EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Darlington County, SC

Darlington Speedway, hartsville map, lake in hartsville

EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Darlington County, SC

Are you seeking a classic Southern lifestyle? Look at Darlington County, South Carolina. This is a place that epitomizes southern living. You'll find a bustling small-town community with character. The residents take pride in the county's hospitality, schools, NASCAR raceway, and hometown festivals. Residents love living here because they are still close to the state's amenities, but the overall cost of living here is less than the median for South Carolina. 

If a high quality of life, affordable price tag, and a small-town feel sound perfect for you, then Darlington County could be the place to be. Explore deeper into living in Darlington County, South Carolina.

About Darlington County 

Darlington County is situated in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, the state's northeastern corner. Residents here are close to the amenities of Florence County, with whom it shares a southeastern border. The Atlantic Beaches are about a two hours drive away.

Black Creek practically bisects Darlington County, running from Lake Robinson along its western border to Florence County. The Great Pee Dee River makes up its northeastern border with Marlboro County. Interstate 20 slices through its southern section, while part of I-95 runs through the county. The South Carolina Central Railway also makes its way through Darlington County. 

Darlington County has an overall cost of living index of 71.5. An index of 100 is considered the national median. Darlington's lowest cost of living was housing, which indexed at 26.8, while health care was its highest at 105.3. South Carolina had a cost of living index of 88.5, making Darlington County one of the more affordable places to live in the state. 

Darlington County is surrounded by Florence, Marlboro, Chesterfield, Lee, and Kershaw counties.  

Darlington County History

The origins of the name "Darlington" are unclear. It was originally part of the Cheraws District, with its borders first formed in 1785. The central town of Darlington was designated the county seat. It was initially called Darlington Court House and built on the plantation of John King, Senior along Swift Creek. 

Early European settlers include Welsh, Scots-Irish, and English farmers who invested in the cotton industry. Long Bluff served as an essential trading post and boat landing along the Pee Dee River in the colonial era. It was the original site of the courthouse in the Cheraw District. Eventually, the settlers moved up the hill to what became known as Society Hill, home to the Academy of St David's Society, a prominent educational institution at the time. 

The county was a prominent producer of different goods, such as cloth, fertilizers, wood pulp, paper, lumber, brick and tile, and flour. The Cheraw and Darlington railroad was essential for moving these goods to the cargo shippers and Eastern markets. 

Other towns began to pop up during the 1800s, like Springville, a summer resort town. Hartsville formed in the 1840s, growing around a crossroad store and post office. Another town, Leavenworth, was centered around a store and Grist Mill at the intersection of a plantation. Dovesville grew around a C&D railroad depot.

Cotton continued to be a dominating crop during the first half of the 19th century. Numerous plantations focused on cotton growing. A water-powered cotton mill was built on Cedar Creek near Society Hill to manufacture cotton bagging and other cotton products. 

During the Civil War, Darlington County escaped General William T Sherman's march to the sea, as it was not in the direct line of the Federal key points. No major battles were fought inside her borders. Detachments did pass through Kelly Town and New Market, confiscating supplies along the way. 

Agriculture continued to be a crucial economic source in Darlington County through the post-Civil War. Cotton growth declined slightly and was replaced by tobacco. Industrial development has increased since World War II.

More recently, Darlington County is best known for its stock car races at the Darlington Raceway. 

Darlington County Cities and Areas

The city of Darlington is the county seat. Here you'll find the infamous Darlington Raceway, a venue for stock car racing that hosts the annual NASCAR Southern 500 race. It's also home to the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame. Outside of racing, Darlington is an epicenter for the tobacco industry. 

Hartsville is another large town inside Darlington County. It is home to two institutions of higher education as well as a public boarding high school. The city has the Hartsville Regional Airport. Several large manufacturers and industry hubs are in or close to Hartsville.

Society Hill is a historical area in Darlington County, formed long before the Revolutionary War. It once was a regional hub for education, thanks to its St. David's Academy.

