Get Your Free 2019 Vacation Guide

Download your free guide, get the official app or request a copy by mail below, and start planning your one-of-a-kind South Carolina adventure today.

Vacation Guide Cover
View Our Other Guides

Edisto Island Offers a Taste of Lowcountry Lifestyle

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
More from "Marie McAden"

Life is simple on Edisto Beach, South Carolina. And that's just how they like it on this laid-back barrier island.

A porch swing and pitcher of sweet tea is an afternoon's entertainment. Getting dressed up means slipping into your flip-flops. And playing bingo at the Lions Club is a big night in town.

Such is life in a place affectionately known as "Edi-slow." For visitors seeking a break from the rat race, it's nirvana.

But that doesn't you mean won't find plenty to do here if you're so inclined. To truly experience the Lowcountry lifestyle, check out the area's beach houses, which are some of the best places to stay on Edisto Island. Another great option is to stay in one of the cabins at Edisto Beach State Park.

Realizing that most people want to spend time sitting on the beach and swimming in the ocean, we've put together an itinerary that includes one activity each day, along with places to eat lunch and dinner.

Arrival:

Stop at King's Farm Market on your way onto the island and pick up a seafood casserole, crab cakes and apple praline pie for dinner. It's ready to pop into the oven and will make your first night at the beach so much easier. They also have fresh produce, eggs, homemade bread and a variety of local products, including fantastic barbecue sauce made on nearby John's Island.

Day 2:

Treat yourself to a wonderful brunch at the Waterfront Restaurant,136 Jungle Road. Then spend the day getting to know the island on two wheels. If you didn't bring a bicycle, head over to Island Bikes and Outfitters at 140 Jungle Road and rent a beach cruiser.

The Edisto Beach Bike Path runs along Jungle Road and will take you through the backside of the beach town past quirky shops, funky restaurants and shaded residential neighborhoods. "Bike Route" signs mark the path at all the turns so you won't need a map to find your way. It's a great way to scope out things to check out later in the week.

Day 3:

You can't vacation on Edisto Island without visiting the Edisto Island Serpentarium. May through August, you can view every manner of slithering, scaly reptile in outdoor observatories designed to resemble their natural habitats. The menagerie includes snakes, alligators, caiman and snapping turtles.

An indoor, climate-controlled gallery allows visitors to see the snakes up close behind the safety of glass enclosures. Among the featured guests are rattlers, water moccasins, anacondas and a reticulated python - the world's largest snake.

Depending on your point of view, it's either the coolest or creepiest place on the island.

If you're still up for more, the Edisto Historical Museum is just up Highway 174. You can learn about the island's old plantations, cotton farming and blended history of Native Americans, Spanish pirates, English settlers, enslaved African-Americans and others who made their lives along the area's marshes and creeks. The museum also has a neat gift shop.

Hungry? Right nearby on Highway 174 is Flowers Seafood Co. The family owns several shrimp boats and sells their daily catch from a small roadside building. If you don't feel like cooking, you can buy dinner from their food truck and eat it in the shade of beautiful live oaks draped in Spanish moss. The fresh-off-the-boat fare includes fried oysters and peel-and-eat shrimp.

Day 4:

SeaCOW Eatery will set you up for a day of exploring. Located at 145 Jungle Road, this island institution has perfected the art of casual. Take your time and enjoy the Lowcountry vibe.

Pack a picnic lunch to keep you fueled for a full day of activities at Edisto Beach State Park, a 1,255-acre retreat at the edge of the ACE Basin - one of the largest wetland ecosystems on the East Coast.

Before you begin exploring the park, check out the Edisto Beach State Park Interpretive Center. Along with interactive displays and touch tanks, the learning center offers a variety of regularly scheduled presentations on the basin's sensitive ecosystem and the wildlife that make their home in the area's marshes, maritime forests and creeks. Among the most popular program is the sea turtle night walk.

Behind the building is the trailhead for the Bache Trail, a short wooded path to a granite monument erected in 1850 by land surveyors measuring the U.S. coastline from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. The baseline at Edisto - the oldest intact baseline - was the third of seven lines measured by survey director Alexander Bache, great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin.

On the other side of the learning center is the start of the Big Bay Trail. It leads to the 1.7-mile Spanish Mount Trail. At the intersection of the two trails, take a right to view the namesake 4,000-year-old shell midden. The Spanish Mount Trail also connects to the Scott Creek Trail, offering stunning views of the marsh. Boardwalks allow you to cross the wetlands and walk through a hammock visited regularly by egrets and herons.

After your morning hike, head to the beach section of the park. Shaded picnic benches by the parking area provide a nice spot for lunch. Spend the afternoon swimming, sunbathing and exploring the 1.5 miles of shoreline, known for its take-home worthy seashells and historic fossils.

Day 5:

If you've been spending any time on the beach at all, you've probably already seen a few dolphins splashing around. Today's the day to see them up close.

It's amazing to watch Lowcountry dolphins swim and feed in the creeks, and Botany Bay Ecotours will take you there. You'll also likely see herons, pelicans and other wildlife native to the ACE Basin. Other tours include a Gullah tour and sunset cruise. Boats leave from Edisto Marina.

These fun and educational tours are a great way to see the Lowcountry in all of its natural glory and learn about the area's history, wildlife and native species.

For dinner, make a reservation at the Old Post Office Restaurant on Highway 174. The shrimp and grits and "Firecracker Flounder" are a couple of their tried-and-true specialties.

Day 6:

Reserve the morning for a visit to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area, once home to Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud plantations.

Just off Highway 174, this stunning 4,600-acre property has been left undisturbed, providing coastal habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including loggerhead sea turtles, the state-threatened least tern and neotropical songbirds, such as the painted bunting and summer tanager.

Pick up a driving tour guide of the property at the information kiosk near the entrance. The 6.5-mile route starts along a magnificent avenue of oaks interspersed with loblolly pine and cabbage palmetto, the state tree.

You'll want to make several stops along the self-guided tour to view historic buildings, salt marsh vistas and Boneyard Beach, a unique stretch of coastline featuring the eerie remains of trees that were the victims of erosion.

Enjoy a late lunch at McConkey's Jungle Shack, an island favorite with its painted picnic tables and beach-themed porch. Visitors rave about the shrimp and chips, fish tacos and their famous "fat burger." It's located at 108 Jungle Road.

Day 7:

Spend a little time on the beach before driving home and pick up any last-minute souvenirs.

And here's one more tip: Stop back by King's Farm Market on your way off the island to pick up dinner to cook when you get home. You'll be oh-so-glad you did, and it'll make it seem like your vacation lasted just a little bit longer.

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.