Tourism is a Key to Oconee’s Economic Success
By Janet Hartman
Nestled in the northwestern corner of South Carolina, Oconee County has redefined the standard for quality of life. Owing to the boundless amount of outdoor opportunities, the stunning geography of Oconee currently caters to the everyday nature enthusiast.
With its strategic location near metropolitan areas of Charlotte, Atlanta, Greenville and Columbia, Oconee is fortunate enough to own claim to a National Scenic Byway in Highway 11 as well as a National Wild and Scenic River in the Chattooga. The utilization of its natural resources has gradually allowed the county to gain recognition as an outdoor recreation destination for more than just South Carolinians. Tourism destinations in Oconee have developed and multiplied over the years, ranging from scuba diving in Lake Jocassee to zip-lining through the canopies of Long Creek.
With the blessing of land surrounded by over 150 waterfalls, the most popular tourism attraction remains the offering of nearly 75 hiking trails and waterfall routes. From easy paths to challenging climbs, the trails of this region fit the needs of everyone. However, the waterfalls in this area are not just for admiring; whitewater rafting has attracted thrill seeking individuals from all over South Carolina. According to Southern Living, rafting in the Chattooga is “The #1 Thing Every Southerner Ought to Do.” Nantahala Outdoor Center and Wildwater both offer unmatched whitewater experiences for family or individual fun.
Biking, fishing, kayaking, golfing and more already draw outdoor enthusiasts. However, if you are more inclined to the appreciation of the arts, Oconee has many opportunities for you as well. The eclectic county offers tourism destinations for arts and music such as the Oconee Community Theatre, the Walhalla Performing Arts Center, the Westminster Music Centre and the Silver Dollar Music Hall, in addition to multiple art centers and the unique Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail.
If you’d like to take a break from the outdoors, spend the day browsing the unique shops and restaurants in the vibrant Ram Cat Alley Historic District. In addition, Downtown Walhalla offers a wealth of historic places for educational, family fun. South Carolina’s only Cherokee museum, The Museum of the Cherokee, Patriot’s Hall, Oconee County’s Veterans’ Museum and the Oconee Heritage Center all offer a great afternoon of exploring and learning about the area.
Throughout America, people have begun to recognize how outdoor recreation and open spaces attract and sustain families and businesses, creating healthy communities and fostering the highest quality of life. As Oconee County continues to invest in downtown development; creating that strong sense of place and community, we will continue to attract visitors to the area. These visitors could potentially become residents of the community, adding to the diverse economy that already exists in Oconee County.
Janet Hartman is the Manager of Destination Oconee, an initiative of the Oconee Economic Alliance, which is a public-private nonprofit effort to accelerate job creation and capital investment, increase per capita income, diversify the local tax base and generate awareness of Oconee County as a business location. To learn more visit www.InvestOconeeSC.com.