Large regions of Darlington County remain agricultural, although industrial and economic growth continues to bring jobs into the area. 

Darlington County Job Market

Darlington County's major industries are manufacturing, retail trades, administrative and support roles, and health care. Some of the area's top employers include Duke Energy Progress, Georgia-Pacific Consumer Operations, Nucor Corporation, Sonoco Products Company, Coker College, United Parcel Service, and the Darlington County School District. 

Top employer Sonoco was once named among the United States' largest publicly traded companies and was ranked as a Top 100 Corporate Citizen by Corporate Responsibility Magazine in 2011 and 2012. It is one of the top job providers in South Carolina and is headquartered in Hartsville. 

Nucor Corporation is also one of the largest producers of steel and the largest recycler in North America. It began operations in Darlington in 1969 and is one of the largest steel bar producers in the southeast.

The Darlington location of Georgia Pacific manufactures Dixie brand paper products.

Duke Energy runs the Robinson Nuclear Plant on Lake Robinson near Hartsville. It powers over half a million homes and employs 830 people.

Polyquest is another leading brand that has a headquarters in Darlington. They manufacture and recycle PET resin products.

Darlington County's unemployment rate for 2020 was 6.5%, a sharp decline from 2010 when it was 13.5%.In June 2021, the unemployment rate was 5.1%. A community profile projected an 8.9% increase in the job market from 2016 to 2026. The industries with the most projected growth are transportation and warehousing, administrative support, health care, and construction. 

Darlington County Real Estate Market

The Pee Dee Realtor Association covers Darlington County but does not break down data for individual counties. Generally speaking, inventory in July 2021 was starting to increase, although it remains historically low. The median residential sales price in the Pee Dee region was $172,900, a 16% increase. The days on the market were down 35% to 85 days. The monthly supply of inventory for their Greater Pee Dee region was 3.4 months. 

For more specific and current market information targeting Darlington County, contact EZ Home Search. We can provide the most recent and localized neighborhood data to help you better grasp the local real estate market. 

Darlington County Population Growth 

Darlington County residents averaged 41.4 years old in 2019. The age bracket with the highest number of residents was the 50 to 59 year old demographic.

There were approximately 62,905 residents estimated to live inside the county as of the 2020 US Census count. That was actually an 8% decline from 2010. Projections have the county growing by 3% by 2030. Overall, this shows the area's population is stable.

Around 57% of area residents identified as white, while 41% identified as black or African-American. Approximately 16% had a bachelor's degree or higher for education. 

Darlington County Education

The Darlington County School District runs 23 public schools serving over 10,000 students. It ran ten elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools, in addition to three alternative education programs. 

Most uniquely, Darlington County has the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, one of only 12 residential high schools operating inside the United States. US News & World ranked the county's Mayo High School for Math, Science, and Technology as one of the best high schools in the United States. This school was specifically ranked as the fourth-best within South Carolina. Around half of its students participate in the AP program. 

For the 2021 school year, eight private schools served 1,026 students. The top-ranked private schools included Emmanuel Christian School and Trinity Collegiate School

Darlington County has two institutions of higher education available. One is the Florence-Darlington Technical College, a two-year school with associates and work-ready programs.

Coker University is a private liberal arts university located in Hartsville accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The university has bachelor's and master's programs. Some of its most popular majors are Business Administration, Biology, Education, and Physical Education & Sports Studies. Its athletic teams compete in NCAA Division II. 

Darlington County Health Care

Residents of Darlington County have access to several health care options.

The largest hospital facility is the Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center. It offers everything from routine checkups to state-of-the-art surgery. The 116-bed facility services Darlington County plus residents of Chesterfield, Lee, and Marlboro. 

Another option is the McLeod Behavioral Health Center in Darlington. It works with patients on sleep disorders, depression, pain, memory problems, and anxiety. It has a 59-bed facility. 

