21 Jan The Best Places To Go Glamping in South Carolina
Whether or not you cringe at the word, glamping has become one of those progressively-faddish, travel industry buzzwords, especially in the last few years.
Glamping, short for “glamorous camping,” is a way to revel in nature without completely “roughing it.” Whereas camping usually involves sleeping bags on rough ground, restricted spaces, and outdoor “plumbing,” glamping comes with the luxuries of a bed, creature comforts, and walls.
While it may sound exclusive and expensive, glamping is an affordable way for everyone to experience the outdoors. You don’t need to look far, as there are numerous locations across the U.S. Even right here in South Carolina there are many incredible sites that provide economical accommodations at prices comparable to (if not better than) an average hotel room. Of course if you want to go to ultra luxe there are places in the U.S. and around the world where you can take glamping to the Ritz!
If you would like to enjoy the distinctive outdoor experience of camping, but don’t want to sacrifice the comforts of home, then glamping is for you.
The snappy name might be comparatively new, but the concept of glamping has been around for hundreds of years. When Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France met for a diplomatic summit (known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold) in 1520, there were 2800 tents set up in northern France. Many were opulent, set with sumptuous feasts and flowing fountains of wine. Around the same time, the Ottoman Sultans were known for their extravagant tents, which were richly adorned by an army of artists.
Fast forward to 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt and the conservationist John Muir went on a well-publicized camping trip to Yosemite that featured many large tents and many of the comforts of home.
Not long after that, wealthy British and Americans started going to Africa on safaris (from the Arabic word safariya meaning expedition or voyage). The safari fused outdoor activities (such as big game hunting, wildlife sightings, and hiking) with luxurious pleasures (such as beds, bathrooms, private verandas, and gourmet cuisine served on fine linens). Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the concept of luxury camping was mostly confined to the big game hunting expeditions in Africa.
The 21st century saw a resurgence of glamping which began in the United Kingdom. The international financial crisis had a negative impact on disposable income and coupled with the right to tow a travel removed from a UK driving license, many were looking for new and affordable ways to go on a holiday. With limited camping experience, some creative minded people fortuitously invented a new way of traveling – glamping.
By 2007, according to Google, people began searching for the word glamping, but most of these searches came from Ireland and the UK. By 2014, it started to make a name for itself in the US, and by 2016 glamping was officially included in major dictionaries. Today, in the United States, the west coast has the highest concentration of glamping searches followed by Colorado, New York, the Great Lakes Region, and the east coast.
Common Types of Glamping Structures
When it comes time to plan a glamping trip you will find many types of accommodations. Options vary by location and the following will introduce you to the variety.
- Deluxe Cabins
These types of cabins are your home away from home with extensive amenities.
Yurts originated in Mongolia. A modern Yurt has a domed roof and walls of woven fabric. Amenities vary by location.
Teepees are a classic camping structure used by Plains Native Americans through to the 20th century.
- Camping Cabins
A step up from the traditional tent. Many are very rustic and plain, but some can veer into the deluxe world.
- Safari Tent
Sometimes referred to as a walled tent or canvas tent, these were the choice of those on an African safari.
If you really want to get close to nature a treehouse is the way to go.
Airstreams are an enduring American classic. The shiny aluminum exterior is a treat and it gives you the experience of camping in an RV without having to drive it.
- Camping Caboose
Many old railroad trains that are out of use have been turned into a unique glamping experience.
We all know that South Carolina has gorgeous natural beauty, but maybe you weren’t aware of its many glamping options that allow you to get up close and personal with nature. Places where you can “rough it” without actually “roughing it.” So here are thirteen of my favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors without pitching a tent yourself. Some of the best glamping accommodations can be found in the state park system and the options and amenities are first rate.
Edisto Beach State Park
Accommodations: Seven cabins completely furnished, heated, and air conditioned. Bath and bed linens supplied. Full kitchen. Basic cooking and eating utensils. Microwave and coffeemaker. Television. Bathrooms with stall showers. Screened porch. Cabins are located on a salt marsh, 1.5 miles from the ocean.
Surroundings: Edisto Island is considered the second largest sea island on the southeastern coast with 70 square miles at high tide, about the size of the District of Columbia. It actually is a collection of many islands connected by bridges and causeways with extensive salt marshes, a thriving maritime forest, and of course, miles of beaches.
