy.

It tells the story of both the Middleton family who once owned the estate and the hundreds of slaves who were forced to work on it. It's one of the important historical landmarks in South Carolina for people trying to grasp how such a system was developed and defended.

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Wooden viewing deck in the middle of a lush green forest on a sunny day
Champion trees, cypress, pines, and maples are found in Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park

The old-growth forests of Congaree, a national park on the East Coast of the US, are home to an astounding twenty-five champion trees.

This may not get the same press as the gargantuan Redwoods or Sequoias in the National Parks of the West Coast, but these twenty-five trees are the tallest in the world of their species.

In the world of trees, being large typically means being very, very old. As you walk trails of Congaree, you'll find cypresses, elms, hickories, pines, and maples that have stood for as long as 1,000 years.

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Looking up at a wooden pier with a blue and pink sky in the background
Myrtle Beach State Park offers activities like camping, horseback riding, and hiking

Myrtle Beach State Park

Myrtle Beach is one of the most famous places in South Carolina. This state park is a great way to experience it without all of the crowds found near the hotels and resorts by the public beach.

You can camp, fish, hike, go horseback riding, visit the nature center, and go swimming, all while still being within striking distance of the restaurants and attractions of the town.

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Old black cannons on green grass with ruins under a partly cloudy sky
Fort Sumter, the site of the first US Civil War, is now a museum and historical park

Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park

After southern states began seceding from the United States in 1860 over the issue of slavery, many of the south's forts were still garrisoned by US troops.

The first battle of the US Civil War came at Fort Sumter in Charleston when southern forces stormed the stronghold to boot out the union soldiers and secure their status as a new nation.

Today, both Fort Sumter and the nearby Fort Moultrie are museums and protected historical parks where you can learn about how the nation's deadliest war began, whether visiting alone or with your family.

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White and red striped lighthouse with white yachts docked in a pier
Harbour Town Lighthouse is a 90-foot tower that has been converted into a museum

Harbour Town Lighthouse

The red-and-white-striped Harbour Town Lighthouse is an iconic welcome for travelers arriving by sea to Hilton Head Island. While still very functional, the lighthouse is also a museum that chronicles the history of Hilton Head.

While learning about the island's past, you can get views of its present by climbing to the top of the ninety-foot tower to take in the island's beautiful beaches and resorts.

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Long wooden boardwalk over water with green grass and blue sky around
Hunting Island State Park offers thousands of acres of wetlands perfect for camping

Hunting Island State Park

Over a million people every year make their way to Hunting Island State Park, and it's easy to see why. With over five miles of beaches and thousands of acres of protected wetlands, visitors will have a lot to see and do.

It's also a great place to pitch a tent or park an RV, with over 100 full-amenity campsites within walking distance of the sea.

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Lake with a small wooden pier and mountains and forest in the distance
Lake Jocassee, called the jewel of the south, is surrounded by lush mountains

Lake Jocassee

Lake Jocassee near Salem is often called the jewel of the south for its crystal-clear waters nestled in South Carolina's lush mountains. It's the perfect place for swimming or boating, with pontoons, kayaks, and canoes available to rent.

One of the major landmarks in South Carolina found at Lake Jocassee is Laurel Fork Falls, complete with a swimming hole at its base.

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Rocks with flowers and plants overlooking mountains and lush forest
From Pennsylvania to Georgia, the Blue Ridge Mountains stretch over 550 miles

The Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains run for 550 miles from Pennsylvania to Georgia, cutting through the northwestern corner of South Carolina along the way. This section of the mountain range contains Mount Sassafras, the highest point in South Carolina at 3560 feet.

The summit can be reached with about a five-mile round-trip hike. At the peak, you'll find yourself straddling the state border with North Carolina.

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Vintage cannon on a green lawn with green forest in the background
The Ninety Six National Historic Site was the site of two Revolutionary War battles

Ninety Six National Historic Site

In colonial times, the western mountains of South Carolina were the frontier of European settlements. This well-preserved site shows what it was like for those 17th and 18th-century settlers and the Cherokee Indians of the area who were defending their land.

