This seven-county region, named for the original Native America Pee Dee Indians who inhabited it long ago and subsequently the Pee Dee Rivers, still offers the natural wonders that attracted the Native Americans and early settlers. A sparkling gem of nature’s best, Pee Dee Country has a unique combination of scenic parks and natural areas as well as a history spanning both Revolutionary and Civil War times, reflected in its wonderfully preserved historic homes, plantations and buildings.
Here’s the ideal place to experience the heritage of the agrarian lifestyle of the old South and its relaxed way of life. Both cotton and tobacco played an important role in the early growth of the region, and the South Carolina Cotton Trail™ was developed to showcase the era. The Cotton Trail takes visitors on a revealing tour through three Pee Dee counties, and you’ll find Visitors Information Centers for the trail in Bennettsville, Hartsville and Bishopville. The South Carolina Cotton Museum is located in Bishopville and has preserved the legacy of the cotton culture in South Carolina and a way of life long gone but still reflected in the present. The South Carolina Tobacco Museum is located in the historic train depot in Mullins and depicts farm life and the growing of the “golden leaf” prior to 1950. Many other Pee Dee towns boast fascinating museums displaying local artifacts.
No doubt Darlington County is best known as the home of the Darlington Raceway, for years a major stop on theNASCAR circuit and its oldest speedway. Now racing spills over into related attractions such as the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum and NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) Hall of Fame, both located on site. But Darlington County is also a showcase for historical attractions related to the Old South and its agrarian lifestyle. See restored historic sites, the South Carolina Cotton Trail™ ,Coker College and its famous Kalmia Gardens and delight in the fun of a wonderful variety of festivals held here throughout the year.
Dillon County is home to one of the most famous traveler stops on I-95…South of the Border, the unique Mexican-motif mini-resort marked by its sombrero shaped water tower. But for thousands, Dillon means “marriage” as the well-known Dillon Marriage Chapel performs over 7,000 a year. Dillon also has preserved its past with a number of museums and structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And, it is the home of the 835-acre Little Pee Dee State Park, ideal for hiking, camping, picnicing and fishing. The county is known for its fine golf courses and hunting opportunities as well.
Florence County features the lovely city of Florence, a contemporary southern belle of a city offering all the amenities of a sophisticated metropolitan area… more than 4,000 quality hotel rooms, unique shopping and fine restaurants, all served with a relaxed, easy-going style. Florence began as a railroad junction and her history spans both Revolutionary and Civil War times, reflected in an interesting selection of museums, antebellum mansion, exquisite gardens and historic districts. Her location at the crossroads of I-95 and I-20 has spurred her growth, making her the 7th largest city in the state and a center of commerce, medical, retail and professional services. Florence County offers scenic farmland vista, a wonderful array of outdoor recreational activities, great golf, river expeditions and a plethora of beautiful parks including Lynches River County Park and Woods Bay State Park.
Lee County reflects the impact that “King Cotton” has had on this area for over two centuries. The South Carolina Cotton Trail™ begins in Bishopville at the South Carolina Cotton Museum and winds its way through Pee Dee Country past fields of snow white cotton bolls in the Fall. In October, the county celebrates the cotton harvest with an annual Cotton Festival. Historic architecture and unique gardens reflect the grandeur of cotton’s glory days. From artesian wells, Arabian horses and alpacas to an extraordinary topiary garden, the county has a variety of appealing places to visit. Lee County is also home to several parks and the Lee State Natural Area with 2,800 acres of pristine wetlands for outdoor activities.
Marion County is named for Revolutionary War hero, General Francis Marion, dubbed by locals as “The Swamp Fox” and visitors will see his statue in downtown historic Marion. The city proudly preserves its past and majestic moss-draped trees frame restored historic buildings and interesting museums reflecting life in a simpler time. In Mullins, the South Carolina Tobacco Museum features exhibits of local farm life before 1950 and celebrates the important role tobacco farming played on the local economy and life. Today, the Golden Leaf Festival is held in September. Marion County, bordered by the Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee Rivers, has several outfitters offering river expeditions by canoe and kayak.
Marlboro County has always been one of the richest agricultural counties in South Carolina and it is said that land sold by the pound rather than the acre. It was once one of the state’s wealthiest counties, and those gracious days are preserved in Bennettsville’s and surrounding town’s Victorian and Greek Revival homes. Bennettsville, Clio and Blenheim are stops on the South Carolina Cotton Trail™ and life during these grand times is reflected in historic districts and scenic farmlands. The Blenheim Mineral Spring was discovered in 1781 and for generations people came from nearby towns to drink the water.
Williamsburg County is situated at the southern tip of Pee Dee Country and olds treasures of historical interests dating back to the 1700’s. Kingstree was settled in 1732 when Calvinists from ireland built clay shelters on the banks of the Black River at “the King’s Tree,” a tall white pine used as the mast for royal ships. The town now offers some of the state’s most beautiful and historical buildings, including the Robert Mills courthouse and Thorntree, believed to be the oldest house in the area. The history of the county covers both Revolutionary and Civil War times and is reflected in preserved buildings and in the County Museum. Traversed by the Black River, the county offers excellent fishing and outdoor activities and the area‘s natural beauty compliments important remnants of history.