Whether it boils down to a town’s natural setting, the jagged mountain that looms in the backdrop, for instance, the flowers and fountains, or the architectural style that defines the cityscape, there are towns you see, and your heart instantly skips a beat. And it is never an accident. A town’s aesthetic appeal is often the product of intentional efforts. If you are wondering if South Carolina boasts such towns, consider exploring the following ten picture-perfect towns in the Palmetto State.
French for Beautiful Fort, there is something about Beaufort, other than the name, that will make you want to look at it forever. This town is famous for its beautiful antebellum mansions, the moss-draped live oaks that line its streets, and the heart-melting waterfront views. The ambiance at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park is sweet and life-renewing — while the town’s waterways, best explored by canoe while paddling, reveal unbelievably delicious views. Hunting Island Lighthouse is particularly an awesome spot for sumptuous views of the water. Besides, the ruins of the Old Sheldon Church are hands-down among the most beautiful in the nation. If you do not have time and want to get out of the city in the shortest time, consider traipsing through Craven Street, particularly in the evening. There is a reason Beaufort Street is famous and often mentioned among the South’s most beautiful streets.
The third-oldest town in the Palmetto State exudes Old World charm and stylish elegance that is uniquely quaint and romantic. Located in the heart of Hammock Coast, a slower, laid-back stretch known to feature wide, sandy beaches, Georgetown is a charming eye candy that qualifies to be among the most picture-perfect in South Carolina. Georgetown’s historic district and the precincts around it boast more than 250 historic homes, many of which predate the birth of the United States. The Rice Museum showcases the role rice played in the town’s early growth and development, while The South Carolina Maritime Museum, as the name implies, is focused on the town’s maritime heritage. Colorful shops, such as Indigo Mercantile, dot the town’s downtown area — while some of the most beloved public beaches, including Huntington Beach State Park, are just minutes from town.
Casual but classy beachfront bars and restaurants, including the popular Lost Dog Cafe, located on a quiet street a few steps from the main drag, are spots where first-time visitors should kick start their tour of this South Carolina coastal town known for its friendly atmosphere and spectacular shoreline. Sometimes called the Edge of America, Folly Beach is tucked away about 12 miles from Charleston and is an ideal spot for some low-key surfing, lounging on the beach amid refreshing breezes and tasty views, or just rest and relaxation. The sand here is fairly soft and, therefore, suitable for barefoot walks. That said, Folly Beach Pier is the one landmark that defines this town. Conveniently accessible, this Pier features a beautiful boardwalk, restaurant, and gift shop. And for those who will want to drop the line for some big catch, there is a nice fishing area to meet one’s needs. Needless to add, this is a spot where one can just sit down and enjoy the breeze and the views.
There used to be a massive tree in Bluffton called “Secession Oak” near the Stock Farm on Highway 46, where meetings that inspired South Carolina’s secession from the Union — were convened. However, aside from the role it played in precipitating secession, Bluffton is quaint and charming — and among the most picture-perfect towns in the state. The May River, perfect for boating adventures, imbues it with a rustic ambiance, while Palmettos, at nearly every turn of the eye, gives it a look that is peaceful and photogenic. You may want to kickstart your trip at Bluffton Oyster Company, especially if you are craving some nicely-priced seafood. This property sits right on the water and has been a feature of the town for more than a century.
If you want to wind down and relax, a town christened “Traveler’s Rest” should pique your curiosity. Often overlooked for Greenville, this South Carolina treasure scores big on historic charm and natural beauty. The town’s Main Street, for instance, parallels the Swamp Rabbit Trail, one of the most sought-after landmarks in the Upstate. This trail is flat, hence perfect for biking or walking, and features miles of heart-warming green spaces. A bottle of cold craft beer at the Swamp Rabbit Brewery, located right on the main drag, will come in handy to embark on this slice of paradise. And if you do not want to step out of town, you will enjoy ambling through the brick-lined sidewalks and admiring the many old buildings, many of which are now repurposed, that line the streets.
