The City Magazine Since 1975

Ramble On!

Ramble On!
June 2013
30 fun, cultural, educational, and downright quirky destinations for sunny-day adventures  

It's Summer!

Channel your inner explorer and carve out some time for carefree drives through the Lowcountry. With centuries of history along a coast that’s rich with biodiversity, every road out of town is literally dotted with points of interest—whether historical, cultural, natural, or utterly odd! Roll the windows down and head out on a day-long adventure. Take your time and savor some stops along the way. These 30 favorite day-trips are merely suggestions—let the journey dictate your destination.

Stoke Your Creative Instincts at Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden

{ 127 miles  [ 2 hours, 10 minutes }
Strolling through Pearl Fryar’s yard in Bishopville is akin to stepping into a Dr. Seuss book, where the truffula trees spiral toward the sky in leafy segments of cones and spheres. Since the early ’80s, Fryar has planted more than 400 specimens—including juniper, holly, cedar, cypress, fir, pine, and oak—in a former cornfield, meticulously sculpting the yard into a garden that’s inspired a documentary about his life and now attracts visitors from around the world.

■ 145 Broad Acres Rd., Bishopville, (803) 484-5581,
Admission: Free, donations are encouraged.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Write a Poem at Hampton Plantation

{ 47.3 miles  [  1 hour }
     The melancholy river-wind,
     Grieves through the rustling sycamores
     Of Loveliness that cannot last;
     The roses bloom, the river flows,
     Ah, but the hearts we loved are passed
     Beyond the River and the Rose.
—Archibald Rutledge, from Under the     
Pines and Other Poems, 1906

When S.C. poet laureate Archibald Rutledge passed away in 1973, he left his family’s home, Hampton Plantation, to the people of his state. The revered writer drew inspiration from this estate along the rice patties of the Santee River, and the house, a Georgian-style manor dating back to the 1730s, remains intact and open to the public as a state park. From the quiet marsh to the stately live oak tree that frames the entrance, it’s easy to understand why Rutledge was inspired to write an entire book, Home By the River, about the place. Today, it’s an excellent spot to bring a notepad, a pencil, and a picnic and spend the day in tranquil, contemplative thought.
■ 1950 Rutledge Rd., McClellanville,
Admission: Grounds are free; home tours are $7.50; $3.75 senior; $3.50 ages six-15; free for child under six.
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; home tours Saturday-Tuesday at 1, 2, & 3 p.m.

Take an Art and Antiques Tour of Historic Walterboro

{ 48 miles  [ 1 hour, 4 minutes }
Dubbed the “Front Porch of the Lowcountry,” downtown Walterboro lives up to that moniker on East Washington Street, where a row of antiques shops beckons you to find that vintage rocker you’ve been dreaming of. Then walk a block to the S.C. Artisans Center, where the crafts, sculptures, and paintings of more than 300 artists (all from South Carolina) are displayed and available for purchase, with prices ranging from $3 to $15,000 (look for the hand-carved mahogany Wood Song canoes by artist Philip Greene near the top of that spectrum). If shopping hasn’t worn you out, stop by the Bedon-Lucas House Museum for a taste of architecture and Lowcountry living à la the 19th century. Afterwards, grab dinner at Dukes Barbecue, leaving you satisfied for the short journey home.
■ S.C. Artisans Center, 318 Wichman St., Walterboro, (843) 549-0011,
Hours: Monday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sunday, 1–5 p.m.
■ The Bedon-Lucas House Museum, 205 Church St., (843) 549-9633
Admission: Donations accepted. Hours: Monday, Wednesday, & Friday, 9 a.m.-noon; call ahead to confirm.

