Road Trip the Edisto Island National Scenic Byway

By:Marie McAden


Sometimes the journey is as rewarding as the destination. The Edisto Island National Scenic Byway falls into this category.

The 17-mile, two-lane road — the southernmost section of S.C. 174 — takes you through quintessential Lowcountry landscape preserved from a bygone era. You’ll pass endless stretches of salt marsh, meandering creeks, maritime forests, corn fields, roadside fruit and veggie stands and historic churches as you travel from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s a setting that deserves its scenic designation.

Road trips for me are usually about getting there. But on a recent holiday to Edisto Beach, I stopped to enjoy the many points of interest found along this beautiful stretch of highway.

The passage begins at the edge of the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the east coast of the United States. You won’t travel far before you’ll want to stop and take in the scenery from the crest of the McKinley Washington, Jr. Bridge.

Just a little more than a mile long, the span crosses the Intracoastal Waterway offering breathtaking views of pristine marshes populated by bald eagles, pelicans, ospreys and scores of other birds. There’s plenty of room to park in the lane along the railing of the bridge, so don’t hesitate to stop to take photos or soak in the vista.

At the end of the bridge is the Dawhoo Landing where you’ll find a public fishing pier and picnic area. If you’re feeling like fresh seafood for dinner but left your tackle at home, you can pick up basic fishing gear and bait at one of the nearby Edisto Island gas stations. They also sell ring nets for crabbing and cast nets for shrimping.

Two minutes down the road is another great bridge stop. The Russell Creek Bridge overlooks the historic Windsor House, an 1858 clapboard residence occupied by Union soldiers during the Civil War. Your best bet is to cross the bridge and park off the road to your right. If you’ve got binoculars, bring them along. This is another fantastic birding spot.

Ready for a bite to eat? Stop at the King’s Farm Market, a local favorite for seasonally grown produce from sweet corn and okra to blueberries and butterbeans. During the winter months, you’ll find plenty of jams and jellies, fresh-baked bread, homemade cookies and maybe even eggs and bacon.

Further up the road are the Edisto Island Museum, a sweetgrass basket stand and the historic Bailey’s Store, an 1880s general store now housing the wares of local crafters and artists.

You’ll also pass the road to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve, a 4,600 — acre wildlife management area offering access to one of the area’s most pristine shorelines.

Another must-stop spot is the Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island. Along with the beautiful sanctuary built in 1832, the property includes a large graveyard with headstones, spires and monuments dating back to the late 1800s.

Before you hit the shore, check out Edisto Beach State Park and its Interpretive Center, offering exhibits and programs focusing on the ACE Basin ecosystem. Click here to read a blog I wrote about the park and its many nature trails. And click here to learn more about Edisto's state park cabins.

For more information on the Edisto Island National Scenic Byway, click here.

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