Charleston: Deep South Charm

With a rich 300 year history, Charleston is America’s most beautifully preserved architectural and historical treasure

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Charleston. Avid tourist? Charleston is the city for you. Lover of good food and charming scenery? Charleston has your number.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Nestled along a narrow peninsula—where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet and empty into the Atlantic Ocean—it exudes deep South charm. With very few tall buildings, Charleston instead offers quaint cobblestone roads, colonial structures, a unique culture, and gobs of history.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston also has a collection of some of the oldest and most impressive churches in America, including the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, The Old Bethel Methodist Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 300 years ago, Charleston was originally named in honor of King Charles II of England. Charles Towne, as it was known, was founded in 1670 at Albmarle Point, a spot just across the Ashley River. Since that time it has played host to some of the most historic events in US history, including the first major battle of the American Revolution, and the start of the Civil War.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the best known Charleston landmark is Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began on April 12, 1861. At that time, Union forces occupied the strategic Fort at the entrance of Charleston harbor. The South demanded that Fort Sumter be vacated, the Union army refused, and the rest is history. After a two-day bombardment, the North surrendered the Fort to the South. Nearby, visitors can also tour Fort Moultrie, which also played heavily in Civil War significance.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the best way to see this town is by foot. Around every corner visitors can discover another hidden garden, great restaurants, historic houses, quaint shops, and friendly people.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A walk down any of Charleston’s quaint avenues, especially in the area designated as The Battery, is a walk back in time. Many houses date from the 1700s and 1800s, and a large number of these are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour more than a dozen of these homes, including the Heyward-Washington House, built in 1772. This house was owned by Thomas Heyward Jr., a Revolutionary patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was also George Washington’s temporary residence during his Southern Tour of 1791.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other houses of note that visitors can tour in Charleston include the Aiken Rhett House, one of the most intact building complexes showcasing urban life in Antebellum Charleston; the Joseph Manigault House, a premier example of neo-classical architecture built in 1803; and the Nathaniel Russell House, a neoclassical mansion considered one of America’s premier Federal townhouses.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside of town, you can visit a number of Southern plantations, including Boone Hall and Drayton Hall. Boone Hall’s world-famous Avenue of Oaks leads to the Plantation house and gardens, and its original slave street and slave quarters. Located a stone’s throw from Boone Hall is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site and historic Snee Farms. Pinckney was an original signer of the US Constitution, and was very influential in the document’s language. Drayton Hall, built between 1738 and 1742, is the oldest preserved plantation house in America.

Magnolia Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While touring Charleston the campground at James Island County Park served as our home base. An ideal location amidst scenic beauty and an amazing drive-through display of Christmas lights, the 643-acre park is convenient to downtown Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, and the campground provides a round-trip shuttle service to the city’s visitor center.

Middleton Place © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park itself makes a fun destination. Miles of paved trails wind through forests and Palmetto trees and skirt by marshes and tidal creeks. Bicycle rentals are available, as are pedal boats and kayak rentals for its 16 acres of lakes.

James Island County Park Christmas Lights Display © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life,

go to church,

and say your prayers,

you’ll go to Charleston

when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

Walterboro: Front Porch of the Lowcountry

Established in 1826, the City of Walterboro is hailed as the “front porch of the Lowcountry” with its historic charm, plentiful natural resources, and warm Southern hospitality

For those reminiscing about the warmth and familiarity of an authentic small town, Walterboro provides the perfect opportunity to step back through time. Nature lovers can take advantage of South Carolina’s year-round balmy weather and enjoy the quiet solitude of the ACE Basin and The Great Swamp Sanctuary, which is accessible from downtown.

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors are reminded of the town’s early days as a summer retreat—tree-lined streets where quaint homes with broad porches and beautiful churches date to the 18th century. The early planters who summered here also built the town’s first library in 1820.

