Deciphering the Best Lakes in South Carolina for Your Visit

South Carolina is home to some of the best lakes in the country!  Every type of popular recreational water activity can be found here, including world-class fishing, boating, swimming, and water sports!

So grab your rod, life jacket, and sunscreen and get ready to discover why you should plan a trip to a South Carolina lake soon!

Featured Lakes

Our featured lakes are along the less-crowded South Carolina Freshwater Coast!

Lake Greenwood

Lake Greenwood is an 11,000-acre lake offering 212 miles of shoreline along with a whole lot of southern charm!

This lake offers all the fun water activities you expect from a lake, but at a slower pace.  Extending from Greenwood County into Lauren, and Newberry Counties, this lake is known for its boating, bass fishing, and camping.  This lake is so popular for its catfish, there is a Catfish Feastival in Ware Shoals, SC every Memorial Day weekend!

Lake Strom Thurmond

Lake Strom Thurmond, also known as Clarks Hill Lake, is one of the 10 most visited Army Corps of Engineers lakes in the United States, with 5.5 million visitors every year!

Located on the border of South Carolina and Georgia, just north of Augusta, GA, this massive 71,000-acre lake has it all!  It offers striper and largemouth bass fishing, boating, water skiing, camping, hiking, and swim beaches.

With 10 campgrounds, seven day-use areas, five state parks, and six marinas, there is something for everyone!

Lake Richard B. Russell

Lake Richard B. Russell, or as the locals call it – Lake Russell – is a 26,650-acre lake that straddles South Carolina and Georgia, and is perfect for all kinds of water sports!

Bordering Elbert County in Georgia, and Abbeville and Anderson counties in South Carolina, this lake offers boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and swim beaches!  Largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and bream are popular fish here.

There are 13 public recreation areas with public boat ramps in South Carolina, making the lake easy to access.  Due to federal regulations, most of the shoreline around Lake Richard B. Russell remains undeveloped, giving this lake a rural and quiet feel.

Most Popular Lakes in South Carolina

Want to know what all the fuss is about?  These eight lakes are some of the most popular in the state, and it’s easy to see why!

Lake Greenwood State Park

Lake Greenwood State Park is well-known for offering boating, freshwater fishing, swimming, hiking trails, and campsites along the shoreline of Lake Greenwood.

This state park was one of 16 built in South Carolina by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and many of the original structures can still be seen here.

With two boat ramps and a fishing pier, the lake at this state park stays busy!

Lake Marion

Lake Marion is the largest lake in South Carolina at 110,000 acres!

This lake is centrally located and extends through five counties, including Berkeley, Calhoun, Clarendon, Orangeburg, and Sumter.

This lake is a popular place to cast your line and is well-known for its big fish, like blue and flathead catfish, and largemouth bass.  With cypress trees dotting the view, this lake makes for a relaxing day on the water.

Lake Wylie

Lake Wylie is a popular 12,455-acre lake that sits on the South Carolina/North Carolina border, just outside of Charlotte!

If you’re looking for a beautiful escape from the city, this lake is well-known for its summer water sports and fishing, on both the South Carolina and North Carolina sides.

Largemouth bass and catfish are popular catches in the area.

Lake Keowee

Lake Keowee is a beautiful and popular summertime spot that offers all types of outdoor recreational activities!   Fishing, boating, water sports, and with 300 miles of shoreline, beach activities can be enjoyed here too.

Lake Keowee is located mostly in Oconee County, SC and is near Seneca and Clemson.  This pristine 18,500-acre lake boasts views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This is one picturesque lake that should not be missed!

Lake Moultrie

This 60,000-acre man-made lake is popular with fishermen and boaters alike!

Lake Moultrie is known for its large fish and abundant wildlife.  Fishermen can expect to catch largemouth bass, pickerel, and bream.

Lake Hartwell

Lake Hartwell is located on the Georgia/South Carolina border and is a popular lake for all water sports!

I-85 crosses over Lake Hartwell, making this lake easily accessible.  Fishing, boating, swimming, and water skiing are popular sports in the area.

Lake Hartwell is known for its striped bass, catfish, largemouth bass, and bream.  There are many boat ramps in the area, and state parks in both Georgia and South Carolina offer camping, hiking trails, and biking!

Lake Jocassee

Lake Jocassee is a clear, mountain spring-fed lake, and is home to waterfalls and coves that you can only reach by boat!

