15 Best Things to Do in Hartsville, SC

Hartsville, SC
PasuL / shutterstock.com

Hartsville is a treasure of South Carolina and a charmingly authentic and progressive city.

It is the largest city in Darlington County and is rich in cultural offerings and indigenous loveliness.

In 1817, Thomas Edwin Hart created a plantation along Black Creek and became the area’s first postmaster.

As early as 1837, the town became recognized as Hartsville.

Thomas Hart’s son, John Lide Hart, developed Hartsville Plantation, which had a grist mill, carriage factory, and steam-powered sawmill.

James Lide Coker, a community leader, played an essential role in Hartsville’s development.

He established a fertilizer plant, seed company, oil mill, and the iconic JL Coker and Company General store.

The Coker company also founded Welsh Neck High School, the predecessor to today’s Coker University.

Hartsville remains a progressive city of education, business, industry, and reinvention.

In Hartsville, people work together, strengthening the community and giving their resources, time, and talent to fuel passions.

In Hartsville, theaters come alive, gardens bloom, communities connect, and experiences await.

Here are the best things to do in Hartsville, SC:

See a Show at the Center Theater

Exterior of the Center Theater
Jud McCranie, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can find the Center Theater in the Hartsville Community Center Building.

It became a dream come true for the Hartsville community during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The Hartsville Community Center was one of three built on the block as part of a project, a two-story rectangular plan building with a flat roof and parapet.

On July 15, 1935, there was a ceremony celebrating the laying of the building’s cornerstone.

Marquee of Center Theater
Caseyh, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The building initially held the Hartsville Chamber of Commerce, a moving-picture theater, offices for rent and a conference room, and the Hartsville Library.

Today, the beautiful theater holds 867 seats, fully equipped with sound systems and lighting.

It is a premier performance space in the region, holding everything from pageants to famous performers and community events.

It has hosted famous artists such as Loretta Lynn, The Three Stooges, Johnny Cash, and the Von Trapp family.

Have Tee Time at Hartsville Country Club

Hartsville Country Club is one of the top clubs in the Pee Dee Region, opening in 1926.

Its 18-hole facility features 6,606 yards of golf forming a par 72, one hard court, five clay tennis courts, and one swimming pool.

It features smooth greens, bountiful fairways, lots of sand and water, and many challenging and playable holes.

It hosts many charity and professional tournaments throughout the year.

For example, you can watch the Coker College Invitational and the South Carolina Junior Golf Association Players Championship.

Its best hole is number 16, a 150-yard par-three playing over a lake to a peninsula green sloping back to front.

You'll find bulkheads in front and sand bunkers right behind the green guard.

Hartsville Country Club takes pride in providing the complete country club experience, from when you arrive to when you finish your scorecard.

Spend a Day at Lawton Park

Lawton Park is a national historic district and a historic public park nestled on the shores of Lake Prestwood.

It is a 3.5-acre wooded public recreation area with a playground, a picnic area, a swimming pool, and tennis courts.

You can play tennis, go fishing, eat dinner in the picnic shelter, or let your kids run free in the playground.

You can also absorb the area’s history by visiting the Lawton Park Pavilion.

This Pavilion is a historic structure built in the Colonial Revival style, a frame rectangular plan two-story building with a dome and hip roof.

It has original hardwood floors and is complete with a catering kitchen and ballroom, a fantastic spot for special events and gatherings.

A pier and boardwalk stretch out onto Prestwood Lake, and one can rent kayaks and canoes from Lawton Park to enjoy paddling or fishing.

Celebrate Local History at Hartsville Museum

Hartsville Museum is in a 1930s post office building with unique archeological characteristics.

It is filled with different artifacts of life in Hartsville and tells the personal tales of Hartsville’s residents.

You will see historical displays that track the evolution of Hartsville’s early residential life.

Exhibits include a silver collection from the Eastern Carolina Silver Company; the Locomobile, South Carolina’s first car; and hands-on exhibits of Native American culture.

You can also see ancient hand tools; Carolina Cotton and a turn-of-the-century kitchen; the first generator in Sonoco; and Claude Hart’s Photography Studio.

The latter is Hartville’s first commercial studio.

Another feature is the sculpture courtyard and an exhibit celebrating the centennial of Sonoco Products Company.

The building includes a chance to see local people brought to life by legendary filmmaker H. Lee Waters.

It also includes an original skylight retrofitted with stained glass panels of flora and fauna native to the area.

Experience Recreation on Prestwood Lake

On summer days, when the temperatures are blazing, there are few things better than hanging out at Prestwood Lake, paddling the waters, or casting a line.

During the late 1800s, this 300-acre lake was formed when they impounded the waters of Black Creek.