Edisto Beach State Park has seven trails that range from a quarter of a mile to just over two miles, all which are ideal for families and many of which are wheelchair accessible. The Environmental Learning Center features stuffed animals, displays of live reptiles, fossils, and many hands-on exhibits such as live whelk and horseshoe and hermit crabs.
A Few Words: Due to tropical storms churning up the waters, there are deposits of prehistoric fossils and shells strewn over the beaches. Most fossils discovered tend to be shells, bone fragments and teeth, though in the past there have been remains of mastodons, mammoths, and saber tooth tigers, which are on display at the State Museum in Columbia.
On most days you can find sand dollars, starfish, and sharks’ teeth. Additionally, Edisto has a large number of loggerhead sea turtles that visit in early summer to deposit their eggs in the sand dunes. State park rangers often schedule interpretive turtle walks where a visitor might see a female laying eggs or spy new hatchlings as they race into the incoming waves. Just remember to not disturb any nest you might encounter as it is a federal crime punishable with fines and even jail time.
Table Rock State Park
Accommodations: Fourteen cabins available (1,2,3 BRs), nine of which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the depression. Completely renovated, rustic, yet cozy, mountainous feel with floor to ceiling wood paneling, fireplace, and wood furniture. Heated and air conditioned. Bed and bath linens. Full kitchen. Cooking and eating utensils. Microwave and coffeemaker. Stand-in Shower. Screened porch. One cabin friendly to physically impaired.
Surroundings: Named for the iconic bald mountain top that is located within the park, Table Rock is a sanctuary of 3,000 acres of stunning beauty. The park boasts two lakes (Lake Pinnacle and Lake Oolenoy), six trails and historic depression era structures.
A Few Words: Hiking to the summit of Table Rock is a well-known rite of passage for many South Carolinians. Encompassed by native plants, a copiousness of granite boulders, and majestic views over the foothills, the hike is a singular experience and not to be missed.
Swimming, boating, and fishing are also available.
Oconee State Park
Accommodations: Nineteen completely furnished cabins (various sizes), heated and air conditioned. Full kitchen, microwave, coffeemaker. Cooking and eating utensils. Bed and bath linens. Fireplace. Screened porch. Outdoor charcoal grill, fire pit, and picnic table for each cabin. Thirteen cabins overlook a lake and six are in a secluded wooded area. One cabin is user friendly for the physically impaired.
Surroundings: Nestled in a spot where South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina meet. This is a beautiful and diversified region that horticulturally sustains numerous wildflowers and plants. Because this area is the site of forbidding drop offs from the surrounding mountains, visitors can view large waterfalls and savor hikes over the park’s rolling hills.
A Few Words: Four miles from Oconee is the Oconee Station State Historic site. You can reach it from the park in about 25 minutes by car or take the four-mile connection trail that drops 800 feet in elevation and connects with the historic site. One of the most popular hikes at the historic site is the 70 foot Station Cove Falls accessed by an easy, half-mile trail. Also at the historic site are two historic buildings: a home and an 18th century outpost for the South Carolina Militia. Park rangers give guided tours.
Oconee State Park has eight nature/hiking trails and also offers tent camping, boating, and fishing.
There are several orchards located near Mountain Rest and apple picking is a popular fall activity.
Devils Fork State Park
Accommodations: Twenty fully furnished villas, 1,2,3 bedrooms. Full kitchen. Cooking and eating utensils, microwave. Heating and air conditioning. Bed and bath linens. Satellite TV. Complimentary Wi-fi. Screened porch. Charcoal grill and picnic table for each unit. Two 2 bedroom units are user friendly for physically impaired.
Surroundings: Many lakes in South Carolina are manmade and every major reservoir touches a state park. In 1973, Lake Jocassee was created by a state partnership with Duke Power Company. The only public access to the lake and its 75 mile shoreline is the 644 acre Devils Fork State Park.
A Few Words: Devils Fork State Park opened in 1991 and is one of the newer additions to the State Park System. As such, it has some of the most pristine state park cabins. Many incorporate large windows overlooking the picturesque lake. The park has many small waterfalls that feed Lake Jocassee and is home to the Oconee Bell, a wildflower indigenous to South Carolina and North Carolina. More than 90 percent of the world’s population of these delicate white and pink flowers are found in the park.
