Edisto Island – Barrier Islands of South CarolinaDecember 22, 2011 No Comments
Not far from the beautiful urbanity of Charleston, South Carolina, and the spooky beauty of Savannah, Georgia lie the barrier islands of the Carolinas. Recommended to us as a wonderful place to recharge, rest, and spend some family time in a beautiful setting, we took a side trip to Edisto Island this past summer.
The road in, Highway 174, is part of the fun. Your kids will love the large and beautiful oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and the magical feeling of the coastal villages on the barrier islands. Besides the sea, you’ll find beautiful streams and marshes a plenty, interesting small shops, and miles of unusually lovely open space to explore.
You can drive, walk, or bike through the islands, and while you decide on your mode of transportation, you can taste some wonderful key lime pie at the SeaCow Eatery before heading off to beach comb for seashells or go for a swim or a walk along one of the pristine Edisto beach sand spots easily accessible just off the highway.
We rented a one bedroom cottage near the small town of Edisto Beach, and we did most of our eating in, packing picnics supplied from the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store and fresh fish items from Edisto Seafood. My older kids also rented bikes at Island Bikes, young children may prefer simple strolls on the soft white sands. Early morning finds herons pecking at the marsh grass and a bountiful wash of sea shells and small stones to collect. We even found a few sharks teeth, a pretty amazing find for the little ones. When you get tired of beach combing, take the kids inland to the charming Edisto Bookstore, with an eclectic collection of books about the island itself and a rich children’s collection.
Pink Van Tours – History Made Fun
You can also walk or drive the back roads to beautiful old homes built on the cotton industry of the early eighteen hundreds. A company called Pink Van Tours offers excellent guided plantation home tours, and while our children were patient with the history, they were most enthralled by a stop for fresh lemonade and benne seed cookies. Our guide told us the lemonade was made from an old family recipe, and it tasted it, sweet and tart at the same time. The tour was a little over two hours, but the variety of sights to see will keep little ones interested even if they’re not absorbing the full history of the place. We stopped at lovely churches otherwise inaccessible to the public, and two plantation homes. Older kids will be as fascinated as adults by the collection of stories about the Civil War era, ghosts, crop planting, and settlement history. We were also able to view many beautiful homes from the outside as well, giving us a full picture of island life from our comfortable perch in a bright pink van. Reasonably priced, there was much to like about spending an afternoon in guided exploration.
Other Family Activities
For a completely different sort of experience, try the Edisto Island Serpentarium. The reptiles here are not hidden behind grubby glass; they’re roaming in exhibits designed to resemble their natural habitation. There are shows and feedings, and the kids are allowed to pet or hold some of the snakes and reptiles. We had a great time watching the snake show and the alligator feeding.
The second day we took to the trails of Botanty Bay Plantation. Here we found the skeletal remains of two beautiful homes, Seabrook and Bleak Hall – a name I found reminiscent of something from Jane Eyre. We headed for Botany Bay Beach, a lovely stretch of unspoiled sea reachable only by walking or biking. The kids were fascinated by the remains of oaks which were tossed here during hurricanes past, and provided great climbing.
Edisto State Park is another rich natural resource. Here the trails lead across boardwalks and bridges, through marshlands and beneath beautiful trees. A good portion of the park runs along the ocean, but facing inland you can take a trail to the Indian Mound, a four-thousand-year old collection of bones and shells left by the Edisto Indian tribe long, long ago.
Also in the park you’ll find an environmental learning center with a small but impressive collection of information about the flora and fauna of the park.
If you want to learn more about the environment, try Botany Bay Ecotours. This private company offers kayaking, boat rides, and lots of interesting information about the flora and fauna and history of the Edisto area.
There’s just something about Edisto that makes it a sweet spot to spend some family time. Maybe it’s the beautiful beaches, the quiet woodlands, the rich history of the old homes and churches. Maybe its the friendly residents, the small shops, the fresh fish to grill. There’s a laid back feeling to the island that makes it easy to just relax, walk, explore the beaches in the early morning and again at sunset. Or maybe it’s just the sunset glinting off the water in a quiet and lovely place devoid of chain restaurants and fast paced resorts. Your family will have lots of fun on this beautiful, peaceful island.