A Weekend In The Islands (of South Carolina)

After spending two weeks in Macon, GA learning a bit about horse farming (plus winning turkey shoots, eating barbeque, and riding horses), we decided to head to the coast for some time by the ocean. Who doesn’t want a trip to the islands? Well, perhaps the Lowcountry islands of South Carolina aren’t exactly what most of us think of, but why not stop by while we’re in the area on the way to Charleston?

Edisto Island

The first place we went was Edisto Island. We camped in Edisto Beach State Park for two nights and used it as a jump-off point to see the surrounding area before heading into Charleston for a night. So what’s there to say about Edisto Island?

Well, for starters, it’s absolutely beautiful. That’s an easy way to describe it. The island is far less developed than Kiawah and Seabrook Islands. It looks like the place that normal people are living their lives. It’s definitely not where the rich folks hang out. The houses are regular houses, some on a good bit of land, some pretty run-down, some that maybe should be abandoned, but aren’t.

For the most part though, it’s an unmanicured, uncommercialized island where people just do what they do. It’s not covered in golf courses and resorts (though there are a few nice hotels and a golf course on the southern tip of the island). There are a few little dive diners, some fresh produce markets, at least one fresh seafood shop (where we picked up some shrimp to make a campfire meal), and a little Piggly Wiggly that covers most of your needs beyond that.

Really, the best thing to do on the island is drive around it and just take it in. Every road we drove on Edisto was two lanes and either tree-lined or looking out over beautiful marshlands with clumps of trees here and there.

And when I say tree-lined, I’m talking huge old growth oaks (and probably lots of other species…a dendrologist, I ain’t), covered in Spanish Moss. If you were out at night, you’d think you were driving into Sleepy Hollow. Turn off your headlights (while sitting still) on these unlit lanes and it would probably be pretty creepy.

Edisto is really cool and the kind of place that we are looking to see on our travels. Falling asleep 50 yards from the ocean (though there’s a grove of trees separating the beach from the campground) and waking up to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean certainly didn’t hurt our overall feelings towards the place.

Here are some pictures of the natural beauty of Edisto Island.

Kiawah & Seabrook Islands

Sunday we took the 45 minute drive up to Kiawah and Seabrook Islands, which are about the complete opposite of Edisto. They are beautifully manicured, meticulously planned, perfectly perfect islands. The resorts are gated. The people are well-dressed. And everything is priced accordingly.

Our first stop was on Seabrook Island. We didn’t go very far before we had to turn back because of a gated community. So we went and shared some She-crab Soup and a Lowcountry Boil at a nearby eatery for lunch before walking around the boardwalk to look at the sailboats and cruisers, both big and small, and enjoy the sunny 75-degree day. And Knox found a new playmate in Divot (think his owners play some golf?), so they did what dogs do…sniff butts and run around for a few minutes.

After that, we went over to Kiawah. Kiawah is regarded as one of the best golf destinations on the East Coast and is home to The Sanctuary Hotel. We found a lot more to see and do on Kiawah than on Seabrook (see the aforementioned gated community). While Kiawah is a private, gated, restricted access community, all you have to do is ask the guard if you can go see one of the landmarks and they give you a day pass.

So we went to see The Sanctuary. There are really only three words to describe this hotel: Hoe Lee Crap! First, there’s the drive through Kiawah to get there. Wide tree-lined streets (though manicured without any natural overgrowth like on Edisto) with big wide sidewalks and bike paths. Big Christmas decorations throughout (at least this time of year). And a bridge with a stop-off to look out over the marshy landscape.

But anyway, the hotel. It didn’t just have stairs. It had grand staircases (yes, multiple). It had meticulous attention to every single detail. It even had a gingerbread house made almost completely of sugary sweetness that took up a good 10 square feet and had walls 2 feet tall.

On the other hand, there’s the reality of a place where the cheapest room comes in above $300/night (and that doesn’t even get you an ocean view). There were the advertised cocktails running $13-18 (no thanks…that’s half a bottle of good bourbon!). And there was the double scoop of ice cream we got that ran us nearly $7 (but was very tasty – how can you go wrong with cinnamon toast and peppermint stick flavors?).

Of course, this isn’t to take away from the beauty of the islands. It’s just something different than Edisto. It’s two different looks and uses of land that is essentially the same. There’s an obvious difference beyond the islands that goes beyond (but is perhaps due to) the income disparity (Kiawah and Seabrook Islands have median family incomes 2.5x that of Edisto Island).

Charleston

And finally, we made it to Charleston, but unfortunately only for one night. Hotel prices in Charleston were pretty high, so instead of staying in a hotel for a few nights when we could spend 2, 3, or 5 in another area for the same price, we just decided to go for one night. We snagged a hotel in the Historic District, took a nice scenic drive from Edisto to Charleston, and hung out for the night.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t really cooperate and it was pretty windy and rainy. Other than a short walk down to Battery Park and up East Bay St (AKA Rainbow Row) to see the huge, colorful houses, we didn’t get much opportunity to see much of the city.

But we did get to see some friends and family. We had dinner with Scott’s cousin Nate, who he hasn’t seen in 10-15 years and then we grabbed coffee before leaving for Savannah with Edie’s friend Cynthia. Really, that’s the best part of our travels…seeing people we haven’t seen in a long time (more on that in a later post).

And now, for some pictures of Kiawah & Seabrook Islands and Charleston (plus a few from a quick side trip to Hilton Head).