17 Things to Do in Seneca, SC & Oconee County

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After spending five days exploring all the things to do in Seneca and Oconee County, it’s safe to say that I am completely hooked on this area.

If you love outdoor adventure, good food, and adorable small towns then do yourself a favor and plan a trip here as soon as you can.

While in Oconee County I was able to explore both Seneca and the nearby town of Walhalla that’s just a bit smaller. I also hiked to multiple waterfalls – seven in one day to be exact.

Finally, I went whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River and took a full-day tour of Lake Jocassee which is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen.

Needless to say, we packed A LOT into my five days there.

So here are a few of my favorite things to do in Seneca, SC as well as more things to do in Oconee County!

Disclaimer: I was hosted by Visit Oconee, SC during my stay. As always, all opinions are my own.

mural that says Seneca over the state of South Carolina

7 Fun Things to Do in Seneca, SC

Ram Cat Alley

Ram Cat Alley is basically the hub of downtown Seneca. Lined with adorable boutiques, restaurants, and a couple of bars, it’s a great place to spend the evening.

This is the perfect place to do some shopping in Seneca like at Green Springs, M. Tannery & Sons, The Healthy Olive, or Elements by Eastern Design.

If a drink is what you’re after, then look no further than Brews on the Alley or Ram Cat Cellars.

I have a massive sweet tooth so I’m still sad that I didn’t get to try one of the cupcakes or cookies from Walnut Street Bakery.

For an incredible meal – and I truly do mean incredible – make sure you visit Vangeli’s Bistro. I had The Chop which was a tender pork chop with Habenero White Peach glaze, sautéd squash, and whipped potatoes.

I finished the meal off with the Swiss Chalet Chocolate Cake and I could have cried it was so good. There are other great restaurants in Seneca, but this is the only one I went to on Ram Cat Alley.

Every Thursday night from April to October they also have an event called Jazz on the Alley where they close off the streets to vehicles and set up a stage at one end for a band.

Even though it’s called Jazz on the Alley, they don’t play jazz music! Different bands play each week and they have tables set up in the street and food trucks lining the side.

Lunney Museum

Historic home that is now a museum

This was actually a really neat museum to visit just outside of downtown Seneca. It was built in 1909 and the only residents that ever lived here were Dr. William Lunney and his wife, Lilian.

They did have a son but he died at age 4. Dr. Lunney died in 1929 but Lilian lived for 40 more years in her home until she passed at the age of 97. She is actually a very interesting woman.

The museum is open by appointment only and free to tour. You don’t need a minimum number in your party either! Which is nice because I always hate when I’m traveling alone somewhere and you have to have a minimum number to tour something.

I learned a few new things about the time period on my tour of the Lunney House and I loved the architecture of the home. The windows were especially beautiful.

Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum

This is a small but powerful museum that is also open by appointment only. It is directly behind the Lunney Museum and located on the same property.

Currently, the only exhibit open is about Abraham Lincoln and it’s part of a rotating exhibit that changes every year or so.

You can see past exhibits on the Bertha Lee Strickland Museum website. They are working on setting up new, permanent exhibits in another section of the museum so that part is currently closed.

Restaurants in Seneca, SC

pork chop with potatoes and squash

To be a small town, there really are some incredible restaurants in Seneca. While I wasn’t able to try them all out, I definitely had my fair share.

The beignets at Dimas Brothers Cafe were next level and I loved their french toast too. Another great breakfast place was Stricklands. We picked up sandwiches to-go before our day on the lake.

Check out Mayberry’s if you want a hearty sandwich for lunch or dinner and Papa Julio’s right next door has great Mexican food and a fun ambiance. If you’re in the mood for sushi then make sure to visit Solé Grill.

Bars & Breweries in Seneca

beer sitting on a picnic table

In addition to restaurants, you’ll find a few other places to grab a drink downtown. Brews on the Alley serves coffee but also has 20 different beers on tap.

There are events going on all the time here. Another location just down the street is Ram Cat Cellars. It’s a new wine bar with a speakeasy vibe. You walk down a flight of stairs from the street to get in.

Oh – and they have incredible-looking charcuterie boards!

If cocktails are more your thing then head to the other side of downtown where you’ll find Birds of a Feather. This upscale cocktail bar will make you think you’ve stepped back into the 1920s.

They have old favorites as well as signature cocktails plus plenty of seating options for people to just hang out.

Last but not least, there’s Keowee Brewing. If you’ve read any of my other articles – like breweries in Johnson City or breweries in Winston-Salem – then you know I’m all about visiting the beer joints in town.

Not only do they serve great beer, but they also have slushies, wine, and great food options.

Lake Keowee

sunset over the lake with a boat at the dock

With three lakes in Oconee County, you really have to get out on one of them when you visit! Seneca sits on the southern border of Lake Keowee.

There are a number of public boat ramps but these fill up quickly during the summer time. When the public lots fill up don’t park along the side of the road. There are many private residences in the area and you run the risk of getting a ticket.