Hug an Ancient Tree at Francis Beidler Audubon Forest

{ 46 miles  [ 57 minutes }
Although the Congaree Swamp south of Columbia is beginning to attract international visitors thanks to its recent designation as a National Park, the Francis Beidler Forest in Harleyville offers the same escape into a dense hardwood swamp, with a fraction of the crowds and an hour closer to Charleston. In fact, Beidler boasts the largest stand of old-growth cypress and tupelo forest in the world. At high tide, blackwater creeks allow for paddling adventures deep into the woods, but most people come to visit the small museum and stroll the 1.75-mile boardwalk system with eyes peeled for 140 bird species and 90 reptiles and amphibians, as well as abundant owls, woodpeckers, and mammals such as deer and river otters. Afterward, hop across I-26 to Sweatman’s BBQ in nearby Holly Hill to complete a truly authentic Lowcountry day.
■ 336 Sanctuary Rd., Harleyville, (843) 462-2150,
Admission: $8; $7 senior; $4 ages six-12; free for child under six.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Soak In Georgetown’s Maritime Heritage

{ 61 miles  [ 1 hour, 12 minutes }
People who have never ventured off of Highway 17 when passing through Georgetown would be forgiven for thinking that our state’s third oldest city is little more than a rundown steel- and paper-mill town, but turn off onto Front Street and you’ll quickly enter a world of wooden boats and centuries-old buildings. In the decades leading up to the Civil War, Georgetown produced nearly half of the nation’s rice, keeping the town’s port bustling and its elite planter class among the nation’s wealthiest citizens.

Today, that heritage is on display at the S.C. Maritime Museum, opened in late 2011, featuring exhibits and photographs from four centuries of port economies. Round out your education with a visit to the Rice Museum, located just down the street within the Old Market Building (known as “The Town Clock”), where artifacts are on display that tell the story of the rice planters’ culture.

When you’re ready for some fresh air, stroll The Harborwalk before dipping into the River Room for fresh local seafood with a view.
■ S.C. Maritime Museum, 729 Front St., Georgetown, (843) 520-0111,
Admission: Free.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
■ Rice Museum, 633 Front St., Georgetown, (843) 546-7423,
Admission: $7; $5 senior; $3 student age six-21; free for child under six
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Float the Edisto

{ 35 miles  [ 52 minutes }
When the Atlantic starts to feel like a bathtub, the cool blackwater of the Edisto River becomes all the more appealing. Water levels (and current speed) dip in the summer, so a couple of miles on the river (complete with stops at the ample sandbars) can fill an afternoon. Pick up a worthy inflatable before heading out of town, pack lunch and your beverage of choice (it’s legal to imbibe, provided you are of age and have a cooler), and drop a car at Messervy Landing, before driving 10 minutes (and 2.2 miles of river) to Givhans Ferry State Park, where you can also camp out for the night for a full river experience. In nearby Canadys, those seeking a longer adventure on a more remote stretch of river will enjoy the canoe trips offered by Carolina Heritage Outfitters, where you’ll float by—or reserve and stay in—their rustic tree houses built upon a gorgeous peninsula formed by the sharpest curve in the river’s 250 meandering miles.
■ Givhans Ferry State Park, 746 Givhans Ferry Rd., Ridgeville, (843) 873-0692,
Admission: $2; $1.25 senior; free for ages 15 & under.
Hours through September: Daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
■ Carolina Heritage Outfitters, Canadys, (843) 563-5051,
Cost: Self-guided river trips are $30/person/day in 2-person canoes; Tree house packages including 2 days of canoeing are $150/person first night, $75 per person each additional night.

Slow Your Pace in McClellanville

{ 39 miles  [ 52 minutes }
This lovely town was founded in the late 19th century as a coastal escape from the steamy Santee River delta. Bring bikes and tour at your leisure, soaking in the century-old homes (many of which were restored after Hurricane Hugo passed directly over). Don’t miss the Village Museum, which traces the area’s history from the Sewee natives through the rice planting days and into McClellanville’s current status as a hub for our fishing and shrimping fleet. After you work up an appetite, stop into T.W. Graham & Co. on Pinckney Street to sample the day’s fresh catch, served with a plate of sweet-potato fries.
■ Village Museum, 401 Pinckney St., (843) 887-3030,
Admission: $3; free for students and children.
Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Get Wet and Wild at the Beaufort Water Festival

