The Ultimate Deep South Road Trip: Savannah to Charleston

There are so many things to love about a Deep South road trip from Savannah to Charleston

Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina are two of the most popular travel destinations in the southeastern United States and they happen to be neighbors.

With famous historic squares, delicious southern cuisine, and a lively waterfront it’s no wonder Savannah attracts nearly 15 million visitors every year.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head north from Savannah and you’ll soon hit Charleston, another historical city where you can dine, shop, and take in the fresh sea air. After walking around its colorful, cobblestone streets it isn’t hard to understand why this city frequently earns a spot as one of the best places to visit in the US.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah and Charleston are just over 100 miles apart. The Savannah to Charleston drive time takes about two hours if you drive straight through with no detours. Because these two cities are fairly close, they make a great day road trip since you’ll have plenty of time to explore attractions along the way.

Driving from Savannah to Charleston is pretty straightforward. If you’re starting in Savannah, you’ll take I-95 North to US-17 North. But along the way, there are some interesting stops that are worth a visit.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before beginning the drive, I recommend several days in Savannah beginning the drive to visit attractions like Forsyth Park, the Bonaventure Cemetery, and the River Street waterfront area.

Just a 15-minute drive north of Savannah, you’ll find the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. This 30,000-acre wildlife refuge is home to birds, alligators, and other marsh-dwelling flora and fauna.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You could easily spend an entire day hiking, biking, and kayaking at this nature-lovers paradise but for this itinerary, we’re just going to visit Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive. The Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is a scenic four-mile road through the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Along this road, you can spot wildlife from your car or one of many lookout points.

Next, you’ll drive about an hour northeast to St. Helena Island, South Carolina. St. Helena Island is the perfect place to immerse yourself in natural beauty and learn about Gullah culture.

St. Helena © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the center of the island, surrounded by Spanish moss-draped oak trees, you’ll find the Penn Center, a 50-acre historic district comprising 25 historic buildings and structures. The Penn Center was one of the first schools in the country where formerly enslaved individuals could receive an education. The center was visited by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s and continues to work toward preserving and celebrating Gullah culture to this day. Visitors can learn about African American history, art, and culture on self-guided tours and group tours.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From St. Helena, continue driving one island further and you’ll arrive at Hunting Island State Park. This State Park is known for having five miles of amazing beaches and a lighthouse that dates back to the 19th century. You can even climb the lighthouse stairs for a panoramic view of the surrounding islands and wetlands. After visiting the lighthouse, you can spend time exploring the beach or head down to Hunting Island State Park Nature Center where you can learn about local wildlife.

Related: The Perfect Georgia Coast Road Trip

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping is available at the northern end of the park near the ocean. 102 sites offer water and 20/30/50 amp electric service. Campground roads are paved while the sites are packed soil. Some sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet; others up to 28 feet. The campground is convenient to hot showers with restroom facilities, beach walkways, and a playground.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Backtrack through Hunting Island and St. Helena Island to the coastal town of Beaufort. Next, we’re heading inland to the Old Sheldon Church Ruins. Sheldon Church dates back to the mid-1700s. It was burned down during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt many years later. It’s believed that the church was burned again during the Civil War but this time it wasn’t rebuilt.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the ruins are hauntingly beautiful and surrounded by a lush landscape. The property is located right off Old Sheldon Church Road and has informational markers as well as shaded seating areas to enjoy the view.

From the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, head northeast to Edisto Island. Edisto is a peaceful vacation island south of Charleston that’s perfect for a bit of relaxation.

Related: Spotlight on South Carolina: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Edisto Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Beach has long been a spectacular place to enjoy all of nature’s beauty while enjoying outdoor activities to keep your heart (and mind!) healthy. You can hike, bike, or run on Edisto whether you’re a seasoned fitness expert or just a fan of the leisurely stroll. There are walking paths, hiking, biking, kayaking, and paddle boarding options. Edisto is sure to offer something that matches exactly what you have in mind. 

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head to Edisto Beach State Park to stretch your legs on one of the many hiking paths or visit the environmental education center to learn more about the island. The park has an impressive array of camping sites in oceanfront and maritime forest habitats and most can accommodate RVs, some up to 40 feet. There are 64 oceanside sites and 33 sites along the salt marsh. Many sites offer easy access to the sea, sand, and sun.

Botany Bay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve located adjacent to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of Edisto Island. The 3,363-acre preserve includes almost three miles of undeveloped, breathtaking beachfront. Botany Bay is very accessible; you can tour most of the property in half a day or less. The 6.5-mile route begins along a magnificent avenue of oaks interspersed with loblolly pine and cabbage palmetto.

