12 Best Places to Live in South Carolina, According to Living Standards Index

by Jem
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South Carolina is more than just a state; it’s a lifestyle. From its historic cobblestone streets to its lush golf courses and vibrant cities, the Palmetto State offers a diverse range of lifestyles and landscapes. But with its rich history and varied geography, choosing the perfect spot to call home can be overwhelming. To help you make your decision, I’ve crafted this guide on the best places to live in South Carolina.

I’ve roamed South Carolina far and wide over the years, and I can vouch for the state’s incredible diversity and charm. From the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains to the tranquil beaches of Hilton Head Island, and from the bustling hub of Charleston to the laid-back vibes of Bluffton, South Carolina’s diversity is second to none. Whether you’re drawn to the allure of historic towns, the tranquility of coastal living, or the energetic pulse of cities like Columbia and Greenville, there’s a corner of South Carolina that feels tailor-made for you.

So, where to begin? The ideal location varies for everyone. Some may prioritize proximity to the ocean, others may look for excellent schools, and for many, the cost of living is a crucial factor.

Dive in as I dissect the best cities to live in South Carolina, based on what matters most to you. Having experienced the state’s many sides, I’m here to guide you through the best places in South Carolina to live. I’ve pored over research, sifted through data, and chatted with locals to compile a list that caters to every lifestyle and budget. Let’s get started!

The top places to live in South Carolina right now

The Best Places to Live in South Carolina      

Eager to explore the most captivating places in South Carolina to call home? Situated on the southeastern coast of the U.S., this state has something for everyone. Continue reading to uncover the best places to live in South Carolina.

Searching for your ideal spot in South Carolina? Whether you’re planning to settle down or just passing through, South Carolina has a locale that will fit your lifestyle.

  • Best for small-town feel: Bluffton
  • Best for history and charm: Charleston
  • Best for college town vibes: Columbia
  • Best for arts and culture: Greenville
  • Best for beachfront luxury: Hilton Head Island
  • Best for family-friendly living: Mount Pleasant
  • Best for coastal escapes: Myrtle Beach
  • Best for economic growth: North Charleston
  • Best for outdoor activities: Spartanburg
  • Best for quiet beach living: Sullivan’s Island
  • Best for suburban communities: Summerville
  • Best for lakeside living: Tega Cay

Here are all the must-know locations to live in the Palmetto State:

1. Bluffton

Ah, the Lowcountry! Imagine waking up to the scent of salt marshes and the sound of seabirds. Bluffton offers just that, a serene setting that’s also vibrant with culture. Art galleries and historic homes line its oak-shaded streets, making it one of the best places to live in South Carolina.

The May River serves as the town’s backdrop, offering endless opportunities for kayaking, fishing, and paddleboarding. Local eateries serve up mouth-watering Southern cuisine, from shrimp and grits to fried green tomatoes. It’s a great place to live in South Carolina if you’re a foodie or an outdoor enthusiast.

Bluffton is more than a pretty face; it’s a community. The local farmers’ market is a weekly ritual, and the annual oyster roast is a town highlight. With its mix of natural beauty and community spirit, Bluffton is a destination that captures hearts.

So, if you’re seeking a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness, look no further. Bluffton is not just a place to live; it’s a lifestyle.

That's precisely what Bluffton provides—a calm environment brimming with culture.
That’s precisely what Bluffton provides—a calm environment brimming with culture.

2. Charleston

Step back in time as you stroll through cobblestone streets, surrounded by antebellum architecture. Charleston is a living museum, a blend of history and modernity that makes it one of the best cities to live in South Carolina.

Here, you’ll find a culinary scene that rivals cities twice its size. From classic Southern comfort food to innovative fusion dishes, Charleston is a food lover’s paradise. It’s a good place to live in South Carolina for anyone who appreciates the finer things in life.

But what truly sets Charleston apart is its people. Southern hospitality isn’t just a phrase here; it’s a way of life. Neighbors greet each other by name, and community events are the norm rather than the exception.

Charleston isn’t just a city; it’s a community where everyone knows your name. It’s the epitome of Southern charm, making it a top city in South Carolina to live.

Charleston is one of the greatest places to reside in South Carolina because of its unique blend of modern and historical features.
Charleston is one of the greatest places to reside in South Carolina because of its unique blend of modern and historical features.

3. Columbia

Picture a city where the old and the new coexist in perfect harmony. That’s Columbia for you, a city that’s both the state capital and a college town, making it one of the best places in South Carolina to live.

The University of South Carolina adds a youthful energy to the city, while historic sites like the South Carolina State House add gravitas. It’s the best city to live in South Carolina for those who want a mix of youthful exuberance and historical depth.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to love here too. The Congaree River offers a natural playground for kayaking and tubing. And let’s not forget the local food scene, where Southern classics meet international flavors.

