Steeped in the natural beauty of lush pines and blooming azaleas, Summerville, a Tree City USA community, is a small town with a lot of charm, southern hospitality, and history. Situated 24 miles outside of Charleston, South Carolina and approximately 100 miles from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Summerville is a perfect day trip escape.
The town’s name is a reflection of its history. It was inhabited in the late 1700’s by South Carolina Lowcountry residents as they sought relief in the tiny forest colony from the summer heat, mosquitos and disease. Plantation families along the Ashley River and other coastal areas headed for higher elevation from May to September annually. They found it in this tiny town situated on a pine-forested ridge, dubbing it Summerville.
In 1886, the International Congress of Physicians in Paris, France declared Summerville one of the two best places in the world for the treatment and recovery of lung disorders. This belief was founded on the proclaimed healing qualities of the tree’s turpentine scent. Due to the influx of visitors who went to Summerville for their health, inns and hotels were built to handle the incoming masses of people. Once the visitors discovered the beauty of the town, many built winter homes and some became permanent residents.
Summerville is host to many events and festivals such as Sculpture in the South and the Flowertown Festival which are held in Azalea Park. Azalea Park is 12-acres in the heart of the town filled with paths, fountains, tennis courts, peaceful ponds, and an amazing collection of permanent sculpture.
Summerville is a historic town with over 700 homes and building on the National Register of Historic Places. It also claims to be “the Birthplace of Sweet Tea” although this claim has been disputed by some. Some of the Historical Sites you can visit are listed below:
Colonial Dorchester, located at 300 State Park Road, Summerville, South Carolina. The Hours are 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. during Daylight Saving Time and 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily the rest of the year. Discover this Colonial site and embrace all of its glory. Stand under the remains of the St. George’s Anglican Church bell tower or watch archeologists uncover remains of the land. The preserved archeological remnants and perfect view of the Ashley River makes this location perfect for an afternoon outing of sightseeing. Open year round, except for Christmas Day. Go to http://southcarolinaparks.com/colonialdorchester for more information.
Middleton Place, located at 4300 Ashley River Road, Charleston, South Carolina and open every day of the year from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. except Christmas Day. Home to America’s Oldest Landscape Gardens, Middleton Place offers year-round beauty. Take a walk through the gardens or tour the House Museum or Stable yards. Travel through time by taking a walk on the grounds, horseback riding, or even taking a carriage ride. The plantation even has an onsite restaurant open daily! Come and enjoy everything that Middleton Place has to offer. Go to https://www.middletonplace.org/ for more information.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, located at 3550 Ashley River road, Charleston, South Carolina and is open every day of the year from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. This 17th century property is the oldest public garden in American history and was voted one of the most beautiful in the country. The estate was built in 1676 alongside the Ashley River and is considered the most popular garden in the state of South Carolina. The location serves as a wedding venue to locals and tourists alike and provides the public with tours and youth programs throughout the year. Go to http://www.magnoliaplantation.com/ for more information.
Drayton Hall is located at 3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, South Carolina. It is open 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday thru Saturday and 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. An icon of American history, Drayton Hall is the oldest unaltered plantation that is open to the public today. It was built over 265 years ago along the Ashley River and contains one of the oldest African-American cemeteries in the country. Drayton Hall hosts several events yearly, as well as offers tours and interactive programs to help the public learn and relate to those who preceded them. Go to http://www.draytonhall.org/ for more information.
Meet Mason-The World’s Largest Sweet Tea, located in downtown Summerville at 200 South Main Street, in the courtyard at the Town of Summerville Municipal Complex. Stop by anytime day or night. Mason stands over 15 feet tall and can hold up to 2,524 gallons of Sweet Tea- The Champagne of the South. The Town of Summerville made its way into the record book by setting the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest (Sweet) Iced Tea on National Iced Tea Day, also known as June 10, 2016. The record-holding 2,524 gallons of sweet tea was brewed using SCE&G Natural Gas, 210 pounds of local tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation, 1,700 pounds of Dixie Crystals– the sugar of the south and a lot of local support.
The following historical sites are considered day trips individually, and the information is taken from the website, https://www.visitsummerville.com:
The Koger Murray Carroll House is located on the Wire Road near Grover, South Carolina. The road (an old Indian trail) was used in the early days as a stagecoach road as well as the main route for visitors and residents between Charleston and inland towns and settlements. Owned and operated by the Upper Dorchester County Historical Society, the plain Georgian I-House dwelling, is one of the oldest plantation houses in Dorchester County. Its builder, Joseph Koger, was prominent in the political affairs of the area. The house appears on the Robert Mills survey of 1820. The clapboard single house is of black cypress construction. Approximately 150 feet from the house is a grave marker dating from 1837 that marks the graves of three Koger children. Listed in the National Register July 25, 1974.
