Can’t wait for summer to visit South Carolina’s beautiful beaches and lakes? With plenty to do in the winter in these traditional summer vacation destinations, why not plan an unconventional, off-season getaway when the crowds are scarce and there’s no queueing up for attractions and amenities? And the views will be just as breathtaking, flip flops or not.
Here are five summertime spots perfect for a winter escape:
Hilton Head Island – This family favorite is all about the beach in the hot summer months. But with average winter temperatures in the 60s, it’s the perfect time to hit the fairways. With more than two dozen courses on the island, you’ll have the opportunity to challenge yourself on layouts created by some of the game’s best designers, including Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, George Fazio, Davis Love III, Gary Player and Robert Trent Jones Sr. In the winter months, course availability is plentiful and you’ll enjoy lower seasonal rates and fantastic money-saving stay-and-play packages at premier golf destinations like Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort and The Sea Pines Resort, home of the legendary Harbour Town Golf Links.
Hickory Knob State Resort Park – Set along the beautiful 71,000-acre Lake Thurmond, this full-service resort offers an array of amenities for on-shore fun. Play a round on the 18-hole Tom Jackson-designed championship golf course. Go skeet shooting (guns and ammo included) or schedule a session on the archery range. The park also features 12 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, including the Lakeview Loop offering scenic views of the water. There’s even a restaurant on-site serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a daily happy hour. The 400 section of the pet-friendly lakeside lodge was recently remodeled with rooms and suites featuring a deck, cable TV, a refrigerator and free Wi-Fi.
Edisto Island – Leave the bathing suit behind and pack a good pair of walking shoes to explore this stunning barrier island and the pristine Lowcountry landscape on the mainland. Just getting to the island is a journey worth taking on the Edisto Island National Scenic Byway. At Edisto Beach State Park, you can learn about the surrounding ACE Basin, named after the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers that flow through one of the largest wetland ecosystems on the Atlantic coast. Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve offers another unique perspective of coastal land left undeveloped and in its natural state. A self-guided driving tour takes you through the 3,363-acre property, which includes shell rings from the Late Archaic Period, outbuildings from Bleak Hall Plantation, remnants of a slave house and a 2.8-mile stretch of undisturbed shoreline.
Myrtle Beach – Boasting some 80-plus golf courses, Myrtle Beach is also a winter haven for the avid golfer. For those who prefer to putter around on a putt-putt course, the selection of miniature golf layouts is almost as vast with 50 of the courses scattered throughout the Grand Strand. You won’t have to stand in line to putt your way through Captain Hook’s pirate ship, a lava-spewing volcano, Shipwreck Island or gold and diamond mines this time of year. With fewer visitors in the area, you can enjoy all of Myrtle Beach’s attractions without the wait. You’ll also have a much better chance of nabbing primo seats to Myrtle Beach’s most popular live shows at venues like Carolina Opry, Alabama Theatre and Legends in Concert. And if that’s not enough reason to plan an off-season visit, the cooler months from November through February are the only time of year you can ride horses on Myrtle Beach.
Lake Hartwell – One of the Southeast’s largest and most popular public recreation lakes, this Upstate reservoir is a boating and fishing mecca but its location adjacent to Clemson University also makes it a convenient and picturesque spot to experience the energy and spirit of the campus in session and its famed Fighting Tigers. While football tickets may be hard to come by, you shouldn’t have any trouble snatching seats for men’s and women’s basketball in the Littlejohn Coliseum and track and field events in the Clemson Indoor Track & Field Complex. For the art-minded, the campus has some very cool public art displays created by nationally recognized artists, as well as a gallery showcasing regional, national and international artists and artworks in curated exhibitions. Clemson is also home to the South Carolina Botanical Garden and two historic buildings. For both a view of Lake Hartwell and easy access to the Clemson campus, stay at the new Lakeside Lodge Clemson, offering traditional guest rooms and suites with a full kitchen, an on-site farm-to-table restaurant, gazebo, amphitheater and miniature football field.