My husband and I just returned from a fantastic visit to Oconee County, SC. This westernmost county consists of several small towns, each more adorable than the last, amazing waterfalls, three incredible lakes, and an arsenal of things to see and do. Here are 34 fun things to do in Oconee County, South Carolina, that might capture your interest.
1. Hike to Yellow Branch Falls
This moderate hike is roughly three miles in and out and will take a novice hiker about 60 to 90 minutes each way. The grand finale is worth the effort as you see the gorgeous Yellow Branch Falls waterfall beating down the moss-covered rocks. Be sure to have appropriate shoes, insect repellent, and water before starting out. This waterfall hike has caused many beginner hikers to be rescued because it is not for the faint of heart.
2. Eat the Raved About Fried Chicken from Steak House Cafeteria
Downtown Walhalla has a mainstay restaurant that excels in comfort food and variety. Steak House Cafeteria has a smorgasbord of yumminess to choose from, ranging from meatloaf to fried chicken, about a dozen vegetable and starch side dishes, and several dessert options. Food is served a la carte and the prices are very affordable.
I can’t speak highly enough about the lighter-than-air chicken tenders, green beans, and candied carrots. Of course macaroni & cheese is a must. Between the down-home food options, organization, and friendliness of the staff, it’s easy to see why this is local eatery is such a treasure.
3. Enjoy a Coffee Drink from Mountain Mocha
Mountain Mocha is an utterly adorable shop in Walhalla, one of the coolest towns in Oconee County, South Carolina. The menu has coffee drinks of all kinds and flavors, ice cream, pastries, and house-made desserts. Mountain Mocha’s vibe is friendly and the setting is fantastic. From cold brew to chocolate milkshakes, this eye-catching establishment got my vote of approval.
4. Explore the Views from Chattooga Belle Farm
If I had to pick one agritourism attraction in Oconee County to promote, it would definitely be Chattooga Belle Farm. This trendy and fun business not only has incredible products to taste, sample, buy, and take home, but also the most amazing views in town. Sit for a spell on the inviting patio and get a feast for your senses with scenery that is as pretty as a postcard.
5. Visit the General Store Museum
Over in Westminster is the General Store Museum, holding a magnificent collection of original goods from an old-time general store. Even the windows are worth spending some time browsing.
6. Sink Your Teeth Into Tasty Pizza
Carolina Pizza Co. is one cool place for creative pizza combinations and tasty eats. You’ll also get a kick out of the kitschy decor and bohemian vibe. Eat indoors or out, along with Bigfoot. Carolina Pizza Co. has been feeding Oconee County since 2008. The Pop Goes the Jalapeño gets my vote.
7. Stay in a Charming Loft
Lofts Over Main is Walhalla’s trendy lodging choices with two beautifully appointed lofts situated in the middle of town above a store. The space is quite massive and has luxury bed linens, beautiful rugs, a dining table and chairs with picture-perfect accessories, and gourmet coffee. Parking and wifi are included with your stay, and you will love the super cool shower feature. The pictures I shared with my readers blew up with everyone loving the loft’s decor.
8. See a Concert in Oconee County, SC
One of the best places to catch live music or a performance is the Walhalla Performing Arts Center. The building was originally an elementary school, but upcycled to breath new life into the property. Today, you can see artists or shows such as Drivin N Cryin and Mutts Gone Nuts in this building that is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
9. Taste Something Local at Lighthouse Lake Keowee
The food at Lighthouse Lake Keowee is a nice mix of country club favorites, classic Southern, and low country musts. Dine inside or out at this stylish eatery with an ever-changing menu and loads of weekly specials.
The Pretzel Bites with Beer Cheese are a tasty starter, but the North Carolina Mountain Trout is something you must try. The perfectly-cooked fish is drizzled with an Alabama white bbq sauce. Pair it with the Cheddar Grits and the slap-yo-mama collard greens. Mmm, mmm, good.
10. Taste the Spirits at Chattooga
Meanwhile, back at Chattooga Belle Farm, visit the distillery to sample locally-made spirits. This business “grows the fruit, ferments it, distills it, bottles it, labels it and sells it” all onsite. Products include Muscashine (muscadine brandy), Carolina Spice, Block and Tackle, Dark Sky Vodka, and Apple-A-Gin, to name a few. The tasting room vibe is so well done, one of the best I’ve seen around the country.
11. Take a Walking Tour of Walhalla
Stroll downtown Walhalla and soak up the strong sense of community spirit via flower gardens, Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail displays, antique stores, cool shops, and a moving tribute to Veterans. Plaques on the quilt trail share information about the pattern’s origin and history.
