The 7 Unexpected Things You'll Find in Oconee County, SC

You may know South Carolina for its beautiful east coast beaches, but six hours west from the sand and surf display a different milieu that may surprise you.

Driving down bustling Highway 123, the city of Seneca looks like Smalltown USA: fast food franchises, car lots, a movie theatre – you've seen it before. But off the beaten highways in Seneca and throughout Oconee County, you'll uncover some incredible gems – if you know where to mine.

We're not talking your typical smattering of birds and snakes, either (although you'll see plenty of those, too!). Seneca High School's mascot, the Bobcats, and Walhalla High School's mascot, the Razorbacks, should tip you off, as you can certainly find both here. Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Oconee County also plays home to red and gray foxes, bats, deer, coyotes, and even black bears.

Sweet Retreat
A type of venue typically found in larger markets, Sweet Retreat is THE entertainment mecca of the Golden Corner. Enjoy the full gamut of Go-Karts, batting cages, putt-putt, laser tag and the indoor arcade, and then head into the main building where they're serving up homemade ice-cream and hand-crafted chocolates. You'll have a sweet time here.

French Fries & Gravy
No food is truly southern unless it's fried and covered in gravy. And no visit to Seneca is complete without a visit to Time Drive In in downtown Seneca. As one of Seneca's oldest restaurants, Time Drive In knows how to please us Southern folks. Their hot crinkle-cut French fries topped with a generous helping of brown gravy have become quite the local staple, even attracting the palates of patrons far outside of Oconee County's borders.

Mayberry Fest
You read that right. Every May, the folks in Westminster, SC dedicate an entire festival to that wholesome little fictitious town of Mayberry made famous on The Andy Griffith Show. Now you won't find Sheriff Andy or Barney Fife moseyin' about, but you will see plenty of Opie lookalikes – there's a contest for it! Step back in time at the antique car show; put your best pickle forward at Aunt Bee's Kerosene Pickle Contest, and give your ears a rare treat at the whistling contest (yes, that's a thing).

The "Other" Hollywood
Oconee County is no stranger to the calls of Lights, Camera, Action. Several areas have served as the backdrop of Hollywood hits, such as Deliverance starring Burt Reynolds, and Chill Factor starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Most recently, Mr. Reynolds returned to Seneca to film scenes for his new movie, Elbow Grease, released in 2016.

The Underwater City of Lake Jocassee
Okay, so it's not an entire city, as most structures in the area were demolished prior to flooding the area. Before becoming an integral part of the Jocassee (joe-KASS-ee) hydroelectric station, the region was first home to part of the Cherokee, later serving as a traveler's rest, then a private camp for girls. Scuba divers have recently discovered a cemetery and the mostly-in-tact remains of the Attakulla Lodge, marking the only remnants of a land lost long ago.

The Lighthouse on the Lake
You won't find any ships on Lake Keowee, but that didn't stop someone from building a lighthouse restaurant on the lake. Catering to Oconee County's finer tastes, the Lighthouse on Lake Keowee in Seneca serves up American fare and cocktails while you enjoy relaxing views. An event center, second-floor dining room, and outdoor cabana tout the restaurant as the elite social hangout of the county.

Alli Hill is a long-time Oconee County native, born and raised in Seneca. She has experienced each of the above firsthand, including the black bear she found in her backyard.