Whether you’re craving great barbeque, time on the beach, or the perfect glass of sweet tea, South Carolina has it for you. But did you know that South Carolina (like all states) has some good spots for stargazing, especially if you can get away from the big cities.
Known as the Palmetto State, it should come as no surprise that some of the best spots stargazing in South Carolina have palmetto trees in them. If you’re curious where those are, read on and get started planning your next night sky adventure.
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East) and Congaree peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Map of Where to Go Stargazing in South Carolina
Battle of Rivers Bridge
Most of the people that get to the Battle of Rivers Bridge site are into Civil War history. But there’s another group who may find joy in these lands: stargazers! The property is quite small, but doesn’t lack cool places where you can set up our telescope.
You can try your luck on the shores of the Salkehatchie River – the site’s main trail leads up to there. Along the way, there are plenty of historical signs as you walk the path and it’s easy to imagine what the area was like during the war.
Capers Island is one of the top places for stargazing in South Carolina. It sits three miles off the coast of the mainland so it does take a bit more effort to get there. However, it’s so worth it. The island is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes out there. The narrow stretches of sand are lined with palms, weirdly tangled living trees, tree skeletons and stumps, creating an eerie atmosphere.
Astrophotographers will be in for a treat. Last but not least, Capers Island is one of the best places to see the Milky Way because there’s basically no light pollution.
Photo credit: Tommy White via Flickr
Congaree National Park
In Congaree National Park, you can find things glowing below and above your head. And I mean it literally: if you look carefully, you’ll see what looks like fireflies between the park’s cypress trees’ logs and branches. But no, these are glowing mushrooms (or bioluminescent fungi if we want to be technical about it).
Get there before nightfall to catch both spectacles. The one happening in the sky won’t disappoint either.
Edisto Beach State Park
Located 50 miles south of Charleston, Edisto Beach State Park ranks high when it comes to South Carolina stargazing places. It stands out for being one of the few oceanfront parks in the state. The 1.5 miles of undeveloped beach is a fanstastic spot from where to watch the stars on clear nights.
Needless to say, the landscape is another great spot for astrophotographers, with the beautiful Palmettos against the starry sky creating a perfect foreground for the stars beyond.
Photo credit: Danie Becknell via Flickr
Francis Marion National Forest
Francis Marion National Forest is one of the most sought-out places for stargazing in South Carolina. It sits below pristine skies and thanks to the lack of light pollution, the beauty of our galaxy can be seen with just your eyes. The landscape also adds to the atmosphere, with towering bald cypress entwined with wildlife-filled swamps and marshes.
Bear in mind there are a lot of bugs here, especially during hot, humid months. Bring your bug spray if you want to enjoy your stay.
Hunting Island State Park
Another coastal park, Hunting Island State Park is great for stargazing. Exploring this 5,000-acre secluded semitropical barrier island feels like you’ve just entered Jurassic Park: large pines entangled with cabbage palms and dwarf palmettos invade every nook of the park. The density and freedom with which the vegetation grows is a wonderful reminder of the power and beauty of nature.
As for stargazing, the park’s shoreline provides open sky views. You’ll also have good views near the lighthouse.
Photo credit: Zach via Flickr
Jones Gap State Park is a hidden gem in South Carolina. But that only means you’ll have the park all to yourself when you go searching for those starry nights. The park is a part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. So it offers lots of hiking experiences – there are about 30 trails of different levels of difficulty. The park’s lush forests and isolation from big cities pave the way for the stars to come out at night. While it is nice and dark, you may find it a bit challenging to find a place with open sky views as it’s a wooded area – so don’t expect a full horizon-to-zenith-to-horizon view.
Kings Mountain State Park
Located on the border between South and North Carolina, Kings Mountain State Park is one of the best places to go stargazing in the Palmetto State. In fact, some even argue that it has the best views of the night sky. The state park consists of 6,885 acres of pristine forests.
Despite its closeness to the city or Charlotte, North Carolina, there’s a surprisingly low level of light pollution inside the park.
Lake Murray sits just outside of Columbia; it’s a great place to go on your South Carolina stargazing adventure.
This park has managed to keep the urban glow from the city outside of its perimeter, and come nightfall, the lake area is a surprisingly dark area. It can get crowded during the summer months with locals and tourists – bear that in mind if you prefer quieter locations.
Photo credit: Shane Smith via Flickr
Melton Memorial Observatory
Since you’re so close to Columbia, don’t miss the chance to stop by the Melton Memorial Observatory. The property sits on the University of South Carolina’s campus. It is open to the public for stargazing events and other astronomy-related activities throughout the year.
Visitors can attend public observing sessions, which are typically held on Friday evenings to view the moon, planets, and other celestial objects through their 14-inch Celestron telescope.
Know of any other great spots for stargazing in South Carolina, or have questions about these ones? Let me know in the comments below.