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s been more than two centuries since a pair of Southern plantation owners, Paul and Jacob Walter, seeking solace from Coastal Carolina’s sultry summers and pervasive mosquitoes, found an area about 45 miles west of Charleston to their liking. The town they established in 1784 is still thriving, offering visitors a wide range of festivals, other activities, and two historic districts: Historic Hickory Valley, a largely residential area with homes dating between 1814 and 1929; and the Walterboro Historic District, which covers the historic businesses and the lovely small town full of southern charm and heritage.

Colleton County Courthouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Among its sites on the National Register of Historic Places are the Colleton County Courthouse, the Old Colleton County Jail, and the Walterboro Library Society Building, also known as the Little Library and now the headquarters for the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society.

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town’s two major drawing cards, however, are only tenuously related to history and to each other. Walterboro is the home of The Great Swamp Sanctuary, an 800-acre wildlife preserve that attracts more than 10,000 visitors a year, and its downtown is evolving into a major antiquing center. The town, with a population of about 5,800, strives to do its best to take advantage of its notoriety in both areas.

Great Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Treasure-hunters love scouring the village’s dozen antique shops, finding everything from high-end antiques to fun vintage souvenirs or shopping the Colleton Farmers Market for farm-fresh produce and delicious homemade food products.

Colleton Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Comprised of over 800 acres of braided creek and hardwood flats, the Great Swamp Sanctuary offers boardwalks, bridges, bike and walking trails for viewing natural Lowcountry wildlife and beauty. Spanish moss drips from Cypress trees and wildflowers abound as you pass a beaver pond, duck pond, and butterfly garden.

Great Swamp Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From sunrise to sunset, a visit to the sanctuary promises a day full of hiking, canoeing, and cycling through pristine Lowcountry swamps. Wildlife is abundant with native populations of wild turkey, deer, coyotes, raccoons, beaver, otter, opossum, squirrels, fox, and wildcats.

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The old Charleston to Savannah wagon road runs through the heart of the Sanctuary. While the wooden bridges have decayed, the impressive road bed remains. The bridges have been replaced with boardwalks and the road bed has become an integral part of the trails. The overland commerce of Colonial times moved over this road.

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The headwaters of the Ashepoo River (the A in the ACE Basin), originate in the Sanctuary. Three creeks join inside of the Sanctuary to form one of the major tributaries of the ACE Basin. The Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers which give the ACE Basin its name, combine to create one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the Atlantic Coast.

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The ACE Basin consists of approximately 350,000 acres of diverse habitats including pine and hardwood uplands, forested wetlands, fresh, brackish, and salt water tidal marshes, barrier islands, and beaches. In addition, the region is rich in historic and cultural landmarks such as old plantation homes, forts, cemeteries, and churches.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walterboro is only 45 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Charleston, Edisto Island, Savannah, and Hilton Head Island are only a short drive away, and Interstate 95, the main north-south corridor on the Eastern Seaboard, skirts the western edge of the city.

New Green Acres RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conveniently located the New Green Acres RV Park offers 106 long and wide pull through sites with full hookups including 50/30-amp electric service. Our home base while exploring Walterboro and the Lowcounty, we would return to this 5-star RV park in a heart-beat.

Worth Pondering…

Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning.

Greenville: Upcountry South Carolina Delight

Greenville will surprise you, engage you, charm you, and delight you

Located in the in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, South Carolina’s Upcountry packs plenty of alpine splendor. For starters, it’s home to the highest waterfall east of the Rockies—411-foot Whitewater Falls.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the hub of the Upcountry, Greenville has been finding its way onto many national Top Ten lists for its lively arts scene, its modern downtown, and its job market. With a metro­­politan population pushing half a million, this is one of America’s fastest growing cities.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Greenville owes its existence to the 28-foot falls on the Reedy River that powered 19th-century textile mills, making it the “Textile Center of the South.”

