South Carolina

Sunny South Carolina impresses with intricate antebellum architecture, breathtaking landscapes, and picturesque harbor towns. Follow us to the Palmetto State and experience the unique charm of the American South!

South Carolina facts

Capital: Columbia
Area: about 83,000 km²
Population: about 5.1 million
Location: Southeast of the USA
Nickname: The Palmetto State
Hotspots: Congaree National Park, Charleston, Beaufort
Time zone: UTC -5 (Eastern)

South Carolina: location & population

The US state of South Carolina is located in the Southeast of the United States and has only two neighbors: North Carolina to the North and Georgia to the Southwest. In the east of the Palmetto State, a coastline of about 113 km stretches along the Atlantic Ocean.

Although South Carolina ranks only 40th among the 50 US states in terms of area, the densely populated region is 23rd in terms of population, with around 5.1 million people – and the trend is upward. Whites make up the largest population group in South Carolina with about 66 %, followed by African Americans (about 26 %) and Hispanics (about 7 %).

The largest cities in South Carolina

The capital Columbia and the coastal town Charleston are the urban centers in South Carolina. But you'll also find a variety of idyllic small towns and gorgeous seaside communities in the Palmetto State.  The five cities with the most inhabitants in South Carolina are:

City Population
Columbia 129,000
Charleston 120,000
Mount Pleasant 68,000
Rock Hill 66,000
Greenville 58,000

Nature and climate

South Carolina can be roughly divided into three types of landscape. The Atlantic Coastal Plain, also called Low Country, is located in the east and accounts for two-thirds of the state's territory. Large parts of the Coastal Plain are covered with farmland, although some areas tend to be swampy. To the west of the Coastal Plain run the Sandhills region, characterized by sandhills, and the Piedmont, interspersed with hills – they form the Midlands of South Carolina. The Blue Ridge Mountains rise in the western part of the state.

South Carolina has a humid subtropical climate. Summers are hot and wet, with daytime temperatures ranging from 30 °C to 34 °C, and winters are very mild, with temperatures averaging 16 °C. However, if you travel to South Carolina between June and November, your trip could quickly turn into a stormy event. Since the state is located in the American Hurricane Alley, there is a risk of extreme weather such as strong thunderstorms, tropical hurricanes, or tornadoes.

Best time to travel to South Carolina

While you can expect sunny weather year-round in South Carolina, we recommend a vacation in spring or fall if you want to see the state's nature and architecture at its best.

South Carolina in spring

In spring, nature awakens in the forests, mountains, and wetlands of South Carolina and is in full bloom! In April and May, you can enjoy hiking, canoeing, and golfing at pleasant temperatures. A special highlight in Charleston is the "Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens" in early April, which will keep you entertained with tours, lectures, concerts, and wine tastings.

South Carolina in autumn

Are you planning a sightseeing tour to the most beautiful mansions in the whole state? September and October are the perfect vacation times! Temperatures won't make you sweat, and the tourist crowds will decrease. Tip: At the "Boone Hall Pumpkin Patch" in October, you can not only taste delicious pumpkin dishes but also navigate your way through a huge corn maze.

Traveling to South Carolina

The largest airports in South Carolina are:

  • Charleston International Airport (CHS)
  • Greenville–Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)
  • Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR)
  • Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE)

When you leave for a trip to South Carolina, you're likely to arrive at Charleston Airport, which is by far the most important air travel hub in the state, handling about 1.8 million passengers annually.

If you are traveling to Charleston from Europe or Asia, you will usually have a stopover in another major American city, for example, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, or Dallas. If you book your flights a few months in advance, you'll pay around € 500 to € 600 from Europe and around € 1,200 from Japan. Connections from Australia usually include a second stopover on the US West Coast, for example, in Los Angeles, and cost around € 1,500.

Tip
If you're traveling to the northwest part of South Carolina, for instance, to Spartanburg or Greenville, you can often save time and money by flying directly to Atlanta and then hopping on a bus, train, or rental car.

Travel authorization South Carolina

Don't forget: If you are not a US citizen or Green Card holder, you will need a visa or ESTA to enter South Carolina.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Airport transfer in South Carolina

If you are flying into Charleston, you have the following transfer options to get to your accommodation:

Public transport at Charleston Airport

There is a direct bus service operated by the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) from the airport to Dorchester Road in the city center. Line 11 runs from about 6 am to 9 pm for a ticket price of $ 2.