{ 70 miles  [ 1 hour, 32 minutes }
Each July, the quaint town of Beaufort comes alive with the annual Water Festival, celebrating its 58th year this July 19-28. In addition to more than 50 artisan booths in Waterfront Park, the days are filled with regattas, fishing tournaments, kayak races, and the parade of boats finale, while evenings are celebrated with fireworks and live music. You’ll need to make reservations far in advance to get a spot at historic bed and breakfasts like the Beaufort Inn or the Rhett House Inn (where stars like Barbra Streisand and Tom Hanks stayed while shooting The Prince of Tides and Forrest Gump), but you may still be able to snag a room close by at the Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn on Boundary Street. And even if you don’t make it for the festival, downtown Beaufort offers a perfect day trip for walking along the riverfront Bay Street, checking out cute shops, and having afternoon tea at the Beaufort Inn’s Southern Graces Bistro from 2 to 4 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday, reservations required).
■ Beaufort Water Festival,
■ Southern Graces Bistro at Beaufort Inn, 809 Port Republic St., (843) 379-0555,

Get Pollinated at Bee City

{ 38 miles  [ 57 minutes }
If you’ve purchased Bee City honey from the shelves of Charleston’s grocery stores, you’ve already enjoyed the fruits of the “Sweetest Little Town in the World.” With an estimated population of 1,260,000 honeybees, this roadside attraction near the Edisto River in Colleton County features a full-scale “city” of hives, including a “Bee-P” gas station and the “Glory Bee Church.”
Archie Biering built Bee City in the early ’90s as a hobby, and the working honey farm has grown into an agri-tourism hot spot now run by his son, Scott. In addition to learning about bees and pollination through an up-close view of their colonies, there’s also a well-stocked herpetarium with native reptiles (including young alligators) and a popular petting zoo with llamas, miniature horses, and even vervet monkeys and wallabies. Grab a catfish sandwich at the on-site café, and don’t forget that Bee City is only a few miles down the road from Givhans Ferry State Park and its sandy beach along the river, making it a suitable addition to a day of swimming or an overnight camping trip.
■ 1066 Holly Ridge Ln., Cottageville, (843) 835-5912,
Admission: $5 for ages three & older
Hours: June-August, Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

Dance a Jig at Lone Star BBQ

{ 68 miles  [ 1 hour, 10 minutes }
Few people drive past Lone Star BBQ without stopping. If they do, most turn around and come back. The all-you-can-eat restaurant comprises four wooden buildings, used as farm commissaries, country stores, and a post office until as recently as 1997. Now, they fill daily with locals and travelers loading up on barbecue and sides such as mac’ and cheese (our favorites are the hash and the sweet potatoes). But the food is just half the attraction—you’ll need hours to peruse the historic paraphernalia displayed on the walls, from a collection of antique typewriters to signed photos of Roy Rogers and Johnny Cash. The best time to visit is on a summer Saturday night, when old-timers and young guns alike gather to pick bluegrass on the porch from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. If the buffet and fiddle tunes leave you too sleepy for the drive home, Santee State Park, just up the road, offers affordable cabins for rent, including several built on a pier over the water on Lake Marion.
■ Lone Star BBQ, 2212 State Park Rd., Santee, (803) 854-2000, Buffet
Hours: Thursday & Friday, 11:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m.; & Sunday, 11:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
■ Santee State Park, 251 State Park Rd., (803) 854-2408,

Search for Dolphins at Captain Sam’s Spit

{ 28 miles  [ 47 minutes }
It’s unclear how the award-winning Beachwalker County Park will change if the owners of Captain Sam’s Spit on Kiawah Island get approval for a 50-home development along the sandbar, but for now, it’s one of the most beautiful stretches of beach in the state. From the park, walk southwest to the island’s “back beach” along the Kiawah River, where a pod of dolphins frequently strand feeds on schools of mullet that they push onto this sloping, naturally protected beach. If you’ve had enough time in the sun, head into Kiawah to hang with the snakes and alligators at the Heron Park Nature Center (open to the public), where you can also sign up for a kayak tour of the river (and hopefully, an up-close look at the resident dolphins). On your way to or from the island, stop by Sidi Limehouse’s Rosebank Farms for handpicked berries, peaches, and the amazing banana-nut bread.
■ Beachwalker County Park, 8 Beachwalker Dr., Kiawah Island, (843) 768-2395,
Admission: $8 per standard vehicle; free to walkers & bicyclists
Hours: Thru Labor Day, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
■ Heron Park Nature Center, 4000 Sea Forest Dr., (843) 768-6001,
■ Rosebank Farms, 4475 Betsy Kerrison Pkwy., John’s Island, (843) 768-0508,
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Visit the Two Graves of Alice Flagg

