It wasn’t so long ago that Travelers Rest was just a town you drove by on the way to the mountains. That was until the Swamp Rabbit Trail opened along the old Carolina, Knoxville and Western rail line, offering cyclists, joggers and walkers a scenic 22-mile pathway from nearby Greenville to TR (as it’s affectionately called by locals).
Over the last several years, the popular recreational trail has spawned restaurants, coffee shops, a brewery, a distillery, art galleries and countless shops along the adjacent Main Street, transforming the tiny hamlet into a destination all its own.
Perched at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina’s Upcountry, TR has become a popular vacation getaway for families, foodies and fun-seekers. USA Today named it one of the Best Southern Small Towns.
Its proximity to the mountains continues to draw outdoor enthusiasts looking to hike, bike, fish or paddle in the area’s many state parks, among them Paris Mountain, Table Rock and Caesars Head.
Once home to Catawba, Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes, Travelers Rest earned its name in the 1800s when it served as a stopover for weary Lowcountry travelers heading to the cool highlands in the summer and drovers moving herds of cattle, sheep and hogs to markets in the east.
The railroad and highways spurred growth in the town, but until recently, it was mostly known as the gateway to the mountains.
TR also has served as home to Furman University since 1953. Established in 1826 in Edgefield, S.C., Furman is the oldest private university in the state. The 750-acre campus, featuring an Asian garden, a Florentine bell tower and spring-fed lake, was named one of the 362 most beautiful places in America by the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Furman isn’t TR’s only historical legacy. Main Street is lined with old buildings, now home to chic boutiques and trendy cafes. The Tandem Creperie building at the corner of Center and Main was built in 1944 as a brick one-story post office. Its 1958 replacement is now the Swamp Rabbit Brewery.
At 27 South Main you’ll find several businesses, including TRee House Cafe & Studio and Silver Lily Boutique, now occupying a 1930s hardware store. The site where Sunrift Adventures outdoor shop now sits was the upper station of the Travelers Rest train depot.
The city also has done its part to spruce up the Main Street corridor, adding brick sidewalks, swings, a gazebo and lots of lush landscaping.
Along with its hip downtown, TR is attracting visitors with a slew of family-friendly festivals and events, including the Browse & Stroll Street Market, Music in the Park Concert Series, Fall Bluegrass & Harvest Market, Artober and Movies in the Park.
Whether it serves as basecamp for outdoor adventures, the jumping-off point for a Swamp Rabbit Trail ride or a weekend in the beautiful Carolina Foothills, Travelers Rest should be on everyone’s vacation to-go list.