Home to 12 major lakes, ranging from 7,500 to 110,000 acres in size, South Carolina’s waterways open the door for boaters to explore all of the state’s awesome scenery. You can see everything from the breathtaking mountains upstate, to the coastal beaches and the areas of low-lying, swampy wilderness. So, whether you live in the historic city of Charleston or the charming town of Beaufort, you’re guaranteed to enjoy your time on the water in South Carolina!
History, culture, exceptional cuisine, and natural beauty are just a few of the things people love about living in South Carolina. In between the majestic mountains and beautiful coastline, the state also has some of the best recreational lakes in the Southeast covering over 630 square miles. When you’re looking for a place for a weekend boating trip, here are five of the state’s best lakes.
Best Boating Lakes
Covering 110,000 acres, Lake Marion is South Carolina’s largest lake. With scenic views, endless waters to explore, and an abundance of fish, it’s no wonder Lake Marion is one of South Carolina’s top boating spots.
Lake Murray, the state’s third largest lake is another go-to destination for boaters. Featuring picturesque views, this lake also offers deep-lake diving opportunities. Don’t miss the chance to check out historical bomb island. This tiny land mass in Lake Murray was the site of a WWII training location for fighter pilots. Who knows, if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a sunken B-52 bomber looming during your day on the water.
If that weren’t enough, Oconee County known locally as the “Land Beside the Water” is bordered by the intricate Lake Keowee. Offering boat rentals, lake tours, lodging, camping, hiking and rafting, you’re sure to find something that “floats your boat” when visiting Lake Keowee.
Lake Marion is the largest lake in the scenic South Carolina Lowcountry, and covering 110,000 acres it spans five counties near the towns of Santee, Charleston, and Moncks Corner. It is known for its big fish and abundant wildlife. Public access is provided through several public boat ramps, Santee State Park, and the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. I-95 crosses this beautiful man-made lake near the Town of Santee.
Marion features vast expanses of water with cypress trees lending it a swamp-like look.
Lake Marion is famous for its abundance of big fish. Some of the wildlife you will spot includes alligators, egrets, wild turkeys, and deer. Santee State Park is nearby with campgrounds, cabins, and piers stretching out over the lake. You will also find restaurants and other accommodations near this beautiful lake.
Lake Murray is a reservoir fed by the Saluda River flowing from the Upstate near the North Carolina border. It is a 50,000 acre man-made lake with over 500 miles of shoreline in the counties near Columbia in the Midlands of South Carolina. Public access is through public parks near the dam, public boat ramps and marinas, and Dreher Island State Recreation Area.
Its location makes Lake Murray a popular recreation area for Columbia residents interested in fishing, boating, and hiking. There is also a designated swimming area and picnic facilities. Go for a day to Lake Murray and park for a nominal fee. Spend a night or longer in accommodations near the lake. You can choose from camping, cottages, cabins, and villas.
Each summer, an estimated flock of over one million Purple Martins fill the predawn and evening skies, establishing their seasonal roost at Bomb Island, located in the middle of the lake. The island is the site of the first official sanctuary in North American designated solely for roosting Purple Martins.
South Carolina’s third largest lake is also in the Lowcountry. Lake Moultrie is fed by Lake Marion via a canal near Old Santee Canal State Park. With over 60,000 acres there is plenty of room for outdoor adventures like fishing, swimming, and boating. It is also adjacent to Francis Marion National Forest.
Lake Moultrie is popular with the avid fisherman; it’s known for world record setting catches of catfish and black crappie.
For boaters it has plenty of marinas and boat ramps. Restaurants, campgrounds, and other lodging opportunities are nearby.
Lake Jocassee is one of the state’s most scenic lakes. With a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains and waterfalls pouring into it, it provides a beatutiful setting for visitors. It features 7,500 acres of water with 75 miles of shoreline. Water from the Appalachian Mountains feeds Lake Joccosse meaning refreshing, clear water all year long.
Fed by four different rivers, Lake Jocassee sits in a valley, nestled in Devil’s Fork State Park made up of 50,000 acres protected by the state.
Lake Hartwell is a 56,000-acre lake fed by the Savannah, Seneca, and Tugaloo Rivers. It provides a great opportunity for swimming, water skiing, boating, and wake-boarding, but fishing and camping are the most popular activities.
Lake Harwell is brimming with several kinds of bass, crappie, and catfish. Nine campgrounds offer over 500 campsites including unique single-room cabins.
Fishing in South Carolina
Looking for a spot to cast a line? South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources has got you covered. With their interactive maps you can easily pick out a fishing spot, boat launch ramp, coastal fishing opportunity or one of the many state lakes. They even provide a fishing attractor map to make things extra easy for you.
Be sure to check out South Carolina’s fishing license laws and requirements before you head out for a day on the water.