What attracts people to live in rural areas? They usually find a lower cost of living, especially lower home costs than in urban or metropolitan areas. For those who want to spread out on the land with wide-open spaces and lots of acreage, rural areas offer the opportunities to purchase larger pieces of property, accompanied by privacy and greater distance between neighbors that in cities.
Rural residents extol the sense of community and relaxed lifestyle of rural living. For those who want to raise animals and grow large gardens and even crops, especially with the idea of living sustainability, rural areas are the way to go.
While the downsides include greater distance to hospitals and schools, unreliable Internet services, as well as fewer big-box stores, entertainment outlets, and job opportunities, rural folks often find that less pollution, peace and quiet, and lower crime rates outweigh city conveniences.
South Carolina ranks 17th in the United States for percentage of rural area, with 34 percent of its land classified as rural. According to a website published by a South Carolina real-estate developer, 59 percent of Americans looking for a change choose South Carolina.
Why? Reasons include gorgeous scenic areas with accompanying outdoor activities, a mild climate, low gas and property taxes, accessible coastline, low statewide crime rate, historical heritage (along with arts and culture), and topography ranging from mountains to lakes to coastal beaches. Those looking for a new place to live often seek South Carolina’s less tangible assets, such as Southern hospitality. Thus, several South Carolina rural towns are considered among the best places to live.
Top Rural Towns to Call Home in South Carolina
1. Due West
With mentions on several “best rural towns” lists and Due West’s slogan, “Nothing finer in Carolina,” the town is a promising haven for those seeking rural life. The town’s location in the foothills of South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains makes it a beautiful place to live, yet close to shopping, healthcare, and restaurants. The nearest large city is Greenville, 44 miles away; nearest hospital is in Abbeville, 12 miles away.
Founded in 1789, Due West is home to Erskine College and Seminary, which enhances the town’s cultural life with plays, concerts, lectures, and athletic events. On the Erskine campus is Bowie Arts Center, containing permanent collections of antique furniture, porcelain, cut glass and clocks, musical instruments, and period rooms. Due West hosts a spring festival annually. The town boasts a relatively low crime rate and cost of living and offers a variety of housing options at a wide range of price points.
Also mentioned on several “best of” lists, McClellanville is described as “a picturesque situation of pines, palmettos and live oaks opening onto a great sweep of salt marsh broken by a network of tidal creeks” on the town’s website. The description refers to the town’s location on the edge of the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge (assessible by boat).
You’ll find numerous kayak opportunities nearby. Close to the coast, the town boasts a rich history. McClellanville’s seclusion is a significant draw. The closest large city to McClellanville is Charleston, 39.4 miles away. Myrtle Beach is about an hour away in the opposite direction. The closest hospital is in Mt. Pleasant, 34 miles away. Though the town’s cost of living is not significantly lower than average, the crime rate is relatively low.
This historic town is minuscule, both in population and geographic size. As the subject of an article titled “Why Everyone In South Carolina Should Visit This One Tiny Town,” Peak was described as a “picturesque mountain community.”
The town was founded in 1855 as a railway stop and has several historic buildings. Its location near the Broad River affords beautiful, scenic views. Peak doesn’t have much of a downtown, so you’ll have to do a bit of driving for shopping and entertainment. The closest large city to Peak is Columbia, 25 miles away. Area schools are said to be excellent and the cost of living low.
The closest hospital is Newberry County Memorial Hospital, about 19 miles away.
Residing along the South Carolina Heritage Corridor, Blackville is replete with corn fields, pastures, and barns. Like Peak, the town was founded as a railway stop. Locals and tourists stop to fill their water bottles from God’s Acre Healing Springs, an artesian well.
Blackville is home to Discovery Center, offering hands-on features highlighting the region’s historical connection to the railroad and agricultural industries. The town is also known for its wonderful climate and natural beauty.
Blackville is about equally close to large cities Augusta, GA, and Columbia, SC – both are roughly 50 miles away. While Blackville has a couple of its own medical centers, the nearest hospital is Barnwell County Hospital in Barnwell, about 7 miles away.
With a reputation for a low crime rate, good Internet service, accessible healthcare, and low real-estate prices, Pamplico was historically one of the state’s largest tobacco markets, especially during the 1950s and 1960s.
As described by the town’s website, “Pamplico is now a quiet rural town that is home to one of the area’s finest school districts.” The town boasts annual events like a Christmas parade, a classic car show, and Cypress Festival.
Residents cite its close community feel. The closest large city is Florence, about 20 miles away, where the nearest hospitals, like MUSC Health Florence Medical Center (16 miles), also are.
“Where time is well spent” is Woodruff’s motto. Blending the small-town charm of a historic mill village with the growing presence of multi-use trails, walkable sidewalks, shops, restaurants, antique stores, and salons, Woodruff also boasts a relatively low crime rate, adequate Internet services, good schools, and healthcare options.