The park offers hiking, camping, canoeing, and kayaking and first class fishing.
Poinsett State Park
Accommodations: Five cabins (four 1BR, one 2BR). Fully furnished. Heat and air conditioned. Full kitchen. Bed and bath linens. Cooking and eating utensils. Coffeemaker. Fireplace. Complimentary Wi-fi. Screened porch. Swings. Fire Pit.
Surroundings: The Lowcountry meets the Piedmont. Due to its unusual location and topography visitors can view swampy lowland areas, hike pine forests, and climb low lying bluffs.
A Few Words: Poinsett State Park is a great introduction to South Carolina’s varying topography. Manchester State Forest is situated adjacent to the park and has great hiking and biking trails. Horseback riding is also allowed. Near the visitor’s center are the remains of an old grist mill that dates back to pre-Revolutionary times. It is said that American Patriots met here to discuss war plans.
More than 65 different trees have been found in the park and more than 300 species of flowers have been identified.
Santee State Park
Accommodations: Eight renovated cabins that comfortably sleep four. Fully furnished. Heated and air conditioned. Full kitchen. Bed and bath linens. Cooking and eating utensils. Coffeemaker, toaster, microwave. Charcoal grill. Gas grill. Picnic table.
Surroundings: Cheraw State Park is South Carolina’s oldest state park and was developed with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930. It is named after the Cheraw Indians who lived in the Piedmont areas of South and North Carolina where the park is located. While these Native Americans no longer inhabit the area, the ecosystem has remained the same – a grand and rare longleaf pine forest with accompanying wildlife and prolific swamp.
A Few Words: Cheraw manages its 7,000 acre longleaf forest, meaning that the rangers periodically burn the forest as would happen naturally. If the forest was not managed it would no longer be able to support its multitude of plants. Cheraw is quietly situated near the North Carolina border. It offers a rare opportunity to hike in a longleaf pine forest and boat along a stream teeming with plants and flowers. The park offers an 18-hole championship golf course, fishing, non-motorized boating, canoeing, and kayaking.
Cheraw State Park
Accommodations: Thirty fully furnished cabins (ten cabins on a pier overlooking Lake Marion and twenty along the lakeshore). Various sizes, heated and air conditioned. Full kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. Bed and bath linens. Cooking and eating utensils. Coffeemaker, microwave. TV. Complimentary Wi-fi. Boat slips (some units), charcoal grill, picnic table.
Surroundings: The park sits on the shore of Lake Marion which was created in the 1940s when the Santee River was damned for hydroelectric power. The 110,000 acre area was flooded without clearing the land first and underwater cypress trees still exist throughout the lake. Some felled cypress trees (which are slow to rot) have floated to the surface and created “islands” that are beginning to vegetate.
A Few Words: Off the lake are the park’s famous sinkholes. The Limestone and Sinkhole Trails are each about a mile long. The Limestone Trail features more of the park’s wetlands while the Sinkhole Trail winds through hardwood and pine trees and is a birder’s delight.
The park has ten miles of easy hiking and biking trails. It offers both beautiful and unusual landscapes. Well known for its fishing. Canoeing and kayaking are also available.
Now we are going to spread our wings a little and leave the South Carolina parks system to visit some unique, privately owned glamping locations.
Mt. Pleasant Caboose
Accommodations: A retired caboose from the historic Louisville & Nashville railroad. Sleep sofa, 2 bunk bed sets. Kitchen has a sink, refrigerator and a two-burner portable stove. Cooking and eating utensils. Linen provided. Bathroom (no shower). Heated and air conditioned. TV. Lake views. Fire pit and picnic table.
Surroundings: Located on a lake about 20 minutes from Charleston.
A Few Words: Spacious, family-oriented campground with cabins, RV camping, pool on premises, 1.5-mile nature trail, and playground. Not the wilderness, but comfortable, and you can tell all your friends that you stayed in a caboose.
Accommodations: Six luxury cabins. Full service kitchen, toaster, coffeemaker, microwave. Cooking and eating utensils. Linens. Private bathroom. Satellite TV. DVD. Electric fireplace. Heat and air conditioned. Hot tubs! Outdoor charcoal grill.