If you want to escape cities that are soulless and looking for something genuine and authentic, Aiken is what you have in mind. Known for its equestrian tradition and heritage, it is easy to bump into horseback riders here, especially at spots such as Hitchcock Woods. Make no mistake. We are talking about the largest privately-owned urban forest in the country. This place is quietly tucked away in the middle of the town and, as an icing, is completely free of charge. Malia’s Restaurant is known to serve fresh and sizzling food and boasts an awesome ambiance, especially if you opt to enjoy your meal under the cabanas. Aiken’s downtown area is crisscrossed by beautiful one-way streets — and a number of sparkling fountains that contribute to the town’s aesthetic appeal. The Aiken County Farmers Market may be worth checking out for being South Carolina’s oldest farmer’s market in continuous operation in the same location.
Many will agree that any town that hugs a sparkling lake is bound to be stunning. Anderson is not home to just any water body, but Lake Hartwell, one of the largest recreation lakes in the South. For those seeking a fun, water-borne experience, there can never be a better spot. Besides, the town’s historic district brims with classic boutiques and restaurants. Palmetto Distillery is reputed to be the first legal moonshine distillery in South Carolina — and is a spot worth checking out. Framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Anderson offers numerous outdoor adventure opportunities, including hiking and sightseeing. For art enthusiasts, Anderson Arts Center, with its lake-front setting, is nothing short of stellar.
Even without a spectacular natural setting, there is a vibrancy and rhythm to college towns that make them quite appealing. Clemson, however, boasts both elements. It is located in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and plays host to Clemson University, one of the most selective public research universities in the United States. Clemson University was founded in 1889 and is among the most defining landmarks of this town. The university’s Tillman Hall and its famous clock tower — are among Clemson’s most photographed features. If you want to step out of the main drag and find a mellowed but beautiful spot, check out Larry W. Abernathy Park. Conveniently located just right off Tiger Boulevard, on a peaceful and captivating stretch, this is the perfect place for an evening stroll along the boardwalk — and catching magical sunsets. For even more beauty, check out the 295-acre South Carolina Botanical Garden.
If we were exclusively talking about main streets, Florence could have topped any list. Recognized as a Great American Main Street in 2023, Florence is anything but picture-perfect. Once thought to be too far gone to be saved, Downtown Florence has staged a remarkable comeback, thanks to its efforts towards commercial district revitalization, especially those geared towards historic preservation. Well known for Pecans, Florence is the starting point of the South Carolina Pecan Trail. To sample this tasty side of Florence, check out outlets such as Young’s Premium Foods and relish a range of pecan products and flavors, including pecan pies, pecan muffins, and other delectable snacks. Besides, you can catch a play at Florence Little Theatre. However, for a more solemn experience, Florence Veterans Park features monuments and memorials to the wars of the 20th century and will make you see life from a slightly different perspective.
There is a reason York is called the Charleston of the Upstate. It is all about its historic charm. This town’s number of historically registered locations, whether state or national, stands at almost 200. Among these enduring vestiges of the past, venues such as Congress Street feature modern shopping and dining options — in a thoughtful blend of the new and the old. Minutes from town, lush farms, and beautiful gardens define the scenery. Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery, for instance, is like an oasis — and off-the-beaten path. This property serves some kick-ass donuts and apple ciders, including non-alcoholic varieties. At Bush-N-Vine Farm, one can pick her own berries and peaches in the summer and enjoy a world of juicy and delightful flavors.
Noted for its hospitality, South Carolina is just as big on history — as it is on natural beauty. And for heart-melting waterfront views, spots such as the Hammock Coast provide a surreal experience. Dotting the whole breadth of the Palmetto State are numerous towns that are just as quaint and picturesque. If you are looking for the most picture-perfect South Carolina towns, the award-winning Beaufort, Georgetown, South Carolina’s third-oldest town, and Folly Beach are all worth checking out.