Essential RV South Carolina:
Top Travel Destinations
in the Palmetto State
by Jeanenne Tornatore
Travelers may come for the coastline, but along the way they find that South Carolina has a lot to discover, from rolling hills and lush forests to inviting communities full of southern charm. With scenic byways and year-round warm weather, RV road trippers will find the “Palmetto State” the perfect vacation destination.
For some of the most scenic views of South Carolina’s hill country, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (Hwy 11) winds though 115 miles of the northwest corner of the state. This region may be small, but it’s full of historic sites, orchards, lakes and streams that make for easy stops along the way. Highlights include Cowpens National Battlefield, The Bob Campbell Geology Museum and the Oconee Station State Historic Site. Stop at the Table Rock State Park for an afternoon picnic, dip in an old-fashioned water hole (complete with a high dive!) or camp for the night with 94 sites all suitable for RVs with water and electric.
These Blue Ridge Mountains are also full of opportunity for outdoor adventure. With hiking trails, waterfalls and spectacular overlooks, there’s something for everyone and every ability level. The beautiful Chattooga River is a popular choice for rafting, with rapids of all classes and seasoned guides bookable through local outfitters that keep outings easy and fun. Zip-lining canopy tours are another great way to take in the breathtaking views that surround visitors of this area. Nearby Paris Mountain State Park is a nice spot to overnight, with RV sites that include water and electric hookup.
Just five miles away, the growing city of Greenville is a burgeoning hotspot for both culinary and creative arts. From galleries to award-winning restaurants and cafes, this entrepreneurial town is an eclectic enclave that is worth an afternoon pitstop. And nature flows right through town, with many visitors stopping at the downtown park to see the waterfalls flowing into the Reedy River. Just a few miles outside of town is Sassafras Mountain, the state’s highest peak. RVers will find many options to park and play right in Greenville, from the historic Rainbow RV Park that has been in operation since 1947 to the Springwood RV Park, convenient for travelers arriving via Interstate 85.
The largest region of South Carolina is called the Midlands and offers plenty to see and do. From outdoor adventure on the 200-mile Saluda River to exploring the state’s capital and largest city of Columbia—offering history and hospitality at nearly every stop—a drive through the state’s midsection is not to be missed.
Travelers looking for one-of-a-kind experiences will have no trouble finding them in Columbia. This “famously hot” southern city is a hub for everything from whitewater rafting, entertainment, heritage and family fun. And with ten warm-weather months each year, there’s never a wrong time to go. Three rivers converge on local Lake Murray, delivering plenty of ways to cool off; outdoor recreation continues on land with zip lines, walking trails, golf and a visit to the Congaree National Park preserves. Foodies will love sampling the culinary and cocktail scene in the thriving Vista district while history buffs will want to tour local landmarks, like the South Carolina State House and South Carolina State Museum.
With so many waterways in the area, opportunities for overnighting on a river or lake are ample. The Broad River Campground, 20 minutes from downtown Columbia, is a shady and tranquil option with nature trails nearby. The River Bottom Farms Family Campground with 70 RV sites is spread out over 43 acres with great river and pond access for fishing.
Driving through the Midlands, road trippers may feel a sense of traveling back in time. This region is dotted with battlefields and points of interest from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to the Civil Rights Movement. Historic Brattonsville is worth the stop to explore the 775-acre American Revolution living history site with more than 30 structures, live demonstrations and reenactments. Notable battle sites and museums throughout the region include the Union County Museum, Musgrove Mill Museum and Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site among many others.
And horse-racing fans will want to detour along the western edge of the state through Thoroughbred Country, a rural area known for raising the revered animals after the Revolutionary War. The west is dotted with charming small towns like Denmark, Blackville and Aiken. With streets canopied by oaks, antique stores, cafes, public gardens and a museum and hall of fame dedicated to thoroughbred racing, it’s gems like these that make getting off the beaten path worth every extra mile. There are many RV park options in the area with easy access into these towns as well as nearby state parks including Aiken State Park with 25 full-hookup sites.
As travelers reach South Carolina’s more than 2,800 miles of Atlantic coastline, they’ll find it’s the perfect mix of wide-open beaches, historic port towns and relaxed fun for the entire family. Anchored by major tourist destinations (and must-stops) like Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head, this sandy stretch of the state is also speckled with so many charming surprises in between.
