South Carolina’s Midlands: Explore Camden, Sumter, Columbia & Surrounding Areas

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Discover this S.C. Region’s Adventures,
History, Culture & Southern Charm

With mountains in the Upstate, beaches along the coast, rivers and lakes in the Midlands and a mix of both bustling urban areas and serene, rural locations, South Carolina is one of those rare states that can truly boast it has something for every lifestyle.

The Midlands – the region United Country Real Estate | Gunter & Associates calls home – includes cities such as state capital Columbia (the largest). But it’s also a region defined by natural beauty, with forests and waterways perfect for outdoor adventures. Here in Kershaw County, Sumter County and neighboring areas, the weather is favorable, the history is storied, and the culture and cuisine are steeped in Southern charm.

Whether you’re looking for a parcel of farmland to raise horses or grow crops, a luxury lake home for vacation getaways, a wooded recreational tract for hunting, or just a modest home in town … you’ll likely find it here in the Midlands. Let’s take a closer look at the area’s appeal for residents and visitors alike.

Endless Outdoor Recreation at S.C. Midlands Parks, Rivers & Lakes

From the coast to the mountains and everywhere in-between, South Carolina offers endless opportunities to enjoy recreation in the great outdoors. There are a staggering 47 different state parks alone statewide, with at least several of those in the Midlands, and a whole lot of focus on rivers and lakes. You might start by kayaking the serene Saluda River.

Lake Wateree State Park in Winnsboro (Fairfield County) is all about fishing and boating, with anglers flocking here for annual tournaments. Just five miles outside of Camden, there’s Goodale State Park, where you can paddle wooded waterways through cypress trees. Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia offers more than 1,400 acres for hiking, birding, lake fishing and more. Manchester State Forest in Sumter County is worth a visit for its WMA hunting areas, as well as its trails for horses and bikes, a fishing pond and other recreational features.

Poinsett State Park in Wedgefield is filled with a unique mix of swamp, sandhills, mountain bluffs and hardwood forests. Besides all the usual park activities, Poinsett can access the Palmetto Trail, which runs diagonally from mountains to the coast – including right through the Midlands. It’s a great way to see nearly every geographical region in South Carolina.

About the same distance (45 minutes) south of Camden is Congaree National Park, with at least a dozen hiking trails and the largest section of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern U.S. Canoe, camp, fish and more here. If hunting is your aim, head just over an hour from Columbia to find H. Cooper Black Jr. Memorial Field Trial and Recreation Area up in Cheraw, where you can hunt deer, turkey and small game. You can also board and ride your horses here.

Finally, less than an hour and a half from Columbia, the 15,000-acre Santee National Wildlife Refuge (and adjacent state park) includes the popular Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie (A.K.A. the Santee-Cooper Lakes), both teaming with diverse wildlife. The lakes are also another top spot for trophy bass, crappie, white perch and catfish. Lake Marion in particular is a standout for being South Carolina's largest lake. It borders Sumter County (along with four others).

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More in the Midlands: Southern Historic Sites, Festivals, Food & Fun

Outdoor adventures may be right near the top of many lists when it comes to reasons to visit or live in the South Carolina Midlands. But rest assured there are numerous other attractions to check out here, from historic and cultural sites, to local foods and festivals, family fun and more. For starters, you might check out the top things to do in Sumter, S.C., and at least as many (maybe even more) things to do in Camden.

For a deep dive into Camden’s historic buildings, battlefields and other sites, take a look at what Historic Camden is doing. Then there’s Andrew Jackson State Park in Lancaster, honoring the seventh president with a museum, statue, replica schoolhouse and the like. State capital Columbia abounds with history and art, at the South Carolina State Museum, Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina State House and South Carolina Military Museum. Speaking of the military, one of the leading and most innovative installations is Shaw Air Force Base, located right here in the Sumter area.

Equestrian culture and horse-related activities are also a core part of South Carolina’s identity. The Camden Cup is a well-attended polo event in early May, while The Carolina Cup and The Colonial Cup steeplechase races are standouts at the Springdale Race Course. Camden’s South Carolina Equine Park is another location worth visiting.

For educational and fun family outings, consider the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden and the EdVenture Children’s Museum, both in Columbia. Or perhaps you'd rather head to Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, America's only public park featuring all eight swan species and an amazing display of Japanese Iris. Additionally, the S.C. Midlands are filled with local festivals for the whole family. From the Annual Elgin Catfish Stomp, to Lexington’s annual chili cookoff, Kershaw County’s Carolina Downhome Blues Festival, the Orangeburg Festival of Roses and beyond … there’s no shortage of events to enjoy.

When it’s time for the adults to relax, spots such as Columbia’s River Rat Brewery and Old Mill Brewpub in Lexington are great starting points. Really, there’s so much to discover in the Midlands that we can’t cover it all; we didn’t even get around to Newberry, named among the Travel Channel’s 2019 most charming American small towns. We invite you to come explore the region on your own. Welcome to the Midlands!

Sources: DiscoverSouthCarolina.com; SouthCarolinaParks.com; CityofCamden.org; HistoricCamden.org; Kershaw.sc.gov; ColumbiaSc.gov; LexingtonSc.org; StateParks.com; NPS.gov; TownofElginSc.com; Orangeburg.Sc.us; CityofNewberry.com