Keowee is a very popular lake for water sports like wakeboarding and water skiing so just keep that in mind.

If you don’t have a boat then you can also visit South Cove County Park or High Falls County Park which both sit right along the lake and have nice beach areas.

Festivals & Events

I couldn’t believe the number of free festivals and events that Seneca puts on throughout the year. I’ve already mentioned Jazz on the Alley which is one of them.

They also do a fantastic Christmas light show, Juneteenth Festival, and Youth Carnival every year. You can see the full list of 2022 events here.

One event I thought would be super fun is the Brew & ‘Que which is held every September. This one is a ticketed event so you have to pay, but who doesn’t love beer and barbecue?

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10 More Things to Do in Oconee County, SC

Whitewater Rafting on the Chattooga River

raft on the side of the river bank

The Chattooga River offers some of the best whitewater rafting in the southeast and possibly in the US.

It’s designated as a Wild & Scenic River so it’s protected and there is no development within a quarter-mile of the river bank.

So when you go rafting, you have to hike a quarter-mile down to the river and then back out with all the gear when you are finished with the trip.

There are a few different options for rafting trips but the typical ones are Section 3 and 4. This time we did Section 3 which has Class II – IV rapids.

The major rapid on Section 3 is Bull Sluice and it’s optional to run it. Back in 2019, Tyler and I came down to do Section 4 where you’ll find the famous Five Falls.

Five Falls is five Class V rapids within a quarter-mile of each other. It was a little too much for me to handle.

Both times we’ve gone with Wildwater and I highly recommend them. You’ll start the day at the Wildwater outpost, gather up and listen to a safety talk, then split up into raft groups.

Next is a bus ride down to the put-in then you hike down to the river and help carry the gear. Lunch is included on both trip options so you stop mid-way through the trip to eat your sandwich.

While you’re on the river just listen to your raft guide and try to stay in the boat! Make sure you know what to wear for whitewater rafting too.

Compared to the Nolichucky River and the Nantahala, the Chattooga is definitely the most hardcore river that I’ve done.

This is definitely one of the best things to do in Oconee County!

Take a Tour of Lake Jocassee

kayakers in on the lake with mountains in the background

When I found out that I would be taking a lake tour during my trip to Oconee, I was excited but didn’t think that it would be a highlight of my trip. Boy was I wrong.

Lake Jocassee is one of the most beautiful lakes that I’ve ever been on and taking a tour with Jocassee Lake Tours is by far one of the coolest things to do in Oconee County.

We saw multiple stunning waterfalls that fed right into the lake, the mountain views surrounding us were like something out of a movie, and there is even a small, white-sand beach that makes you feel like you’re in the Caribbean!

You’ll be getting on and off the boat so I recommend wearing shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and sandy.

There are tons of options for tours whether you want to learn about the plants and wildlife at the lake, go to the best fishing spots, or even take a moonlight tour.

You can also kayak here – I would love to go back and try that!

Hike to Gorgeous Waterfalls

waterfall with lots of trees around

There is no shortage of jaw-dropping waterfalls in Oconee County, of that I am sure.

I hiked to seven of them in one day and it seemed like they just kept getting better and better! Then we visited four or five during our lake tour – I lost count.

The great part is there is a waterfall out there for everyone. If you have mobility issues then you can still drive right up to Ramsey Falls at Chau Ram County Park.

If you’re healthy and feeling good then tackle Yellow Branch Falls which takes about 3 hours or Opossum Creek Falls which is more of a day hike.

Brasstown Falls was one of my favorites because you got to see three stunners on one pretty quick hike.

Visit Chattooga Belle Farm

This is one thing that I am so sad about missing. We were planning to go to Chattooga Belle Farm after our rafting trip, but it took about an hour longer than planned and we already had dinner reservations so we had to skip it.

Many people come here for the gorgeous views and they are also Oconee County’s first distillery. They do tastings here, mixed drinks, and their Bistro serves lunch Friday – Sunday.

In the fall you can come and pick apples here too! If you’ve never gone apple picking before it’s super fun – even as an adult. They have a variety of fruit available for U-pick throughout the year just check the schedule.

You can catch one of the most beautiful sunsets in Oconee County here.

Downtown Walhalla

Main Street to the Mountains Mural

Walhalla is the smaller of the two towns, but don’t underestimate it! I loved walking Main Street and it really reminded me of home.

There are a few cute boutiques that have recently popped up like Sunni Ann’s Rustic Shop where you can find adorable clothes, gifts, home goods, and they even have a section for men.

You’ll also find plenty of great restaurants in Walhalla like The Hungry Hiker or Gather Uptown. If you need an after-dinner drink then head over to Partners in Wine where they also sell beer.

About a block over from Main Street, you can visit the Oconee History Museum, the Museum of the Cherokee in South Carolina, and the Oconee Military Museum at Patriot’s Hall.

I highly recommend visiting each one! I think they’ll surprise you.

