Edisto Beach and Island
Experience the Beach and capture that Island Spirit…
The secret is being discovered, and Edisto Beach has become known as a coastal island destination, a state of mind, anytime…any season. Edisto is one of South Carolina’s largest barrier islands, located approximately 45 miles south of Charleston and east of Walterboro. Historic Highway 174 stretches across the island through moss-hung ancient oaks, unspoiled marshes, and rich agricultural land. The North and South Edisto Rivers border two edges of the island connected by the
Atlantic Ocean and Intercoastal Waterway on opposite sides.
When you reach the end of scenic byway SC Highway 174, you will arrive at Edisto Beach. Edisto, pronounced “EH dis tow”, is one of the most serene beaches found on the South Carolina coast. By water, Edisto Beach is located in St. Helena Sound where the ACE Basin meets the Atlantic Ocean. Travel by land or sea to reach this destination is truly a delightful stroll through nature at its finest. By land, the meandering Highway 174 takes you through and over marshes and rivers under a tranquil canopy of graceful oaks threaded with Spanish moss. By water, the ACE Basin offers abundant wildlife including majestic wood storks, egrets, herons and an American bald eagle or two if you are so lucky. The sea creatures that you may encounter can include dolphins, sea otters, alligators and a variety of fish to delight any angler.
The beach itself is “gently” developed with low-level beach houses situated along 4.5 miles of uncrowded, pristine beach, beside the many tidal creeks and rivers and throughout the interior. Countless families have spent generations of vacations exploring the natural beauty this special place has to offer. With its laid-back lifestyle and quiet, yet breath-taking, natural setting, this sea island destination provides everyone a chance to enjoy the slower pace of days gone by.
There are no hotels on Edisto Beach, but there are many rental opportunities of every type and size available in which you can experience all that makes Edisto the unique destination it is. It’s the kind of place you can bring your family, your extended family, your friends or just you and your significant other to take a well deserved break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and work to unplug from the stresses of the 21st century. Sure, there are plenty of towers and conveniences of today’s technology, but you will probably find that leaving the laptop off will allow you to experience life the “Edi-slow” way.
Edisto is a fantastic beach for shelling and shark’s teeth or other fossil hunting. There have been many rare fossils found along the waterline including the tooth of a three toed horse, skate jaws, whelk egg cases and ribs and vertebrae of all sorts of ocean creatures. Loggerhead Turtles are your neighbors as the females come ashore to lay their eggs in the late spring and summer. These nests are protected and monitored by local organizations. For the well being of the turtles, you will want to assure that the lights are out on the beach side and that you do not disturb any nests you may find. Please contact the Edisto Beach State Park, if you do come upon an unmarked nest.
The beach offers big surf at the north end and a calm bay at the south end. Playing in the ocean and soaking up the sun are must do’s, but be aware of the current, stay hydrated and keep that sun protection on. Walking the waterline is a popular and healthy activity…you never know who you may meet or what treasure you will find along the way. Body surfing is great too, as is wind surfing and sea kayaking. And, the ever popular skim boarding is practiced by youth and adults alike.
If you like to fish, there are numerous options. Surf fishing requires minimal equipment. A pole, some bait and a bucket to haul off your catch are the basics. Anything you didn’t bring with you can be bought or rented at several places on the beach. You can also check out the rivers and creeks for some tasty seafood including, of course, shrimp and crab. Didn’t bring your boat? No worries, there are several charter captains listed further along in this guide that provide trips in shore and as far out as the Gulf Stream depending on the time of the year and what it is you are looking to go after. Can’t be bothered with all that work? Edisto has several seafood markets that offer up local freshly caught seafood options you can purchase to take back to the house and cook up yourself. Still too much work? Remember all the great restaurants that the beach has to offer and a few other options a little further out the island.
If you are a golfer, the newly refurbished and acclaimed golf course will challenge your game but also leave you with the desire to come back and play again soon. There are several packages for golf outings, including condos that will sleep your two favorite foursome’s just steps away from the club house and restaurant. The Plantation Course is located within the only resort property, Wyndham Ocean Ridge.
And, of course the all favorite past time of sitting in the rocking chair on the front porch (in the Southern vernacular, that is whichever side faces the water) with your favorite beverage, your favorite must read or must listen to and watch the sun come up and go down while being lulled by the sound of the surf and watching the pelicans glide effortlessly by.
If you are looking for a brief break from everything the beach has to offer, you won’t have to look far. There are plenty of unique sights to see…churches, plantations, museums, an interpretive center, a serpentarium… all among the beauty of the natural landscape and wildlife of the island. There are enriching tours, distinctive shopping, creative art opportunities, terrific restaurants and plenty of canopied dirt roads and wandering creeks to explore.
Most visitors settle into the slow pace, enjoy the beach, and choose not to interrupt their spirit of relaxation. Those who do decide to seek a bigger change of pace, however, discover that there are also some great day trips you can take from your coastal home base. Charleston is just 45 minutes away from Edisto and offers great sightseeing. If you are into antiques, Walterboro, also home of the SC Artisans Center, is about a 40-minute drive. Other places to visit are Beaufort, Hilton Head Island and Savannah. You can take in the many things to do and learn in these nearby cities and come back home to your peaceful, uncrowded beach home away from home.
Historically, the evidence of Edisto Island’s legacy begins with artifacts from the island’s original inhabitants, the Edistow Indians, and the remains of an oyster shell mound, known as the Shell Bank, on state park property. The first Europeans to arrive on Edisto were Spaniards who named their island retreat “Oristo.” A Jesuit mission briefly operated on the banks of Scott Creek, but the Spanish never settled permanently. In 1674, Edisto Island was secured for England when the Earl of Shaftesbury “purchased” the land from the Edistows. Englishman Paul Grimball was issued a grant of 600 acres along the North Edisto River where he built his home, the first on the Island. Unfortunately, the house was left in ruins in 1686 when Spanish pirates marauded the property. In 1714, additional settlers arrived and funds were appropriated for construction for the King’s Highway-sections of which are still traveled today.
Agricultural ventures on Edisto began with an attempt at cultivating the famous Carolina gold rice. However, due to the salinity of the low-lying water, production of this crop proved to be unsuccessful. Indigo was then introduced and, for a short time, prosperity ensued. High bonuses paid by the English government ceased with the start of the American Revolution. This brought about the need for a new crop, a new money-maker. The king of all cotton, Sea Island cotton, was the crop and it flourished in Edisto’s rich, fertile soil. The planters flourished too, accumulating unimaginable wealth. This era, known as Edisto’s Golden Age, ended with the Civil War. The arrival of the boll weevil in the early 1900’s demolished the lucrative crop and today, the former cotton fields harvest vegetables and melons while the majestic homes and churches of a more affluent age remain.
Edisto Beach State Park opened nearly 60 years ago, putting Edisto on the map of summer attractions. The State Park has expanded many times over the years. It now includes beach and marsh-side camping, cabins, a boat ramp and dock, and a nature interpretative center. Thousands of visitors are welcomed to Edisto each year. All who visit Edisto experience the comfort and rejuvenation of the island lifestyle, and its residents are committed to moderate well-planned growth that is focused on retaining that spirit.
Whether you tap into the wide array of activities and recreational outings that abound, or just take the time to soak in the area’s unrivaled sunsets, Edisto Beach is revered by individuals and families, beach and nature lovers, and golfers and boaters alike who seek to escape the hustle of everyday life.
So come see for yourself and get to know Edisto Beach…a family sanctuary. You might just discover a new place to call home, and experience that Edisto state of mind, anytime, any season.