{ 75 miles  [ 1 hour, 29 minutes }
Alice Flagg may be our state’s most famous ghost. After falling in love with a lumberman of lower status than her family of doctors, the 16-year-old was sent from her home in Murrells Inlet to boarding school in Charleston. She fell ill with malaria and was returned home, where she soon perished in 1849. It’s said that when her brother found the ring of her suitor around her neck, he flung it into the marsh, and she’s been searching for it ever since. There have since been many sightings of a girl in a white dress around All Saints Cemetery on Pawleys Island, where a grave is marked with the simple inscription, “ALICE,” and is often
adorned with rings left by visitors as an offering. (While there, you can also pay homage to late author James Dickey.) But some scholars claim that the All Saints stone is simply a memorial, and that her body is in fact buried in nearby Plantersville, at the ruins of the Old Gunn Church, where a gravestone bears her full name. Now just eerie ruins standing amidst a graveyard in the woods, the church boasts its own ghost legend, after the head architect, Mr. Gunn, slipped from the roof and fell screaming to his death in 1860. At either locale, hold onto your rings closely, lest they disappear from your fingers.
■ All Saints Church, 3560 Kings River Rd., Pawleys Island
■ Old Gunn Church, Plantersville Rd., Georgetown

Expand Your Mind with Pablo Picasso

{ 114 miles  [ 1 hour, 55 minutes }
Although the Columbia Museum of Art is worthy of a visit any time of year, there’s added incentive to get there before August 11, while a collection of lithographs, etchings, and pochoirs (stencils) by Pablo Picasso are on display. The Cubist images, many of abstract human forms, are simple in detail but striking in their color and innovation. The “Picasso: Master Prints” exhibit is joined this summer by an exhibition of painter and sculptor Steven Naifeh’s large-scale geometric works (on display until September 1) inspired by his upbringing in the Middle East and Islamic artistic traditions representing symmetry and harmony. Balance your day of intellectual and creative stimulation with a visit to the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery, where jazz nights on Thursdays play the perfect accompaniment to the house-brewed ales and international cuisine.
■ Columbia Museum of Art,1515 Main St., Columbia, (803) 799-2810,
Admission: $10; $8 senior & military; $5 student; free for child ages five & under; free for all on Sunday.
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. (Note: open until 8 p.m. on the first Friday of each month)
■ Hunter-Gatherer Brewery, 900 Main St., (803) 748-0540,
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 4-10 p.m., Thursday & Saturday, 4-11 p.m., & Friday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.

Cool Down in the Evening at Brookgreen Gardens

{ 79 miles  [ 1 hour, 36 minutes }
Perhaps the most comprehensive tourist attraction in the state, Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet is far more than just pretty flowers (although its exquisite landscaping has earned international acclaim). There’s also a zoo full of animals native to S.C., a butterfly house, a boating lake, and sculpture in every direction. The best time to visit may be in the summer, when the garden remains open after hours from Wednesday to Friday, hosting live music, children’s activities, and dinner in the Pavilion Restaurant. Families can take a pontoon boat cruise at sunset, and this summer includes a special “Enchanted Storybook Forest” of playhouses designed by local architects for the younger set to enjoy.
■ 1931 Brookgreen Dr., Murrells Inlet, (843) 235-6000,,
Admission: $14; $12 senior; $7 child ages four-12; free for child under four.
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Rock out in a Blueberry Patch

{ 38 miles  [ 50 minutes }
What’s better than harvesting your own basket of juicy blueberries straight from the bush? How about enjoying them while relaxing to live music beside a pretty little pond? Blue Pearl Farms’ berries are now a regular presence at area farmers markets, but many people know them best for their monthly “Blueberry Jams,” when they host a local band (or three) and invite crafts vendors, food trucks, and the general public to come enjoy their style of country living. On June 23, they’ll celebrate the berries ripening by hosting their annual Blueberry Festival, an amped-up version of the jams with even more live music and entertainment from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you go, don’t be too shy to sign up for the blueberry toss, but be ready to catch a projectile berry from up to 40 feet away if you want a shot at winning. On your way home, if blueberries haven’t filled you up, stop by Thornhill Farm’s Our Local Foods store, where you can stock up on locally raised meats and veggies grown just a few feet away.
■ Blue Pearl Farms, 9760 Randall Rd., McClellanville. (843) 887-3554,
Festival admission: $10; free for child 14 & under. Daily admission: Free.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; please call ahead.
■ Our Local Foods,10882 Hwy. 17 North, (843) 887-3500,

