Located in the Southeastern United States, South Carolina is a coastline state. The state of North Carolina borders it to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast, and Georgia to the southwest, across the Savannah River.
Beaches, forests, and historic sites abound in this lovely southern state. South Carolina is well-known for a variety of reasons, including its delectable cuisine, friendly locals, and diverse cultural offerings.
Learning the history behind some of the most famous South Carolina landmarks will make your visit to SC more interesting.
Famous Landmarks in South Carolina
1. Charleston City Market
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney first turned over the land that the Charleston City Market sits on in 1788. The City of Charleston has it now for as long as they honor Charles’ one requirement: The land must remain for use as a public market.
Builders used marble to create some of the original street booths. They stayed standing despite tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and fires. The booths even withstood malicious attacks.
Between 1840 and after 1830, the market stations reached the waterfront. The Market Hall, first built in 1841 still exists in 2022, and housing developments sprang up around it in the 1970s.
2. Fort Sumter National Monument
The Fort Sumter National Monument sits on the battle site where troops first fired. This marked the beginning of the Civil War and continued the fight for freedom.
Originally, the city of Charleston, South Carolina had attempted to succeed from the United States to hold onto slavery traditions. Sumter is one of two forts that sit on the Charleston Harbor entrance. The other is called Fort Moultrie.
In case you’re wondering, the first Civil War attack occurred on April 12, 1861. This event began a long string of “unfinished business” associated with granting human rights to all. Obviously, the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776 didn’t solve everything.
3. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is one of the most popular historical sites in SC. It’s considered Charleston’s most visited plantation.
Thomas Drayton and his wife Ann first founded the Magnolia Plantation in 1676. They arrived from the Caribbean territory of Barbados, now a country.
Instead of association with slavery, the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens now hosts weddings and other events as recently as 2022.
Still, it may be a bittersweet memorial for both the indigenous tribes and Africans that did become slaves captured and brought here.
4. Joe Riley Waterfront Park
Also known as the Charleston Waterfront Park, Joe Riley Waterfront Park on Concord Street historically saw a lot of sea traffic. It sits in the Charleston Harbor along with seven wharf areas where frequent shipping occurred.
For a long time, you could feel confident with safe swimming at Joe Riley Park because of its strict rules. For instance, “no solo wading” or no person “under the influence of alcohol or drugs should use the fountain” is allowed.
With half of Charlestons’ waterfronts deemed unsafe in 2021, you may wonder. Is Joe Riley safe for swimming? Well, the city reportedly plans to expand the park to preserve the area as a park once legally permitted (if they are).
Of all the places to swim, Joe Riley is probably one of the spots you can still go. This park has miles of trails, green space and picnic areas too.
5. SkyWheel Myrtle Beach
The SkyWheel attraction started in 2011 on Myrtle Beach as a 187-foot ferris wheel. It later began offering 30-minute “sunrise flights,” which allow you to take in some morning sun.
One unique feature this wheel ride has is climate-controlled “gondolas” (seats). You can order a coffee or pastry item to enjoy while mid-flight if you want.
It’s such a popular ride that you may have to reserve your ticket to the SkyWheel in advance. You’re better off purchasing your flight online, or you might have to wait outside for your turn.
The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel is located on the Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade. There’s also a Panama City, Florida SkyWheel location.
You could go to Panama City in one day or less if you want to enjoy the 18-hole golf course. That depends on where you are in SC, but it’s worth planning into your itinerary if you want to do more than ride a ferris wheel.
The Panama City one also has more amenities for children, such as the ropes course or Snack Pack. Both the SC and FL locations, however, welcome people of all ages and have plenty of walking trails near the water.
6. Barefoot Landing
Barefoot Landing on Myrtle Beach provides a one-stop shop near the Intercoastal Highway. Perhaps you just took a ride on the SkyWheel and now want to enjoy lunch or dinner on the promenade by the water.
Barefoot Landing also features more than 40 stores. Sometimes, entertainers also perform live shows. What’s more you might see some fireworks during special events if you’re there at the “right time.”
It seems that every season of the year is the “right time” to be at Barefoot landing, however. They have spring, summer, winter and fall themed events mixed in with holidays and special occasions.
7. Middleton Place
Middleton Place first became established in 1675. It’s one of the oldest and rarest landmarks in SC. It’s definitely on the National Historic Landmark list too. It has a bittersweet history, however.
Unfortunately, Middleton Place has its roots in slavery days. On the other hand, it now houses spectacular gardens and historical estates. You also could visit the Stableyards, where they used to breed livestock.
It may not be as pleasant to learn about the history of this property as it is to look at it. However, it does hold an important part of American history. It existed before both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
8. Angel Oak Tree
Can you imagine a branch extending 187 feet? That’s how long one of the Angel Oak’s branches measures. This tree has been around for at least 400 years, according to popular sources.
Everyone seems to like a strong, stable oak tree because it represents longevity. The Angel Oak Tree also stands more than 66 feet tall. Its 28-foot-round branch formation covers about 17,200 square feet of area, which provides plenty of shade.
The Angel Oak Tree has become a popular spot for weddings, photo shoots and other occasions. You might want to have a picnic underneath it if you can find a time that’s free for doing so.
The Angel Oak sits at 3688 Angel Oak Road in Charleston. It’s in Angel Oak Park on Johns Island near the Old Slave Mart Museum and both Kiawah and Seabrook Islands.
9. Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row also sits near the Angel Oak Tree and is a part of the Preservation Society of Charleston. Therefore, you can visit both sites and nearby landmarks in one trip.
Susan Pringle Frost first purchased six buildings a part of what used to be called the “Preservation of Old Dwellings” and became instrumental in founding this historical area. It later expanded into the 13 buildings later painted pastel colors by Dorothy Porcher Legge after 1931.
Dorothy and her husband Judge Lionel Legge bought the Rainbow Row houses on East Bay Street. They livened the homes up after they experienced quite a hit during the Civil War. Pastel pink, lavender, yellow and light blue are some of its colors.
Some of the Rainbow Row rumors could make you chuckle, especially when you find out they’re false. According to the Rainbow Row South Carolina SC website, drunk sailors did not land in this neighborhood or paint its houses.
Other stories made claims of painting homes to remember those dwellings’ whereabouts. This also led to the stereotype of uneducated slaves who couldn’t read. That, of course, is not as funny as maybe a drunken sailor story may be to some people.
It’s true that some of the enslaved people couldn’t read or write. However, research indicates that illiteracy is not tied to the coloring of Rainbow Row homes.
10. Pineapple Fountain
Pineapple Fountain sits on the Charleston Waterfront Park, so you can enjoy it while taking a walk along this park’s promenade. Look at it if you’re able to, and you’ll notice right away why it’s called the “Pineapple Fountain.”
The Pineapple Fountain even has the “leaves” on top of it that resemble the top of one of the most aesthetically pleasing fruits in the world. By the way, pineapples take on the meaning of “hospitality” in Charleston, S.C.
It’s not one of the oldest attractions though. Stu Dawson, Varoujan Hagopian, Jay Faber and Mark Dawson from the Sasaki firm designed it in the 1990s. However, it has significance because of when it was erected.
Pineapple Fountain came after Hurricane Hugo destroyed about $11 million in property. This violent (Category 5) tropical storm also killed 67 people and affected millions more.
Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated their homes. Hugo destroyed tens of thousands more houses in Charleston and surrounding areas. The Pineapple Fountain signifies hope after the storm to this location.