Lake Prestwood is one of the most scenic lakes in South Carolina, with lily pads strewn on its dark water and trees growing along the shoreline.

Prestwood refers to a family who owned land and ferried travelers across the lake.

Enlist the help of Outfitters Hakuna Matuna, who will help you explore the lily-covered open waters and entrancing cypress swamps on a paddleboard or kayak.

You can take pictures of the shady cypress lanes with their Spanish-moss-covered branches and spot turtles and waterfowl.

Then pack a picnic to enjoy on the water or head for Hartsville’s lively downtown for a bite to eat.

Admire Fine Arts at the Black Creek Arts Council

Black Creek Arts Council is an arts-based non-profit organization housed in a historical 10,000-square foot building in downtown Hartsville.

It provides assistance and guidance in arts administration, education, funding, and program coordination to arts-centered artists and organizations in Darlington County.

They offer a variety of arts programs, including arts education classes for children and adults.

They also offer after-school and pre-school-aged programs, private music lessons, and summer camps.

Their Jean and James Fort Gallery host the changing exhibits of national and regional artists.

They have worked with the community to enhance Darlington County’s art education, including student art exhibitions, art residencies, educational theater, workshops, and music performances.

For the past 16 years, they have also funded artist residencies in Darlington County schools.

Their class offerings include acting, ceramics, drama, dance, drawing, metals, jewelry, glass, painting, music, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and more.

Buy Gifts for Your Loved Ones at Minnie’s Giftique

Found in lovely downtown Hartsville, Minnie’s Giftique has served the public for over 35 years.

Minnie and Richard Bryant opened the store in 1984; Brenda and Dick Porter purchased it in 1995; Terri and Emily Brown bought it in 2021.

They are a top-tier gift store offering the best in fine gifts, china, home décor, seasonal décor, and women's and children’s clothing.

At Minnie’s, they offer an upscale bridal registry department to serve the community.

These include a vast number of crystal and china patterns for every bride and every budget.

They host many companies, including Juliska, Skyros, Vera Wang, Vietri, Kate Spade, Pickard, Anna Weatherly, and more.

If you’re searching for everyday items, they also carry an extensive collection of gifts for birthdays, graduations, or when you're in the giving mood.

Don’t forget to buy the best items for the babies in your life too.

Dig in at the Rooster One Thirty-Six

Indulge yourself in this cozy café and coffee haven in downtown Hartsville, which has greeted the morning rush since 2002.

Inhale the aroma of ground coffee beans, savor wine glasses or specialty cocktails, and taste salads, plates, and soups.

They offer breakfast, lunch, and brunch in a quirky atmosphere, where you can let the good times roll.

Breakfast appeals to all your cravings, with eggs benedict and thick, buttery Belgian waffles to make your mouth water.

Brunch features sweet and savory eats, including tempting crepes, a mimosa, and a bloody Mary bar.

Tasty wraps and sandwiches abound with lunch, including standouts like Hot Mama and Valley Girl, generous salads, and tomato basil soup.

Naturally, it all comes with coffee, which is well worth visiting the Rooster for.

Indulge in a tiny but powerful cup of Turkish coffee or taste an invigorating French press in single, drip, or table side-pour.

See Local Talent at the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center

Coker College’s Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center is one of the most evolved facilities in the country.

This center opened in the autumn of 1997, taking its name from South Carolina's First Lady of Letters.

It is a resource for a vast range of cultural and educational events, such as professional goings-on of the Coker College Performing Arts collection.

The Center houses the Black Box Theater (100 seats) and the Watson Theater (466 seats), a proscenium theater.

It also includes a rehearsal studio, a costume store, a couple of dance studios, a scene store, a classroom, a green room, and a dressing room.

You can see the Stein Gallery, a permanent exhibit of Coker’s fine arts collection, at the Center’s entrance.

Pay Your Respects at Burry Park

At Burry Park, you can connect with the spirit of Hartsville.

It is a clean and green place that is beautifully lit at night, and you can walk along peacefully.

Stroll through Hartsville’s latest addition, a linear park called The Vista.

Otherwise, check out the Good Living Marketplace on Saturdays, get to know the downtown merchants, and listen to live music.

Many festivals, concerts, and ‘Movies on the Green’ occur at Burry Park throughout the year.

You can also salute the troops at the Veteran’s Memorial, dedicated to the veterans who served the United States during its five major wars.

These bas relief bronze monuments are placed in a pentagon shape, clad in architectural stone.

Each monument portrays a collage of events representing weapons, military uniforms, and the symbolism of each conflict.