Get Quirky in Elloree

{ 71 miles  [ 1 hour, 14 minutes }
When passing through tiny Elloree (“The home I love” in the local Native American tongue), the first thing that’ll draw motorists’ attention is the water tower—not the shiny, modern one, but the rickety metal relic still standing around the corner. From there, one can spot a rather odd attraction—the giant blue teapot tucked behind the storefronts of Elloree’s main drag. J’s Tea-Rific Teapot Museum opened in 2012 behind the pharmacy that Julian and Sybil Boland run out front. They estimate that their collection numbers in the tens of thousands, gathered at flea markets and on mission trips and vacations taken around the world. The pots are arranged by country of origin and style, including an entire city of building-shaped teapots (complete with streetscapes) and a wooden “ark” that houses several hundred in the form of animals. Sybil is more than happy to share the stories behind each one.
Around the corner, the Elloree Heritage Museum celebrates our state’s rural character with dioramas of the town in the 19th and early 20th centuries and artifacts from its long history as a cotton hub. And if you want to own a piece of this history, visit on the second Friday and Saturday of each odd month, when the Adams Auction Gallery hosts a lively sale of antique collectibles, furniture, and jewelry that typically brings out much of the town to bid on everything from baseball cards to French telephones to wall-size paintings.
■ J’s Tea-Rific Teapot Museum, behind 2732 Cleveland St., Elloree, (803) 897-2133, 
Admission: Donations accepted.
Hours: Wednesday–Friday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. & by appointment
■ Elloree Heritage Museum, 2714 Cleveland St., (803) 897-2225,
Admission: $5; $4 senior; $3 student; free for child under six

Immerse Yourself in the Great Swamp Sanctuary

{ 52 miles  [ 1 hour, 10 minutes }
Just outside Walterboro (and minutes off of I-95), three small creeks braid together to form the Great Swamp, before collectively feeding into the Ashepoo River (the “A” in ACE Basin). The city protects 842 acres of this soggy forest, maintaining four miles of trails and boardwalks (much of which is handicap-friendly). The park includes a bike path and a 1.5-mile section of Ireland Creek navigable by canoe and kayak. Plans for a first-class interpretive center are in the works, but the natural wonders of this easily accessible wild forest are open and ready to be explored.
■ 399 Detreville St., Walterboro, (843) 782-1000,
Admission: Free.
Hours: Dawn to dusk

Celebrate Freedom & Gullah Culture on St. Helena Island

{ 81 miles  [ 1 hour, 48 minutes }
In the winter of 1861-62, Union troops invaded the Sea Islands around Beaufort, forcing the exile of the white Southerners and leaving behind 10,000 liberated slaves. Charitable organizations from the North stepped in to help the former slaves transition to self-sufficiency and freedom. One such project, dubbed the “Port Royal Experiment,” included the construction of the Penn School on St. Helena Island, near the hamlet of Frogmore (famous for its stew). The former site of the school is now home to the Penn Center’s 50-acre campus, including the York W. Bailey Museum, where an excellent video presentation, crafts, and numerous artifacts tell the story of this important part of African-American history. There’s a gift shop and bookstore, and it’s worth spending an hour meandering among the campus’ historic buildings and moss-draped live oaks. Complete your experience with a meal at the nearby Gullah Grub Restaurant, a rare spot where shark is always on the menu (along with plenty of fish chowder and barbecue ribs).
■ Penn Center, 16 Penn Center Cir. West, St. Helena Island, (843) 838-2432
Admission: $5; $3 student; free for child six & under.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
■ Gullah Grub, 877 Sea Island Pkwy., (843) 838-3841,
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, & Friday, noon-8 p.m.; Sunday brunch noon-4:30 p.m.