Related: Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More

Folly Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The last stop on this Savannah to Charleston road trip is Folly Beach.. Folly Beach is just outside of Charleston and is one of the most popular Charleston day trip destinations for locals and visitors alike. Take a stroll along the Folly Beach fishing pier or spend some time meandering through the beachy downtown neighborhoods. If you have time, rent a paddleboard or a kayak for a chance to see ocean life like turtles and dolphins.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After you’ve had your fun in the sun, head north for about 20 minutes and you’ll be in the heart of Charleston. You may have reached your destination, but the adventure isn’t over. Charleston has tons of things to see and it’s a great destination to explore for a few days. You won’t want to miss walking along the waterfront park or strolling past one of Charleston’s most colorful streets, Rainbow Row. Hop aboard a historic harbor cruise for a guided tour of the city or try some of the best local flavors on a guided food tour.

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life, go to church, and say your prayers, you’ll go to Charleston when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

Why Edisto Beach is the Most Effortless Vacation

Two words: Effortless! Vacation!

Effortless vacation! Two words that define what travel dreams are made of.

Edisto Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the magnificently natural Edisto Beach in South Carolina, no planning is needed. Simply show up and let this hidden gem of a coastal destination draw you in with its slower pace and tourist-free feel.

There has never been a better time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors than now. Edisto Beach has long been a spectacular place to enjoy all of nature’s beauty while enjoying outdoor activities to keep your heart (and mind!) healthy. You can hike, bike, or run on Edisto whether you’re a seasoned fitness expert or just a fan of the leisurely stroll. There are walking paths, hiking, biking, kayaking, and paddleboarding options. Edisto is sure to offer something that matches exactly what you have in mind. 

Edisto Island Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Island National Scenic Byway

A self-guided tour along the National Scenic Byway is a must when visiting Edisto and you don’t have to go out of your way to find it. It’s simply a part of the drive on SR-174 onto the island. From man-made attractions like the Edisto Mystery Tree and the Edisto Swinging Mattress to structures with historical significance like beautiful churches and plantations, the National Scenic Byway takes you through more sights than a typical tour guide could cover in a day.

Allow yourself to be taken back by history as you pass under majestic live oaks paving your journey and don’t forget to scope out the vast intercoastal waterway as you cross the bridge onto Edisto.

Not a bad way to start an effortless vacation ripe with relaxation.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Event Calendar of Festivals and Fun

What do dancing, fishing, and BBQ all have in common? Edisto hosts several festivals to celebrate all the Lowlands. Dance under the stars at the Edisto Beach Shag Fest. Join in the competition or watch the weigh-in as larger-than-life billfish are brought to shore for the annual Edisto Governors Cup Billfish Tournament. Or, if eating is one of your favorite past-times, you won’t want to miss out on the mouthwatering BBQ competition that hosts world-renowned Pitmasters at the Cookin on the Creek BBQ Festival.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Endless Natural Wonders to Enjoy

From eco-tours to fishing charters, Edisto has something for everyone looking to be one with nature no matter what that entails for each individual.

Some ideas:

  • Explore Edisto Beach State Park’s 1,200-plus acres by bike or foot
  • Join a kayak creek tour
  • See natural relics of the past at the undisturbed Boneyard Beach
  • Ride horses through Botany Bay’s 4,500-plus acres of preserved plantation land or self-tour via car
  • Take a sunset cruise around the island
Edisto Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fun on the Beach

Edisto Beach has 37 public beach accesses located at each intersection on Palmetto Boulevard providing access to the Atlantic Ocean. Some provide off-street parking and dune walkovers. Most beach accesses cross over a dune feature. 

At Edisto Beach you can bring your dog and the leash law is only in effect May through October. Without hotels or crowded shorelines, Edisto offers miles of beach to explore and plenty of room to spread out.

Edisto Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Land of Turtles and Egrets

Wildlife is protected and plentiful on Edisto. Loggerhead Turtles return each year between May and August to nest. Through October, the baby sea turtles hatch and find their way back to the ocean. Dolphins, pelicans, egrets, herons, and other shorebirds are also plentiful on Edisto. Keep an eye on the ocean while you are here and you’ll likely earn a glimpse of dolphins gracefully breaking the water with their dorsal fins. Drive carefully at night on the Island’s side roads as deer may be crossing.

Edisto Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore Edisto Beach via Bike Paths

Edisto Beach is laden with opportunities to get out and stretch your legs or peddle along the many bike paths and hiking trails. More than four miles of paved bike paths meander throughout the area with views of the beach, marsh, and naturally wooded areas. The bike path also takes you past boutique shops, restaurants, and grocery stores.

