Did you know that you can travel to Denmark, Norway, Finland and Switzerland from Beaufort County and you do not even need a passport?
Only in the Lowcountry can you drive an hour and half from home and visit Scandinavian and Alpine locales and be home in time for supper!
No, this is not some strange new futuristic travel or time warp, you are simply exploring the scenic highways and backroads of the South Carolina Lowcountry and discovering interesting people and places to get to know.
South Carolina is known for interesting town and community names. The Lowcountry lays claim to settlements such as “Round O,” “Wide Awake” and tongue-twisters like “Coosawhatchie.” And so it may be no surprise that the communities named Denmark, Norway, Finland and Switzerland would also appear on the map.
These European-named locales are very easy to visit, and a short drive through the farmland and forests of the Lowcountry will take you to them and a promising day of small-town adventure.
Your first stop will be the town of Denmark.
Located in Bamberg County up U.S. 321, this crossroads town is home to several businesses and cultural events that draw visitors all year long. The town is named Denmark for a 19th century railway official and not for the Scandinavian country or even for immigrants who may have settled the region as you may imagine.
As the ever-expanding railway systems crisscrossed the state in the 1800s, depots and towns sprang up along the line and these were often named on “themes.” Thus the towns of Denmark, Norway and Finland, South Carolina all lie within 20 miles of each other on the long track that features an Amtrak station in Denmark.
When you visit Denmark, come early and you will enjoy fresh baked goods from Nelson’s Wee Bake bakery in the center of town. Here at this family-owned establishment you can enjoy fresh-baked bear claws, donuts and other delights.
Denmark was home to a South Carolina art legend, Jim Harrison, whose nostalgic paintings of Lowcountry and rural life as well as Coca-Cola-themed art has provided joy for over 50 years. Harrison passed away in recent years, but his gallery is an active tribute and destination for art lovers across the country.
In Denmark you can also visit a century-old hardware store that is a reminder of the pre-mega-store age. It can provide nearly all kinds of tools and hardware while also housing a fine gift shop complete with bridal registry.
Denmark has a three-story antique store and other shops as well.
From Denmark you can detour 10 miles to Blackville and Healing Springs, where at a small roadside park, the waters of the limestone aquifer deliver pure spring water that has healing properties, according to local legend. It is on an acre of land deeded to God Almighty.
Just four miles north of Denmark, your Scandinavian tour continues as you pass through the now-unincorporated hamlet of Finland and its close neighbor, Sweden.
A few miles beyond on Hwy. 321 is Norway, where you will experience a quiet small town that sports a three-story “skyscraper” and historic school building.
Your tour complete, you can return to Beaufort County with one more stop in mind: the settlement of Switzerland.
Located on U.S. 17 between Ridgeland and Hardeeville, Switzerland was actually named for Swiss settlers who were a part of historic Purrysburg village on the Savannah River in the 1700s.
Switzerland is now but a memory of the active farming community it once was, with a motor lodge and a post office until 1963. But as you drive through the community you will be astonished at the majestic arching avenue of live oaks that span both sides of the highway for nearly a mile.
The Okeetee Club was established as a hunting preserve in Switzerland in 1894, and its gilded-age clubhouse is one of the few reminders of the once-vibrant town.
A short drive and an adventurous spirit will give you an enjoyable European tour, and you will not even need to change currency or learn a new language — so long as you understand the words, “Y’all come back and see us!”
Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden are all located an hour and 45 minutes up U.S. 321 north from Hardeeville. Stores and businesses are open year-round during regular retail hours.
Healing Springs is located 10 miles northeast of Denmark, near Blackville, on S.C. 3. It is open dawn to dusk with no admission fee. You may want to bring a container to fill and take home.
Switzerland is just south of Ridgeland on U.S. 17.
For more information about attractions in Barnwell, Bamberg, Allendale and Aiken counties, visit https://www.tbredcountry.org/ online.