Once a coastal retreat for wealthy rice and indigo planters, historic McClellanville, SC, happily embraced its 20th century makeover as a fishing village. And with it, the simple lifestyle and laid-back vibe it offers.
On the first Saturday of May each year, the friendly, free-spirited town welcomes visitors to its perch on Jeremy Creek to celebrate the bounty of its waters with the popular Lowcountry Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet.
Proud of its rich history, McClellanville created a museum chronicling the town's legacy from the early settlements of the Sewee Indians to the great Santee Delta plantations to the growth of the seafood industry. Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, The Village Museum can be found at the end of Pinckney Street, the town's main thoroughfare.
But McClellanville offers more than just the charms of a small historic town. Located at the edge of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, it serves as the gateway to one of the prettiest and most pristine estuaries on the Atlantic Coast.
Surrounded by Francis Marion National Forest, the community also is close to miles of hiking, horseback riding and biking trails, creeks and rivers for fishing and kayaking, and a half-dozen campgrounds and recreation areas.
Here are five fun things to do on your visit to McClellanville:
●Hop aboard the ferry to Bulls Island. Coastal Expeditions offers eco-tours through Cape Romain's breathtaking oceanfront wilderness, home to some 300 bird species. The island features 16 miles of trails and a seven-mile stretch of undisturbed beach, including the famed Boneyard Beach, a weathered forest of oaks, cedars and pines stranded in the surf.
●Visit the Sewee Visitor & Environmental Education Center. Learn more about Cape Romain's ecosystems and the unique natural history of the Lowcountry through interpretive exhibits and special programs offered at the center throughout the year. Be sure to check out the viewing area for the half-dozen endangered red wolves that live on the property.
●Take a hike in Francis Marion National Forest. Four wilderness areas offer visitors the chance to explore 259,000 acres of lush pine stands, swamps and marshes. A variety of wildlife can be found in the preserve, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Among the many trails near McClellanville, two of the most popular are the Sewee Shell Mound and I'on Swamp interpretive trails.
●Tour Hampton Plantation State Historic Site. The Colonial-era rice plantation features an elegant Georgian-style mansion built between 1730 and 1750 with the profits of "Carolina Gold" rice, grown and harvested by African slaves. Guided tours are offered at noon and 2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday and 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
●Stroll along the sidewalk on Pinckney Street. Historic clapboard homes shaded by grand oaks line the town's main corridor. Browse through the handful of shops and then have lunch at T.W. Graham & Co., which features a menu of dishes made with the harvest from the chef's own crab pots.