Interstate 20 ends or begins in Florence, depending on your perspective. In South Carolina, the east-west highway takes you through horse country and the heart of the state before dropping you off just a little shy of the coast.
Here are a few places to plan a stop if you are driving I-20 through SC.
Exit 1As soon as you cross the Savannah River, take the first South Carolina exit to find a beautiful park along the river. Boeckh Park (501 Front St., North Augusta) is the perfect place to stretch your legs and get a great view of the river that separates South Carolina from Georgia. Part of North Augusta’s Greenway, Boeckh Park has a pavilion for sitting and enjoying the view and a 1.5-mile trail to get your blood pumping.
Exit 18About seven miles from the interstate in Aiken is a one-of-a-kind museum dedicated to the area’s pastime, horse racing. The Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum is set in beautiful Hopelands Gardens and celebrates the city’s attachment to the horse set that dates back to the early 1900s and its days as a Winter Colony for the wealthy. The famed Aiken Training Track has been the training ground for 39 champion thoroughbreds, including Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, and all of those champions are celebrated in this museum.
Exit 39The Midlands is home to the barbecue flavor known as Carolina Gold and there’s no place better to sample it than Jackie Hite’s in Batesburg-Leesville just about eight miles north of the interstate. Cooked in the traditional style—low and slow over a wood fire—the pulled pork here is flavored with a mustard-based sauce that is unique to South Carolina. Come by at lunchtime for the buffet and don’t skip the pork skins. Open for lunch Wednesday-Sunday. Open a little later on Friday for takeout.
Exit 63If you’ve had a hot day of traveling, there is no better place to cool off than Columbia’s Saluda Shoals Park. Just about five miles off I-20 at Bush River Road (Exit 63), is this wonderful park alongside the Saluda River just as it exits Lake Murray through the dam. The water that feeds this river comes from the bottom of the lake, so it is super cool even in the summer. At Saluda Shoals, you can walk along the river, let the kids cool off in a splash park or even get your own feet wet in a boat or inner tube and just float down the river a bit. There is even a wonderful shuttle that will pick you up and bring you right back to your car after your river excursion.
Exit 98Downtown Camden is less than three miles north of I-20 at Exit 98. This historic town offers antiquing and fine dining on its main drag of Broad Street. On your way into town, you will pass McCaa Tavern, a restored 18th century tavern, and the Kershaw County Farmers Market, open Saturday mornings. In town, you’ll find the Camden City Market, the Antiques Market, Books on Broad and other shops as well as restaurants, such as Sam Kendall’s and Hifalutin’.
Exit 116A little over a mile from Exit 116 is an extraordinary display of topiaries created by a man who was simply looking to win the yard of the month award from his local garden club. Pearl Fryar first shaped his nursery-reject bushes in the 1980s and became famous for the Dr. Seuss-like creations and metal sculptures. He was the subject of a documentary, “A Man Named Pearl.” The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden is located at 145 Broad Acres Road in Bishopville and is open to visitors 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday year-round. Looking is free, but donations are accepted.
Exit 141I-20 begins (or ends, depending on your perspective) in Florence. If you take the I-20 business spur into town, you will find a wonderful park dedicated to veterans and a walking trail that shows off the city’s natural beauty. The park, near the city’s Civic Center, includes monuments and memorials to the veterans of 20th century wars from World War I through the first Gulf War. The park is part of the city’s system of trails. From the park, follow the signs for a nature walk.