Vacations in Capital City/Lake Murray Country, South Carolina, start in the great outdoors

June 10, 2020

Join in the outdoor excitement centered around world-class lake events from fishing to boating, as well as outdoor adventure like hiking and biking on countless trails

With travelers easing back into the idea of going places, many are choosing the great outdoors for their summer vacation or weekend getaway. And, why not? The location is perfectly situated in the central part of the Palmetto State, convenient to Interstates I-77, I-20 and I-26, where aqua-based recreation on Lake Murray—50,000 acres of lovely, pristine water—is a cornerstone for fun in the region. Plus, outdoor spaces offer ample room to roam while ensuring a little distance—a comfy cushion, if you will.
World-class water
Prior to hitting the water, you’ll need to know where to find lodging, food, boat rentals and a few attractions. Creating a memorable vacation starts with good planning and lodging is a big piece of that puzzle. Options include cabins and campsites on Dreher Island State Park, an island outdoor wonderland covering some 12 miles of local shoreline.
If your crew is planning on renting boats or other water toys such as stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and more, head on over to Lake Murray Boat ClubPalmetto OutdoorSaluda River ResortBetter Boatingor California Republic Standup Paddleboard. You’ll find everything needed to embark on lazy days on the water or tooling around on a pontoon discovering why Boating Magazine named Lake Murray as one of the “top 10 boating destinations and places to live” in the country. From the shore, explore Saluda Shoals Park, complete with an Environmental Education Center, trails and boat/kayak launch areas. Riverwinds Landing, with six waterfront cabins, is another ideal area for starting a lake adventure. The area has an onsite marina store, boat storage, fishing areas and boat launches.
While families play, moms can gain a new skill through Columbia Sailing Club, which offers lessons during June and July geared toward women learning how to sail, in addition to camps for kids and other programs.
Long known as the destination for fishing, Lake Murray has professional fishing guides ready to help both novice and experts reel in a big catch.
Hit the trail
Get active and explore Capital City/Lake Murray Country’s numerous trails with lots of room for biking and hiking alongside scenic views and occasional wildlife. Find the perfect trail for you!
Dreher Island State Park is located about 30 miles from Columbia and covers 12 miles of Lake Murray shoreline with three trails inside the park: Little Gap Trail, Billy Dreher or nature trail and Bicycle Bypass Trail. The first is the most strenuous and meanders through just over two miles of thick pine forest and hard woods. Keep your eyes peeled for a bald eagle known to nest in this area.
Sesquicentennial State Park, locally known as Sesqui, offers some 1,400 acres of pines and nature trails including 12 miles of hiking and six miles of biking trails. To cool off, head to the Splash Pad or rent a kayak or canoe.
The Palmetto Trail—Peak to Prosperity Passage is a trail just under 11 miles and showcases gorgeous views from an 1,100-foot-long bridge spanning across the Broad River. Use a smart phone for tours that not only escort your hike, but also give some facts and information about the Dutch Fork history and wildlife. Download the Avenza app prior to hitting the trail for best service.
Harbison State Forest features 18 miles of trails, ranging from easy to difficult, perfect for walking, jogging, hiking and bicycling. All visitors must have a parking pass which may be obtained at the fee box located in each parking area. (Note: Trails are maintained and improved with these parking pass fees.)
Three Rivers Greenway in Columbia, is a 12.5-mile linear park located in the cities of Columbia, West Columbia and Cayce, offering a series of waterfront paths where the Broad, Saluda and Congaree Rivers meet. Enjoy lots of trails and boardwalks, an amphitheater and gorgeous skyline views of Columbia while strolling at your own pace, jogging, biking or blading along. The dog-friendly trails are also ADA accessible, so plan to use strollers and wheelchairs as needed.
12,000-Year History Park is both a walking trail and a unique archaeological site in Cayce. The park is full of wonderful stories as early inhabitants included Native American tribes and Civil War soldiers. Guided historic walking tours are available on Saturdays and the trail is open for both hiking and biking 24/7.
Congaree National Park offers many trails such as the Boardwalk Loop Trail (2.4 miles), Bluff Trail (1.7 miles), Sims Trail (3.2 miles), Weston Lake Loop Trail (4.4 miles), Oakridge Trail (7 miles), River Trail (10.4 miles), Kingsnake Trail (11.7 miles), Bates Ferry Trail (2.2 miles), Long Leaf Trail (0.3 miles) and Fork Swamp Trail (.6 miles). Most of the trails begin at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center where you can also pick up a trail map 24/7. Check the website for closures before venturing out.
South Carolina offers some creative and adventurous ways to explore all that Capital City/Lake Murray Country has to offer. What is your favorite?
Explore downtown
If you are visiting the downtown area of Columbia, good choice! The Capital City is a major metropolitan area with three rivers flowing through it and filled with activities. Rent bikes at Columbia’s Riverfront Park and explore its 167 acres of fantastic riverfront scenery, shop for souvenirs and other treasures (outdoor gear, books, toys, candles and more) at the Mast General Store, picnic on the South Carolina State House grounds, visit the award-winning children’s museum—EdVenture—filled with hands-on educational exhibits or experience the South Carolina State Museum where earth and astronomy, as well as history and art, are paramount to educating all ages. Note: EdVenture is expected to re-open in June. Please check the website for more details prior to your visit.
While still in Columbia, but away from downtown, families will find plenty to enjoy at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. Check out fabulous Australian kangaroos, Arctic penguins and Africa’s elephant and gorilla specimens. Newly opened Stars and Strikes serves up fun for all ages with bowling, arcade games and family-friendly dining.
Wind down at Columbia Craft Brewery where cool sips like the Carolinian and Alien Hat, a watermelon sour ale, refresh after a day exploring. Pair brews with bites at nearby River Rat Brewery where Pimento Cheese, Wings and Brisket Tacos are the ideal complement to sipping suds. For indoor fun paired with mouth-watering bites, try The Grand on Main which offers bowling, a tap room and traditional games like checkers, battleship and Jenga.
No matter if you pack an agenda with breweries, world-class water recreation, museums or hiking, you’ll find room to roam and deals galore on the Playcation South Carolina page.

