LITTLE RIVER BLUEWAY, SC
OK, this is a road trip and an off-the-road trip, where good times can be had in your vehicle, by foot, bike, atv or boat. The Little River Blueway, near Lake Thurmond and McCormick, SC is a paddle lover’s paradise – as well as a rural retreat that offers miles upon miles of walking, hiking and biking trails in addition to 51 miles of diverse and scenic water trails.
Those who are a bit less athletic can enjoy the beauty from a rented pontoon boat, or perhaps a kayak or canoe.
Sure people live here – Savannah Lakes Village is known for its perfect positioning along Lake Thurmond. But for more urban dwellers who are rejuvenated by the outdoors, this is a destination that will delight you and bring you back for more.
And don’t worry. Nearby towns offer gourmet dining if, at the end of the day, you want more pampering, or perhaps cozy accommodations in which to slumber before tomorrow’s new adventures begin.
Where to stay?
This Road Trip is designed for those who love to be outside but you don’t have to give up all creature comforts. If you’re searching for elegant inns, they have several within a short drive. Fannie Kate's Inn Bed & Breakfast is an historic 1880s railroad inn located in the heart of McCormick. It has eight lovely guest rooms each with private bath, some with fireplaces. Most rooms are upstairs and there’s a wide, inviting veranda with rocking chairs. Their restaurant is open Wednesday – Sunday for breakfast and lunch. Inn guests are treated to a country breakfast of their choice each morning of their stay.
Another option is a 15-20 minute drive to nearby Abbeville, but you’ll be rewarded for your effort.
The Belmont Inn (864.459.9625) is an historic property in downtown Abbeville, SC. Well over 100 years old, it has been renovated and is welcoming folks who enjoy the quiet, small-town atmosphere and Opera House performances here. Recently, it’s gotten rave reviews on Trip Advisor, and the new owners are working very hard to restore everything to its former glory.
Another excellent choice is the Bernibrooks Inn. Here’s how one reviewer describes it: It is both beautiful and eclectic, with antiques, art and items from all over the world. Every room exudes charm and warmth.
You can also find comfortable accommodations near the action, i.e. the Great Outdoors. We have two suggestions.
Hickory Knob Resort is a state park with a comfortable Lodge for overnight guests. These 76 lodge rooms sleep up to four people – perfect for an overnight golf outing, family reunion accommodations, or just relaxing with the family at Hickory Knob. You’re not exactly roughing it, with cable TV, coffee makers, an onsite restaurant, swimming pool, golf courses, tennis and basketball courts and meeting facilities.
To make your lodge room reservations you can reserve online or call the park directly at 1.800.491.1764.
The Savannah Lakes Resort and Marina is another local option, with 80 waterfront guest rooms overlooking Lake Thurmond. On-site amenities include an outdoor pool, a full service marina offering boat rentals, a miniature golf course, two tennis courts, and a beach for relaxing on the water. Call 864.391.2152.
If you love camping in all its forms, there are a number of campsites, from the Hickory Knob State Park, to Elijah Clark Campground, with cabins and sites large enough to accommodate motor coaches. Hawe Creek Campground (Call 1.877.444.6777) is another good choice, open April through September. Baker Creek State Park is also open seasonally.
Lake Thurmond Campgrounds offers another possibility, with five campgrounds on the Lake and comfortable amenities for water enthusiasts and families.
Where to Eat?
There are plenty of options to stock up for campers, including catching your own, very fresh fish and grilling over the campfire, but if you want to let someone else, consider Hickory Knob Restaurant on the Lake. Visitors to the region can also make reservations at the River Grille Restaurant (864.391.4163), and the Monticello Grill (864.391.4185), located within Savannah Lakes Village.
There are pizza and Mexican restaurants in nearby McCormick, plus McCray House Tea Room and Gift Shop and a bit further, Abbeville, Greenwood or Augusta have plenty of fine dining options if you feel like driving after a great day with Mother Nature.
The Belmont Inn has a good restaurant, the Cozy Corner Grill, which often features a few German dishes.
The Village Grill on a side street in Abbeville receives consistently high marks from every foodie website around. One reviewer recommended the Cashew Butter Pie, as suggested in Southern Living. “Best dessert I ever tasted,” she said. I am impressed by the pan-roasted stuffed chicken (poultry filled with prosciutto and Swiss cheese, plus mushrooms – yum).
Time to Play!