Camping at Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy Nature at Edisto Beach State Park

Edisto Beach State Park offers access to the Atlantic Ocean and beach. It also provides access to the saltwater marsh and creeks. The park is a nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles. Edisto Beach State Park features trails for hiking and biking that provide an interesting tour of the park. The park’s environmental education offers exhibits that highlight the natural history of Edisto Island and the surrounding ACE Basin.

Birding at Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For overnight accommodations, furnished cabins sit nestled in the woods and campsites can be found along the Edisto Island oceanfront or in the shaded maritime forest. Camping with water and electrical hookups is available ocean-side or near the salt marsh. Several sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet. Each campground is convenient to restrooms with hot showers.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy Nature at Botany Bay Plantation

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve located adjacent to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of Edisto Island. The 3,363-acre preserve includes almost three miles of undeveloped, breathtaking beachfront. Botany Bay is very accessible; you can tour most of the property in half a day or less. The 6.5-mile route begins along a magnificent avenue of oaks interspersed with loblolly pine and cabbage palmetto.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a Day Trip

There’s, even more, to do just a few miles from Edisto. Check out the surrounding beaches, state parks, wildlife areas, historic plantations in locations like Charleston, Beaufort, Port Royal, and Hilton Head Island.

Worth Pondering…

I am southern—from the great state of South Carolina. They say, ‘You can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl.’ And it’s true.

—Ainsley Earhardt

Spotlight on South Carolina: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina

Quite simply, South Carolina has it all, y’all—and the state has delivered to visiting RVers with a friendly southern drawl. From the Upcountry mountains through the vibrant Midlands and to the Lowcountry coast, the Palmetto State beckons with a wave that signals everyone’s welcome—come on down.

South Carolina is a state of variety with beautiful beaches, remote islands, charming cities and towns, watery wilderness, great golf, interesting history, rolling hills and mountains, and much more.

There isn’t a single amazing thing about South Carolina. There are about ten zillion. So start poking around and figure out what to put at the top of your list.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston

Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Established in 1670, today’s city was built starting in 1680 and named for the King of England and known as Charles Town. The fifth largest city in North America in 1690, it became well-known for trade and a hub of the rice and indigo markets that South Carolina cultivated.  The city’s streets and parks are not much changed from these colonial days. Beautiful Georgian homes still line many of the streets and walking the streets is like walking into old colonial America. Spires from the various churches in the city punctuate the skyline and many date to colonial days.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Island 

Edisto Island is a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations. Activities include touring Edisto Island, Edisto Island State Park, the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation (See below).

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park

Swampy land may not be the first place on your list to roam but Congaree National Park is beautiful in its own way. The park preserves the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. Congaree is the last of the hardwood forests that once stretched across the eastern US. The park has one of the highest concentrations of champion trees in the world. Champion trees are the largest trees of its specific specimen and Congaree holds 15 of them.

Walterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walterboro

Established in 1826, the City of Walterboro is hailed as the “front porch of the Lowcountry” with its historic charm, plentiful natural resources, and warm Southern hospitality. For those reminiscing about the warmth and familiarity of an authentic small town, Walterboro provides the perfect opportunity to step back through time. Treasure-hunters love scouring the village’s dozen antique shops finding everything from high-end antiques to fun vintage souvenirs or shopping the Colleton Farmers Market for farm-fresh produce and delicious homemade food products. Nature lovers can take advantage of South Carolina’s year-round balmy weather and enjoy the quiet solitude of the ACE Basin and Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary (see below).

Gafney Peachoid © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gaffney

Southern charm makes Gaffney a desirable place to visit especially if your RV is a motorhome built on a Freightliner chassis. The Freightliner Custom Chassis Factory Service Center offers six service bays, 20 RV electric hookup, and factory-trained technicians. Be sure to visit the factory and see how the custom chassis is produced for the RV market. And the Peachoid, a 135-foot structures that functions as one million gallon water tank, is an iconic landmark that draws attention to one of the area’s major agricultural products.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hunting Island State Park

Located near historic Beaufort, four-mile-long Hunting Island is home to dense vegetation and wildlife making it the most natural of the Lowcountry Islands. Climb to the top of Hunting Island lighthouse to survey the palm-studded coastline. Bike the park’s trails through maritime forest to the nature center, fish off the pier, and go bird watching for herons, egrets, skimmers, oystercatchers, and wood storks.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Greenville

As the hub of South Carolina’s Upcountry region, Greenville has been finding its way onto many national Top Ten lists for its lively arts scene, modern downtown, and livability. Known for its exceptional beauty, the two most distinctive natural features of downtown Greenville are its lush, tree-lined Main Street and the stunning Reedy River Falls, located in the heart of Falls Park. Liberty Bridge serves as Greenville’s signature postcard setting, and downtown’s extensive collection of public artwork adds beauty and energy to its public spaces.  

