Hidden Gem: Walterboro, South Carolina

Updated: Jul 26


Photo by Bryen Glass

If you are ever traveling south down the 95 Corridor or in the state of South Carolina, consider visiting the small town with big heart appeal, Walterboro, South Carolina. Walterboro, originally called Hickory Valley since its founding in 1783, is named after Paul and Jacob Walter. Walterboro, or Hickory Valley, was born as a summer escape from the prevalent bouts of malaria at the Lowcountry plantations. Walterboro, with a population of less than 6,000, is in what's commonly called the "Lowcountry" of South Carolina. It is known for big porches with red rocking chairs, rice festivals, antique shops, seafood boils, great food, and the typical friendly southern charm and hospitality. Conveniently located off of Interstate 95 at the Highway 63, 64 and 17A junctions, makes it a convenient stopover for motorists and vacationers traveling north or south along Interstate 95. It is reported that since the construction of the railroad line in the 1880's, which connects the Walterboro with Columbia, SC and Charleston, SC and the additions of an airfield in the 1930's and Interstate 95 in the 1960's, Walterboro became a regular overnight stop on the road to Florida or New York.


For a small town, Walterboro boasts many places to dine, from a variety of well known fast food restaurants, to fine specialty dining, along Snider's Highway, Jefferies Boulevard, and Bells Highway. If you're looking for good southern food, check out Sunday's Soul Food Restaurant located at 900 S. Jefferies Blvd. You may even want to try out the eateries on E. Washington Street such Flats on Main, Carmines Trattoria, or the Main Street Grill for a variety of good foods, beverages and desserts.

Photo by Anne’s Legacy Photography

Walterboro has many interesting attractions for the regular locals, travelers passing through and visiting tourists. For those who appreciate natural beauty and wildlife, The Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary is it. Located on Detreville Street, it is open daily from dawn to dusk, and a nice attraction for all ages. Coming in at a full 800 acres of scenic beauty, it enables visitors to experience all they have to offer with its boardwalks, bridges, bike and walking trails. Something amazing to see, especially from visitors unfamiliar to the South, is the Lowcountry's famous Spanish moss covered Cypress trees. In addition to this, at the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary, you will see an array of wildlife along with the natural beauty of the beaver pond, duck pond and butterfly garden.


The South Carolina Artisans Center located at 334 Wichman Street is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am - 5:30 pm. The city's tourism website states that the South Carolina Artisan Center represents "over 300 of the State's finest juried artists and craftsmen, demonstrations and exhibits. It's mission is to preserve and perpetuate the folk art and fine craftsmanship of South Carolina artisans while creating a better understanding of the state's rich cultural heritage." According to South Carolina Artisans Center official website, the Center also serves as a small business incubator for juried artists across the state. The Center promotes arts-based economic development and helps 300+ artists from 32 counties across South Carolina earn a living.


If you are a history buff or just want to experience a little bit of Colleton County history, check out The Colleton Museum & Farmer's Market and the famous Tuskegee Airmen Monument. The Colleton Museum & Farmer's Market, located on 506 E. Washington St., opens Tuesday – Friday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. The museum features a myriad of exhibits on Colleton County's rich history, natural resources and "plantation era relics" going back as far as the late 1700's and early 1800's. Here you can see exhibits which include native wildlife of the South Carolina Lowcountry and also exhibits showing what life was like over the centuries of South Carolina's Colletonians.

Visitors are greeted by friendly and knowledgeable staff who are happy to show you around and help you learn about the exhibits. The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial and monument, placed in May of 1997 on the grounds of Colleton County‘s Lowcountry Regional Airport on Highway 17A, commemorates the heroism of America's first Black military airmen, who enlisted in World War II. These men became an accomplished military force despite facing extremely harsh conditions, racism and discrimination. During World War II, the Walterboro Army Airfield served as a training ground for Army airmen including a group of the Tuskegee Airmen. It also served as the site of a POW camp and military base hospital.


If you want to enjoy a fun and festive atmosphere, check out all the bakeries, eateries, antique shops, and more downtown on E. Washington Street. First Thursday is an event held on the first Thursdays of each month. Head on down to First Thursday on E. Washington Street from 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm. The street is closed to vehicle traffic so that the festivities may begin. Here you will find live music at the Waterfall Plaza, plenty of shopping, dining and other fun activities. This is a free event and open to all ages. Be sure to check out Colleton County's famous annual Colleton County Rice Festival in Walterboro. The 2020 Rice Festival, would’ve been held on April 24th & 25th and celebrated its 45th year, featuring live musical performances, a BMX bike show, and of course plenty of food, arts & crafts and other vendors. However, the festival was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With all the things to see and do in Walterboro, let's not forget places to stay. Although visitors may want to check out airbnb rentals, Walterboro has a few local bed & breakfast that may be worth a try. The Old Academy Bed & Breakfast and The Hampton House Bed and Breakfast are highly rated and known for friendly, welcoming appeal and good food. The Old Academy Bed & Breakfast, located at 904 Hampton Street was originally used as Walterboro's first school house and was winner of the 2004 Top 10 in North America most affordable luxury bed and breakfast. The Hampton House Bed and Breakfast located at 500 Hampton Street, offers a full country breakfast, swimming pool, tennis court and bedrooms decorated with antiques, private bath, television and queen sized canopy beds. The Hampton House was awarded the Walterboro Key Historic Property Award by the Historical Preservation Society. If you'd like traditional accommodations, the Hampton Inn, located at 129 Cane Branch Road, is a fairly new hotel with all the luxury features. What sets this hotel apart from many of the hotels we visited, the Hampton Inn offers free breakfast that rivals some of the more popular breakfast spots.

Our visit to this small, quaint, South Carolina town was all too short. For a town of this size, you’ll need more than a week to get the full experience of Walterboro. I particularly enjoy the historical aspects, warm climate, friendly residents, and most of all good food. So if you're traveling Interstate 95 to destinations south or destinations north, or if you are in the mood for some great Southern hospitality, friendly folks, convenient tourist sites, antique & artisan shops, and great food without the hustle and bustle of the big city, then Walterboro is the place. Tell them we, at the House of Otem, sent you. They will have no clue who we are but, don't worry, they'll treat you like family anyway.

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