In Columbia, you’ll find a community that values both its history and its future, making it the most livable city in South Carolina.

Columbia, one of the greatest places to live in South Carolina, is the state capitol as well as a popular college town.
Columbia, one of the greatest places to live in South Carolina, is the state capitol as well as a popular college town.

4. Greenville

Greenville is where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet a burgeoning cityscape, creating a unique blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication. It’s one of the best areas to live in South Carolina, especially if you’re an outdoor enthusiast or an art lover.

The city’s crown jewel is Falls Park on the Reedy, a stunning natural oasis in the heart of downtown. Walk across the Liberty Bridge and you’ll feel like you’re floating above the waterfalls below. It’s a nice city to live in South Carolina for those who appreciate both nature and architecture.

Greenville’s downtown is a hub of activity, from live music and theater to a plethora of dining options. Think farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, and food trucks serving up international flavors.

In Greenville, you’ll find a harmonious blend of the old and the new, making it the best South Carolina town to live in.

Urban sophistication and natural beauty are uniquely blended in Greenville.
Urban sophistication and natural beauty are uniquely blended in Greenville.

5. Hilton Head Island

Imagine a place where the ocean breeze greets you every morning and the sunset paints the sky in hues of orange and pink every evening. Welcome to Hilton Head Island, a slice of paradise that’s also one of the best towns to live in South Carolina.

The island is a haven for golfers, with courses designed by legends like Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus. But it’s not just about golf; the island offers a plethora of outdoor activities. From kayaking through salt marshes to biking along scenic trails, Hilton Head is a nice part of South Carolina for those who love to be active.

The culinary scene here is equally impressive, featuring everything from high-end seafood restaurants to casual beachside grills. Local festivals like the Gullah Celebration showcase the island’s rich cultural heritage.

In Hilton Head Island, there are various lake house rentals where every day feels like a vacation. This makes it a place to move in South Carolina for those seeking a perpetual holiday vibe.

One of South Carolina's greatest places to reside is Hilton Head Island, a little piece of heaven.
One of South Carolina’s greatest places to reside is Hilton Head Island, a little piece of heaven.

6. Mount Pleasant

As you cross the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, you’ll find yourself in Mount Pleasant, a charming town that offers the best of both worlds. It’s close enough to Charleston for a night out but far enough to offer a peaceful, coastal lifestyle. This makes it one of South Carolina’s best places to live.

The town is a boater’s dream, with easy access to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. Whether you’re into sailing, fishing, or simply enjoying a sunset cruise, Mount Pleasant is a best South Carolina city to live for water enthusiasts.

Local parks like Shem Creek Park offer a respite from the hustle and bustle, while the historic Old Village feels like a step back in time. The town’s public schools are highly rated, and community events like the weekly farmers’ market add to its appeal.

In Mount Pleasant, you’ll find a community that cherishes its coastal roots while embracing modern amenities, making it a where to live in SC for those who want it all.

The finest of both worlds can be found in the quaint town of Mount Pleasant.
The finest of both worlds can be found in the quaint town of Mount Pleasant.

7. Myrtle Beach

Picture this: golden sands stretching as far as the eye can see, the sound of waves gently lapping at the shore, and the scent of salt in the air. Welcome to Myrtle Beach, a resort city that’s also one of the best South Carolina cities to call home.

The Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of beaches, is the city’s main attraction. It’s a paradise for sun worshippers and water sports enthusiasts alike. Myrtle Beach is the best town to live in South Carolina if you’re looking for endless summer vibes.

But there’s more to Myrtle Beach than just its stunning coastline. The city offers a wide range of entertainment options, from live shows and amusement parks to shopping and dining. The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, with its shops, restaurants, and the iconic SkyWheel, is a must-visit.

Life in Myrtle Beach is like an endless summer vacation, making it a where is the best place to live in South Carolina for those who love the sun, sea, and sand. And for the best possible experience, North Myrtle Beach is a must!

Among the greatest places to live in South Carolina is the resort town of Myrtle Beach.
Among the greatest places to live in South Carolina is the resort town of Myrtle Beach.

8. North Charleston

As you drive through the bustling streets, you’ll quickly realize that North Charleston is a city on the move. Known for its industrial roots, the city has evolved into a diverse and vibrant community, making it one of the most livable cities in South Carolina.

The city is a hub for arts and culture, with venues like the North Charleston Performing Arts Center offering a wide range of performances. It’s one of South Carolina’s best cities to live in if you’re into the arts or looking for an active social scene.

But North Charleston isn’t all about the hustle and bustle. The city is home to several parks and green spaces, like Riverfront Park, where residents can escape the urban grind. The park hosts several events throughout the year, from concerts to food festivals.

