Botany Bay: Edisto's Undeveloped Gem

By:Page Ivey


When I was a little girl, I was mesmerized by photographs of driftwood lying on beaches like the bleached bones of mythological creatures. Seeing the great trunks and branches up close is no less enthralling.

At Botany Bay, a 5,000-acre seaside wildlife area on Edisto Island by the state Department of Natural Resources, the beach is littered with the surreal debris. The trees are the remains of a Lowcountry maritime forest that was once surrounded by wetlands, but now faces the Atlantic Ocean. They are just some of the treasures of Botany Bay, which is open daily dawn to dusk, though seasonal hunting might affect accessibility.

The one-time cotton plantation survived the Civil War and occupation by U.S. troops, but could not survive the arrival of the boll weevil in 1917. Timber harvesting became the plantations primary business for decades.

The driving tour takes visitors under a canopy of live oaks, past forests of pines, palmettos and buildings left from the plantation days. One, a gardening shed, was built of tabby – a combination of lime, mortar, sand and oyster shells.

Its natural beauty has been the backdrop for films such as “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” and “The Patriot.” There is a put-in for canoes or kayaks for Ocella Creek, which connects to the Edisto River and the Atlantic Ocean.

The beach at Botany Bay is more than two miles of some of the most pristine beach you will ever find in South Carolina. You can see houses and development at Seabrook Island to the north and you can see Edisto Beach to the south.

You will see lots of wildlife from bird nests to marine animals and seashells. Visitors should not disturb any of the natural areas and shelling is prohibited.

The half-mile walk from the parking area to the beach will take you over the marsh, through maritime forests and onto a hammock island – a batch of trees and high ground surrounded by wetlands.

Also on the property is a pond where youngsters can fish in a catch-and-release program on weekends.

Botany Bay is a wildlife management area, not a park. There are no public restrooms or other facilities on the property.

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