Whether you’re seeking a solitary getaway, surrounded by nature with a non-existent to-do list, or an outdoor adventure filled with speed, exploration, and recreation, the best lakes in South Carolina are calling with infinite opportunities.
From upstate to the Lowcountry , the state’s major bodies of water are man-made, providing hydroelectric power to consumers as well as endless opportunities for exploration. Choose your pleasure and itinerary, and there’ll be a lake, if not more, that will strike a chord. Southern climates make taking to the water a year-round activity in many parts of the state, and if you’re a fisherman, you're in for a treat on these bodies of water too. Explore some of our favorite lakes in South Carolina, and you'll quickly learn that life is better on the water.
Lake Marion is the state’s largest body of water and delivers diversions in fun. For fishermen, this freshwater lake exposes anglers to the catch of a lifetime, including massive catfish and largemouth bass. You can fish from the shoreline or head to open water, but if it’s your first time fishing the open waters, hire a fishing guide who knows the lake’s stumpy bottom for your best luck at a catch. Bring the family and the RV; play and stay at one of multiple marinas and campgrounds located along the 315-miles of shoreline. Lake Marion’s head waters is located at Sparkleberry Swamp, a submerged cypress and tupelo forest, that baits kayakers. Have breakfast on the lake then ride the waters to Charleston for lunch; it’s a picture-perfect, any-season kind of day.
South of Charleston along the coastal region, Lake Moultrie offers lakeside campgrounds and lodges for getaways. Together with the larger Lake Marion, the combo is called the Santee Cooper Lakes . Here, cypress trees mesh with the swampy wilderness for a truly unique scene; this beauty sets this body of water apart from all others. Due to its close proximity to the ocean and the lake's open water, large waves, on the otherwise tranquil body, can rock-and-roll with high winds.
One of four lakes in Oconee County, South Carolina, Lake Jocassee offers pristine waters, an undeveloped shoreline, coves for lounging, and beaches for swimming. Rent paddleboards, flatwater kayaks, or grab your tent and fishing pole, and enjoy the clear waters. Accessible only through Devils Fork State Park in Salem, drop anchor on this popular Southern lake year-round. The state park has 20 lakeside villas, ideal for family getaways.
Central South Carolina is Lake Murray country. It’s a region bursting with adventure, and the lake is its crown jewel. With 650 miles of shoreline, Lake Murray’s coves and open waters come alive with bass boats, pontoons, and sailboats as each vessel sets out on a day’s adventure. When the weather’s cooler, bring your binoculars to see the rare ospreys or the largest sanctuary for Purple Martins or take to the waterside trails for hiking and biking. As summer’s temperature rises, add water skiing, kneeboarding, and scuba diving to the day’s agenda. On the Lexington side of the lake, enjoy the beach and take advantage of the shallow depth of the water’s edge to easily get on your paddleboard or kayak.
Sharing its beauty with Georgia, Lake Thurmond has almost 1,200 miles of shoreline and is located north of Augusta, Georgia . Nearby Baker Creek State Park offers camping and access to the lake including a 10-mile hiking trail. Hamilton Branch State Park puts camping sites (almost) in the middle of Lake Thurmond on fingers of land that’s perfect for doing absolutely nothing.
Richard B. Russell Dam and Lake is formed by the Savannah River, and like most man-made lakes, its picturesque views are only trumped by the abundance of fish available to anglers. It shares a border with Georgia, and its undeveloped 500 miles of shoreline provides a haven for wildlife. With 12 access points in South Carolina, including Calhoun Falls State Park , scenic waters frame walk-in camping sites, RV slips, and the shoreline for star-gazing on summer nights.
Upstate has never looked so beautiful. While only miles from vibrant cities like Seneca, Walhalla, and Clemson, Lake Keowee’s shoreline winds 300 miles through the Mountain Lakes Region; it’s the perfect playground with lots of room for motor boats, jet skis, and all watersports, including wakeboarding. Dip your toes in the water at the small sandy beach at High Falls Park. With 10 points of public access, bring your boat or rent your dream watercraft and take to the water.
Waterfront communities line this freshwater lake, part of Lake Greenwood State Park . The Lake Greenwood Blue Way boasts an aquatic trail for paddle enthusiasts with eight stops along the 34 miles and ends at Buzzards Roost Dam. Although there are no designated swimming areas, the lake hosts the South Carolina Festival of Flowers Triathlon, run, bike, and swim event, each June. Notice the unfinished rock wall at the entrance of the state park , a reminder of when the U.S. entered WWII and construction of the park came to a halt.
This man-made reservoir sits on the Georgia-South Carolina border. With more than 900 miles of shoreline, numerous access points, and 15 day-use areas, Lake Hartwell offers plenty of room for boaters and fisherman to spread out. Book one of 500 campsites for a lakeside stay. If you shimmy up to Ghost Island, you’ll be sharing it with the Harris Family, all dead in a cemetery that the family refused to move. The ruins of the city of Andersonville live underneath the water, too. Hopefully, you’ll never see either.
The lake within Lake Warren State Park is among the park's many scenic attractions. Along with Lake Warren, the wetlands and woodlands here are home to a variety of plants and wildlife. You may spot bald eagles, ospreys, and other waterfowl. This 200-acre lake is great for freshwater fishing; choose one of three picnic shelters for a family gathering. Camping is very primitive and requires reservations.