South Carolina’s best attractions for animal lovers offer peeks into the lives of animals such as lions, alligators, and kangaroos. Educational opportunities abound and children are given the chance to learn with hands-on experiences.
Through these attractions, families can “travel” to the Australian outback or the Amazonian rainforest right within the South Carolina state lines. Whether you have little ones interested in petting furry alpacas or spying slimy snakes, there’s an animal adventure in SC available for you!
Check out our top 8 recommendations for South Carolina’s best attractions for animal lovers below.
Top South Carolina Aquarium Recommendations
South Carolina Aquarium
Located in downtown Charleston along the harbor, the South Carolina Aquarium houses more than 5,000 animals. Visitors can get an up-close look at many animals and plants native to SC. Popular exhibits include a touch pool, a sea turtle recovery center, and a two-story 385,000 gallon “Great Ocean Tank”.
The South Carolina Aquarium is a non-profit organization with a focus on the conservation of wildlife. They place a heavy emphasis on education and were even one of the ten nationwide recipients of the 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Read more about the best things to do with kids in Charleston.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach, SC
Whether you want to laugh at the playful residents of the penguin playhouse or watch the enchanting jellyfish, Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach is sure to have something to delight everyone in the family!
The Rio Amazon exhibit showcases rainforest ecosystems. Dive shows occur regularly in the coral reef tank. Visitors can get up close and personal with nurse sharks, eels, and sandtiger sharks as they glide along a 340-foot moving path. Or, if you’re looking for a more unique excursion check out the penguin encounter, shark diving, and stingray swim experiences. Read more about the best things to do with kids in Myrtle Beach.
Best South Carolina Zoos
Located on a 14-acre site within Cleveland Park, Greenville Zoo is a popular South Carolina attraction. While visiting this zoo, you might encounter giraffes (giraffe cam!), African lions, alligators, and orangutans. There’s plenty of opportunity for adventure! Aside from touring the zoo grounds on your own, visitors can also follow clues hidden throughout the park for a secret safari. You can also adopt a zoo animal to show your support for the Greenville Zoo.
Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden
Home to more than 2,000 animals and an incredibly beautiful botanical garden, Riverbanks Zoo has been recognized as one of the best zoos in the US. The zoo includes exhibits ranging from an African savanna showcasing lions, giraffes, and other African animals to Koala Knockabout featuring Australian animals. The zoo also houses a birdhouse and a reptile complex.
Hands-on activities are featured throughout the zoo. Families can feed the giraffes, stroll through the Kangaroo Walkabout, or pet farm animals in the farmyard. Kids enjoy going for a ride on the Spots & Stripes Railroad or the carousel. The adventures are endless at Riverbanks Zoo!
Murrells Inlet, SC
The Lowcountry Zoo is a feature of the Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. All of the animals in this zoo have been rescued from captivity or have a major disability that would not allow them to survive in the wild. Brookgreen Gardens provides safety and enrichment to these animals. Some of the species you might encounter during a visit to Lowcountry Zoo include white-tailed deer, bald eagles, river otters, and red foxes.
Unique Animal Encounters in SC
Hollywild Animal Park
While their focus is on animal care and enrichment, Hollywild Animal Park has some personalized animal experiences that open the zoo to the public throughout the year. One such experience is the drive-through safari. This adventure allows visitors to drive through the park from March-September and feed animals such as donkeys and deer. During the holiday season, Hollywild Animal Park offers a holiday light safari through the park.
Other adventures might include snuggling with baby bears or giving a bath to a rhino. These are by appointment only.
Lucky Acres Farm
Lucky Acres Farm is a small, family-owned alpaca farm located in upstate SC. In addition to the alpacas, the farm houses a horse, donkeys, chickens, and miniature silky fainting goats. Families can visit the farm to learn about these furry friends, pet, and feed them. On shearing day, guests can even leave with fleece straight off an alpaca. Group tours can also set up hayrides upon request.
Edisto Island Serpentarium
This attraction is ideal for reptile lovers. The Edisto Island Serpentarium was created by brothers Ted and Hayward Clamp who spent more than 50 years hunting and exploring the natural habitats of snakes. The goal of the serpentarium is to preserve and study the world of reptiles. You’ll find reptiles from around the globe and local to South Carolina on display.
One unique, thrilling aspect of the Edisto Island Serpentarium is the outdoor garden which features low-walled enclosures. Here, guests can see snakes in their natural habitats as they would be seen when encountered in the wild. Inside, you’ll find snakes, alligators, turtles, and lizards for up-close viewing.
Planning Your Animal Encounter
No matter which zoo, aquarium, or farm you plan to visit, there are a few things to keep in mind. Follow these best practices for a stress-free day of adventure:
Book your tickets in advance for any special excursions or experiences
Wear comfortable walking shoes as many of these attractions span over large grounds
Check for any discounts or specials in case you qualify for lower prices
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, hand sanitizer, snacks, water, and a camera
Once you’ve checked off all of these South Carolina animal adventures, be sure to check out our North Carolina zoo and aquarium recommendations as well!