Lake Thurmond is one of the South’s largest and most popular recreational lakes, and with the lake levels at full pool, boaters will get one magnificent view after another.
The Little River Blueway includes a total of 65,000 acres of public lands on the Western Ridge of South Carolina. That’s a lot of area to explore. The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor Nature Route is there, as well as the Savannah River National Scenic Byway. Both corridors run through the Little River Blueway Adventure Region.
The Savannah River Scenic Byway affords scenic views, glimpses of life in the rural South and opportunities to experience southern hospitality. You and yours will feel welcome, here.
Sumter National Forest is another must-see area. The Blueway includes about 65,000 acres of public lands on the western edge of South Carolina.
OK, that’s the big picture. Now, here are some ways to enjoy this great outdoors while you’re here:
If canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddling are passions, the Little River Blueway offers fifty-one miles of diverse and scenic paddling trails. Upper sections of the paddling routes are completely buffered by National Forest land. Protected from development, you are completely enfolded by the forest and wildlife. Lower sections along the Little River and open water sections on Lake Thurmond are buffered by USACE lands, offering numerous coves to explore and waterfront camping.
For a unique experience exploring the waterways feeding Lake Thurmond and Little River Blueway, gear up with a paddle board rental or kayak at Earth Connection Outfitters. Stand up paddleboarding has got everyone talking and it is particularly appealing here, where you can enjoy the views from full height. Balance-challenged? No worries. Kayaks are low, slow and very peaceful.
Pontoon boats may be rented at the Savannah Lakes Resort and Marina.Visit Without a doubt, a pontoon is great for families. Little ones can have a bit of freedom to move around, and the ride is very smooth.
Walkers, hikers and bikers have so many trails to choose from. More than 130 miles of single track trails are in this area. Start with the John de la Howe Tail. This rolling 1.9-mile loop winds through the woods, along a beaver pond, and past a finger of Lake Thurmond. An interpretive brochure guides you to 14 identification stations for plants, wildlife, habitat, history, and natural features. Over 1,476 acres of mixed pine and hardwood forests have been preserved on this land, bequeathed to the State of South Carolina in 1797 by John de la Howe for a school for underprivileged children, and to preserve a natural, unspoiled area.
It’s guaranteed to whet your appetite for more and you’ll find lots more for every fitness level, from two-mile strolls to 10 mile trails. For a full list of downloadable trails maps, visit www.LittleRiverBlueway.org
Within two state parks are 21 miles of single-track mountain biking, which was built by the Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association. The Savannah Valley Railroad Trail will eventually include 35 miles, but already, 11 miles have been cleared by local volunteers who know what a jewel is in their midst.
Golfers will enjoy three lakefront golf courses: Tara and Monticello in Savannah Lakes Village, and Hickory Knob Golf Course within the state park. You’ll still enjoy remarkable views, but the terrain is, shall we say, more polished. See www.PlayTheLake.com for tee times and golf packages.
In addition to 63 holes of golf, the area offers skeet shooting, and a 50-mile scenic drive.
Outdoor fun is great, rejuvenating and ultimately rewarding to both body and soul, but don’t ignore the history lessons that await around the bend. Seek out the The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor which passes by the French Huguenot settlement site, the Badwell Cemetery and Petigru Plantation. They can all be found along the Savannah Valley Railroad Trail that runs along the northern edge of Savannah Lakes Village and through the national forest. The John De La Howe School, founded in 1797 as a farm school for poor and orphaned children is also nearby. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it sits on 1,200 acres overlooking Lake Thurmond. Look for the distinctive barn and silo, built in 1931, which now serves as a country market. Today, John de la Howe School has become a first-rate, child caring agency committed to meeting the behavioral, educational, and social needs of the children in its care.
The Visitor’s Center at the Lake Thurmond Dam is impressive with its views and material to provide visitors.
In downtown McCormick, the McCormick Arts Council features art shows in the gallery and a lovely shop for gifts. Stop by the early 1900s soda fountain at Strom’s Drugs. McCormick is part of the Blueway Region and has necessities for your adventures, as well as charm to spare. Shopping the inviting antique and hardware stores in downtown McCormick can also be an equally exciting adventure.
Make plans soon. The Little River Blueway is unique and a favorite with families and folks who love being outdoors. If that describes you and yours, it is definitely worth a very special road trip.
Maps and area information are available at the kiosk at the Village Office in Savannah Lakes Village, Highway 378, or call 800.332.0013