Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah

Just south of Charleston and north of Savannah, a natural paradise awaits your visit! The historic Kings Highway 17 travels through the beautiful SC Lowcountry and these protected treasures.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Wood stork image captured by Ira Runyan at Donnelley Wildlife Management Area.

The area that lies between Charleston and Savannah is a nature lover’s paradise. Here you will find wildlife management areas, nature trails, church ruins and a welcome center located in a historic house.

1. Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
ACE Basin Oak Grove Plantation House photo by Carmen Pinckney.

The Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge is located off Hwy 17, on Hwy 174 towards Edisto Island. The refuge is home to a vast array of waterfowl, and the Antebellum Oak Grove Plantation House.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Stretch your legs and visit the trails of the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge.
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

A walk behind the house leads visitors to the former rice fields. Rows, dikes, trunks, and gates are still visible today. The paths are marked and meander around the rice fields and wooded areas. Make sure to bring your camera and be on the lookout for wildlife. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/ernest-f-hollings-ace-basin-national-wildlife-refuge/.

2. Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Drive through the Lowcountry’s most photographed live oak canopy at Botany Bay.
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

A venture further down Hwy 174 onto Edisto Island will bring you to the wildlife management area of Botany Bay Plantation. This is one of the most unique destinations on Edisto Island. The 4.000+ acre property boasts historical buildings, maritime forest, a boneyard beach and freshwater ponds. The property is covered in pine, palm and live oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss. Don’t be surprised to see deer, alligators, shore birds, crabs, raccoons and many other maritime forest creatures.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Botany Bay’s boneyard beach is covered in shells.
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

There are two sites listed on the register of historic places at Botany Bay. A set of three surviving 1840s outbuildings and the prehistoric Fig Island Shell Ring can be seen on the property. Explore the plantation house ruins, walk the forest trails, or stroll the beach on this South Carolina controlled wildlife management area. Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area is a great place to spend a day. Bring a picnic, beach chairs and kayaks. Explore the wonders of the South Carolina Lowcountry! For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/edisto-islands-botany-bay/.

3. Edisto Nature Trail

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Edisto Nature Trail photo by David Lucas.

Jacksonboro is the perfect spot to get out and stretch your legs on the Edisto Nature Trail. The trail is located on Highway 17, adjacent to the Edisto River. Jacksonboro is in the area known as the ACE Basin. This low-lying part of the state is full of former rice plantations with beautiful marsh and river views, and teaming with wildlife.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Edisto Nature Trail photo by David Lucas.

The boardwalk trail meanders through the woods that change from pineland and maritime forests to cypress and tupelo swamp. Before and after the Revolutionary War, this area was rich in rice production. A 15-minute walk along the boardwalk will take you to a dock overlooking the Edisto River. You can also press on and take the 1.5-mile loop trail that can be completed in about an hour. It will transport you from the wetlands to higher upland forest area. Make sure to wear appropriate shoes. Be sure to bring bug spray if you come in the spring or summer. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/hiking-the-edisto-nature-trail/.

4. Bear Island Wildlife Management Area

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Bear Island image by Pluff Mudd Perspectives.

Bear Island Wildlife Management Area is located off Hwy 17 in the Green Pond area. This wildlife management area is managed to provide quality habitat for wintering waterfowl. It’s a great spot to view bald eagles, wood storks and roseate spoonbills.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Bear Island is a great place to photograph birds. Photo by Jim Killian.

Drive through this area for many opportunities to spot wildlife. The forest, marsh and river views are beautiful. Bear Island is located between the Asheepoo and South Edisto Rivers. From Hwy 17, turn onto Bennett’s Point Road and follow for 13 miles. The entrance is on TiTi Road. (843)844-8957. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/explore-sc-lowcouontry-wildlife-preserves-and-nature-trails/.

5. Donnelley Wildlife Management Area

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Donnelley Wildlife Management Area drive image by Carmen Pinckney.

Donnelley Wildlife Management Area is a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike. It is located on Hwy 17 in Green Pond (between Yemassee and Jacksonboro) in the heart of the ACE Basin. This is a great place to glimpse Lowcountry nature at its finest. The property features a historic rice field system, which is now managed to attract waterfowl and migratory birds. The drive is pleasantly lined with beautiful old live oaks.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Roseatte Spoonbills can be found at Donnelley, along with many other species of birds.

The driving tour covers about 11 miles and should take from an hour to half a day, depending on how many stops you make. The marked stops on the map serve simply as suggestions; feel free to stop anywhere along the way (although please park on the shoulder) and walk off the road at any point to get a closer look at wildlife or native plants. Take extra precautions when viewing alligators, especially during the spring mating season. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/colleton-countys-donnelley-wildlife-management-area/.

6. Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Old Sheldon Church Ruins image by Carmen Pinckney.

A simple turn off Hwy 17 onto Old Sheldon Church Road is like stepping back in time. Travel up the road for about two miles and see the church ruins on the right. Parking is located across the street. This church was burned during the Revolutionary War, rebuilt, and then destroyed again during the Civil War.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Old Sheldon Church Ruins includes a historic graveyard.
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

Located just passed the turn to Beaufort off Hwy 17, Sheldon Church has laid in ruin for more than 140 years. Its gable roof, pediment, windows & interior have disappeared, but the classic simplicity of its design still remains. Burned by British troops in 1779 and destroyed again during the Civil War it still serves as a religious center for special observances. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/experience-a-driving-detour-through-yemassee/.

