Why I Love Living on Lake Murray in SC

Today I thought you may enjoy learning why I love where we live while getting a glimpse at the town in the country that you may have never been or even known is on the map.


I live in one of those towns that no one has ever heard of.

As many of you know, back in 2015, Ed and I decided we wanted to downsize, live on a body of water and enjoy a simpler life. We went in search of a lake or river on which to live.

After a search along the eastern seaboard states, we found out about Lake Murray from friends of ours. After our initial visit, we knew it was where we wanted to live and moved from the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA to become South Carolinians.

Map of Lake Murray SC
Lake Murray is 41 miles long and 4.5 miles wide at the widest point.

Lake Murray is the name of the lake we live on. It is not the name of a town as there are a few towns around the lake that has 600 miles of shoreline. We live in the town of Chapin – population around 1800 adults and children.


Chapin, SC is called the Capital of Lake Murray. It is a small town nestled on the northern shores of the lake on the outskirts of the Columbia, SC Metropolitan Area to the east and 80 miles from Greenville to the western side of the state.

It serves as the commercial hub for the northern part of the lake and is one of the fastest growing communities in the Midlands of South Carolina.

Its close proximity to Columbia’s urban amenities, the University of South Carolina and the tranquil rural setting of the town and lake provides a unique quality of life that we enjoy.  Rural, but when we want to shop, attend a play or concert, the city is a 30 minute drive.

The major attraction for residents as well as visitors who vacation or come to camp at Dreher Island State Park, is the lake.

Lake life is what life in Chapin is all about and is what brought us to the area.

Sail boats on lake murray

I love the easy relaxed vibe of lake living. Both Ed and I are water lover’s and know this is where we were meant to be.

Liberty on the Lake Resturant

We love going out to eat at one of only a few restaurants on the lake via our boat. If it is crowded, we get a pager from the hostess and can sit out on our boat to wait while we start a Happy Hour party with our own drinks on the boat. I call it a dock party with other boaters who are also waiting to get called in to be seated in the restaurant.

In the warmer months, I love going out on the boat and meeting up with friends in the evening for a sunset watching dinner cruise. There is always a spectacular natural show that goes off every night…

…and never looks the same. 

kayaking on lake murray

I like being able to be active by simply walking out of my house and pulling a kayak into the water to paddle around to explore the many miles of shoreline… 

Lake Houses
Large house on Lake Murray

… or sometimes to look at the many beautiful waterfront homes while getting exercise. No gym needed.

4th of July on Lake

I like living in a town that is off the beaten path and one that keeps values and traditions alive like holiday parades in town and boat parades on the lake. 

Fireworks over lake

I love getting a front row seat from my house every year to celebrate our freedom with an annual fireworks show over the lake complete with live patriotic music streaming on the local radio station to coordinate with the fireworks. All those white dots along the horizon are boats filled with people watching the show. 

The town is growing fast as urban sprawl from Columbia is spreading westward, but once out of the town limits, it is very rural. 


We live 4 miles from the center of town in one direction. In the other direction is Ed’s hangout – the golf course. He loves that it only takes 8 minutes to get to the course with not one traffic light to have to go through. :-) 

rural area around lake murray sc

The miles between town and the golf course are not very developed.  I enjoy passing the pastural setting with a glimpse of the lake every so often. 

Rural area around Chapin SC

I pass by rows of towering pine trees, fields with cows grazing, a fire station, a few new houses being built, more pine trees, and a Christmas tree farm before reaching the town limits.

Chapin Sailboat sign

In the center of town, which is about 1.5 miles long, there are 3 supermarkets, 2 drug stores, a Dollar General, 2 dry cleaners, hair salons, a gift shop, a boutique, 2 day spas, 2 banks, a thrift store, a UPS store and an 2 auto stores.    

Flower Shop in Lake Murray town

The most charming shop in town is the Lake Murray Flower Shoppe. It now is a real estate office.

I love seeing how they give the exterior of the shop colorful creative style that they change every so often.


Out of the town limits, but still in Chapin is an Ace Hardware and a furniture store. I frequent both of these quite often. Ace, to buy home improvement project supplies, Chapin Furniture for a dose of decorating inspiration.

They have fabulous furniture and the store layout is ideal to go in every once in a while for a quick spin. 


There are two coffee shops and a few restaurants. My favorite is Farm Boys BBQ. They have the best Pork BBQ. It is a very popular place that is only opened Thursday – Sunday. 


I have to stay away from The Coffee Shelf, even though I love their coffee, the people and the bookshop section. I have a hard time passing up the double chocolate muffins they sell.  See them on the right… yum!

When I need to go to stores besides the supermarket, like mall stores, Costco, Home Depot, Lowes, Target, Walmart, Michaels and other retail big box stores, or to enjoy dinner and a movie, the drive is 30 minutes to the east towards Columbia via Interstate 26 to Harbison, SC.