Starting from the north, road trippers will want to stop in famed Myrtle Beach for its 60-mile Grand Strand of beaches, traditional oceanfront boardwalk, entertainment, and wide variety of family-friendly attractions, including the popular 187-foot tall SkyWheel—one of the tallest in the country. From dolphin tours to casinos, golf and even a historic plantation, there is literally something for everyone here. And there’s also no shortage of overnight options for RVs. From the Myrtle Beach KOA, with an outdoor movie theater among its amenities and the Pirateland Camping Resort, with an onsite-water park, lazy river and Olympic-size pool, the camping options around Myrtle Beach go all-out on entertainment, just like their hometown.
Heading down Hwy 17, travelers will want to pull into the historic town of Georgetown, the third oldest in the state, for local seafood, tree-lined streets, shopping and even a ghost tour. Places like Georgetown are best-kept-secrets and make for quaint and peaceful respites from some of the more bustling seaside destinations. Almost all of the businesses here are still locally owned and operated (no chains) and the low country cuisine is home-cooking at its best. From fishing charters, swamp outings and guided tours of the historic district, this small town offers great experiences that are often more intimate and personalized that it’s much bigger coastal counterparts. Local RV parks like Johnson’s Marina & Campground on the Sampit River allow guests to fish or crab right from the dock, and 20 minutes south of town, for a more primitive experience, campsites at the Santee Coastal Reserve connect to hiking, biking and boardwalk trails.
Outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts will want to detour and consider staying the night in the Francis Marion National Forest. Covering nearly 259,000 acres, it’s known for its many opportunities to explore local waterways via kayak or canoe and renowned as a top birding destination. The nearest RV campsites are on the eastern edge of the Forest along the Intercoastal Waterway in the Buck Hall Recreation Area just off Hwy 17.
M their way into Charleston, they’ll want put on the turn signal and exit into some of the outlying northern beach destinations like Isle of Palms, Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island. For those looking for a laid-back beach vibe with water-front recreation, good eats and historic attractions, these quaint getaways deliver it all with a big side of Southern hospitality. While these areas make for great stops, RV parks are extremely limited here. The Mount Pleasant / Charleston KOA Holiday is the nearest option, but a great one, situated on the grounds of an antebellum plantation with free wagon rides around the property and a 30-acre lake for fishing among its amenities.
For those looking to explore the storied history and architecture of the City of Charleston, it’s wise to find an outlying RV park for a basecamp and plot daytrips from there. This destination brings tourists from around the world. With its dense visitor population and well-preserved historic cobblestone streets, it’s not well-suited for large vehicles in the city center. There’s just so much to experience and learn about this southern gem – from its pirate history and role in the Civil War to its famous (and infamous) residents and iconic homes overlooking the Battery – that it’s well worth planning for a few days to an entire week to fully explore. There are several campgrounds and RV parks dotted around the Charleston area but, because of the destination’s popularity, it can fill up fast during peak months. Reserving months in advance is a must for visitors to this coastal mecca.
Heading to the southern end of the state, RV vacationers will find less busy beaches to explore as they approach Edisto Beach. This unincorporated area is also uncommercialized and may be just what is needed after a few days in busy Charleston. The Edisto Beach State Park is one of just four oceanfront state parks in South Carolina and offers more than 100 campsites—including RV sites with hookups—in this beautiful low country region.
Further down the coast, a detour onto Hwy 21 will take travelers to the historic towns of Beaufort, Port Royal and their Sea Islands. These coastal towns offer more of the southern charm, Spanish moss, succulent seafood and seaside breezes so many come to this state to enjoy. There are several RV parks and campgrounds in the area, including Hunting Island State Park, situated along five miles of pristine beaches and offering 102 sites with electric and water hookup.
And before road trippers leave South Carolina, they’ll find Hilton Head is a beautiful place to stop for rest, relaxation and lots of coastal recreation. Known for its 12-miles of sandy beaches, the island is home to some of the best golf courses and tennis facilities in the region. Whether the perfect day sounds like biking, boating, horseback riding or shopping, this destination was built to feel like the ultimate retreat. The RV parks here feel no less luxurious than other area lodging options. The Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort boasts 200 sites, two pools, watersport rentals and even a 5-star restaurant on-site.