Interstate 85 cuts across the northwest corner of the state of South Carolina, taking travelers past the now-infamous Peachoid of Gaffney through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Georgia state line.
You will pass the Kings Mountain national battlefield, where the Colonists won a significant battle during the Revolutionary War; Spartanburg, where several of the state’s largest textile companies were based; Greer, where German automaker BMW offers an opportunity to look into the history and the future of automaking; Greenville, where the vibrant new South meets old Southern charm; and, Anderson, where you can soar over the Upstate in a hot air balloon.
There are countless places large and small to stop on your trek through the Palmetto State, but here a few stops, just a few miles off Interstate 85, that we think you won’t want to miss.
Kings Mountain National Military Park and State Park, Blacksburg
Coming from the north, your best bet is to take Exit 2 off I-85 while you are still in North Carolina and head south on 216 to Battleground Road, which leads to national and state parks dedicated to one of the first Patriot victories in South Carolina. Considered the “turning point” of the Revolutionary War in the South, the Battle of Kings Mountain on Oct. 7, 1780, came on the heels of defeats of the Continental Army in Charleston and Camden. The national park offers a 25-minute film about the battle, exhibits and a 1.5-mile, self-guided battlefield tour. If you need a good stretch of the legs, there are 16 miles of hiking trails. The state park also has miles of trails, equestrian facilities, fishing lakes with boat rentals and the popular Living History Farm – a replica of a typical 19th century farm, including a house and barn, with cows and chickens.
After you cross SC Scenic Highway 11 heading south on I-85 you will see one of the state’s most famous man-made attractions, at least for fans of the Netflix series “House of Cards.”The Gaffney Peachoid water tower was built in 1981 by the Board of Public Works. Its design celebrates the top crop of the area, but its resemblance to another object often makes it the, um, butt of jokes. Look to your right just past Mile Marker 92.
Speaking of peaches, the Roger Milliken Center campus is located on a former peach orchard and has 600 of the beautifully landscaped acres around. The company says it is the largest corporate greenspace in the Southeast. The arboretum was the brainchild of textile magnate Milliken and includes open fields, groves and trees, decorative fountains and ponds. More than 500 different trees and shrubs, many rare to South Carolina, can be found on the grounds. The arboretum is free and open to the public.
No matter what car you are driving as you pass through South Carolina, you will want to check out “ultimate roadside attraction,” dedicated to one of the world’s top car makers – the BMW Zentrum at Exit 60 in Greer. The 28,000-square-foot visitors center showcases the German automaker’s long history of building things that go fast, from motorcycles to cars and aircraft. The museum is located at the company’s South Carolina manufacturing plant, where several models of BMWs are made. The museum's massive renovation is set to open in late 2016. Call ahead to see if factory tours are available. Tours are $10 for the general public or $3.50 for BMW Car Club members.
The town of Pendleton offers one of the largest historic districts in the nation, including more than 40 points of historic interest in more than 6,000 acres. The Village Green is surrounded by shops and restaurants and includes Farmers' Hall, which was initially built in 1826 as a Court House and is where the idea for South Carolina’s land-grant college – Clemson University – was first conceived. Other points of interest include Ashtabula Historic House, built in 1825, Woodburn Historic House built around 1830 as a summer retreat for wealthy Charlestonians and Hunter’s store, which was the one-time center of the town’s business activity. Grab a gourmet bite at 1826 on the Green [LINK: ], open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday and for dinner Thursday-Saturday.
The Spotted Pig. Don’t miss this chance to taste some spectacular South Carolina barbecue before leaving our state. Off Exit 1 on Interstate 85 in the town of Fair Play, the Spotted Pig offers three flavors of sauce (spicy, sweet and mustard) and brisket. Don’t skip the Brunswick stew. Like most old-school South Carolina barbecue joints, the Spotted Pig is open Thursday-Sunday only.