A lot of people know South Carolina as one of the best destinations in the US for summer because of its beaches. But South Carolina isn’t only about its beaches. It houses some of the best state parks too. In fact, you have nearly 50 state parks to choose from.

However, many of its state parks are often frequented by both locals and tourists. Lucky for you, though, we know some unpopular South Carolina state parks that you need to add to your travel list. Don’t worry, while they are not as popular as other state parks, you’re sure that you can still get closer to nature and enjoy each state park as much as you love the popular ones. So pack your bags and let’s take a closer look at the underrated South Carolina state parks.

Underrated South Carolina State Parks

1Wood Bay State Park

One of the trails at Wood Bay State Park

One of the famous and mysterious sites in Carolina are the Carolina Bays. At first glance, one might think it’s just an ordinary lake. But if you were to observe its shape, you’ll see that it’s no ordinary lake as it has perfectly round edges hugged by a rim of sand. And these lakes are scattered around the southeastern corner of the state. However, most bays are now dry or boggy. Some have been crowded with vegetation or drained for farmland. But lucky for you, you can find one at the Woods Bay State Park. And the best part of it is that it houses one of the large. Plus, you can enjoy it more than other state parks in South Carolina as it’s not as crowded as others.

Because of its unique features, it has also become a home to a variety of endangered animals. In fact, it serves as a home to up to 81 bird species. This place also has distinct plant communities. And because of that, it’s another reason to visit the state park. You will not just get to marvel at this unique body of water but you can also get to see different animal and plant species.

Aside from sightseeing, you can also get to experience fishing and boating. Private canoes and kayaks are even allowed here in case you want to bring your own.

In addition to that, it also has miles of walking and hiking trails that are perfect for when you want some outdoor activities. There are also picnic shelters in case you plan to bring your friends and/or family.

2Redcliffe Plantation

The mansion at the Redcliff Plantation (Source)

Redcliffe Plantation, unlike other South Carolina state parks, has more stories to tell its visitors. Completed in 1859, the huge white house that stands here was built for James Henry Hammond. And when he died, it served as a home to three generations of his descendants, as well as numerous African-American families such as the Goodwins, Henleys, and Wigfalls, who worked as slaves at the site.

Today, it is now open to the public. However, compared to other South Carolina’s state parks, this place is not that frequented. But it is worth the visit as the Radcliffe Plantation offers a peak to a part of the state’s history through the historic resources that it features that you can get to see when you sign up for house tours. Through these artifacts, cultural landscape features, and the house’s structure, everyone in the family will surely go home filled with knowledge.

This place is also a home to many species of birds, including pileated woodpecker, indigo bunting, red-tailed hawk, great blue heron, wild turkey, Carolina wren, and eastern screech owl. And because of this, you and your family and/or friends can enjoy bird watching too.

The state park also has a gift shop where you can buy various items to remember your trip by. It even features a selection of books on the Hammond family of Radcliffe and antebellum history.

3Goodale State Park

A glimpse of the colors of Goodale State Park in autumn

Another Sourth Carolina state park you shouldn’t miss is the Goodale State Park, especially if you love fishing. Here, you have 140 acres of lake where you can fish bass, catfish, and bream. Note that you need a valid South Carolina fishing license, though. There is also a hand-launch access area available for private boats with electric trolling motors, canoes, as well as other non-motorized boats. You can also rent non-motorized fishing boats for as low as $7. Goodale State Park also has picnic shelters and a playground that kids will surely love too.

In addition to that, Goodale State Park also has numerous trails for those who want to hike. And the best part of it is that you can all enjoy these for free. Be warned, though, that it has alligators that may be seen along the shores of its lake. In spite of that, it’s still has more room for recreational activities for family and friends. It is one of the nicest uncrowded South Carolina state parks that you need to explore too so don’t miss out on this one.

4Oconee Station

The enchanting Station Cove Falls at the Oconee Station (Source)

Oconee Station is also one of the South Carolina state parks that are not as crowded compared to others. But just because it’s not as popular as others don’t mean there’s nothing interesting here. Apparently, what makes the Oconee Station worth visiting are its unique features. For starters, this site serves as a gateway to Station Cove Falls, a 70-foot two-tier waterfall that’s worth seeing. In Oconee station, you can also get to view Don’s Falls, as well as The Connector Falls from the Oconee Connector Trail.