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known for its exceptional beauty, the two most distinctive natural features of downtown Greenville are its lush, tree-lined Main Street and the stunning Reedy River Falls, located in the heart of Falls Park.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Far more than a nature lover’s paradise, Falls Park on the Reedy, located in downtown Greenville’s Historic West End, is one of Greenville’s greatest treasures. The park serves as an oasis within the city—a place where people gather to work, play, and celebrate life. The multi-use facility lends itself to a wide variety of activities for people of all ages and interests.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It took 40 years of cleaning after the mills closed to make Falls Park into a regional jewel, crowned by the award-winning Liberty Bridge for pedestrians that was designed by architect Miguel Rosales with a distinctive curve as it pitches toward the falls.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Liberty Bridge serves as Greenville’s signature postcard setting, and downtown’s extensive collection of public artwork adds beauty and energy to its public spaces.  

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At 345 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 inches thick, the concrete reinforced deck is supported by a single suspension cable. The deck’s distinctive curve has a radius of 214 feet and it is cantilevered toward the waterfall from supporting cables on the outside. The bridge deck also inclines 12 feet or 3 percent from east to west over the river.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Below the bridge the Reedy River Falls is the site where Greenville’s first European settler, Richard Pearis, established his trading post in 1768. Later he built grist and saw mills at this same location which was the hub of early industry in Greenville until the 1920s. 

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The vibrant Greenville downtown scene is anchored by the $42 million Peace Center for the Performing Arts, which includes a concert hall for the symphony orchestra, a performance theater, and an amphitheater. Among the city’s several historic districts, the West End has developed into one of the Palmetto State’s most eclectic art districts, with buildings adapted for studio space and galleries.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other attractions within Greenville include a zoo with more than 200 animals and the Roper Mountain Science Center, which features an observatory, Sealife Room, living history farm, Discovery Room, chemistry/physic shows and a planetarium. 

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also, at Bob Jones University is the Gallery of Sacred Art and Bible Lands Museum Planetarium. This unique attraction brings science and religion together with its extraordinary collection of religious art and biblical antiquities.

Fluor Field in the West End is home of minor league baseball’s Greenville Drive, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The park features a 30-foot replica of the “Green Monster” the mythic left-field wall found in the parent club’s Fenway Park. Across the street is a museum devoted to slugging hometown diamond hero Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Drive nickname is a nod to BMW Manufacturing’s Greenville-area plant, the German automaker’s only production facility in the United States. The BMW Performance Center offers drivers a one-of-a-kind challenge in sliding and cornering on a wet/dry course, off-road course, and performance drive courses.

Table Rock, Jones Gap, Paris Mountain, and Caesars Head state parks all deliver Blue Ridge Mountain adventure in Greenville’s backyard as the Appalachians tumble into the flatlands of the Piedmont region. South Carolina Highway 11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway, traces this dramatic break of the Blue Ridge Escarpment with its abundance of waterfalls. Along the route, Lake Keowee, created as a power utility project, serves up over 300 miles of shoreline for boaters and fishermen.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning a visit? Stay at Ivy Acres RV Park, amid beautiful countryside 10 miles from downtown Greenville.

Ivy Acres RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We spent a delightful week at Ivy Acres RV Park, an adult only (45+) park with full-hook-ups including 50/30/20-amp electric service and Wi-Fi available at site. Located on 80 acres of beautiful rolling countryside on the Saluda River, Ivy Acres is like a state park. We would return in a heartbeat.

Worth Pondering…

As the old song declares, “Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning,” or almost any other time.

South Carolina Has It All

Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina

Quite simply, South Carolina has it all, y’all—and the state has delivered to visiting RVers with a friendly southern drawl. From the Upcountry mountains through the vibrant Midlands and to the Lowcountry coast, the Palmetto State beckons with a wave that signals everyone’s welcome—come on down.

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina is a state of variety with beautiful beaches, remote islands, charming cities and towns, watery wilderness, great golf, interesting history, rolling hills and mountains, and much more.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the Upcountry packs plenty of alpine splendor. As the hub of the Upcountry, Greenville owes its existence to the 28-foot falls on the Reedy River that powered 19th-century textile mills. Known for its exceptional beauty, the two most distinctive natural features of downtown Greenville are its lush, tree-lined Main Street and the stunning Reedy River Falls, located in the heart of Falls Park.