Stroll Through Downtown Bluffton

{ 94 miles  [1 hour, 54 minutes }
It’s hard to imagine a coastal Southern town more idyllic than Bluffton. Every avenue extends an invitation to walk or pedal under moss-draped live oaks and past grand homes with wraparound porches perfect for rocking chairs and a cool glass of sweet tea. Start at the Heyward House Historic Center, a plantation home renovated into the town’s official welcome center and museum. After perusing nearby antiques shops and galleries, settle into one of the corner couches at Vineyard 55 and start exploring their extensive wine and craft beer list with a plate of olives or a slice of rustic pizza. If you can make it on a Thursday, the weekly farmers market closes a few downtown blocks to car traffic from 2 to 7 p.m., giving way to steel drums and live music, local veggie and flower vendors, and plenty of arts and ready-to-eat treats. Bluffton is (remarkably) without its own B&B at the moment, but there are plenty of hotel options along Highway 278. And if you want a truly idyllic experience, splurge on a stay at the nearby Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a stellar Auberge Resort property.
■ Heyward House Historic Center, 70 Boundary St., Bluffton, (843) 757-6293,
Admission: Free; $5 house tours.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Slither into the Serpentarium

{ 51 miles  [ 1 hour, 11 minutes }
Snakes have gotten a bad rap since the beginning of time (at least in the Biblical version of history). But our slithery reptile friends play a crucial role in our environment, and the great majority of them are completely harmless to humans. The Edisto Island Serpentarium seeks to inform and educate visitors about the importance of reptiles, while dispelling myths and abating undue fears. This isn’t your typical array of glass tanks—the landscaped outdoor enclosures allow visitors a realistic view of the animals’ natural habitat. In addition to plenty of snakes, there are 19 alligators living here, along with a host of turtles and lizards. Call ahead to time your visit for a feeding session or one of their engaging, hands-on presentations.
■ 1374 Hwy. 174, Edisto Island, (843) 869-1171,
Admission: $14.95; $13.95 senior; $10.95 child ages four-12; free for child under four
Hours: (From May 27-August  17) Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Take a Drive Down a National Scenic Byway

{ 42 miles  [ 58 minutes }
Few roads in our state are more inviting than Highway 174 through Edisto Island, designated a National Scenic Byway for its wide marsh vistas and tunnels of live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. The 16.7-mile route between the Intracoastal Waterway and Edisto Beach is dotted with historic landmarks, including Windsor Plantation (a Civil War site visible from the road), a sweetgrass basket stand, and churches dating back to the 19th century. Give yourself ample time to explore the tiny and irresistibly cute Edisto Island Museum, which includes fascinating photographs and artifacts from the Civil War and Gullah culture, as well as on-site restored slave cabins. From June 17 to September 3, the museum will also be displaying the local creations of the Edisto Island Art Guild. And don’t forget to take home a bag of Geechie Boy grits, milled on-site at their roadside market.
■ Edisto Island Museum, 8123 Chisholm Plantation Rd., Edisto, (843) 869-1954,
Admission: Free.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, noon–5 p.m.
■ Geechie Boy Mill, 2995 Hwy. 174, (843) 209-5220,

Tour a Castle Guarded by Alligators

{ 82 miles  [ 1 hour, 38 minutes }
Although there’s no better place in the state to see gators gathered en masse than at the freshwater lake at Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, most people visit for the stretches of beach presided over by Atalaya, the mid-20th- century estate that played winter home to Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, a New York industrialist and sculptor, respectively. (Anna’s work is on display at Brookgreen Gardens, just across the highway). Atalaya, which means “watch tower” in Spanish, features more than 30 living quarter rooms designed around an expansive central courtyard. If you’re the camping type and want to expand your trip, the park boasts an extensive campground just steps away from the beach.
■ Huntington Beach State Park, 16148 Ocean Hwy., Murrells Inlet, (843) 237-4440,
Admission: $5 park, $2 Atalaya.
Summer hours: (Park) daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m., (Atalaya) daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Salute the Marines at Parris Island

{ 77 miles  [ 1 hour, 44 minutes }
If you’re a recruit, Parris Island is not a welcoming place. As the U.S. Marines’ East Coast training facility since 1915, its thick jungles once prepared soldiers to head to war in Vietnam. But if you’re a military buff, its on-site museum is a must, with exhibits on the island’s history, from native settlements to 16th-century Spanish and French colonies to the American Revolution and Civil War. The museum lies within an active military base, so be prepared to present your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration at the gate.
■ 111 Panama St., Beaufort, (843) 228-2951,
Admission: Free.
Hours: 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Reflect at Mepkin Abbey

