The 24-mile drive northeast to Camden, via I-20 and U.S. 521, takes you straight back to this nation's beginnings. Founded by Irish Quakers in 1751, it's the state's oldest inland town. During the Revolutionary War, 14 battles raged within a 30-mile radius from here. Cornwallis held Camden until the British retreated in 1781, burning the town behind them. During the Civil War, another invader, General Sherman, brought his Union troops to burn the town once more because it had served the Confederates as a storehouse and as a hospital. Historic relics are everywhere you look.
Camden is equally well known for the training of fine thoroughbred horses; the internationally known Colonial Cup steeplechase, held at the nearby Springdale Course, draws huge crowds.
Make your first stop the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, 607 S. Broad (PO Box 605), Camden, SC 29020 (tel. 800/968-4037 or 803/432-2525; www.camden-sc.org). Pick up a guidebook and a self-guided driving tour of the 63 historic sites in the area. The chamber is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Historic Camden, 222 Broad St. (tel. 803/432-9841; www.historic-camden.net), is a Revolutionary War park affiliated with the National Park Service. There are restored log houses with museum exhibits, fortifications, the Cornwallis House, a powder magazine, an 80-building model of the original town, and miniature dioramas depicting military actions between 1780 and 1781. The guided tour includes a narrated slide presentation and access to all museums. The park is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm and on Sunday from 1 to 5pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for students 6 to 18, and free for children 5 and under. Self-guided tours are free.
Nearby Goodale State Park (tel. 803/432-2772), 2 miles north of Camden on Old Wire Road (off U.S. 1), offers lake swimming and fishing, with pedal and fishing boats for rent. Bring along a picnic, and wander the nature trail.