The Peachoid at Gaffney © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern charm makes Gaffney a desirable place to visit especially if your RV is a motorhome built on a Freightliner chassis. The Freightliner Custom Chassis Factory Service Center offers six service bays, 20 RV electric hookup, and factory-trained technicians. Be sure to visit the factory and see how the custom chassis is produced for the RV market. And the Peachoid, a 135-foot structures that functions as one million gallon water tank, is an iconic landmark that draws attention to one of the area’s major agricultural products.

St. Helena Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thoroughbred Country was famous as a winter resort for some of America’s wealthiest families with names such as Goodyear, Whitney, Astor, and Vanderbilt had homes in the town of Aiken. The Winter Colony Historic Districts—90 room “cottages,” roads with equestrian stoplights, beautiful gardens, and a restored late 19th-century inn—recall the town’s golden era.

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the heart of the Midlands city of Sumter, the beautiful black waters of Swan Lake form the setting for the spectacular Iris Gardens. The only public park in the United States to feature all eight swan species, Swan Lake Iris Gardens is also home to some of the nation’s most intensive plantings of Japanese iris featuring 120 varieties. The garden also boasts many other floral attractions, including colorful camellias, azaleas, day lilies, and Japanese magnolias.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park showcases the largest tract of old-growth floodplain forest remaining on the continent. An International Biosphere Reserve and a Globally Important Bird Area this 24,000-acre park is located in central South Carolina about 20 miles southeast of Columbia along the north side of the Congaree River. Visitors can explore the natural wonderland by canoe, kayak, or on foot by using the over 25 miles of hiking trails and 2.4 miles of the Boardwalk Loop Trail.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hauntingly beautiful is perhaps the best way to describe the Lowcountry and Resort Islands. Picturesque Beaufort charms visitors with historic Southern mansions, tree-lined boulevards, and an oceanside location.

Folly Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest sea island between New Jersey and Florida, Hilton Head covers 42 square miles of broad beaches, nine marinas, over two dozen championship golf courses, and more tennis courts than any other resort of its size.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located near historic Beaufort, four-mile-long Hunting Island is home to dense vegetation and wildlife making it the most natural of the Lowcountry Islands.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Founded in 1670, Charleston has suffered fires, earthquakes, pirates, a civil war, and a hurricane. Charleston boasts 73 pre-Revolutionary buildings—136 from the late 18th century and more than 600 others built prior to the 1840s. RVers will find numerous Charleston things to do: wander cobblestone streets lined with antique shops and boutiques, browse the Old City Market where Gullah basket ladies peddle their wares, and peek at private gardens tucked serenely behind iron gates. House museums and monuments to wealthy Colonial merchants are open to visitors, as are the plantations and gardens that line Ashley River.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Idyllic beach resorts at Kiawah Island, Seabrook, Wild Dunes, and Edisto Island offer miles of unspoiled beaches and marshlands. The semi-tropical retreat of Kiawah Island offers 10 miles of undisturbed beaches and five world-renowned golf courses.

Magnolia Plantation near Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each year millions enjoy Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand vacations—drawn here for the swimming, sun bathing, boating, shelling, incredible seafood, and golfing. Continuing for more than 60 miles along the Atlantic Coast, this string of beach resorts includes such ocean-side communities as Myrtle Beach, considered the Strand’s hub, North Myrtle Beach, Atlantic Beach, Surfside, Litchfield Beach, Pawleys Island, and Georgetown.

Middleton Place near Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Myrtle Beach was founded more than 30 years ago when the communities of Windy Hill, Crescent Beach, Ocean Drive, and Cherry Grove united. The historic fishing village of Murrells Inlet has earned the title “seafood capital of South Carolina” because of the fresh seafood drawn from its waters and served at the many restaurants lining the waterfront.

Audubon Swamp Sanctuary near Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

As the old song declares, “Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning,” or almost any other time.