YOU COULD SPEND A WHOLE WEEKEND at Edisto Beach State Park and never step foot on the beach.
You shouldn’t—no visit to the 1,255-acre property is complete without a stroll or a swim along its shell-strewn mile and a half of shoreline—but you could easily while away two blissful days here enjoying all the other attractions the park has to offer.
“The beach is great, but there’s so much more here,” says park manager Susan Spell. “If you only see the beach, you’ve missed so much.”
For instance, there is Spell’s own “front yard,” as she calls it. That’s an expanse of palmettos and live oaks that graces the front of her ranger’s residence and serves as the greeting to the cabin area where my wife and I spent a mid-September weekend.
We stayed in one of the seven cabins available for rent, all on a beautiful setting right on the marsh. The cabin area and adjacent Live Oak campground provide easy access to one of the state’s longest handicapped-accessible trail systems. Wide and compacted with a sand mix designed for such use, the 3.5 miles of pathways make for ideal hiking and biking.
On a picture-perfect day, we walked from the ranger station to the Spanish Mount, a 4,000-year-old shell midden that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Archaeologists are unsure if the shells were a ceremonial placement or just the debris from hundreds of years of oyster roasts by early human inhabitants. Regardless of how they got here, the shells form a bluff overlooking the tidal creek, and a deck provides an unparalleled view of Scott Creek.
On our afternoon stroll through the maritime forest, we saw a fishing boat on the creek and passed a family of cyclists, but otherwise felt we had the forest—with its live oaks, windmill palms, palmettos, wax myrtles and birds—pretty much to ourselves.
The trail system also carried us to the park’s Environmental Learning Center. A joint state-federal operation, it tells the story of the ACE Basin, the 350,000-acre estuarine area that’s the largest of its kind on the East Coast. Inside the well-kept center are exhibits that tell both the natural and human history of the area. Tanks with live critters and even the front deck of a simulated boat keep visitors interested, and the price is right: the center is free and open year-round except on Sundays and Mondays.
Edisto Beach State Park’s 1.5-mile beach is known for its relaxing surf, sun, sand and solitude. Seven roomy cabins, as well as the park’s traditional campsites, can be reserved up to 11 months in advance. The Spanish Mount is a 4,000-year-old shell midden that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Edisto Beach State Park is on S.C. 174, about 28 miles off U.S. 17 and about 50 miles southwest of Charleston.
Hours: The park is open year-round, daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with extended hours during Daylight Savings Time. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cabin check-in time is 4 p.m. and check-out time is 10 a.m.
Admission: $5 adults; $3.25 for seniors; $3 children ages 6–15; free for children 5 and younger. The park asks visitors to please use the “iron ranger” cash boxes to pay admission when no staff is present.
Details: Reservations for cabins and campsites can be made at (866) 345-PARK (7275) and can be made up to 11 months in advance. They also can be made online. For more information, call the park office at (843) 869-2156.