Real estate prices cover a diverse range. Attractions include McKinney Park, Woodruff Greenway Trail, and Disk Golf Course, along with restaurants and shops with handcrafted goods and unique gifts. Also popular are luxurious downtown salons and a spa. The site Citytistics notes, “Living in Woodruff has a suburban feel, which can be nice for families looking for more space than larger densely packed cities for the money and a good area to raise children.” The nearest large city is Spartanburg, about 17 miles away.
The closest hospital is Prisma Health Hillcrest Hospital, 15 miles away in Simpsonville.
As a town that is both old (the courthouse was built in 1785) and historic, Chesterfield boasts beautiful vintage 19th-century architecture. The town’s website lists local amenities, such as the Chesterfield Family YMCA, with pool, gymnasium, fitness and exercise classes, afterschool care and teamed sports.
Local parks offer tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, and walking trails. Chesterfield, not far from the North Carolina border, offers several annual community events, such as a Sand Blast Rally, Easter egg hunt, Fall Fest, Veteran’s Day parade, and Christmas tree lighting.
At about an hour away, Florence is the closest large city to Chesterfield. FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Rockingham, NC, is the nearest hospital at 29 miles away.
Like Chesterfield, Walhalla is in upstate South Carolina (the northwest corner), close to the North Carolina border – and it’s also not far from the Georgia border to the west. The town possesses the rich heritage you’d expect for a municipality founded in 1850.
The town’s motto, “Main street to the Mountains,” refers to its location in the shadows of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. As the town’s website states, “Walhalla has all the necessary components for quintessential southern charm.”
Hikers find Walhalla one of the last South Carolina cities to stop in before they trek into the mountains. Hiking trails, scenic drives, and local attractions are the name of the game in this town known for day trips to places like Lake Jocassee and Highlands, NC.
You’ll also find mountain-biking trails, numerous waterfalls, Stumphouse Tunnel, the Chattooga River, Clemson University, and more nearby.
Residents appreciate a relatively low crime rate, good Internet, and healthcare options here. The nearest large city is Greenville, 46 miles away.
The nearest hospital is Prisma Health Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca, just 7.2 miles away.
With a population of more than 13,000, Beaufort is the largest municipality on this list and also the most tourism-driven, largely because of its location on Port Royal Island, one of South Carolina’s coastal Sea Islands.
Beaufort is known for antebellum mansions, especially in the downtown historic district, as well as winding, historic streets framed by natural foliage and centuries-old, moss-draped live oak trees. Beaufort offers beaches and marinas, stunning scenic beauty, and culture and cuisine. Kayaking on the unique waterways is popular.
The cost of living here is slightly lower than the national average, and the cost of housing is 16 percent lower.
Given its population and island location, it’s not unexpected that Beaufort has its own hospital, Beaufort Memorial.
The closest big city to Beaufort is actually in Georgia – Savannah (about 43 miles) – and Beaufort is also near Hilton Head Island (34.8) miles, as well as about 60 miles from Charleston.
Offering a vintage feel, Reidville is home to several historic homes and buildings from the 19th century. The site Niche, which gathers date on places to live, calls the town “one of the best places to live in South Carolina.”
A major attraction is housing costs 15 percent lower than the national average. Reidville offers Tyger River Park, an expansive baseball and softball tournament facility with 12 fields, a championship stadium and extras such as walking trail, disc golf course, outdoor fitness equipment, batting cages, picnic area, and splash pad.
The town is an easy commute to more populous areas likely to provide job opportunities. The closest city to Reidville is Spartanburg, about 13 miles away, and Reidville is also about 20 miles from Greenville, twice the size of Spartanburg.
The closest hospital, Spartanburg Regional Health System, is a comforting 8.4 miles away.
11. Briarcliffe Acres
For those who want to be near the beach but away from the city atmosphere and crowds, Briarcliffe Acres is worth considering. A Myrtle Beach web site notes, “Hidden from the hustle and bustle of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach is the beautiful community of Briarcliffe Acres.”
A tree line and brick gates muffle highway noise, and the community offers its own private beach. The town is just 5.3 miles from North Myrtle Beach and about 12 miles from Myrtle Beach, thus conveniently close to shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.
The nearest hospital, Aware Med Institute, is very close – 1.2 miles. With the beach location of Briarcliffe Acres comes higher housing costs than in many rural South Carolina towns.
Commonalities among the nine rural towns listed here include scenic, beauty, history, community spirit, and in most cases, a significantly lower cost of living than in urban areas. All are worthy of consideration as a place to fulfill your rural-living dreams.
Related: Benefits of Living in South Carolina