About Capital City/Lake Murray Country

Start off the adventure in the Capital City’s Vista, once a bustling cotton warehouse district and commercial railroad terminal, this part of downtown maintains its historic charm while bursting with every modern necessity. The beautiful region of South Carolina is conveniently located off Interstates I-77, I-20, I-26 in the central part of the Palmetto State. Visitors can peruse 40 art galleries, collect timeless wares and fun threads at specialty shops and taste their way through the more than 60 restaurants and bars spanning a virtual globe of flavorful offerings—all without leaving the region. Burn off all of those good eats with a city walking tour and stroll the streets that are etched in Civil Rights and Civil War history. Continue to step back in time and explore the area’s antebellum homes, the South Carolina State House or one of the many museums that call Capital City/Lake Murray Country home. Make sure the little ones get in on the Ed-Venture—the largest children’s museum in the South or take them for a walk on the wild side at the nationally acclaimed Riverbanks Zoo. After exploring all of the big city sites, recharge in nature with the pristine outdoor opportunities this region offers, including the Purple Martin Phenomenon when, each summer, the skies over Lunch Island on Lake Murray come to life as more than one million birds venture north for the summer and roost on the island, giving spectators a rare look at one of nature’s treats. Guests will see why Boating Magazine named Lake Murray one of the “Top 10 places to Boat and Live.” Take a tour of the State’s only national park—Congaree National Park. Canoe, kayak or hike through these preserved and serene marshlands. Whether water lovers feel the need for speed or prefer to float on the area’s sparkling waters, local rental shops can accommodate everyone. At the end of the day, recharge in accommodations spanning cozy cabins and lovely waterfront rentals. Whether attracted to big city lights or the soft moonlight bouncing off quiet waters, Capital City/Lake Murray Country leaves nothing to be desired.