{ 44 miles  [ 1 hour, 3 minutes }
Familiar to most people by their oyster mushrooms sold at local groceries (and until a few years ago, their eggs), the monks at Mepkin Abbey tend their grounds along a peaceful, idyllic stretch of the Cooper River. The public is welcome to visit the Nancy Bryan Luce Gardens and walk the meditation labyrinth, picnic by the river, or take a guided tour of the Abbey’s church. Keep in mind that the monks lead a quiet life that begins with vigils each morning at 3:20 a.m., so be respectful as you soak in the abundant scenery of their unique monastery.
■ Mepkin Abbey, 1098 Mepkin Abbey Rd., Moncks Corner, (843) 761-8509,
Admission: Free
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sunday, 1–4 p.m.
Guided tours at 11:30 a.m. & 3 p.m.

Explore the Wild Coastal Forest of Botany Bay

{ 46 miles  [ 1 hour, 3 minutes }
There is arguably no place wilder along the S.C. coast—yet accessible by car and foot—than Botany Bay Plantation on Edisto Island. This 3,363-acre tract, gifted to the state in 2008, is open for the public to explore at will, from the lengthy boneyard beach to the dense maritime forest and lagoons rich with bird life (plus poison ivy, alligators, snakes, and spiders). This is a truly wild place, with plenty of bugs and biting animals that mean no harm (but could hurt you, if provoked). It’s also home to Native American shell rings and the ruins of plantation homes left over from the days when the island’s fields abundantly produced Sea Island Cotton. If you’re more comfortable with someone showing you the way, biologist Meg Hoyle recently founded Botany Bay Ecotours to offer boat trips, sea-turtle walks, and “island safaris” to families and visitors looking for interpretive guidance into the reserve.
■ Botany Bay Plantation, Botany Bay Rd., Edisto, (843) 869-2713,
Admission: Free, but must obtain permit at entrance gate
Hours: Wednesday-Monday, half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset
■ Botany Bay Ecotours, (843) 869-2998,

Sip, Savor, and Party on Wadmalaw Island

{ 20 miles  [ 31 minutes }
On the first weekend of August for 120 years, the Rockville Regatta has drawn Charleston’s maritime community out to the terminus of Wadmalaw Island for a weekend of sailing, drinking, and celebrating the summer season. Most attendees come by water, but the drive to Rockville is a pleasant afternoon experience on any summer day. Stop in at the Charleston Tea Plantation to take their scenic trolley tour through the neatly trimmed fields before visiting the factory, where the public gets an up-close view of how the tea leaves are processed in bulk. Around the corner on Bears Bluff Road, the Firefly Distillery has grown into an attraction of its own, with tours of the Irvin-House Vineyards and samples of their (now famous) Sweet Tea Vodka. And for a taste of true Wadmalaw culture, stop into Johnson Baby Grand on your way home, where the beers are cheap and served ice cold from a cooler behind the bar.

■ Charleston Tea Plantation, 6617 Maybank Hwy., Wadmalaw Island, (843) 559-0383,
Admission: Free factory tour; trolley tour: $10, $5 for child 11 & under.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, noon-4 p.m.
■ Irvin-House Vineyards & Firefly Distillery, 6775 Bears Bluff Rd., (843) 557-1405,
Admission: Free, $6 per tasting
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
■ Johnson Baby Grand, 6241 Maybank Hwy., (843) 559-8881

Paddle into a Bygone Era at Old Santee Canal State Park

{ 35 miles  [ 48 minutes }
Before the Santee Canal opened in 1800, the Lowcountry’s inland crops made their way to Charleston either via wagon or down the Santee River and out into the ocean. By connecting the Santee and Cooper rivers, the canal opened up commerce and allowed our city to grow (until the railway between Columbia and Charleston was completed in 1840 and made the canal obsolete). Today, the canal’s terminus at the Cooper boasts a 195-acre park that includes the Stony Landing Plantation House; a sprawling interpretive center with live animal displays; and the Berkeley County Museum with exhibits on Colonial life, the Civil War era, and the construction of Lake Moultrie in the 1940s. There are also four miles of trails, but our favorite attraction may be the $6 per hour canoe rentals that visitors can use to journey up the returned-to-nature route of the historic canal.
■ 900 Stony Landing Rd., Moncks Corner, (843) 899-5200,
Admission: $3; $2 senior; free for child age six & under
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Walk with the Ancients and Fly with the Birds