7. Frampton Plantation House & Visitors Center

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Frampton House sits conveniently at the intersection of I-95 and Highway 17.
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

Historically speaking, the Frampton House property was part of an original King’s Grant to the Frampton family in the 1700s. The family oversaw the production of 4,000 acres of cotton, rice, and other crops. During the 1865 Campaign of the Carolinas, General Sherman’s troops burned the plantation house and all the farm buildings that stood on this site.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Go back in time at Frampton House. Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

The house was rebuilt in 1868 and the property was probably used for share cropping and tenant farming. Once slated for demolition, the house has been restored and the ground floor is open to the public. The second story holds the offices of the Lowcountry Tourism Commission. Frampton House is open to the public seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Come see us for all your SC Lowcountry travel questions and insider secrets. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/history-is-preserved-at-frampton-plantation-house/.

8. Blue Heron Nature Trail

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Blue Heron Nature Trail travels along a pond and Lowcountry wetland. Photo by Lynn Boyles.

Blue Heron Nature Center & Trail offers relief for the road-weary, and it’s as easy to get to as any rest area. 

This 10-acre green space meanders around a three-acre pond and through forested wetlands. The property also includes a butterfly garden, picnic area, outdoor classroom, observation decks, and a 4,200-square-foot Learning Center. Permanent trail side displays help visitors learn more about the native flora and fauna of Jasper County and the Lowcountry.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Look for turtles and fish from the docks at Blue Heron Nature Trail. Photo by Lynn Boyles.

The nature trail leads you around the pond with several scenic overlooks along the way. Along the trail you will find benches, swings, and an attractive butterfly garden. In addition to the herons, you may see ducks, turtles, fish, alligators, and other wildlife. Also, several boardwalks take you through the surrounding forested wetlands. Get out of the traffic and spend some time relaxing while you wander around this natural gem. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/lowcountry-activities-ridgeland-i-95-exit-21/.

9. Sgt. Jasper Park

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
The boardwalks at Sgt. Jasper Park are wheelchair friendly. Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

Hardeeville’s Sgt. Jasper Park is conveniently located off I-95, at Exit 8. After exiting the interstate, point toward Hilton Head and turn left at the first traffic light. Follow the road around until you bump into the park entrance. Trails are located on both sides of the road. Some trails are wheelchair accessible. This is a great place to get off the interstate and stretch your legs. Dogs are welcome here, on a leash. A trail map is available in the park office.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Lowcountry nature trails are great places to walk the family dog while travelling. This trail is at Sgt. Jasper Park. Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

The trails alternate between gravel, boardwalk and natural footing. The views around the lake are pretty, and the trails are relaxing. There are other opportunities at the part as well. There are canoes, kayaks, and a disk golf course. Information can be found in the park office. There’s a playground for the kids and plenty of picnic spots. There is also a covered picnic shelter. Grills can be found at the park as well. The disk golf course is located on the left side of the road. The park also has fishing opportunities. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/spending-time-at-sgt-jasper-park/.

10. Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge still operates a historic trunk system that controls water flow into the former rice fields. Photo by Allyson Jones.

The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of opportunities to explore and enjoy the great outdoors from sunrise to sunset every day. You can observe and photograph wildlife. Make the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center your first stop when visiting the refuge. The refuge is located on Hwy 17 between Hardeeville and Savannah.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Drive through or hike the trails of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
Photo by Allyson Jones.

The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge protects old rice fields & numerous species of wildlife including ducks, birds, deer, & alligators. The 4-mile driving tour is free and open sunrise to sunset. Wildlife viewing is excellent for photography, especially during fall, winter, and spring, along the 4-mile Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive and adjacent hiking/bicycling trails. Many species of wading and marsh birds can also be spotted here throughout the year.

The trails adjacent to the Kingfisher Pond Recreation Area are great for watching woodland songbirds during spring and fall migrations. Summertime brings in an array of species that nest on the refuge. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/savannah-national-wildlife-refuge/. To explore the hiking trails visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/savannah-national-wildlife-refuge-hiking-trails/.

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
The unspoiled natural habitat of the SC Lowcountry is pristine breeding grounds for many birds. This bald eagle was spotted at Bear Island by Rhonda Epper.

Visitors could easily spend several days in the area exploring all the natural wonders located between Charleston and Savannah on Highway 17. Pick a few favorites or see them all. The choice is yours. Bring along the camera, a picnic and don’t forget the bug spray!

Top Ten Natural Wonders to See Between Charleston and Savannah
Pack a picnic and stop for lunch at Frampton House. Enjoy free wifi, picnic tables, clean restrooms and a friendly staff ready to help you on your journeys.

Visitors could easily spend several days in the area exploring all the natural wonders located between Charleston and Savannah on Highway 17. Pick a few favorites or see them all. The choice is yours. Bring along the camera, a picnic and don’t forget the bug spray!

If you’re looking for a more civilized picnic spot under the oaks, plan to have lunch at Frampton Plantation House. Our ground floor contains a visitors center, complete with restrooms, museum displays and a gift shop. The backyard has picnic tables and plenty of room to stretch your legs. As always, pets are welcome both inside and out! Our friendly staff can answer any questions or give suggestions for their favorite attractions in the area. For more information visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/ or call 843-717-3090.

To download a PDF version of the map, complete with addresses and phone numbers click HERE.

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