6 easy places - The S.C. low country

Aquarium Wharf, Charleston

DISTANCE: About 3 1/2 hours (210 miles).

APPEAL: Super-convenient base for all-ages family outing.

GOTTA SEE: East end of Calhoun Street has well-designed and well-stocked S.C. Aquarium. Start at the top floor (mountain stream critters/fish) and follow route down to main-floor tanks/displays of sea creatures. Show stopper is 385,000-gallon Great Ocean Tank ($17; $16 for seniors; $10 for kids;

Wharf is also where you board Fort Sumter Tours boat for 30-minute ride out to Fort Sumter, where you can spend an hour where the Civil War began in 1861. Free admission to fort; boat ride/tour is $15; $13.50 for seniors; $9 for kids. Departures at 9:30 a.m., noon and 2:30 p.m. daily through Nov. 30; buy ticket 30 minutes before departure. (

TOTALLY FREE: Government-owned Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center at wharf has displays, artifacts to provide historical background; rangers answer questions (

DETAILS: 800-774-0006;

Patriot's Point/Mount Pleasant

DISTANCE: About 3 1/2 hours (210 miles).

APPEAL: Visit historic warships, historic suburb.

GOTTA SEE: Board the enormous World War II aircraft carrier at USS Yorktown Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum: Walk-through history for you; fun for the kids. Ship also holds the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum. Two other ships and a sub can be toured, too. ($16; $13 for seniors/active military; $8 for kids; Hungry? Walk to Shem Creek, famed for Charleston's top fish eateries. Or stroll over to Mount Pleasant's Old Village area; at Pitt Street Pharmacy, get a sundae at the old-fashioned soda fountain.

TOTALLY FREE: Mount Pleasant was originally a summer-cottage suburb for affluent Charlestonians. Get a map at the visitor center (291 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.) and stroll the Old Village.

DETAILS: 843-849-6154; (click “Visitors Center”).

Folly Beach

DISTANCE: About 3 1/2 hours (220 miles).

APPEAL: Charleston's small but beachy-keen slice of Myrtle Beach.

GOTTA SEE: Six-mile by half-mile barrier island just south of Charleston is where that city goes to kick back. Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier goes 1,045 feet into the surf; great to walk, fun to fish. At shore end is Locklear's Beach City Grill (famous for fish). Relax on beach in front of mini-downtown, or stroll to either end of island. Breakfast? Fun and funky Lost Dog Café. Lunch? Taco Boy ( on Center Street: unassuming front masks great food/vibe. Picnic? En route to Folly, make a pit stop on Ashley Road at Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ (

TOTALLY FREE: A half-hour walk from the pier is Folly Beach County Park at the southwest end – a spit cornered by the sea and the Folly River and pointing toward Kiawah. The sand/sea vista is of unbridled nature. At northeast end of isle, drive as far as you can, then walk quarter-mile through preserve to see Morris Island lighthouse offshore.

DETAILS: 800-774-0006; or

Bull Island

DISTANCE: About 3 3/4 hours (230 miles).

APPEAL: Your chance to play Robinson Crusoe.

GOTTA SEE: Island, former hunting preserve, now an oceanfront part of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Open daylight hours only; most get there via Garris Landing ferry: arrive 30 minutes before 9 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. departure; return at noon or 4 p.m. ($30/roundtrip, cash/check only; $15 for kids; 843-881-4582). Only wildlife lives on Bull – egret, heron, ibis, pelican, deer, gators, etc. Well-maintained trails wind through the thickets and marshes; dress for bug encounters. Hike Old Fort Trail to Boneyard Beach – wildly beautiful shore where bleached tree stumps look like dinosaur bones.

TOTALLY FREE: On mainland, 4 miles north of U.S. 17 turnoff to ferry, tour Cape Romain NWR's Seewee Visitor Center. Check exhibits; see pen with live red wolves. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (843-928-3368).


Beaufort/Port Royal

DISTANCE: Close to four hours (235 miles).

APPEAL: Compact waterfront towns provide great getaway for twosomes.

GOTTA SEE: Picturesque, gentrified downtown Beaufort (BEW-furt) fronts broad Beaufort River estuary; stroll Waterfront Park and nose around the shops and cafes on and near Bay Street ( B&Bs abound. Take a carriage or walking tour of Beaufort: Second-oldest S.C. town is well-preserved and turns up in many movies (including “The Big Chill”). Port Royal, between Beaufort and the open sea, is more relaxed. Chow down at 11th Street Dockside ( or Moondoggies; check out the boats at the marina ( Take a fishing/sightseeing or eco-tour charter with Captain Tim (843-321-1768;; $150-$300 for half day).

TOTALLY FREE: Nearby, Parris Island, the famed Marine Corps base, has a large museum loaded with Corps exhibits plus items from area's fascinating past (including the Spaniards' Santa Elena settlement). Open daily (843-228-2951).

DETAILS: 800-638-3525;

Hilton Head

DISTANCE: About 4 1/4 hours (260 miles).

APPEAL: Where money talks – and articulately yells, “Fore!”

GOTTA SEE: Into high-end relaxing/golfing, you know where to stay and play. Just passing through? Most iconic photo op: the Harbour Town lighthouse in Sea Pines. Closest thing to a downtown may be 60-storefront Coligny Plaza ( with more than a dozen places to eat and/or drink; several offer outdoor dining. Hilton Head Plaza has well-regarded brewpub – Hilton Head Brewing – and several nightspots. Park Plaza, just outside the entrance to Sea Pines, has five restaurants/bars, a wine shop, cheese shop, tobaccanist and The Sanctuary day spa ( Got money? Try Studio: An Artistic Dining, on Pope Street (

TOTALLY FREE: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, open daylight hours, is a marshy expanse where flat terrain makes for easy hiking (912-652-4415; Eight trails wind to or through six maritime habitats.

DETAILS: 800-523-3373;

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