In North Charleston, you’ll find a city that’s both dynamic and down-to-earth, making it a what are the coolest places to live in South Carolina for those who want a balanced lifestyle.

One of South Carolina's most livable communities, the city has developed into a lively and varied community.
The city has developed into a lively, varied neighborhood.

9. Spartanburg

As you venture into the Upstate region, you’ll discover Spartanburg, a city that effortlessly combines small-town charm with big-city amenities. It’s a place to move in South Carolina for those who crave a sense of community without sacrificing urban conveniences.

The city is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains offering hiking, biking, and camping opportunities. Spartanburg is a best South Carolina city for those who love to explore nature without straying too far from city life.

Culturally, Spartanburg is a melting pot. The Chapman Cultural Center is a hub for the arts, hosting everything from ballet to bluegrass. Foodies will appreciate the diverse culinary scene, which ranges from Southern BBQ to international cuisine.

In Spartanburg, you’ll find a city that’s as diverse as it is welcoming, making it a where to live in South Carolina for those who want a bit of everything.

The city of Spartanburg skillfully blends the advantages of a large metropolis with the charm of a little town.
The city of Spartanburg skillfully blends the advantages of a large metropolis with the charm of a little town.

10. Sullivan’s Island

As the ferry docks, you’ll find yourself enchanted by the serene beauty of Sullivan’s Island. This barrier island is more than just a beach destination; it’s a place steeped in history, making it one of the best South Carolina towns to live.

The island is home to Fort Moultrie, a historic site that played a crucial role in the American Revolution. It’s a great place to live in South Carolina for history buffs who want to be close to significant landmarks.

But Sullivan’s Island isn’t just about the past; it’s very much a place for the present. The island offers an array of outdoor activities, from paddleboarding to bird-watching. The local dining scene is a mix of classic Southern fare and fresh seafood, perfect for foodies.

In Sullivan’s Island, you’ll find a community that respects its history while embracing the joys of island living, making it the best area to live in South Carolina for those who want a balanced lifestyle.

The calm beauty of Sullivan's Island will fascinate you as soon as the ferry docks.
The calm beauty of Sullivan’s Island will fascinate you as soon as the ferry docks.

11. Summerville

Step into a world where azaleas bloom in abundance and the scent of sweet tea fills the air. Welcome to Summerville, a town that effortlessly blends Southern charm with modern amenities. It’s one of the best cities to live in South Carolina for those who appreciate a slower pace of life without missing out on urban comforts.

Known as the “Flowertown in the Pines,” Summerville is famous for its annual Flowertown Festival, a celebration of all things floral. It’s a top city in South Carolina to live if you have a penchant for gardens and outdoor festivals.

The town’s historic district is a treasure trove of antebellum architecture and quaint boutiques. Here, you can spend your days exploring charming streets and your evenings dining at farm-to-table restaurants that offer the best of Southern cuisine.

In Summerville, you’ll find a community that values its history and natural beauty, making it the best city to live in South Carolina for those who want a mix of the old and the new.

A community called Summerville deftly combines contemporary conveniences with Southern charm.
Summerville is a town that skillfully combines modern amenities

12. Tega Cay

Imagine waking up to the tranquil views of Lake Wylie every morning. That’s the reality in Tega Cay, a picturesque city that offers lakeside living at its finest. It’s a nice city to live in South Carolina for those who crave a waterfront lifestyle.

Tega Cay is more than just a pretty face; it’s an adventurer’s playground. From boating and fishing to hiking and golfing, the city offers a plethora of outdoor activities. It’s South Carolina’s best place to live for those who love to stay active.

The community is tight-knit, with a range of events throughout the year that bring neighbors together. Think food truck rallies, outdoor concerts, and seasonal festivals. Plus, the city’s schools are top-notch, adding to its appeal.

In Tega Cay, you’ll find a harmonious blend of natural beauty and community spirit, making it among the nice parts of South Carolina to settle down in.

Tega Cay is a charming city that provides the best lakefront living experience.
Tega Cay is a charming city that provides the best lakefront living experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Best Places to Live in South Carolina        

Considering a move to South Carolina and wondering about the best spots? Here are some questions that I commonly receive about the state’s top living areas.

Where is the nicest place to live in South Carolina?

The “nicest” place to live in South Carolina can be subjective and depends on what you’re looking for. However, based on factors like quality of life, amenities, and community spirit, many people consider places like Charleston, Hilton Head Island, and Mount Pleasant to be among the nicest. These areas offer a blend of natural beauty, historical charm, and modern amenities that make them highly desirable places to live.

Where is the most affordable place to live in South Carolina?