At the base of the falls in Sumter National Forest, you can also get to enjoy a botanical area. Here, you can get to see wildflowers. No matter what time of the year it is, you will surely find different types of flowers bloom. In winter, you may see hypattica, trillium, as well as toad shade trillium. In spring, there’s also may apples, wild geraniums, and dwarf iris, offering you beautiful views of nature that are also Instagram-worthy.

In addition to that, you can also enjoy fishing for blue gill and largemouth bass. And because of its healthy flora, it has become a home of many bird species too, making Oconee Station also an ideal area for bird watching. And if you want to hike, bike, or enjoy a nature walk, Oconee Station also has a few trails to offer.

5Hampton Plantation

Hampton Plantation’s south facade in 2010 (Source)

Hampton Plantation also offers fishing, boating, and bird watching activities. But this state park, compared to others, is home to the unique and endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and swallow-tail kite. And you can get to see them with your own eyes when you explore Hampton Plantation’s nature trail.

Aside from that, what makes it worth the visit are the stories that it has to tell. Apparently, this site served as a rice producing plantation worked with the heavy use of slave labor. And enslaved people from Africa constructed the intricate systems of fields, dikes, and embankments for the production and farming of rice. George Washington, the nation’s first president, also stepped here when he was on his American tour. And you can get a peek at how life was back then, as well as how people maintained it before through the house tours being offered. With this, you will surely get to learn more about the site’s history, which is perfect for when you’re traveling with children. A visit here will let you go back to your home town filled with knowledge, as well as good memories since this site also offers recreational activities for families and friends.

6Colonial Dorchester

The ruins of the bell tower at Colonial Dorchester (Source)

In most South Carolina state parks, having a picnic, bird watching, and hiking are quite common. However, Colonial Dorchester is a bit different. While this place also welcomes visitors who want to have a picnic with their family and/or friends, this place is a bit different than other state parks as the activities it offers are more focused on opening the eyes of visitors to its past.

One of the things you can do here is to go on a self-guided walking tour. In this tour, you can find a self-guided walking tour brochure on a box beside the kiosk. This tour has nine stops along a primitive path which will take you approximately 30 minutes or more to complete because of the informational panels that you can find in the area. The place also offers nice views which could affect the duration of the walking tour because you’ll surely be captivated with the views around you.

Colonial Dorchester also lets you explore the ruins of Fort Dorchester, which played a huge role during the war. Here, you can get to see the ruins of the powder magazine in its center surrounded by the pitted tabby walls (which are also worth seeing, by the way, because of the materials used such as oyster shells and concrete).

Aside from this, you can also get to see and admire the ruins of St. George Anglican Church. There’s not much to see, though, but its enormous bell tower which was built in 1751 and had withstood the test of time. You can even walk inside the base of the bell tower. While all you could only get to see now are its hollow window openings and dead vines, it’s still a nice site to see. Take some pictures and marvel at its architecture, it’s a must-see site you shouldn’t miss as well.

7Lee State Park

Lee State Park’s equestrian area near Bishopville in autumn (Source)

Lee state Park also has different things to offer, making it one of the South Carolina state parks that you need to consider too. For starters, what we love about this state park is that you can camp. Here, you have 23 sites to choose from and you don’t have to worry about water and electricity anymore. This state park also boasts of different species of birds and mammals, as well as beautiful views of nature. And because of that, you can go on a photo tour. Capture memories and beautiful landscapes, this is one of the best activities that you shouldn’t miss here.

In addition to that, what makes it a bit more unique than other state parks is that it has an equestrian stable, a group area located adjacent to the stables and show ring available for horse clubs and other equestrian groups. And you can rent it for $300 per night where the show ring, stables, and an open space which can accommodate up to 50 horse trailers are already included.

Speaking of equestrian, this site also boasts equestrian trails. In fact, it has seven miles of such trails to offer.

And if you want to go swimming, Lee State Park got your back as it has its own swimming area. However, do note that there is no lifeguard on duty. Also, if you plan on doing this activity, make sure that you plot your schedule well as the swimming area is only open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

And like the other state parks on this list, bird watching, fishing, and boating is also doable. A long day ahead is surely waiting for you at the lee State Park.

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8Keowee-Toxaway State Park

The vibrant colors of nature at Keowee-Toxaway State Park (Source)

Keowee-Toxaway State Park is yet another worth visiting site in spite of being one of the underrated South Carolina state parks. First, it boasts of a beautiful view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And if you were to visit here until sunset, you will surely be blessed with the beautiful colors of the sky that matches the stunning beauty of the mountains.