12. Schedule a Boat Tour in Oconee County
Board a chartered boat at Devil’s Fork State Park and enjoy an adventurous day on beautiful Lake Jocassee. Jocassee Lake Tours is the perfect partner to hit the water with, sending a naturalist to share knowledge about ecotourism and the gorgeous scenery. Sunset tours and fishing expeditions are also popular boat tours, and several of them are offered year-round. If you’d prefer to go out on your own, you can also rent kayaks from this tour company.
Pro Tip: Ask for Captain Zach, who will show you all the stunning waterfalls and take you swimming to a place you’ll easily confuse with the Caribbean. Tell him Melody sent you. Bring a picnic lunch along for extra fun.
13. Picnic at Oconee’s State and County Park Offerings
There are several South Carolina State and County Parks in Oconee County. That’s like a goldmine right beneath their noses! State parks include Oconee and Devils Fork State Park, while county parks are High Falls, South Cove, and Chau Ram. You’ll find many wonderful places to enjoy a freshly packed or drive-through style picnic with friends and family in these locations.
14. Shop Locally
I couldn’t swipe my credit card fast enough in downtown Seneca, South Carolina. The selection of locally-owned shops and boutiques was just the right size and ranged from ladies apparel and accessories to gourmet food products and kitchen food at The Healthy Olive. Pick up embroidered goods and graphic tees, book bags, and more from Casual Carolina. Antiques and home decor was arranged beautifully at M. Tannery & Sons, while Green Springs focuses on fair trade and local crafts and souvenirs.
15. See Vibrant Murals
The Gateway Mural Gallery in the small town of Westminster is definitely worth seeing. Larger than life artworks include The Last Supper, Dogs Play Poker, Mona Lisa, and Blue Grass Roots, featuring Bill Monroe, Ezra Davis, and Raymond Fairchild, amongst others. Local artist Melody Davis is responsible for many of these jaw-dropping scenes, that certainly add a breath of fresh air to this small town.
Many of these artworks are on the Oconee Mural Trail.
16. Find the Cats
Ram Cat Alley, in downtown Seneca, is a local legend that has stuck with the town and its residents. Ram Cat Alley has a “cat-enger hunt” to find the outdoor art projects around town. Businesses sponsor the laser-cut hand-painted cats. Be on the lookout for Allie Kat, Catfish, Chicago, Cherokat (pictured top right), and Calico Cat, to name a few.
17. Take Photos at Ramsey Creek Falls
Located in Chau Ram County Park, Ramsey Creek Falls is literally a skip, hop, and jump from the parking lot. Anyone can get to them and trust me, they are gorgeous!. This waterfall access is found two miles west of Westminster on Hwy 76.
This is one of around 26 falls in South Carolina’s Oconee County.
18. Taste Fresh Oconee Apples from one of the U-Pick ’em Farms.
Oconee County, South Carolina, is an awesome place to enjoy the freshest of fruits that you actually pick yourself. Any one of these u-pick ’em farms will add a bounty to your table and make for great family fun while collecting them.
- Berry Thyme Farm (blueberries)
- Bryson’s (apples, peaches)
- Paul’s (blueberries)
- Willow Springs (blackberries, blueberries)
19. Have an Upscale Meal at Vangeli’s
Situated in spunky Ram Cat Alley is Vangeli’s Bistro, a great place to enjoy a locally-sourced, chef-inspired meal. Try the Diver Scallops appetizers with balsamic figs and goat cheese, paired with a tantalizing glass of wine from the extensive menu. For dinner, I loved the homemade pasta dish with shrimp, spiced pecans, turkey sausage, and feta cheese. Or two other great choices are the prime Filet Mignon and Mixed Grill, with duck, lamb pops, and a petite filet mignon.
20. Go Camping
South Cove County Park is one of three county parks in Oconee County. This gem sits on gorgeous Lake Keowee and has a sand beach swimming area, picnic shelters, charcoal grills, free Wifi, boat ramps, and a host of amenities. Bathhouses are very clean.
South Cove County Park campground is truly fantastic, with 41 waterfront sites and 45 others. Get this—the fee is only $25 a night with water and electricity.
21. Feast On Appetizers
Soon after arriving in Seneca, we were told by several campers that Solé Grill and Sushi Bar was their favorite restaurant. We ordered to go food from there and were very impressed. My husband and I shared the Grit Fritters and Bleu Cheese Nachos. The restaurant was even so kind as to pack the chicken and bleu cheese spread in separate containers so it would not get soggy on the way home.
We also shared a Cajun Chicken Salad from Solé Grill and Sushi Bar, all of which were fantastic.
22. Toe Tap to the Music
Seneca’s Jazz on the Alley is hosted by the City of Seneca and runs on Thursdays from April to October. The streets are closed to pedestrian-only and vendors set up shop, along with businesses staying open later hours, for the crowds it attracts. Music is from 6:30 to 9 PM on historic Ram Cat Alley.