Surroundings: Right off Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway (Hwy 11) in a remote and beautiful area yet still close to Greenville.
A Few Words: A bucolic setting close to state parks, quaint towns and breathtaking waterfalls. The grounds are spotless and the cabins are luxe. After a day of outdoor activities the hot tub is a decadent experience. RV sites also on the grounds.
The Lost Treehouse of Jocassee
Accommodations: 150 square foot lodging entirely suspended in the trees. Kitchenette including mini fridge, single gas burner, coffee maker, electric kettle, dinnerware and flatware. Queen size bed in loft. Heat /AC. 4 burner gas grill outside, 2 private bathhouses 50 yards from tree house with shower, toilet, sink and changing bench.
Surroundings: Stunning Upcountry environment.
A Few Words: A short hike leads you to awe inspiring views of Lake Jocassee. Devils Fork State Park only 1 mile away. Hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, motor boat rentals. Waterfalls galore. Wooded setting on private estate. Accessible by a delightful spiral staircase.
Accommodations: Lodging in a 2019 Airstream. Two bedrooms. 4 beds. A/C and heat. Refrigerator with freezer. Gas stove with oven. Kitchen utensils. Microwave. Bathroom with large shower. 16 windows makes you feel like you’re sitting outside. 2 overhead fans. Weber grill and picnic table outside. Bring your own linens.
Surroundings: Located on a 2.5 acre private estate with huge oak and pine trees. Lowcountry environment.
A Few Words: This is laid back glamping at its best. Birdwatching on site. Near Beaufort. Biking, kayaking, paddleboarding. Bernie, retired from the Navy, is a great host. At $56 a night, it’s a steal.
All pertinent information upon booking. This is a singular Lowcountry glamping experience.
Bella Luna Treehouse
Accommodations: Two treehouses, Stella Vista and Bella Luna. King size bed with linens. Refrigerator, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, electric kettle, utensils. Full bath with natural, fossil stone shower. Linens for bed and bath. Radio. Decks above and below. Fire pit. Infrared grill on lower deck. Ambient lighting around decks and trees. A/C, heating. Indoor fireplace.
Surroundings: In the heart of the Upcountry above Walhalla. Many beautiful waterfalls. Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Close to many state parks.
A Few Words: This is luxury glamping. Perfect for a romantic getaway. Owner is hands on and always takes the extra step to make your stay enjoyable. Complimentary snacks, juice and water.
Accommodations: Chattooga Jawbone House – 3 bedrooms with Queen beds and a loft with 2 single beds, sleeps up to 8. Full kitchen. 2 bathrooms. Washer/Dryer. Gas Fireplace. 3 flat screen TVs with DirectTV, Covered outdoor deck, covered porch and patio with propane grill. Heated and air conditioned. All linens included. Provide toilet paper, paper towels, dishwashing liquid, hand soap, games, DVD player, DVDs.
Surroundings: Chattooga River country. Natural setting, deep gorges, remote and beautiful.
A Few Words: Jawbone House is owned by Wild Water Rafting that provides various rafting trips on the Chattooga River. If the river rings a bell it’s where most of the scenes were filmed in the movie Deliverance. They have a variety of rafting experiences for the veteran and the beginner. If you want to elevate your glamping, this is the way to go. Think champagne and caviar. This is as good as it gets. Wildwater also has cabins, yurts and a treehouse.
Any reason is a great reason to go glamping with your family, friends, and loved ones. As you have seen, the places on our list provide a lot of the things you will need and therefore reduce your packing worries. However, there are a few things you will want to be sure to pack in order to make the most of your glamping trip.
- Essentials: Food, water bottle, kettle, toiletries, first aid kit, flashlight, phone, chargers, toilet paper (spare), paper towels.
- Entertainment: Board games, playing cards, books, guide books, maps.
- Clothing: Swimsuit/towel, rain jacket, gloves, scarf, hat, walking shoes, warm socks.
- Extras: Binoculars, Camera.
Now it’s up to you. Where do you want to go? We did the research already, so get going on a glamping adventure that you will never forget! Take lots of pictures! Make lots of memories! Have lots of fun!