I keep a list of everything I need from week to week and plan ahead so I can get all my shopping done in one day and not forget anything. I call these days my Harbison days as do a few of my friends. Since it takes time to get there, planning ahead with a shopping list is key to saving time and money on gas.

When I want to go to Hobby Lobby and the health food store, I need to head to Lexington which is on the southeast corner of the lake. It is about a 45 minute drive.  When I go there, I go via the Dreher Shoals Dam… aka The Lake Murray Dam. 

lake and dam


The dam was built to create the lake back in 1927 and became operational in 1930. It provides electrical power to the area.

What is under the lake has been the fascination of many people. There are nearly a dozen communities, thousands of graves, the Wyse Ferry Bridge, bomber airplanes, a pipeline, several railroad tank cars, an old rock house, also homes, boats, and bomb fragments under the waters of Lake Murray.

In the early 1940s, the U. S. military used the lake to train WWII bomber pilots on the B-25 bomber airplanes. Seven of the lake’s islands were used as practice.

Dreher Shoals dam

What I love about the dam is that there is a pedestrian walkway along the 1.7 mile long dam.

walking along lake murray dam walkway

It’s a popular place for walking and jogging. 

If I start from the Irmo side and walk to the Lexington side and back, it’s a little over a 3 mile walk which puts a big dent in my trying to get 10,000 steps a day. :-) 


The best part of the walk though is that you get spectacular views of largest part of Lake Murray and in the other directions, the downtown Columbia skyline that is 11 miles away.

Dreher Island State Park

Besides the lake, my other favorite place to go is Dreher Island State Park. It is near my house and I can ride my bike there and through the three islands with access to 12 miles of lake shoreline.

Things to do at Dreher Island

Visitors will find recreational water activities, nature trails and some of the best striped and large-mouth bass fishing spots. It has long been a popular location and launching spot for major, national fishing tournaments. 

Dreher Island State Park vacation rental villas

For overnight accommodations or weekly rentals with views of Lake Murray, lodging reservations can be made for one of 6 park villas…

Dreher Island State Park coves

…or guests can camp at one of many lakefront campsites. 

So now you know a little bit more about the place I call home.  When I am traveling or just out and about around town, there is nothing better than the wonderful feeling of coming home and looking out at the lake. It never gets old and …

sunset on lake murray

… amazes every single night.


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  1. Thank you for this post! We are looking at Chapin to possibly move our family to in the future. This described everything I had questions about. We plan to visit in August!

  2. Im so glad I came across your story …. it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’ve visited Lexington area several times in the past year and like what I see so far. I’d love to live near Lake Murray so my kids can enjoy outdoor activities when they visit. Thank you!

  3. Beth McKinnon says:

    Hi Diane! What a wonderful review of what sounds like a wonderful place :) My husband and I are looking for a retirement home and looked all over NC before realizing we would prefer to look at Lake Murray. Hoping to get up that way in the next few weeks to check it out in person. Where do you recommend we look in order to have the same view of the fireworks you do!!! :) Super excited to begin our search.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Beth – We live near Dreher Island State Park on the Crystal Lake section of the lake. The lake is huge and every section does have a different vibe. I like living near the park since it will never be developed. If you want to see the fireworks as I can, look for homes in the Chapin area or in the eastern most sections of Newberry County. If you have any more questions about the lake, just let me know. You can send them to my email. inmyownstyle at gmail.

  4. Brook Milam says:

    Hi Diane,
    Loved your blog! My family and I currently live in Canton, OH. We have an Airbnb rented in Chapin over spring break and we have an apt with a realtor to look at some houses. We too have a love of all things water. I grew up on a very small lake here in OH and my husband is from KY. We have decided that OH is not our final state. I have done some research and it has been leading me to Lake Murray. Schools look great (I have nearly 13 year old twins) and the temperate winters are calling for us! My biggest fear is making new friends, did you have a hard time doing that in a small town?

  5. Loved your tour, all your info and pictures. I’m retiring to Chapin in a couple of months and can hardly wait to be able to walk to the lake every day,

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  8. Allyson C Nguyen says:

    Hi Diane,
    I have been debating areas to visit in SC for my upcoming trip. Thank you for your post which provided a personal feel of the town. It sounds like a hidden gem.

  9. I remember when you moved here! You guys have done so much to your home in that time but I loved learning what drew you to the community. Such beautiful photos of the Lake. I was also surprised to read what’s under the lake. Wow! What a beautiful place to call home. xx

  10. It all sounds just wonderful!

  11. Julia@Cuckoo4Design says:

    I loved finding out a little bit more about where you live. The dock happy hour while waiting for your table sounds absolutely lovely. I think I’m meant to live close to the water too. It must feel like being on vacation daily

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Julia – Some days I do look out and feel like I am on vacation. I can’t think like this for too long though or I would never get any projects or blog posts done. :-)

  12. This was fun…thanks for the tour. You live in a gorgeous place. I had no idea the lake you lived on was so big! Enjoy your day! ;)

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Donnamae – I am happy to hear you enjoyed the tour. It was a fun post to write and share. Happy Weekend.