Appreciate Science at Coker Experimental Farms

Coker Experimental Farms or Pedigreed Seed Company is an agricultural site and a National Historic Landmark in Hartsville.

The farms spearheaded the development of a new age of hybrid crop varieties, starting with a cotton breeding program.

On this property, David R. Coker performed his landmark breeding experiments to improve the strains of cotton and crops growing in the South.

His father, Major James Lide Coker, had introduced scientific methods for producing corn, cotton, tobacco, and pulp wood that helped transform Southern agriculture.

David followed and embellished his father’s experiments until the company became a national leader in farming methods.

It helped improve the yield of existing crops and helped established new crops like soybeans.

Today, the place features exhibits and active fields in a dairy barn replica depicting the company’s impact on Southern agriculture.

Show Your Athletic Prowess at Byerly Park Recreation Complex

Byerly Park Recreation Complex is one of the best sports facilities in the Southeast United States.

It is a 93-acre multi-use recreation complex featuring four softball/baseball fields, six soccer fields, six tennis courts, two football fields, and 12 horseshoe pits.

It also features a 400-meter track and field facility, a picnic area, concessions, and two playgrounds.

You can enjoy the outdoors on the 1.2-mile jogging, walking, biking trail and the Terrence J. Herrington Track.

Likewise, you can try their latest addition, the Coach T.B. Thomas Sports Center, which offers indoor sports like volleyball, basketball, and indoor soccer.

It also has fitness equipment such as stationary bikes, treadmills, stair steppers, ellipticals, and three universal weight stations.

An excellent, inclusive spot in the park is Garrison’s Place, which includes specially designed swings, a wheelchair platform swing, and an adaptive zip line, all suited for disabled children.

You can take your furbabies to Byerly Bark Dog Park, dedicated to fun and thrilling activities for your dogs.

Cool Off at Neptune Island Waterpark

If you love having fun in the sun and making a splash, you will thoroughly enjoy Neptune Island Waterpark.

It is an excellent destination for islanders seeking a bit of coastal excitement and warm weather adventure.

A favorite of kids everywhere is the Piratesville Splash Pad, featuring water cannons, water jets, water slides, and dumping buckets.

Relax and let the current take you places in the Endless Abyss, a quarter-mile-long lazy river that meanders around the heart of Neptune Island.

For a thrilling ride, try Neptune’s Revenge Speed Slide, which plummets three stories toward the ground at speeds of 30 mph.

Challenge your friends to a head-to-head race over vertical humps at Trident Racers Mat Racers.

Catch some waves and body surf at the Castaway Bay Wave Pool and ride the twists and turns of Twin Sirens Tube Slides.

Saddle Up at Joyful Noise Riding Academy

Joyful Noise Riding Academy is an equestrian facility mainly focusing on kids.

It offers riding lessons in a family-friendly and safe environment, focusing on proper horse care and teaching riding in a non-competitive way.

They offer ride lessons for beginner and intermediate-level riders.

They work with students to develop and maintain a solid leg and seat balance.

Your safety on the horse is their priority; developing bonds and communicating with the animal is an important lesson you should learn.

Teacher Jennifer helps new students with lessons on the lunge line so they can focus on positioning.

After gaining balance and confidence on the lunge line, they start learning to control the horse off it.

At Joyful Noise, they believe that riding isn’t just sitting on a horse.

It also involves control of your own body while asking the horse to be in harmony with you.

Admire Nature at Kalmia Gardens

Kalmia Gardens is a mature botanical garden that has opened to the public since 1935.

It blooms with gorgeous ornamentals initially planted by the garden’s founder, Mrs. David Robert Coker.

When the Coker family gained the land in 1932, Mrs. Coker proceeded to turn the abandoned site into a beautiful attraction.

‘Miss May,’ as the people called her, planted exotic species such as azaleas, tea-olives, camellias, and wisteria.

She dug a pond fed by an artesian well and used old railroad ties to break the steepness of the trails.

The garden was named “Kalmia” for the bountiful Kalmia latifolia draping the greens in a white veil.

Today, dogwoods, azaleas, and rhododendrons abound in the garden, along with camellias and the Kalmia or mountain laurel.

Hikers can explore six miles of trails coursing along Black Creek and connecting to the nearby Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve.

Canoes are also available for visitors who wish to row down the creek.

Final Thoughts

Hartsville is a beautiful place of culture, character, and unusual experiences for residents and visitors.

Feel the true passion in Hartsville as you engage in thrills at their parks, commune with nature in their gardens, taste flavors at their restaurants, and watch the sun sink into the lake.

Hartsville is the home of visionaries with undiscovered experiences at every corner.

Visit this community and see it for yourself today.

💌
Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
✍️
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.