Shuttle at Charleston Airport

Some hotels in Charleston offer a free shuttle service. Furthermore, every 15 minutes, another shuttle service departs from the airport, which takes you downtown at the cost of $ 15.

Taxi at Charleston Airport

Cabs can be found at Charleston International Airport, just a few meters from the baggage claim area. You should budget about $ 30 for the 20-minute ride to downtown Charleston.

National Parks and natural wonders in South Carolina

Majestic mountains, dense forests, mysterious swamps: South Carolina offers an irresistible mix of landscapes. Take a tour to experience three of South Carolina's most beautiful natural wonders!

Congaree National Park

Tall forests in vast wetlands: Congaree National Park is home to one of South Carolina's most pristine and unique landscapes. Learn about the park's history at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center, and from there, take a hike through the wilderness area: the Boardwalk Loop's elevated wooden walkway will get you through the swamp with dry feet! If you're looking for a little more adventure, you can also join a canoe trip on Cedar Creek.

Caesars Head State Park

Arguably the best views in South Carolina can be found at Caesars Head State Park in the far northwest of the state, where the Blue Ridge Mountains rise up to an altitude of 1,000 m. Visit the impressive Overlook, which offers the best glimpse of Table Rock, and hike along the Raven Cliff Falls Trail to South Carolina's highest waterfall. Passionate fishermen will find plenty of lakes, rivers, and tranquility for their favorite hobby in the Caesars Head State.

Francis Marion National Forest

Adventure is calling! Just a few miles north of Charleston stretches the history-filled forest area called the Francis Marion National Forest. Among the pines, bald cypresses, and bogs of the territory, national hero Francis Marion and his troops found shelter during the American War of Independence. Today, you can explore the pristine landscape at your leisure on numerous hiking, biking, motorcycle, and canoe trails.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights in South Carolina

These top ten South Carolina attractions are not to be missed:

  • Congaree National Park
  • Brookgreen Gardens F
  • ort Sumter
  • Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
  • Broadway at the Beach
  • Huntington Beach State Park
  • Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach
  • Historic Charleston City Market
  • South Carolina Aquarium
  • Middleton Place

City highlights in South Carolina

South Carolina offers not only irresistible natural beauty but also great city highlights. These two cities are a must-see:

City highlights Charleston

The unique charm of South Carolina's oldest city is sure to enchant you! Visit the brightly painted mansions of Rainbow Row and stroll along the palm-lined beachfront. Afterwards, indulge in local Low Country cuisine at one of Charleston's great restaurants, and then dive into Charleston's vibrant nightlife.

Don't miss the city highlights in Charleston:

  • Fort Sumter
  • Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
  • Historic Charleston City Market
  • South Carolina Aquarium
  • Boone Hall Plantation

City highlights Columbia

Columbia, South Carolina’s capital, has much to offer for history, architecture, and art lovers. Numerous outstanding museums and historic buildings await your discovery. Visit the Ensor Keenan House, the Hampton Preston Mansion, or the First Baptist Church, and then relax on a trip to the shores of nearby Lake Murray.

These city highlights are waiting for you in Columbia:

  • South Carolina State House
  • Columbia Museum of Art
  • South Carolina State Museum
  • EdVenture Children's Museum
  • Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

Road trip in South Carolina

Our road trip to South Carolina's most exciting attractions begins in the state's far northeast. Here, the Grand Strand stretches nearly 100 km along the Atlantic Ocean. When you suddenly see colorful lights and a Ferris wheel during your extensive beach walk, you've arrived in Myrtle Beach. This popular tourist destination invites you to sunbathe, play miniature golf, and ride roller coasters. Afterwards, you can enjoy shopping and nightlife on the famous "Broadway at the Beach."

Continuing along the Atlantic coast, you'll reach beautiful Charleston, which not only features richly detailed antebellum architecture but is also home to historically significant sites. Dive into America's history with a visit to the Fort Sumter Memorial, where the first shot of the Civil War was fired in 1861.