And speaking of the beauty of nature, also one of the things that makes the views in this site all the more stunning are the abundant wildflowers that it has, particularly during spring season. You can even find two rare species namely the Alleghany spurge and ginseng. There’s also iris, violets, asters, rattlesnake plantains, and cardinal flower. In addition to that, you can also find Indian pink trillium, trailing arbutus, bloodroot, various orchids, galax, wild ginger, and trout lily. If you’re looking for a photogenic site, this place is a must visit. Don’t forget the wildflowers along the Raven Rock Trail too, it’s definitely Instagram worthy.

And if you want to spend more time closer to nature, don’t worry, camping is allowed at Keowee-Toxaway State Park. It even has ten paved sites that have individual water and electrical hookups. The sites can also accommodate RVs up to 40 feet total vehicle length. It also has restroom facilities with hot showers; totally a plus!

If you’re not into camping but still want to enjoy the peaceful environment that Keowee-Toxaway State Park has to offer, don’t worry much as there are also cabins available. And they’re completely furnished, heater, and air-conditioned. The cabins are also supplied with linens, ice maker, toaster, washer and dryer, TV, Wi-Fi, coffee maker, fireplaces, as well as basic cooking and eating utelsils. The best part of it is that tits cabins overlook Lake Keowee with a private boat dock.

9Landsford Canal

The marker at Landsford Canal that will lead you to its trails (Source)

Landsford Canal is also one of the underrated South California state parks as only about 53,000 people visited it. But the number of its visitors don’t define these state parks as a site to be missed. Apparently, a lot of people are missing out on so many things in Lansford Canal.

One of the things that they miss out on this state park is its rocky shoals spider lily. One might ask why it is worth visiting because of these flowers. Well, apparently, it is what makes this place unique as it is a home to one of the largest populations of such flower. During its peak bloom from about mid-May to mid-June, these plants cover Lansford canal’s river in a blanket of white and it’s a phenomenon that you shouldn’t miss. It’s not just a breathtaking sight to see but it is very Instagram-worthy as well.

Another feature that it has that makes it one of a kind are the rapids of the Catawba River. Its exposed bedrock and elevation change creates a set of rapids or shoals on the Catawba. This makes the park’s river all the more fun for canoeing or kayaking but it also makes it difficult to cross. Still, it offers a unique and exciting activity for its visitors.

This site is also best for viewing bald eagles. Especially from late February to early June, bird watching is definitely not to be missed.

And like the other underrated South Carolina state parks in this list, Landsford Canal also offers freshwater fishing, paddling, picnic, and hiking activities. The man picnic area of the park is equipped with a playground too so don’t forget to bring the younger members of your family; they will surely enjoy this too.

10Poinsett State Park

The Shanks Creek flowing through Poinsett State Park (Source)

Poinsett State Park is probably one of the smallest underrated South Carolina state parks. But don’t be fooled by its size as it can talk big about relaxation. While there’s not much activities to do here compared to other state parks in South Carolina, you will surely enjoy it, especially if you’re looking for a good retreat. Here, you can choose from only 24 camp sites which is great for when you’re trying to avoid crowds.

It’s not boring at all, though, as you can also enjoy fishing and boating. There’s also a playground for kids and an open field for ball games that’s perfect for family bonding activities. Also, Poinsett State Park offers interpretative programs that educates guests on wildlife as well as the history of the area.

And if you’re looking for some more outdoor activities, Poinsett State Park has trails that people of all ages can hike. On top of it all, you can also fill your eyes with beautiful views of nature from the site.

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Best Time to Visit South Carolina State Parks

Your schedule matters a lot in traveling to different tourist attractions. But unlike seasonal tourist spots, you don’t have to worry so much about the day of your visit to South Carolina state parks. This is because no matter what time of the year you decide to visit, there’s always a state park in South Carolina that will make your vacation relaxing, fun, and memorable.

However, if you want to avoid the crows and the scorching heat of the sun, we suggest that you plot your schedule in August. During this time of the year, you are guaranteed that the weather won’t be too hot, enough for you and your family and/or friends to enjoy every activity that your chosen state park has to offer.

However, during this month, state parks in South Carolina tend to get busy too. But don’t worry, these underrated South Carolina state parks will always be there for you in case you want to enjoy nature while avoiding the crowd.

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South Carolina sure has a lot of state parks to offer. But if you’re looking for a place with a lesser crowd, these state parks should be on your list. While they don’t have much outdoor activities to offer that will keep your heart racing, we’re sure you will still love these state parks as much as we do as they also offer unique features, views, and experience. So don’t forget to check them out too in case you’re traveling to South Carolina.


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