Because the lake is spring-fed, the water stays clear and cool year-round, and is perfect for boating, kayaking, scuba diving, and trout fishing.

Lake Jocassee’s only public access points are located within Devil’s Fork State Park in Salem, SC.  The area around Lake Jocassee remains largely undeveloped, making it easy to enjoy its natural beauty.

Lake Murray

Lake Murray is located in Columbia, SC and is well-known for all types of boating!  Canoeing, fishing, and sailing all take place here.

Lake Murray is popular for its fishing, swimming, and water sports.  With dozens of marinas for putting in your boat, and several local parks to enjoy along the shoreline with your family, Lake Murray has something for everyone.

Hidden Gems in South Carolina

Some lakes in South Carolina may not be as well-known, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be known!  Here are some of the most amazing lakes South Carolina has to offer that you might not know about.

Lake Tugaloo

Lake Tugaloo is a beautiful mountain lake that is located on the Georgia/South Carolina border!  Well-known for its trout, fishermen can also find bass, catfish, crappie, and bream.

There is only one boat access point, and the area is undeveloped, so except for a few campsites, you can experience this lake in all its natural glory.

Saluda Lake

Saluda Lake is a 330-acre lake that is known for its boating, kayaking, and fishing.

Located in Greenville, largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, and bream can be caught here.

Lake Bowen

Lake Bowen is 1,534-acre lake located in Spartanburg County, SC near the North Carolina border.

With boat ramps, a fishing pier, a playground, and picnic areas at Anchor Park, this lake is a great place to spend the day. Recreational activities such as boating and fishing also take place here, with fishermen reeling in catfish, largemouth bass, spotted bass, and crappie.

A boat permit is required.

Lake Wateree

Lake Wateree is a 13,250-acre lake and is one of the oldest man-made lakes in South Carolina!

The lake is located just north of Columbia, SC in Lugoff, and is a great spot for fishing for crappie, bream, catfish, and bass.

Lake Wateree State Park hosts several fishing tournaments every year!

Best Lakes in South Carolina for…

If you have a special interest and you’re looking for the best lake for your hobby, we break it down for you right here!

Best Small Lake Towns

After a day on Lake Greenwood, visiting the town of Greenwood is a must-do.  Enjoy a movie at the 25 Auto Drive-In Theatre, or visit the farm animals with your family at Emerald Farm.  Find fresh, local foods and ingredients at the Uptown Farmer’s Market, or enjoy a picnic at one the local parks. This town oozes small town, southern charm, and a walk down their streets will garner you a lot of friendly waves.

The town of Lake Wylie is the perfect combination of small-town living near the big city.  A suburb of Charlotte, NC, Lake Wylie hosts annual fireworks show every Fourth of July, and is well-known for their elaborate Holiday Boat Parade in December.

Seneca, SC is home to Lake Keowee, Clemson fans, and Ram Cat Alley!  Ram Cat Alley is a pedestrian-friendly area where visitors can find local shops and restaurants.  This historic drag also hosts several festivals throughout the year.

Take a break from the water and explore these hiking trails in South Carolina

Best Lakes for Boating and Water Sports

Lake Russell in Abbeville and Anderson SC  and Lake Greenwood in Lauren and Newberry Counties are the best places to go if boating and water sport activities are your jam!

It’s not uncommon to see pontoon boats, sailboats, ski boats, jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboards on the water at these lakes on any given day.  With marinas and boat rental companies nearby, there’s a boat for you at both of these lakes, no matter your preferred activity!

Lake Jocassee is also a really popular boating spot.  There are several waterfalls on Lake Jocassee that can only be seen by boat!  There are a couple of boat tour companies that will take you to the secret spots, or you can take your own boat and find them yourself!

And last, but certainly not least, Lake Hartwell in Oconee County, SC and Lake Murray in Columbia are also very popular with boaters!

Best Lakes for Fishing

Almost every South Carolina lake on our list offers fishing, but if you’re looking for some of the best – you’ll find that at these lakes.

We’ve already mentioned the popularity of catfish at Lake Greenwood. Nearby Thurmond and Russell are better known for their bass fishing, as well as crappie and catfish.

Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie are known as the “Great Lakes” of South Carolina, and a 58-pound channel catfish has been caught here, which still holds the world record today!  Striped bass, crappie, and bream are also popular catches in the area.