  13. What a gorgeous place to live, Diane! We look forward to retirement on the lake once our boys are grown… it’s really the best lifestyle! So fun to see the area you live:)

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Krista – You know first hand all about lake living.:-) Time to enjoy your boys – as they will grow so fast. Before you know it they will be all grown. What you have done to your new home looks amazing. Lots of memories in the new house to be made with your boys. :-)

  14. Beautiful lake and such an interesting history! Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your world, Diane!

  15. Linda @It All Started With Paint says:

    Oh, wow! What a spectacular place to live! We’re trying to figure out retirement options and perhaps we need to explore lake life! And it’s kind of spooky what’s under the lake! It’s like Pompeii but with water!

    :) Linda

  16. Jennifer @ Town and Country Living says:

    Omigoodness, Diane. I want to live here! I remember on your blog when you were looking for lakefront property years ago. You found a perfect location. I love rural – and I love being near water. You have so much natural beauty to enjoy and I love that you can choose from so many different activities – kayaking, biking, walking, etc. Thanks so much for sharing your piece of paradise!

  17. The Tourism Board should pay you commission for your wonderful tour of Lake Murray. Thank you for sharing your little slice of heaven!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Stacy – :-) I could have written more, but the post was getting long so I had to edit some stuff out about the town.

  18. Oh envy, looks so idyllic

  19. The town of Chapin is becoming overcrowded with traffic the roads cannot handle for all these reasons. SCDOT cannot keep up. They’re talking about widening certain sections of roads but I do not see how they’re going to do it with the railroad tracks right next to why 76.

  20. Thanks for the great tour! Didn’t know anything about Lake Murray. Will have to visit! Looks like a wonderful place to live!

  21. What a great post Diane. I loved reading about your town. I think you have the best of all worlds there at Lake Murray. I enjoyed your Instagram posts while you were in France. Looked like a wonderful trip.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Vikki Thanks – We really do have the best of both worlds, at least for us. I have more photos and posts to share about our trip. I will be getting them into blog posts and Instagram. I figured I would spread them out over a few weeks as I needed time to organize and edit all the photos. :-)

  22. Carolyn Green says:

    I love the way you described Chapin along with the beautiful pictures. I am blessed to be calling Chapin home starting in January 2020. We are the folks building a house not too far from where you are. I will not have the sunset views that you enjoy, but just being on the water is what it is all about! We are so enjoying getting to know Chapin as we check on our build job. Thank you for introducing the Lake Murray Flower Shoppe and the Coffee Shelf. I will definitely have to check those out.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Carolyn –

      You will love living in Chapin and on the lake. Where is your house being built? There are quite a few being built, you can see them going up when out on the lake.

      The next time you are in town checking on your home’s construction progress, let me know and we can meet up for coffee at the Coffee Shelf or The Daily Grind.

  23. Just lovely. We have camped at Lake Murray many times. Will have to put your pretty town on our list of places to see.

  24. Forget the accommodations at dreher park….I’m coming to your house! ?

    1. Very well written description and pictures, you may have an influx of new residents based on this!

      1. Diane Henkler says:

        Hi Margaret – :-) The town is small and growing. It has one of the highest rated school districts in the state so there are many young families moving here for that reason. Lots of new developments going up on land not near the lake. It is nice mix of younger and retired folks.

  25. Sheryll $ Critters. says:

    Very nice tour! And I see where you got the idea for your outside decor wall. I like it.

  26. Oh, you picked just a wonderful place to live. That was so very interesting. I love this home town series, I’ve checked out a few of the other blogger’s home towns too. Fun!!

  27. Looks perfect, I can see why you love it so.

  28. Love this idea of seeing where you and other bloggers live! I’m actually familiar with your location having grown up in Charleston, SC and living in Western NC now, but I didn’t know many of the tidbits you shared about Lake Murray or Chapin!

  29. Barbara B. Pilcher says:

    I don’t know why exactly, but I loved this piece so much it brought tears to my eyes. You deserve this lifestyle because you appreciate it so much.

  30. Diane, I love your little town and all the WW11 history you shared. I’d love to visit your area of SC. Hubby and I would also like to downsize and live on the water someday. Your photos are so beautiful and I enjoyed reading your post.

  31. Diane,
    Chapin looks wonderful. My husband and I are getting close to the point of downsizing and I’m not sure if we will stay in PA or head south like you. It’s certainly a big decision and this blog hop has given me lots of ideas. Great places to relocate, or visit.

  32. Paula@SweetPea says:

    Lake Murray looks like a wonderful spot to live. I love your idea of boating to a restaurant and then having your own happy hour on the boat while you wait for a table.