The most affordable places to live in South Carolina typically include smaller towns and rural areas, where the cost of living is generally lower than in the larger cities or popular coastal destinations. Here are a few areas that are often considered more affordable:

  1. Sumter: Known for its historic charm and proximity to Shaw Air Force Base, Sumter offers affordable housing and a lower cost of living compared to the state average.
  2. Spartanburg: This city in the Upstate region provides affordable living with a growing job market, particularly in manufacturing and education.
  3. Greenwood: A small city with a low cost of living, Greenwood is known for its friendly community and local festivals.
  4. Anderson: Located near Clemson University, Anderson offers affordable housing and a cost of living that’s below the national average.
  5. Florence: This city in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina offers affordable housing options and a growing healthcare sector.
  6. Aiken: Known for its equestrian culture and historic downtown, Aiken provides a relatively low cost of living with a high quality of life.
  7. Rock Hill: While it’s part of the Charlotte metropolitan area, Rock Hill offers more affordable living options compared to Charlotte, North Carolina.
  8. Orangeburg: A smaller town with a lower cost of living, Orangeburg is home to two colleges and is known for its educational opportunities.

What is the best area of South Carolina?

The “best” area in South Carolina depends on your personal preferences and needs. Here are some top contenders:

  • Charleston: Known for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and vibrant arts scene. Ideal for those who love a mix of the old and new.
  • Hilton Head Island: A paradise for beach lovers and golf enthusiasts. Offers a luxurious, resort-like lifestyle.
  • Mount Pleasant: A family-friendly suburb of Charleston with excellent schools, parks, and a strong sense of community.
  • Greenville: Offers a mix of natural beauty and urban sophistication. Known for its downtown area and proximity to the mountains.
  • Myrtle Beach: Popular for its beautiful beaches and entertainment options, from amusement parks to live shows.

What is the safest county to live in in South Carolina?

Based on recent rankings, Greenville County is often cited as one of the safest counties to live in South Carolina. It has received high grades in several categories, including safety. The county is also noted for its thriving business environment, with more than 200 companies located there. Its location along Interstate 85, a major thoroughfare between Atlanta and Charlotte, adds to its appeal.

South Carolina is a well-liked travel destination for both locals and tourists due to its wide variety of experiences and attractions.
South Carolina is a well-liked travel destination for both locals and tourists due to its wide variety of experiences and attractions.

Is South Carolina a good place to live for black families?

South Carolina has several areas that are considered good for black families based on factors such as community, schools, and homeownership rates. For instance, Rock Hill, Sumter, Beaufort, Greenhood, and Spartanburg are among the best places to live in South Carolina for black families.

Additionally, Charleston and Columbia have been highlighted as top city-level markets for African-American homeownership in the U.S., with rates of 58% and 55%, respectively. Source

However, it’s worth noting that while South Carolina leads in some aspects like Black homeownership, there are still challenges such as maintaining property and history in the face of development. Source

Is South Carolina a good state to move to?

Deciding whether South Carolina is a good state to move to depends on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and priorities. Here are some factors to consider that might help you make your decision:

Pros of Living in South Carolina:

  1. Cost of Living: Generally, South Carolina has a lower cost of living compared to many other states in the U.S., especially in terms of housing costs.
  2. Climate: The state enjoys a mild climate with warm summers and relatively mild winters, which is appealing to those who prefer a warmer climate.
  3. Natural Beauty and Outdoor Activities: South Carolina offers beautiful beaches, coastal areas, and parks. Places like Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, and the Blue Ridge Mountains provide numerous opportunities for outdoor activities.
  4. Historical and Cultural Richness: The state has a rich history and diverse culture, with historic sites, festivals, and southern hospitality.
  5. Economic Growth: Certain areas, especially around cities like Charleston and Greenville, have been experiencing economic growth, with

Is South Carolina a white or black state?

South Carolina is a racially diverse state with both white and black communities. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the population is approximately 63.6% white and 27.1% Black or African American. While the majority of the population is white, the state has a significant Black or African American community. Therefore, it wouldn’t be accurate to label South Carolina as solely a “white” or “black” state; it is diverse with a mix of races and ethnicities.

Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Live in South Carolina                   

From the cobblestone streets of Charleston to the serene landscapes of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina offers a tapestry of experiences that cater to all lifestyles. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or someone who simply enjoys the finer things in life, this state has something for everyone. It’s no wonder that it’s considered one of the most livable cities in South Carolina.

If you’re looking for a place that offers both community spirit and natural beauty, look no further than Tega Cay. For those who prefer a more urban setting with a dash of Southern charm, Summerville and Greenville are hard to beat. And let’s not forget the coastal havens like Myrtle Beach and Sullivan’s Island, perfect for those who can’t resist the call of the ocean.

In essence, South Carolina is more than just a place to live; it’s a lifestyle. It’s where the old meets the new, where tradition blends seamlessly with modernity, and where every day feels like a new adventure. So why wait? One of these places to move in South Carolina could be your next home sweet home.

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