South Carolina is roughly triangular in shape. The long, even coast lined with beautiful sand beaches on the "Grand Strand" north of Georgetown becomes generally marshy to the south and is sliced by a network of rivers and creeks, creating a maze of inlets and the famous Sea Islands. The coastal climate is humid subtropical, with long, hot summers and short, mild winters. In this area are found cypress swamps, moss-hung oaks, beautiful flowering gardens, antebellum plantations, and the historic seaports of Georgetown, Beaufort, and Charleston, the latter a major tourist attraction and one of the chief ports of entry in the Southeast.
The fall line on the state's Atlantic-bound rivers separates the coastal Low Country from the rolling Piedmont plateau of the Up Country and runs generally parallel to the coast, passing through Columbia. Inland the climate is temperate, becoming progressively cooler as the elevation increases. In the extreme northwest are the Blue Ridge Mts.; they occupy only c.500 sq mi (1,290 sq km) in the state, with Sassafras Mt. (3,560 ft/1,085 m) the highest point.
Rainfall is abundant and well distributed throughout South Carolina. The Pee Dee, Santee, Edisto, and Savannah river systems drain the state, flowing from the highlands to the sea, creating rapids and waterfalls. This abundant source of hydroelectric power is one of South Carolina's most important natural resources. Several nuclear plants operate in the state as well.
Vacationers are attracted to Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand, to the Sea Island resorts, and to Charleston's stately homes and gardens. The state's historical places of interest include Fort Sumter National Monument, Kings Mountain National Military Park, and Cowpens National Battlefield (see National Parks and Monuments, table). Columbia is the capital and the largest city; Charleston and Greenville are other major cities.