About Travelers Rest
Perched at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Greenville County, South Carolina, Travelers Rest comes by its name literally.
The tiny hamlet, established in 1808, claims a long history as a stopover.
In the 19th century, settlers heading west in their wagons sought shelter in the local taverns for the night, while drovers from Kentucky and
Tennessee paused here with their herds of cattle, sheep, and hogs in route to markets to the east. In more recent decades, Travelers Rest
became a place to refuel on the way to excursions in the nearby mountains. It wasn’t until the 21st century that the town came into its own.
Today “TR,” as it’s affectionately known in these parts, has blossomed into what the Huffington Post recently dubbed “one of America’s coolest
small towns” with a landscaped Main Street that bustles day and night with cyclists, Upstate residents, and visitors who come here for reasons
as diverse as the town’s attractions. Some come to browse the locally owned shops, some to bike the Greenville Hospital System Swamp Rabbit Trail,
some to sample beer and wine, and others to dine at the excellent restaurants.
TR’s renaissance took off in earnest in 2009, when the city began to implement a $4.5 million master plan to spiff up Main Street in hopes of
attracting private investment. As part of the plan, U.S. 276, which cuts through the town’s center, was narrowed to create a two-lane Main Street,
and new pedestrian-scale lighting, pocket parks, and on-street parking were added.
The result was a slow but steady influx of new business along Main Street that dovetailed with the construction of the Swamp Rabbit Trail and
helped this beguiling town hit its stride. No longer just a place to pass through on your way to somewhere else, Travelers Rest has become a
destination of its own.
Lying within 25 miles or less of four South Carolina state parks, Travelers Rest is perfectly positioned as a jumping-off point for outdoor
escapades, and Sunrift Adventures is your one-stop for gear. Kayaks, canoes, bicycles, hiking boots: If it’s related to outdoor exploring,
you’ll find it at Sunrift.
When local outdoorsmen Bo Terry and Jim Kelly established Sunrift at the corner of Main and Center streets in 1981, there wasn’t much to keep
anyone in TR. Sunrift Adventures arose as a natural offshoot of the two men’s guide service. “People kept coming to us for gear, so we finally
decided to open a store,” recalls Terry, who still owns and operates Sunrift.
Sunrift occupies a century-old cotton gin that contains a veritable Disneyland of outdoor gear. Walls and racks are chock-full of backpacks,
standing paddleboards, climbing gear, tents, and apparel. If you don’t want to invest in equipment, Sunrift also rents kayaks, canoes, road and
mountain bikes, and tents.
Dotting a half-mile along Main Street, a cluster of locally owned boutiques provide locals and visitors alike with a host of unique shopping
opportunities. The Carolina Honey Bee Company, at 10 S. Main, feeds the farm-to-table craze by featuring beekeeping equipment as well as honey
from the owners’ hives. A few blocks down the street (27 S. Main) at Swamp Rabbit Tees, Shelby Robinson sells soft, comfy tee shirts with
regionally inspired designs.
Next door, Silver Lily offers updated ladies’ clothing at prices that won’t break the budget. Owner Lisa Whitlock wondered if she’d done the
right thing when she opened her shop six years ago, but now she’s glad she did. “TR has changed so much,” she says. “On weekends now, most of my
customers are from somewhere else.”
Across Main Street, Goose Feathers caters to female customers with knit maxi dresses, trendy tops and shoes. Accessorize your finds with artisan-made
jewelry and pick up gifts of locally crafted pottery and soaps.
Jan and Curt Finnamore opened Finnamore’s General Store & Merchant Market at the south end of Main a year ago. The shop, sandwiched between
Farmhouse Tacos and Rocket Surgery restaurants, stocks a smorgasbord of artisan-made gift items, some local and some from around the nation.
“People appreciate that they can buy something made locally,” says Jan. “Visitors from out of town love to take a little piece of TR home with them.”
As the Upstate’s most treasured greenway, the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail traces an abandoned rail bed from Greenville to Travelers Rest, with a southern spur
that skirts Lake Conestee Nature Park. On any given weekend, the trail teems with cyclists, runners and pedestrians.
The paved 22-mile (and ever-expanding) trail, takes its name from the Swamp Rabbit Railroad, the sobriquet given to a regional freight carrier
established in the late 1800s. In 2009, when the trail opened, Travelers Rest was working on revitalizing its Main Street and courting new business.
This coincidence was a happy one for the development of the trail’s terminus town, as TR’s new shops and restaurants provided places for the influx
of visitors riding the trail to shop and refuel. Today the trail sees more than half-a-million users a year.
You can rent a bike at Sunrift Adventures and explore the immediate area or ride the 11 miles south to Greenville. New attractions, including bike rentals,
breweries and taco shops, are constantly popping up along the trail.