Appleby Church is located on Hwy. S-18-19, known as the Old Wire Road, formerly the Old Stagecoach Road from Charleston to Augusta, about six miles southwest of St. George, South Carolina. Appleby Church is presumably named for James Preston Appleby (also known as the Methodist Meeting House), who donated four acres of land for the church site. The building is an excellent example of the Greek Revival, meeting house style of church architecture. It is a one-story wooden structure built upon low brick piers. It was probably built ca. 1840-1850 and is virtually original. The front façade features two double doors, each having two panels. On the church’s interior, two rows of pews, thought to be original, are divided by a central aisle. During the state’s Tricentennial celebration in 1970, signs were placed along the walls indicating that which is believed to have been the original seating arrangement in Appleby’s Methodist Church. The northern area was designated for “gentlemen,” the southern area for “ladies and courting couples,” and the northwest area was an “Amen Corner.” A late nineteenth-century cemetery is included in this nomination. Listed in the National Register February 14, 1978.
Francis Beidler Forest, located at 336 Sanctuary Road, Harleyville, South Carolina is open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Monday) from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm. You should arrive by 3:00 p.m. to have time to enjoy the 1.75-mile boardwalk. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed. Take in the natural beauty and wildlife that has been around for centuries. Located within the Forest is a boardwalk, open to all visitors, where you can enjoy the peace and harmony that will engulf you as soon as you step out of the car. The beauty of the landscape offers a site that is incomparable. See for yourself why this forest has enticed the public for hundreds of years. Beidler Forest is a great place for bird watching and is home to a number of different species of birds and other types of wildlife.
The visitor center, restrooms and boardwalk are all wheelchair accessible. For those with iPhones or iPod Touches, there is a free boardwalk-specific app that contains all the information in the printed guidebook plus additional text and images to cover the gaps between the stops associated with the printed guidebook. The app should be downloaded prior to your visit. Canoe and kayak trips and naturalist-guided tours, bird walks and activities are also available seasonally and by reservation. For more information, go to francisbeidlerforest.com.
Indian Field Campground is located on SC Route S-18-73, off US Route 15, about 5 mi (8 km) north of Saint George. Constructed in 1848, Indian Fields Methodist Camp Ground retains the nineteenth century layout of ninety-nine wooden cabins, or tents as they are called, which form a circle around a large wooden pavilion, the preaching stand or tabernacle.
The simplicity of the rough-hewn cabins and the open tabernacle is a part of the unpretentious style of evangelism that attracted a popular following. The original Indian Fields Camp Ground, located two miles away, was functional as early as 1810. In this year, Francis Asbury, who led the organization of American Methodism through itinerant preaching known as “riding circuits,” preached at Indian Fields.
Even after many other stops on the circuits had become established churches, the meeting camp retained a tremendous influence on the development of religious life. Serving crowds too large for church buildings or homes, the campground responded to both religious and social needs. The ambiance of an antebellum campground such as Indian fields was a unique part of the American collective experience. It was named a historic district of the National Register of Historic Places on March 30, 1973
Cypress Gardens is located at 3030 Cypress Gardens Road, Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Named after the trees that inhabit the area, Cypress Gardens offers a variety of family friendly activities to take part in and discover. Spend the day exploring the walking trails or taking a boat ride around the Garden’s swamp. Your little ones can learn about those who lived and worked on the land from hundreds of years ago in the Heritage room or let your own inner child out in Butterfly House that is filled with plants, birds, bees, and even houses a pond! Go to cypressgardens.com for more information.
Mepkin Abbey is located at 1098 Mepkin Abbey Road, Monks Corner, South Carolina. Nestled along the banks of the Cooper River, Mepkin Abbey serves as a home to several Cistercian monks and some of the most beautiful scenery in all of South Carolina. Whether it’s touring the church or taking a walk in the gardens you are guaranteed to have your breath taken away. Sit in on a prayer service or enjoy lunch in the luscious green gardens. Enjoy the hand crafted and carved art located throughout the site. Stop by the gift shop to purchase some dried mushrooms, grown by the monks and well known throughout the state, or for other specialty gift items. The Abbey is a great place for an afternoon getaway for tourists and locals alike. For more information, go to mepkinabbey.org
As you can see from all of the information above, Summerville, South Carolina is a historic mecca with lots of things to do and see. Stop by the Summerville visitor’s center for things to do in Summerville, take a stroll through the historic downtown, visit some of the beautiful sites in the Summerville historic district or simply sit on a bench in the park and enjoy the small-town charm, southern hospitality, and home-grown, southern sweet tea.