{ 29 miles  [ 38 minutes }
One of the most exciting day-trip adventures out of Charleston is also among the most convenient. Head up Highway 17 to Awendaw, where Sewee Outpost’s fresh coffee and country ham biscuits will provide energy for the short hike that lies ahead. Your destination is the Sewee Shell Ring, a 4,000-year-old relic that marks where the ancient Native American tribe discarded their oyster shells. Six miles after the Outpost, turn right onto Doar Road, before proceeding 2.5 miles to Salt Pond Road, which will deliver you to the trailhead (it’s about a mile to the shell mound). Interpretive signs along a raised boardwalk explain the significance of the site. Breathe deep and imagine you’ve traveled four millennia back in time.

Next, head back down 17 to The Center for Birds of Prey, where tours include up-close viewing of more than 40 species of hawks, eagles, vultures, owls, falcons, and kites, along with flight demonstrations. You’ll be left awestruck by these powerful birds’ majestic beauty and informed about the integral role they play in our ecosystem.

Finally, end your day across the highway at a local institution, the Seewee Restaurant. There, in a charmingly ramshackle former general store, indulge in casual Southern fried fare—think hush puppies, shrimp, okra, and fish—as well as some grilled options, amazing sides, and homemade pies. Or head on back to Sewee Outpost, where you can grab a cold one and a delectable shrimp salad sandwich before hitting the links for a round of disc golf on their brand new 18-hole course.

■ Sewee Shell Mound (Francis Marion National Forest),
Admission: Free.
Hours: Daily, dawn to dusk
■ Sewee Outpost, 4853 Hwy. 17 North, Awendaw, (843) 928-3493,
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-9 p.m.;
Sunday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
■ Center for Birds of Prey, 4872 Seewee Rd., Awendaw, (843) 971-7474, www.thecenterforbirds
Admission: $12; $10 ages six-18; free for child under six.
Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; tours at 10:30 a.m. & 2 p.m.; flight demos Thursday-Saturday at 11:30 a.m. & 3 p.m.
■ Seewee Restaurant, 4808 Hwy. 17 North, Awendaw, (843) 928-3609
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.- 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Bike Across Bulls Island

{ 24 miles  [ 39 minutes }
If you live in the Lowcountry and have never been to a boneyard beach, put Bulls Island at the very top of your day-trip itinerary. Seeing a forest overtaken by the ocean, with scraggly, fossil-like trees “growing” like ghosts from the sand immediately connects you with both the impermanent nature of our barrier islands and their potential beauty when left to natural processes. And Bulls Island certainly belongs to nature—bring your bug spray, sunscreen, and a mountain bike to fully explore the island’s 16 miles of grassy roads and trails. Local outfitter Coastal Expeditions leads tours four days a week during the summer, departing at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. from Garris Landing in Awendaw.
■ Bulls Island Ferry, 498 Bulls Island Rd., Awendaw, (843) 881-4582,
■ Coastal Expeditions, (843) 884-4582,

Learn to Make Sweetgrass Baskets at Hopsewee Plantation

{ 49 miles  [ 58 minutes }
Built in 1740 along the North Santee River, Georgetown’s Hopsewee Plantation is home to one of the best-preserved rice plantation homes in the South. In addition to a house tour, strolling the wooded property, and enjoying afternoon tea on the grounds (don’t miss the pimiento cheese biscuits), plan a visit around their afternoon sweetgrass basket-sewing workshops, where for $55 visitors can spend three hours learning the centuries-old West African art—and help to preserve a Lowcountry tradition in the process.
■ 494 Hopsewee Rd., (843) 546-7891,
Admission: $17.50; $10.50 for ages 12-17; $7.50 for child five-11; free for child age four & under.
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.
Basket class ($55) by appointment Tuesday-Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.

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