Just outside of town you can visit an artist and her studio. Nancy Basket makes greeting cards, chandeliers, baskets, and more from invasive plant species like kudzu.

She has tons of stories to tell and I loved spending the afternoon with her learning how she creates these unique designs and listening to her talk about her work.

I even got to see how she makes kudzu paper! This is definitely something you’ll only find in Walhalla so be sure to make an appointment with Nancy and go see her.

Stumphouse Park

Stumphouse tunnel

I was so impressed that this was a city park. It looked like it could have been a state park! There is a small fee to enter the park.

This is where the popular Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls are located which are both short walking trails.

For Stumphouse Tunnel you’ll walk up a pretty steep hill towards the mouth of the tunnel and then you can walk back inside. Bring a flashlight or your phone so that you can see.

Next you can drive out to the parking lot for Issaqueena Falls and it’s a short walk to the viewing platform. There is a worn-out path to the right of the platform going down to the base of the falls if you’re feeling adventurous.

There are plenty of other hiking trails that run through this park as well as some mountain biking trails.

Catch a Show at the Walhalla Performing Arts Center

Old school building that is now a performing arts center

This is such a beautiful event venue! It used to be a school and now it hosts concerts, comedians, and other types of live entertainment.

It’s within walking distance of downtown so grab something to eat and then go see a show on a weekend.

Check their website for the schedule.

Visit County Parks – Chau Ram, South Cove, & High Falls

Oconee’s parks really are top notch so you’ll love visiting any of their county park facilities. Each one is unique and offers fun opportunities to get outside.

At Chau Ram you can drive right up to a waterfall but there are also plenty of hiking trails if you need a quick walk. The Chauga River is gorgeous here and there is a small beach along the river.

South Cove is located right on Lake Keowee where you can hike, lie on the beach at the lake, or bring a picnic.

High Falls is another county park located on Lake Keowee that offers many of the same activities as South Cove.

All of these parks have campsites and South Cove and High Falls have a few waterfront sites available.

Oconee State Park

rocky waterfall

If you need another park to explore then check out Oconee State Park. It’s a great spot for an overnight stay, especially in their cabins that were built back in the 1930s.

There are some great hiking options, two lakes to enjoy, and even a mini golf course. You can also take the Palmetto Connector Trail down to Oconee Station Historic Site and Station Cove Falls.

Station Cove Falls is one of the beautiful waterfalls that I hiked to and it is well worth the trip. If you’re looking for outdoorsy and historic things to do in Oconee County then this is perfect.

Hike the Foothills Trail

mountain laurel blooms

This trail is 77 miles long and makes its way from Oconee State Park to Table Rock State Park but it does cross over into North Carolina at times. Many people backpack along the trail.

On our Jocassee Lake Tour, we got on the Foothills Trail for just a bit to go over a suspension bridge. You can do small sections of the trail as day hikes or hikes that last as short as four hours.

Jocassee Lake Tours even offers a shuttle service that will take you to Foothills Trail access points along the lake.

Where to Stay in Seneca & Oconee County, SC

Ram Shack

living room of house

This house is just a short walk (less than a block) from downtown Seneca and has everything you might need for an amazing vacation.

If you have a large group, it’s perfect because it can sleep up to eight guests. There is also a large kitchen and living room area.

It’s great having your own private space but you’re still so close to all the action in Seneca – especially for events like Jazz on the Alley!

Check availability here.

The Wren Suite

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway in Seneca then The Wren Suite is the perfect place to stay. It’s located right above an event space and the Birds of a Feather cocktail bar downtown.

You can easily walk to Ram Cat Alley and Keowee Brewing is literally next door. This is the perfect spot if you want an upscale apartment for your stay.

Check availability here.

Lofts Over Main

If you’re looking for something in Walhalla instead, then Lofts Over Main is a great option. The modern rustic space will make you never want to leave!

As the name suggests, the lofts are located right above Main Street so you can walk to all the shops and restaurants.

Check availability here.

The Residences at 300 Main

These vacation rentals are brand new and SO cute! I was able to get a behind-the-scenes look before they opened and I would absolutely love to stay here.

They are also right above Main Street in Walhalla and within easy walking distance of everything. The decor in these lofts makes me wish that I could just move in.

Check availability here.

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About Me

Anna Cook

Hey Guys! I’m Anna, a small town girl from North Carolina with a passion for exploring this beautiful world. I work a fulltime job, so I make the most of my weekends and 15 vacation days. I created this site to inspire people like you to make travel a bigger part of your life and help you figure out how to do that. If you like what you see be sure to follow along on social media.

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Anna

Anna

Anna was born and raised in North Carolina and spent her childhood traveling the southern US. She loves helping people plan efficient itineraries especially with a focus on outdoor adventure and food & drink. You can typically find her on a hiking trail, kayaking, or searching for the best meal in town.

4 Responses

  1. Thank you, it gave us lots of choices for our trip. Excellent written presentation, I can’t wait!

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