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Swansea, South Carolina
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Greenville, South Carolina
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Walterboro, South Carolina
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Winnsboro, South Carolina
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Hardeeville, South Carolina

South of the Border

A vibrant roadside attraction beckons in the Palmetto State

Once the top of the giant sombrero comes into view, you immediately know that this area of South Carolina’s Pee Dee region on Interstate 95 has something distinctly different about it. Upon closer inspection, you’ll find out that it’s more than guacamole that’s been drawing travelers to this area since 1949.

South of the Border, You Say?

South of the Border is just that—a compelling attraction built just south of the Palmetto State’s neighbor, North Carolina. This brainchild of a tourist-savvy entrepreneur in neighboring South Carolina started as a modest beer stand quenching the thirst of North Carolina’s neighboring “dry” counties. Today, it’s a 300-acre theme park that entices travelers on Interstate 95 year-round.

It was 1949 when Alan Schafer established his beer business to lure North Carolinians across the state line for a cold one. Fortunately, South Carolina’s liquor laws were relatively lenient, and Schafer was determined to build upon that advantage. After the beer stand came a grill, then a motel and finally, the South of the Border moniker and Mexican theme.

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South of the Border

A Slice of Mexico

Today, it is a 300-acre complex that some describe as a community unto itself. Let’s start with Pedroland Park, a family-friendly, Mexican-themed amusement park that includes a pair of mini-golf courses, an arcade, bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, a carousel and an indoor reptile exhibit touted as the largest of its kind in the United States. For a 360-degree look at the countryside, try the 200-foot-high ride inside a glass-walled elevator to the observation deck atop South of the Border’s Sombrero Tower. Six on-site restaurants ensure that you’ll never go hungry, and there are enough shopping outlets on the grounds to cover your gift list, buy groceries or pick up an item you forgot to pack. If you’d like to visit the neighboring towns, there’s a fully equipped RV campground on-site to extend your stay.

For fans of motocross racing, there’s the South of the Border MX Motorcross Training Facility located on the grounds. The facility offers motocross tracks that accommodate beginners and professionals as well as training programs for all riding levels. After a day on the tracks, enjoy the indoor pool, gym or browse around the on-site bike shop.

Beyond the Sombrero

South of the Border is a prelude to what lies in store just 12 miles away. South Carolina’s Little Pee Dee State Park encompasses 835 acres and features Lake Norton, a popular spot for anglers looking for a haul of bream, bass or catfish. The lake has a fishing pier, boat ramp and a rental shop for canoes and kayaks. Beaver Pond Nature Trail is great for hiking, and cyclists can spin their wheels on the paved roads throughout the park.

The park takes its name from the Little Pee Dee River and is located in the South Carolina Sandhills region. Key among its unique features is the fact that it is part of the Carolina Bay, a geological depression exclusive to the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

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Sébastien Maltais

Going to Town

Take a little down time to visit the nearby towns, both of which began as railroad depot stops built in the late 1800s by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. In Dillon, you’ll not only find a bit of turn-of-the-century flair in its museums and historic downtown, but also modern-day amenities, including an 18-hole golf course at Twin Lakes Country Club.

Planning a wedding? With some 7,000 nuptials performed each year, Dillon has rightly earned the nickname “Wedding Capital of the East.” To accommodate this growing industry, the Dillon Marriage Chapel has become a very busy place—and a relatively famous one, too, offering everything from applications for marriage licenses to arranging for a photographer for that special day. Engaged couples are required to wait 24 hours for a marriage license.

Dillon’s Rich Past

A restored doctor’s office in the town of Latta is now the Dillon County Museum. The town is also home to one of the many historic Carnegie libraries built during the early 1900s with funds donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Another notable landmark is the combined Bethea Post Office (circa 1888) and General Store (1900). Both were established by African-American merchant Robert Rose Bethea, appointed as U.S. Postmaster in 1890 by President Grover Cleveland.

More Shopping and Dining

You’ll find both chains and local eateries in and near Dillon and Latta. Visitors can find more shopping and dining options in Florence, the closest major city in the region and a half-hour’s drive away from South of the Border. Florence offers the Downtown Promenade and Mall, Magnolia Mall and restaurants featuring everything from seafood to barbecue.

For More Information

South of the Border

800-845-6011

www.thesouthoftheborder.com

 

South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism

866-224-9339

www.discoversouthcarolina.com