Darlington County Things to Do

Darlington County is most famous for the Darlington Raceway, home to the NASCAR Summer 500. The county is proud of its racing identity and welcomes visitors to town to watch the race. The Raceway hosts additional events and races throughout the year. 

Besides NASCAR races, people enjoy spending time outdoors. Darlington County towns host many classic small-town festivals, like the Society Hill Catfish Festival or the Darlington Sweet Potato Festival. These provide events and fun for the whole family.

Four golf courses are available nearby for those who enjoy a championship round of golf. Or, relax with a day of boating or fishing on one of the lakes. Residents enjoy cooling off in the Black Creek, the Greater Pee Dee River, or Lake Darpo during the dog days of summer. Not only do the area's parks have water access, but you'll find hiking trails, day-use facilities, and playgrounds.  

Darlington County Attractions

Darlington Raceway is a significant local attraction. The NASCAR Summer 500 is the biggest draw. This September race offers family packages, weekend camping, and more fun for the whole crew. Other events visit the Raceway during the year, and it recently won the Xfinity Series and Toyota 200.

Neptune Island and Water Park in Hartsville offers fun for the whole family. This water park is open throughout the summer and offers cabanas, groups, and birthday packages. 

The Hartsville Museum is housed in a 1930's Post Office building. Explore local history or visit the art exhibits and sculpture courtyard. 

Darlington Country Club is the place for a round of golf or to relax by the pool. You can also pick up a round of golf at Beaver Creek Golf Club, Traces Golf Club, and Fox Creek Golf Club.

Kalmia Gardens of Coker University in Hartsville features many plants, flowers, herbs, and greenery species. Walk around and explore, using it as a jumping-off for the Segars-McKinnon Heritage Preserve located behind it.

The Carolina Sandhills Wildlife Refuge near McBee supports a wide variety of plants and animals on 46,000 acres. The refuge has hiking trails and observation towers for bird watching and photography. 

Lake Darpo is a resident and visitor destination. Rent pedal boats to explore its 20-acre lake or cast a line for bass and catfish. The park also has new trails and camping.

Darlington County Dining 

Darlington County's dining scene might not be as thriving as nearby Florence County, but there are still delicious eats and venues that take advantage of the county's agricultural bounty. Find farm-to-table restaurants and classic southern cooking. Here are a few popular places:

  • The Rooster: serving fresh cuisine for breakfast and lunch, like locally sourced coffee and fresh-baked focaccia
  • Fahrenheit 225: find competition-quality barbeque on Public Square
  • Takis Diner, a popular place with locals for its fast and friendly service. Think classic diner serving Greek food.
  • Original Raceway Grill: Serving classic American cuisine, like burgers, chili, and pimento cheese sandwiches
  • Sam Kendall's, from steaks to seafood to salads, it's a sophisticated place in Hartsville

Darlington County Shopping

Visit the Pee Dee State Farmer's Market, a big attraction and popular place for locals. Find fresh produce and artisanal goods made by local vendors. The market sits on 55 acres of former farmland and is convenient to I-95 and I-26. Best of all, this farmer's market is open all year round. 

Antique shoppers will be delighted to find places to browse for vintage products. Downtown Darlington actually has an antique trail. Tour all the locally-owned shops and antique malls. For instance, stop in at Scarlett's Antiques in Darlington or Fleur De Lis Antiques in Hartsville. 

Darlington County Local Favorites

Darlington locals like to hit up Ruth's Drive-In, a family-owned and operated restaurant serving Southern cooked food since 1945. Try the famous pimento cheeseburger.

Swimming in Black Creek has long been a tradition in the area. The cool waters are a great way to beat the humid summer days. 

Living in Darlington County 

Darlington County is a balanced mix between a reasonable cost of living and a lifestyle with plenty of things to do. Here you'll enjoy classic southern town living, with a suburban and rural mix of living. Darlington County also has some of the best educational opportunities in the state and a strong economy with some important manufacturing names. Check out listings in Darlington County to find the best place to call home.

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