Edisto Beach State Park is one of only four S.C. state parks with oceanfront access. The park, just 50 miles south of Charleston, offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of urban and even suburban life.
What’s the draw?
It’s hard to beat the Carolinas’ pristine coastlines and Edisto Beach State Park is a picture-perfect example. Its 1 1/4-mile public beach is ideal for swimmers and beachcombers – and also noted as a nesting site for loggerhead turtles.
The park has an impressive array of camping sites in oceanfront and maritime forest habitats and most can accommodate RVs, some up to 40 feet. Many sites offer easy access to sea, sand and sun.
Nature and history are both important components of the park and are impressively highlighted in the park’s Environmental Learning Center – a unique, 11,000-square-foot, LEED-certified structure that showcases artifacts and exhibits that span from the last ice age to today. Many exhibits are hands-on and interactive, including a “touch tank.”
Programming is family-oriented and programs are popular enough to encourage early registration (843-869-4430).
As for history, evidence of Native Americans dating back more than 4,000 years is here: The park’s Spanish Mount Trail will lead you past a midden – a scrap heap of shells – left by early diners there. Another historical artifact is the Bache Monument, where you’ll see evidence of survey markers used in the 1840s to accurately measure our East Coast.
This water-oriented park and has both ocean and tidal/estuary components. Fishing, shrimping and crabbing are very popular (S.C. licenses are required). If you have a kayak or other boat, a ramp is available within the park. Be mindful of the tides, as they can strand you in mud if you’re not careful.
You can experience a lot of nature in the park; there are several nice trails, open to both hikers and cyclists.
Edisto Beach’s trail system includes one that’s the state’s longest handicapped-friendly trail.
Diverse habitats within the park range from marsh – with grasses that look like waves in the breeze – to woodland to ocean. This means that you’ll find a wide array of animal life, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds. In marshy areas, keep your eyes peeled for alligators.
The trails are easy, and range from about a half mile to just over 1.5 miles, with opportunities to add on by connecting to other trails. One you should definitely try is the Forest Loop Trail. It’s just a half mile or so but takes you through some gorgeous maritime forest, canopied with large live oaks with draping Spanish moss, giving it an enchanted look in places.
Edisto Beach State Park is a family-friendly place offering a wide range of outdoor activities. But trust me on this: Don’t forget the bug spray or sunscreen.
Day-use park admission: $5; $3 for ages 6-15. Campers have free access. Rates for campsites range from $21 to $55 per night; rates for its seven cabins vary depending on size. Camping and cabin reservations are strongly encouraged. General and program info: www.southcarolinaparks.com; 866-345-7275.
P.S.: The annual Turtle Fest, celebrating the return of loggerhead turtles and nesting season, is June 4. Activities, games, exhibits and prize drawings are scheduled.
Mark Alan Hudson
Nearby: Port Royal & Beaufort
You could say Port Royal, just down the coast in Beaufort County, has aged considerably well. The Spanish, the French and the English all had a presence in the town (www.portroyal.org), first established in 1562.
The quaint, walking-oriented community is surprisingly diverse: The farmers market, fishing, shops and eateries are just a few options. A historic walking tour (www.portroyalhistory.org/walking-tours) and a very nifty boardwalk that traverses three distinct estuarine habits are must-sees.
Eating spots to consider: MoonDoogies Cafe & Grill (search for it at www.facebook.com) and 1635 on the Avenue (www.1635ontheave.com). Both are affordable and popular lunch/dinner spots featuring fresh, local-catch seafood. The town’s very popular Soft Shell Crab Festival (free admission) is April 16.
Port Royal is close to the well-heeled golf/resort destinations of Kiawah Island (www.kiawahresort.com) and Hilton Head Island (www.hiltonheadisland.org) – as the crow flies. But Lowcountry rivers and marshes mean that driving from one to another requires heading inland a little to the highways that connect these places. It’s 75 minutes from Edisto Beach State Park to Port Royal and its also-charming neighbor, Beaufort (www.beaufortsc.org). The Beaufort Water Festival (July 15-24; www.bftwaterfestival.com) is a major regional draw.