Lake Murray in Columbia is a great lake if you’re looking to reel in big fish!  Largemouth bass and striped bass are often pulled from the waters, and state record-holding white bass, white perch, white crappie, and white catfish have been caught here!

Lake Jocassee is a great place to catch trout!  With its cool, spring-fed waters, it’s the only lake in South Carolina that has both trout and smallmouth bass.  And if you’re looking to compete, fishing tournaments are also often held at Lake Jocassee.

Best Swimming Lakes

If you’re looking to cool off in the refreshing water of a lake, look no further than the Twelve Mile Recreation Area on Lake Hartwell!

The Twelve Mile Recreation Area has a sandy beach, a playground, and a bathroom on site, making it an easy choice for enjoying a day in the water.

Both Pinnacle Lake at Table Rock State Park and the lake at Oconee State Park offer sandy beaches at their swimming areas, complete with lifeguards during certain hours and low and high diving boards!  State Park parking fees apply.

Sunset Beach, Marina Beach, Martins Landing Beach, and Resort Lodge Beach are four of the most popular beach areas for soaking up the sun on Lake Murray.

Staying at the Lake

If you’re looking to spend some quality time on the lake, you’re going to need some quality digs!  Here are some of the best places to stay on the water in South Carolina!

South Carolina Lake Resorts

The Wyndham Vacation Resorts at Lake Marion is surrounded by outdoor water activities, thanks to the fact it sits right on the quiet shores of Lake Marion.  Fishing, boating, and swimming can be enjoyed at this resort, that’s only an hour away from Charleston.

The Long Cove Family Resort on Lake Wylie offers tiny house cabins and suites that overlook the lake.  With its own private beach for enjoying campfires under the stars, this is a great place for enjoying water sports, hiking, swimming, fishing, and canoeing!

Best Lakes for Rentals

There are so many homes, cabins, tiny houses, and treehouses (!) to rent along the lakes of South Carolina!  You can find hundreds of options on Lake Greenwood, Lake Russell, Lake Thurmond, Lake Hartwell, Lake Greenwood, Lake Murray, Lake Keowee, Lake Jocassee, Lake Marion, and Lake Moultrie.  Here’s just a few that caught our eye!

If you’re looking to enjoy both the water and the trees with a large group, then Moonshine Bay on Lake Secession may be just what you are looking to rent. This home on the water sleeps eight and includes everything you need for a day at the beach –  towels, umbrella, beach blanket, and even snorkeling gear.

For a romantic getaway for two to a secluded lake retreat, try this home on beautiful Lake Thurmond.

If you’re looking to enjoy both the water and the trees, then the Lost Treehouse of Lake Jocassee might be for you!  This awesome treehouse offers unique accommodations for two, and is only a mile from Devil’s Fork State Park!

Stay in a beautiful, modern cottage right on Lake Keowee, and enjoy kayaking the clear water!

For families, Firefly Landing offers everything you need for a great family vacation!  This home sleeps 10, and is located on Lake Murray.  You can enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing, and you’re only minutes from Columbia.

Another family-friendly choice, this rental home sleeps 12 and is located right on Lake Hartwell!  This rental includes a fire pit, outdoor yard games, and the use of two kayaks.

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South Carolina is home to some of the best lakes in the country!  Every type of popular recreational water activity can be found here, including world-class fishing, boating, swimming, and water sports!

Kate Gelsthorpe is a former TV news writer, and a born and raised Georgia girl who grew up camping with her family at state parks around central and south Georgia. After 18 years in Atlanta, her family recently moved to Athens, and in their spare time you can find them exploring their new hometown. She and her husband, Kevin, are the proud parents of an 8-year-old dinosaur expert, and a 6-year-old outdoor-loving fashionista.

Kate Gelsthorpe

Freelance Writer and Adventure Maven at loveandkate
Kate Gelsthorpe is a former TV news writer, and a born and raised Georgia girl who grew up camping with her family at state parks around central and south Georgia.After 18 years in Atlanta, her family recently moved to Athens, and in their spare time you can find them exploring their new hometown.She and her husband, Kevin, are the proud parents of an 8-year-old dinosaur expert, and a 6-year-old outdoor-loving fashionista.

1 Comment on "Deciphering the Best Lakes in South Carolina for Your Visit"

  1. Nice post! This will come in handy for my trip. Will visit these lakes for sure!!

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