It was also the site of two battles in the Revolutionary War. The National Park Service now maintains and educates about life, survival, and conflict at this place and time in history.

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Aerial of an aircraft carrier docked at a small pier under a partly cloudy sky
Tourists can experience the flight simulator aboard the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

This military museum is one of the best historical sites in South Carolina and takes visitors through retired naval vessels to show what it's like to wage war at sea.

Aboard the massive USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, visitors can fly simulations in jet-fuelled virtual reality programs and even stay the night to explore the former living quarters of sailors.

The museum also lets visitors climb down into the USS Clagamore Submarine and learn about jungle warfare in the Vietnam Experience Exhibit.

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Colorful houses and trees aligned on a path walk
Rainbow Row is a colorful row of Georgian-style colonial residences

Rainbow Row

Along the waterfront in Charleston, a stunning row of brightly colored colonial homes will have you reaching for your camera. While the Georgian architecture dates back to the 1700s, in 1931, a new resident named Dorothy Porcher Legge decided to paint her home bright pink.

For reasons that are unclear, her neighbors soon followed suit. One story claims that the pastel facade was some kind of colorful GPS, created to help drunk sailors find their way home.

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Reconstruction Era National Historical Park

Following the US Civil War, millions of newly freed African-American slaves became US citizens with three brand-new amendments to the constitution to enforce it. This reconstruction era created hope and upheaval in the south for about thirty years.

This National Historical Park in Beaufort chronicles this period, where Black Americans used their political rights and social protections to establish themselves in the nation.

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Robert Mills House and Gardens

The designer of this 1823 mansion, Robert Mills, was the first American-born architect of note following independence from the British.

He is perhaps even more famous as the architect of the Washington Monument, and for his larger importance, this house has been preserved and maintained as a National Historic Landmark.

Visitors can come and tour the impressive 19th-century home and enjoy a pleasant afternoon wandering through the surrounding gardens.

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A Georgian-style building with a dome top and stairs behind a green lawn
The South Carolina State House was built in 1855 and is open to tourists to visit

South Carolina State House

The South Carolina State House in Columbia dates back to 1855, when the country was barely half a century old. It took another fifty years for the grand government building to be completed, and today is still where the state's General Assembly, Governor, and Lieutenant Governor conduct their business.

The building is open for tours if you want to glimpse the historic architecture or the modern politics unfolding inside one of the major South Carolina landmarks and attractions.

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South Carolina State Museum

This landmark is great for museum lovers who want to dabble in a little bit of everything. Art, history, nature, science, and technology are all displayed here, making it ideal for a truly curious mind.

Their permanent exhibits cover dinosaurs, Civil War history, African-American History, and astronomy. Check their calendar to see which temporary exhibits you can catch on the dates of your trip.

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View of a blue-roofed building surrounded by trees from the lake
Lake Murray is an artificial lake with restaurants and campgrounds on several islands

Lake Murray

Lake Murray was created by the construction of the Saluda Dam from 1927-1930. Today, it's a hotbed of watersports and recreation with a shoreline of over 650 miles.

Several islands are found in the middle of this artificial lake, where marinas, restaurants, and campgrounds have sprung up. Lake Murray is also well-stocked with striped bass, so fishing enthusiasts will want to remember their rods.

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Conclusion

South Carolina is rich in history and natural beauty, and these twenty SC landmarks will leave a lasting impact on visitors.

South Carolina's location between the Appalachians and the Atlantic gives it a great deal of natural diversity, and its relatively small size allows it all to be explored without crazy travel times.

Still, there is much more to see here than just what's on this list, and you may find that it has just gotten you started. Happy exploring!

This article was edited by Loredana Elena.

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Written by Andrew Sayles

atsayles WRITER Traveler, teacher, and blogger. I have lived in 5 countries, traveled to 60, and crisscrossed the continental US an unhealthy number of times.


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