Just a short drive southeast of Columbia exists a community rich in history and natural resources. People come from around the world to bask in the grandeur of ancient trees and bird watch at Congaree National Park and to hike and bike the section of The Palmetto Trail located here. They come to be inspired by antebellum architecture at Wavering Place Plantation and to pick strawberries from the family-owned Cottle Farm. Not to mention the dynamite food. Big T’s mustard-based, slow-cooked pork and the meat and two at Mr. Bunky’s Market offer a filling taste of the Midlands. Bring your appetite (and your walking shoes) and meet us for some adventure in Lower Richland.
Congaree National Park: This 27,000-acre park and floodplain forest is world-renowned for being the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the United States. You’ll never have the same visit to this national park twice. That’s because this landscape is always changing, impacted by the waters of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. Hike underneath the sprawling canopy of trees, go birding, take a guided canoe trip (hours vary based on the seasons), or, for the more adventurous, experience backcountry camping underneath the oak, sweetgum and loblolly pines. (In fact, Congaree is home to the largest Loblolly Pine on record, standing at an impressive 169.5 feet tall.) If you're looking for some direction on when to visit, the Fireflies phenomenon is a can't miss. Watch as these little bugs synchronize their flashing lights in an attempt to find a mate mid-May to mid-June. The exact timeframe is different every year so we recommend doing some research before you take a trip.
Wavering Place Plantation: In 1768 Joel Adams and his uncle Richard Adams first came to Richland County, establishing a set of plantations, including what became Wavering Place. Generations later, Wavering Place is still in the same family, owned and operated by brothers Robert and Weston Adams, and their wives Shana and Lisa. Today Wavering Place (also known as Green Tree and Waverly) is now an events facility with grand antebellum style. Each year Wavering Place is the site of dozens of weddings and events, periodically offering tours through Historic Columbia. If you’re lucky enough to have occasion to visit, make sure to check out the Greek Revival home that dates back to 1850 and the lovingly restored 1790 brick plantation kitchen house.
Cottle Strawberry Farm: This family-run strawberry farm opens to the public each spring. Just $12 per gallon for a “u pick,” and $14 per gallon if they pick. Check their website for seasonal openings and hours. (And don't miss their strawberries in restaurants around town, including the ice cream at Sweet Cream Company.)
Harriet Barber House: The Barber House was built in 1880 by freed slaves who purchased the land in 1872, and has remained in the family ever since. The rectangular, one-story building is listed on the National Register and is part of the Lower Richland Heritage Corridor, which offers guided tours among some of the region's most historically rich spots - perfect for the history buff in you.
The Palmetto Trail: South Carolina’s longest pedestrian and bicycle trail, this cross-state trail will be 500 continuous miles when finished. So far, 350 miles are completed, connecting state and county parks, national forests, nature preserves, wildlife management areas, Revolutionary War battlefields, Native American paths, swamps to mountains, and more. Open to hikers, backpackers, and cyclists, The Palmetto Trail connects residents and visitors to South Carolina’s natural resources.
Big T Bar-B-Cue: Serving up old-fashioned pit-cooked pork for more than three decades, you will want to bring your appetite to Big T Bar-B-Cue. Think - a fried pork chop dinner with hash and rice and all the sides (collard and mustard greens, anyone?) Or for the more daring, try the pig’s feet or oxtail dinner. You can’t go wrong with the mustard-based barbecue, cooked slow over coals and woods. Save room for the dessert with red velvet and carrot cake, or a piece of peach cobbler. (Looking for a souvenir? Bring home a bottle of Big T’s barbecue sauce.)
Mr. Bunky’s Market: This Eastover market serves up down-home cooking cafeteria-style. Look for the gas pumps outside and grab a seat at this general market and restaurant. Known for their hot bar, here you can get meat, two vegetables, cornbread and a drink for under ten dollars. Or order up a catfish or flounder dinner, and finish up your meal with homemade banana pudding.