23. Drink Margaritas at Taco Riendo
Have margaritas as big as your head at Taco Riendo in Seneca, clearly a locals’ favorite that even has a drive-through. If you are hungry, the Lunch Fajitas are priced under $10 and include a whole lot of food. Taco Riendo has all your favorite beer, wine, and flavored margaritas to choose from, too.
24. Complete a Passport
I loved the concept of the passport to Art & Historical Landmarks of Oconee County. You can pick one up at the Visitor’s Center or the Oconee History Museum. Destinations include a book to stamp for visiting art studios, historic sites, museums, and performing arts venues. Examples are Oconee Community Theatre, Walhalla Fish Hatchery, Blue Ridge Arts Center, and Lunney Museum, to name a few.
25. Catch Striped Bass at Lake Hartwell
You can take your fishing game to a new level at beautiful Lake Hartwell. This little slice of paradise is plum full of bass (striped, spotted, large mouth, small mouth), but you can also catch bluegill, sunfish, crappie, and catfish. Keep in mind this lake crosses the South Carolina and Georgia borders so you will need to be in the know of the state laws for both.
26. Pick The Best: Sandwich or Bowl?
Presst Food & Wine is a great stop for healthy and fresh food in Seneca. I tried the Hot Brown Sandwich, with smoked turkey, bacon, herb buttermilk dressing, tomato, and jack cheese. The sandwich itself was already excellent, but hit a new level of deliciousness when dunked in a cup of their tasty tomato bisque. My husband had the Turkey Waldorf as a bowl and swears it was better. You decide, soup or sandwich? Save room for a honkin’ big gourmet cookie, too.
27. Explore the Art at End of the Road Studios
You are in for a real visual treat at End of the Road Studios in Walhalla. Here, the working gallery and studio for Robin Anne Cooper and Stan DuBose has room after room of creative art and whimsical conversation pieces. From mixed media to paintings, pottery to upcycled treasures, you can’t help but smile at the amazing artwork for sale here.
28. Learn the Local History
The Oconee History Museum is a hit, and it is free to get in. “Where history meets community” is the tagline of this Walhalla treasure trove that features exhibits ranging from apple picking to weaving, fully-preserved hand-dug canoes to a Depression-era farmer’s house. The staff is friendly and ready to answer any of your questions. Be sure to have a peek at the fun salt and pepper shaker collection in the hall before leaving. Hours are currently Tuesday through Saturday 11 to 5 PM.
Outside, see the “Manly Mobile Jail”, steam engine, and pollinator gardens.
29. Try a Juicy Burger from the Iconic Bantam Chef
A local icon in Walhalla, Oconee County South Carolina, is Bantam Chef, which you’ll see from the giant rooster atop of the building. This drive-through only eatery has a line nearly every minute of its opening hours because the locals already know how darned tasty the burgers, wings, onion rings, fries, and slaw are. I hear the peanut butter hand-scooped milkshake is to die for!
30. Hike Through Stumphouse Tunnel
An unfinished railroad tunnel has had quite a past, but the fact that it served as a Clemson University bleu cheese farming space for a few years is one of the coolest. Today, visitors can walk through one fourth of the Stumphouse Tunnel, a steady 50-degree temperature year-round. The tunnel collects water and puddles from rain so wear appropriate footwear. I would also recommend bringing a flashlight; my phone light didn’t do much of anything.
31. Take the Family to A Great Local Breakfast Spot
Kounty Kupboard is not only a place to have an amazing breakfast (homemade biscuits, perfect sausage patties, and delicious omelets), but also provides excellent service. On my stop, the diner was crazy packed, and only one waitress was on duty, but rest assured the patrons had full cups of coffee, drink refills, and piping hot breakfast. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.
32. Play Golf
From disc golf to regular ole golf, you’ll find plenty of options to enjoy your game. In Seneca, the Oconee Country Club and Cross Creek Plantation Golf are popular choices, while in Walhalla, Falcon’s Lair Golf Course is a top pick. There are 14 others within a short driving distance.
33. Sip Local Wine
Sip a sweet glass of vino from two establishments in Oconee County that both caught my eye. First, Chattooga Belle Farm, with the amazing scenic views listed above. Then there is Partners in Wine in Walhalla, which is currently in the moving stage to a bigger, and better location.
34. Indulge in Sweets
Walnut Street Bakery is an exceptional sweet shop in downtown Seneca that is filled with sinfully delicious cupcakes, cookies, cake pops, and a variety of upscale desserts. The cheesecake selection alone is mind-blowing and Instagram-worthy. I chose a Peaches ‘N’ Creme cupcake and nearly licked the liner for every last crumb.
Thanks for giving the consumer so many amazing flavor combinations and choices. Loved it!
My visit was partially hosted by Visit Oconee County SC. As usual, all opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
For more fun things to see and do around North and South Carolina, check out these posts: