Interstate 95 is the main north-south artery of the East Coast, and several spots in the state lay claim to being halfway between New York and Miami. With more than 200 miles of road in the Palmetto State, I-95 is one of our busiest routes, but there are plenty of places along the way to stop and get a taste or a glimpse of all the fun things South Carolina has to offer. Remember, as Pedro says, 95 is the name of the road, not the speed limit. Take your time and enjoy the journey.
Exit 1, Hamer
South of the Border
If you have ever driven on Interstate 95, you know Pedro and South of the Border. Just 1 mile from the North Carolina-South Carolina state line, South of the Border has engineered the feel of a border a little more south with signs from Georgia to Virginia, touting the hospitality of "Pedro," a character based on the nickname for a hotel manager from years gone by. A well-lit, 200-foot sombrero tower beckons travelers from the interstate to grab a bite, do some shopping, ride some rides or maybe even stay the night.
It all started in 1949 with a beer stand strategically located south of two "dry" North Carolina counties. A few successful years later, a grill was added and the business became South of the Border Drive-In. Then came a motel. Today, there is a reptile lagoon, an amusement park and an RV park in addition to six restaurants, a motel and, of course, the tower.
There also are a couple of gas stations, a couple of convenience stores and several different souvenir shops with items for every taste and budget. One of the most popular stores is the fireworks stand.
Exit 170, Florence
Atomic Bomb Crater
Just 7 miles off Exit 170 in Florence County is the only place in the U.S. that was accidentally hit by an atom bomb. The bomb was a more powerful version of the one dropped on Nagasaki during World War II. In 1958, it mistakenly fell out of an Air Force bomber and fell on the house and land belonging to Walter Gregg. Thankfully, the plutonium core didn't explode, but the 6,000 pounds of conventional high explosives detonated, turning the Gregg's garden into a muddy crater and destroying his family's home. Some of the bomb fragments are on display in the Florence County Museum. While the crater itself is on private property, there is a nearby kiosk with newspapers of the day retelling the story of the errant bomb. There also is a historical marker near the site, which is on US Highway 301 less than a half-mile west of Francis Marion University. The road to the Crater runs beside the marker.
Exit 164, Florence
Pee Dee State Farmers Market
Just 1.5 miles off Interstate 95 at Exit 164 is the Pee Dee State Farmers Market. The market sits on 55 acres of former farmland and is open year-round, offering some of the freshest produce from state farmers. The annual flower show in April is a great way to welcome spring. Vendors sell herbs for your garden or for tonight's supper as well as some of the best peaches, watermelon and blueberries you will find anywhere. All kinds of flowers also can be found by several nursery vendors. In addition, local vintner Hyman Vineyards offers several varietals. Open 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
Exit 141, Olanta
Woods Bay State Park
Take Exit 141 off I-95 to visit Woods Bay State Park, home to one of the most unique features of the Atlantic coastal plain - a Carolina Bay. A nature trail circles a mill pond and a 1,150-foot boardwalk offers close up views of the shrub bog, cypress tupelo swamp and the alligators who call it home.
Exit 98, Santee
Lone Star BBQ & Mercantile
Just off Exit 98 is a unique shopping and dining experience called Lone Star BBQ & Mercantile Lone Star Barbeque & Mercantile. This all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurant is spread across four old buildings that served as a country store, post office and supplier to local farmers as late as 1997. The buffet here includes barbecue, fried fish, ribs, and shrimp and grits. Also, check out the collections of knickknacks throughout the restaurant.
Exit 68, Walterboro
Colleton State Park
About 3 miles off I-95 at Exit 68 is Colleton State Park overlooking the Edisto River, one of the longest, free-flowing blackwater rivers in the country. This is an ideal place to stretch your legs during your trek through South Carolina and have a picnic lunch on the banks of the river. Take a walk on the .5-mile Cypress Swamp Nature Trail, and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding live oaks, huckleberry bushes, river birch, loblolly pine, magnolias and, of course, the bald cypress that give the swamp its name.
Exit 57, Walterboro
South Carolina Artisans Center
It's worth the short, 3-mile drive from Exit 57 to the South Carolina Artisans Center, a showcase for the artistic endeavors of more than 300 juried artists from across the state. You'll find an array of artwork, from garden sculptures to shawls, and the state's famed sweetgrass baskets. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Exist 8, Hardeeville
Sergeant Jasper Park
This free county park is a great green space for picnicking or burning off some energy on the playground. Located just about 2 miles from Exit 8, the park has fishing ponds, nature trails, an 18-hole disc-golf course, and canoe and kayak rentals if you have some time.