The 12 Most Charming Small Towns in South Carolina

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Charleston is an enchanting city with grand mansions, waterfront views, fantastic restaurants and ghost tours. Obviously, it deserves a spot on your U.S. travel bucket list, but it’s certainly not the only place to visit in South Carolina. There are charming small towns—Bluffton, Beaufort and Mount Pleasant to name a few—that reside across the home of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Next time you have the urge for Southern hospitality and Lowcountry cuisine, definitely consider these darling communities. From the mountains to the coast of the Palmetto State, here are 12 charming small towns in South Carolina whose population—with the exception of Mt. Pleasant and Georgetown—doesn’t go over 50,000 residents. (Oh, and BTW, we urge you to consider extending your trip and hit some of the small towns in neighboring Georgia and North Carolina, too?)

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1. Bluffton, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 1 hour 55 minutes from Charleston

Dubbed “the last true coastal village of the South,” Bluffton is a charming Lowcountry town located between Hilton Head Island and Interstate 95 that grew out of a one square mile spit on a bluff along the May River. The OG area, now called Old Town (makes sense, right?) flaunts well-preserved antebellum landmarks. While art galleries and festivals reveal Bluffton's vibrant spirit that continues to be a dominant force to this day.

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2. Beaufort, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 1 hour and 6 minutes from Savannah, GA

Technically a city, Beaufort, on Port Royal Island, has a small-town feel and all the charm you’d expect to find in a historic South Carolina community on the coast. It’s packed with shops, restaurants and antebellum mansions. If you’re interested in the latter, head to the Federal-style John Mark Verdier House Museum. Carriage rides are super popular (so be sure to buy tickets in advance). While Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park wows with its scenic views.

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3. Mt Pleasant, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 24 minutes from Charleston

A suburb of Charleston county, Mt Pleasant is just as lovely as its name suggests with wildlife-rich marshes, grassy parks, waterfront activities, historic buildings, an exciting dining scene and a family-friendly atmosphere. It’s also known as the home of the freshest shellfish in Lowcountry (and that’s saying something). Come hungry and prepare to slurp back oysters or chow down on crabs at a local seafood restaurant.

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4. York, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 24 minutes from Rock Hill, SC

Situated not too far from the North Carolina border, York, which dates all the way back to the 1750s, puts the past on full display for travelers and locals alike to enjoy. Heritage buildings dot character-rich York Downtown Historic District. You’ll definitely want to visit Wilson House (aka the Old Jail) and browse Farm Chicks Vintage. Also on tap? Try the spiced apple donuts at Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill.

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5. Edisto Beach, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 1 hour and 11 minutes from Charleston, SC

A Lowcountry Sea Island that’s approximately 68 square miles, Edisto Beach is a quiet, family-friendly community with loads of coastal charm and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a desirable location for South Carolinians commuting into Charleston for work and a terrific spot for a laid-back seaside getaway. There are gorgeous sandy beaches as well as hiking and camping in Edisto Beach State Park.

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6. Aiken, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 33 minutes from Augusta, GA

Leafy streets, grand homes and history dating back to 1835 all come in a picturesque little package in the town of Aiken. It used to be *the* Southern destination for New Endlanders who wanted to escape the snowy Northeast winters. The regal 19th-century mansions with manicured landscaping are still on display. There’s also Hitchcock Woods, the largest privately-owned urban forest in the country and a great place for walking, hiking or horseback riding.

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7. Georgetown, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 57 minutes from Socastee, SC

The perfect pitstop between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, Georgetown⁠—the third-oldest town in South Carolina—certainly doesn’t skimp on history or charm. It was a former Spanish colony turned English stronghold. Nowadays, this picturesque waterfront community shows off its heritage to visitors by way of 18th-century architecture, oak trees, quaint inns, museums and ghost tours. We also highly recommend booking a boat charter to admire the beauty of Georgetown from a different perspective.

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8. Mcclellanville, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 1 hour and 26 minutes from Myrtle Beach, SC

Coastal charm and bucolic surroundings define McClellanville, which was settled after the Civil War in the late 1860s. Small in size but big in historic cache, this fishing and shrimping village on the Atlantic coast has a number of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a lovely destination to just walk around and get away from the hustle and bustle of it all. And, of course, the fresh seafood is out of this world.

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9. Pendleton, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 11 minutes from Clemson, SC

The word historic has popped up quite a few times on our South Carolina list but that’s because there’s just so much old-timey awesomeness across the state. Perhaps, nowhere is that truer than Pendleton. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places! When mapping out your itinerary, add the Clemson Little Theater and the Bart Garrison Agricultural Museum of South Carolina to the docket.

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10. Clover, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 43 minutes from Charlotte, NC

Clover is a cute little spot in northwest York County that’s driving distance to Charlotte. With a population of just over 5,000 residents and just a handful of quaint shops and restaurants, it’s got the small town thing on lock. Scots-Irish heritage runs deep, adding an interesting element to this agrarian community. Surrounding Clover are pastoral views and large swaths of farmland.

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11. Travelers Rest, South Carolina

  • Nearest City: 39 minutes from Hendersonville, NC

A moniker that makes a case for slowing down and getting some much-needed R&R, Travelers Rest is as relaxing as you’d hope it would be. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s a town where slow mornings sipping coffee turn into leisurely afternoon hikes on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. And evenings consist of casual dinners and turning in early as the sounds of crickets chirp in the not-so-far-off distance.

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small towns south carolina clemson
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12. Clemson, South Carolina

  • Nearest city: 42 minutes from Greenville, SC

Clemson—which you probably know best as the home of the university of the same name—is a lively college town that really centers around student life and games at Memorial Stadium. You can buy head-to-toe orange gear at the bookstore or really any of the shops downtown. There are also excellent restaurants and fun bars. Don’t forget to visit the South Carolina Botanical Gardens and the Bob Campbell Geology Museum.

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Lindsay Cohn

Freelance PureWow Editor

Lindsay Cohn is a travel writer and serial trip planner who has visited 46 countries across six continents (and counting). When not globetrotting, she’s most likely either doing...
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