8 Unique Experiences You Need To Try In Oconee County

Oconee County is a beautiful place in South Carolina with endless amounts of activities to enjoy and things to see. From small town parties to outdoor recreation, there are lots of things to do in Oconee County that can keep you and your family busy! And there are lots of unique experiences to enjoy while you’re in the area that can create lasting memories!

I’ve discovered plenty of things to do in Oconee County during two separate visits to the region. I actually made a video to highlight some of them, with the help of a few incredible locals!

If you’re looking for things to do in Oconee County, I’ve created a list of unique experiences to check out. From waterfalls to small town activities that are sure to leave you wanting to come back again and again.

1. Hike To Brasstown Falls

It will come as no surprise that I spent much of my visit to Oconee County finding some of the area’s most beautiful waterfalls. Many of the waterfalls here are relatively easy to find and only require an easy or moderate hike to get there. Parking can be an issue so starting your adventure early in the day is a good idea. In the cooler months, you may find that you have the waterfalls to yourself – especially in the morning.

You’ll have no trouble finding parks to explore – this is easily one of the best things to do in Oconee County! They are everywhere in this part of the state. Oconee State Park is a great spot to spend a day (or a weekend) with its well kept hiking trails and secluded rental cabins that date back to the 1930s.

My favorite of all the waterfalls I viewed during my visit was Brasstown Falls near Long Branch, South Carolina. The trails to find this beauty were recently updated, making it much more accessible with the addition of viewing platforms and stairs. This waterfall is easily the biggest bang for your buck in Oconee as even a novice hiker can safely get there and back. Just be sure not to miss the upper falls as the trailhead initially splits into two. In total, you’ll see three waterfalls on the trail.

The county’s tourism website has a full list of waterfalls in the region along with hiking guidance.

2. See A Show At Walhalla Performing Arts Center

“End Of The Line” – An Allman Brothers Tribute Band performs at the Walhalla Performing Arts Center

If you think great music can only be enjoyed in big cities, you would be wrong. Among the small towns in South Carolina where you can find a great show is the town of Walhalla. In the early 1990s, a group of locals here set out to restore a vacant school building and its auditorium. Fast forward to present day and this 450 seat concert venue routinely sells out for performances that range from top notch tribute bands to well known musicians. The theater has recently hosted acts like Wynonna Judd, Bill Medley, Travis Tritt, Tanya Tucker, and Lorrie Morgan.

Tickets are reasonably priced and the sound system is surprisingly fantastic. I was able to enjoy a tribute to The Allman Brothers Band during my visit. Not only was the program excellent, it was enjoyable getting to meet many of the locals that routinely attend the shows. (Assuming, of course, that there isn’t a Clemson football game on TV at the same time.)

The Walhalla Performing Arts Center sells tickets online and their website offers the upcoming list of live shows.

3. Enjoy A Night Out on Ram Cat Alley

One of my favorite things to do in Oconee County is Jazz On The Alley! From April to October, the street is shut down to vehicular traffic and reserved for pedestrians to gather and dance to the music of local bands on Thursday evenings. The weekly event is known as Jazz on the Alley, though it’s not only jazz music that you’ll enjoy. The street is now listed on the National Register.

things to do in oconee county

Seneca is a former textile town within Oconee County and is shaping up to be one of the best small towns in South Carolina. It’s currently revitalizing itself as a tourist destination. It’s an easy drive from Clemson University and several of Oconee’s popular lakes. Ram Cat Alley earned its nickname from the many cats that once gathered near the local meat and fish markets in the early 1900s. Today, it serves as the town’s historic district and main hub of shops and dining.

You can find fine dining at Vangeli’s Bistro, grab a delicious dessert at Cardamom Bakeshop, or enjoy one of the many other locally owned food options within walking distance.

4. See Where Deliverance Was Filmed

I admit, I only just recently watched Deliverance and it may be one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. However, it’s still considered an iconic film and this is the region where most of it was filmed. While I didn’t hear any banjos playing during my visit, I did see the Chattooga River that Burt Reynolds and company floated down in 1972.

Of the many things to do in Oconee County, seeing the river is a must-do unique experience. The river, which creates a barrier between South Carolina and Georgia, is now a popular spot for kayaking, canoeing, and rafting – thanks largely to the notoriety it received from the film.

oconee county
Bull Sluice – the infamous rapid featured in the movie Deliverance with Burt Reynolds in 1972.

If you’re not brave enough to kayak it (no judgement, I wasn’t either) you can catch a glimpse of Bull Sluice from a hiking trail off of Highway 76. This is the rapid that was prominently featured in the movie. In low water it doesn’t appear so menacing but in high water it’s considered a Class IV rapid and quite dangerous to a novice. There’s a short trail from the parking lot to the site.

5. Take a Tour of Lake Jocassee

In 2012, National Geographic named Lake Jocassee one of the “50 last great places” in the world. (One of just three spots located in North America.) A guided tour is one of the best unique things to do in Oconee County! It’s also a perfect way to explore and appreciate this 9,000 acre reservoir that now covers what used to be a town.

On the south end of Lake Jocassee is Devils Fork State Park where Jocassee Lake Tours launches several pontoon boat excursions.

The boats can seat about a dozen guests and each trip is narrated by a seasoned naturalist. Not only will you learn all about Jocassee’s history, you’ll see how it helps in the process of creating clean nuclear energy. On a four-hour tour, you’ll explore many of the lake’s popular spots that include waterfalls, coves, and beaches. Your guide will point out native plants and species – including birds that you’re likely to see during your visit.

6. Quick Stop at Stumphouse Tunnel

You’ve likely heard the phrase “bridge to nowhere” – a phrase to describe wasteful government spending, or in some cases, a literal bridge that can take you to a place nobody wants to go.

Construction on the Stumphouse Tunnel began prior to the Civil War as a project for the Blue Ridge Railroad to connect Charleston with other midwest cities. The project was barely started when the state pulled funding. The tunnel is a chilly 50 degrees all year long. You can walk about a quarter of a mile into it before you reach a locked metal gate.

These days the Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park is a popular destination for mountain bikers looking for things to do in Oconee County. It features a state of the art biking facility in Walhalla. The park is part of the sprawling Palmetto Biking Trail which extends over 500 miles across South Carolina.

7. Stay in A Treehouse at Wildwater

places to stay in oconee county sc
Touring a tree house at Wildwater Chattooga

Everyone is looking for unique lodging these days and a tree house certainly qualifies as unique! A minimalist tree house is one of the rentals available with Wildwater – an outdoor adventure company with a campus in Oconee County. Even if you don’t want to stay on property, one of the most unique things to do in Oconee County is enjoy a whitewater rafting experience on the river!

If you’re not brave enough to raft, try learning to stand up paddle board, or enjoy a zip line experience at the Chattooga Adventure Center.

If you’re only passing by, pop into the Chattooga Whitewater Shop for a look around and a cup of coffee. Next door, you can grab a bite to eat at Humble Pie – a local restaurant serving up pizzas, salads, and sandwiches.

8. See The View from Chattooga Belle Farm

One of the best things to do in Oconee County can be found atop the mountain at Chattooga Belle Farm in the town of Long Creek. You can stop in for a glass of wine, some local produce, or just a snack for the road. It’s impossible to miss the outdoor event space that overlooks a gorgeous vineyard with breathtaking mountain views and well worth a detour to see it.

chattooga belle farm

If you need some additional inspiration for a visit to Oconee, check out their Instagram account or tourism website.

Additional photo credits to Bobby Holliday.

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