The ocean in South Carolina is like a movie star, grabbing the spotlight and getting all the glory with its mesmerizing waves and spectacular vastness. Coastal South Carolina is famous for good reason: soft beaches that stretch for miles and miles, warm water, friendly locals, amazing restaurants, beautiful hotels and cozy beach houses for rent by the week, along with fascinating history, culture, and family amusements, all within a few miles of the shore.
But there's a whole other coast in South Carolina, just waiting to be discovered. It's an incredible web of freshwater lakes, usually formed by dams on the rivers as they snake their way to the sea. The gorgeous lakes of South Carolina form the undiscovered inland coast that you've been missing. So while the ocean is a celebrity, a lake is your best friend's effortlessly cool older sister who always knew the best bands before anyone had ever heard of them. The girl who never had to show off, and always made you feel like you were in on the best secrets.
Many of the best lakes in South Carolina are located in the state parks, or adjacent to them. This means that not only can you swim, you can swim in some of the most beautiful places on earth.
Imagine swimming in Pinnacle Lake while staring at the incredible escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains erupting from the ground at Table Rock State Park. Or floating in the cool turquoise water of Lake Jocassee, surrounded by the stunning Jocassee Gorges at Devils Fork State Park.
Those are just two of the incredible state park lakes to explore. Find more great ideas here.
Some swimming areas in the parks, like enormous Lake Marion in Santee State Park and Lake Oconee in Oconee State Park are well equipped with lifeguards, picnic tables and even diving boards. Some, like Lake Hartwell, have no lifeguards, amenities or officially designated swimming area at all, and are swim at your own risk.
And while Lake Murray borders Dreher Island State Park, the best place to swim there isn't in the park at all. It's just south of the dam at the SCE&G South Recreation Site.
No matter where you go, be sure to bring towels and lunch, just like you would at the ocean. But also, make sure you bring some sort of water shoes (the lake beds can be very rocky) and noseclips.
Think about what type of swimming experience you and your family are looking for, whether it's the safety of shallow waters and lifeguard, or the wildness of a remote mountain lake. You'll be sure to find it somewhere on South Carolina's other coast.