Then grab a rental car and cross the Cooper River on one of the eight lanes of the giant Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. On the other side of the bridge, in Mount Pleasant, lies the naval and maritime museum of Patriots Point. The ultimate highlight of your visit is the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, which is anchored here as a museum ship.

Next, you'll reach Johns Island, the largest island in South Carolina, where you'll be amazed by the incredible 1,500-year-old Angel Oak Tree. Then, just a few miles from the Georgia border, you'll arrive in the picturesque harbor town of Beaufort, which has served as the backdrop for many films, including Forrest Gump.

To conclude our road trip, we head inland to Bowman, where the most unusual tourist destination of South Carolina awaits you. The UFO Welcome Center features a 13-meter-wide flying saucer made of fiberglass and wood, which you can even enter.

Instagram hotspots in South Carolina

We can guarantee one thing – you'll bring a lot of great pictures from your South Carolina vacation. Start your photo tour with our top five Instagram hotspots:

  • Outlook in Caesars Head State Park
  • Rainbow Row in Charleston
  • Myrtle Beach
  • Beaufort
  • UFO Welcome Center in Bowman

Food and drinks in South Carolina

If you love hearty food and seafood, the local Lowcountry cuisine in South Carolina will hit the spot for your taste buds. Indulge in these typical dishes of South Carolina:

  • Barbecue
  • Frogmore stew (also Beaufort Stew or Lowcountry Boil; dish of fresh crabs, corn on the cob, sausage, and red potatoes)
  • She-crab soup (soup of blue crab simmered in cream and sherry)
  • Hoppin' John (a dish made from beans, rice, onions, and ham)
  • Collard greens
  • Fried okra
  • Boiled peanuts
  • Pecan pie

South Carolina fun facts

You haven't learned enough about the state of South Carolina yet? These are some interesting facts you probably didn't know yet:

  • The name South Carolina goes back to the English King Charles I (Latin "Carolus").
  • On May 23rd, 1788, South Carolina became the eighth state to ratify the Constitution of the United States.
  • The man known as "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion, a brigadier general in the South Carolina militia during the American War of Independence, was the historical inspiration for Mel Gibson's character in the film "The Patriot."
  • The ballroom dance Charleston, which gained world fame in the 1920s, was named after the city of Charleston in South Carolina.
  • South Carolina is the largest producer of peaches in the southern states – even ahead of the "Peach State" Georgia – and therefore gives itself the nickname "The Tastier Peach State."
  • The only commercial tea plantation in America, the Charleston Tea Plantation, is located on Wadmalaw Island southwest of Charleston. The American Classic Tea grown there is the official tea brand of the White House.

Immigrate to South Carolina

You can't resist the charm of South Carolina? If you'd love to stay in the Palmetto State forever, our tips on immigrating to South Carolina are sure to get you started.

Working in South Carolina

In addition to the traditionally important industries such as wood processing, textile industry, fruit, and tobacco cultivation, South Carolina is now dominated by industries like electronics and chemicals, as well as the automotive and aviation industries. Near Spartanburg, for example, you will find the only BMW factory in the USA, and a Boeing aircraft plant is located in Charleston. Some Fortune 1000 companies located in South Carolina are Domtar, SCANA, Sonoco Products, and ScanSource.

The tourism industry on the Atlantic coast is also of great importance. Places like Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and Hilton Head Island offer excellent job opportunities in this industry.

Living in South Carolina

You can enjoy life in South Carolina! The Palmetto State's mild climate, excellent cuisine, and idyllic seaside resorts also make it one of the most popular regions for retirement in the United States.

Overall, life in South Carolina is affordable. According to the Cost of Living Index, the overall living costs in the state are about 11 % lower than the US average. Only in Charleston can you expect to pay about 40 % more for housing.

If you're looking for the cities with the best living conditions in South Carolina, local residents are likely to recommend Mount Pleasant, Fort Mill, Rock Hill, Clemson, and Lexington.

To South Carolina with a Green Card

You have decided to live in South Carolina? The Green Card offers you the opportunity to live and work in the USA without restrictions. Through the US government's Green Card Lottery, you can get the popular immigrant visa relatively quickly and easily. Participate directly and take your chance on one of the 55,000 Green Cards drawn annually!

Green Card Lottery

Win one of 55,000 Green Cards in the official Green Card Lottery of the US authorities!