Cowpens National Battlefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cowpens National Battlefield

On January 17, 1781, the Americans won a decisive battle against the better-trained British Army. The Battle of Cowpens was over in less than an hour. This battle was the event which started British General Cornwallis on his march north to his eventual surrender at Yorktown just nine months later. It was one of those special moments in time when destiny is forever changed. The march to Yorktown had begun.

Folly Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folly Beach

Folly Beach is one of America’s last true beach towns. Just minutes from historic downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a 12 square mile barrier island that is packed with things to do, see, and eat. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Folly River, visitors enjoy six miles of wide beaches, surfing, fishing, biking, kayaking, boating, and eco-tours. Folly Island was named after its coastline which was once densely packed with trees and undergrowth: the Old English name for such an area was “Folly.”

Botony Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay Plantation

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve located adjacent to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of Edisto Island. The 3,363-acre preserve includes almost three miles of undeveloped, breathtaking beachfront that you’ll never forget. Botany Bay is very accessible; you can tour most of the property in half a day or less. The 6.5-mile route begins along a magnificent avenue of oaks interspersed with loblolly pine and cabbage palmetto.

Francis Beidler Forest

Frances Beidler Forest

Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from around the world, Audubon’s 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Frances Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem untouched for millennia. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater, all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk.

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary

There is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary located in the middle of Walterboro. Easily reached from I-95, the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary (formerly the Great Swamp Sanctuary), is a great place to leave the traffic behind, stretch your legs, and enjoy nature. Located within the ACE Basin, the East Coast’s largest estuarine preserve, the sanctuary contains a network of boardwalks, hiking, biking, and canoe trails that are perfect for viewing a diversity of a black water bottomland habitat. The 3.5-mile loop is paved and well maintained.

Worth Pondering…

As the old song declares, “Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning,” or almost any other time.

Best Parks and Gardens to Connect with Nature

Parks and gardens are ideal destinations for picnics, enjoying the outdoors, and simply taking time to relax and enjoy nature

In an earlier article I detailed ways to live healthier and extend both the quantity and quality of your life. There is evidence to support the positive impact of adopting a healthy lifestyle and following certain definitive, scientific, time-tested methods including enjoying nature.

From an ancient forest and coastal wetlands to a botanical garden and desert oasis, here are eight of our favorite parks and gardens for enjoying nature.

Frances Beider Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frances Beider Forest, Harleyville, South Carolina

Feel the beauty and serenity of this ancient forest. Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from all over the world, this 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Audubon’s Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk. Paddle the flowing blackwater under towering 1,000-year-old cypress trees. Wildlife is plentiful and varied.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas

Lady Bird Johnson was the First Lady who championed the planting of wildflowers along Texas highways. Her passion was not only for wildflowers but native plants of all kinds. So it’s fitting that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is both a showplace for beautiful plants and a botanical research center. The public botanical garden introduces visitors to the beauty of wildflowers and other native plants and natural landscapes through experience and education. There are 284 acres of gardens, savannas, and woodlands including the Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden, the sprawling South Meadow, and the Erma Lowe Hill Country Stream.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a zoo, natural history museum, aquarium, and botanical garden all in one place. Founded in 1952, 85 percent of the Desert Museum is outdoors and primarily a walking experience. Located just west of Tucson, it features 2 miles of walking paths traversing 21 acres of desert landscape. The Desert Museum’s 98 acres host 230 animal species—including prairie dogs, coyotes, Gila monster, and mountain lion—and 1,200 local plant species (totaling 56,000 individual plants). This highly acclaimed Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum deserves all the accolades that it receives.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. With over 15,000 acres of land, there is an adventure waiting for everyone, no matter what your interest. At 15,625 acres, Bernheim boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees. Take a scenic drive through the forest on paved roads, or bicycle around the Arboretum. Over 40 miles of trails weave their way through the forest at Bernheim.

Desert Botanical Gardens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

You’ll never look at cacti the same way again after visiting the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden. In this environment, every plant represents stunning beauty. Five marked trails, such as the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, capitalize on views (whether of mountains or flowers) and fragrances. Learn how native ancestors and current ethnic groups survived in the desert climate by traveling along the Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail which documents Hispanic, Tohono O’odham, and Western Apache people’s connection to plants. The Desert Botanical Garden is located in Papago Park in central Phoenix.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve, South Carolina

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island. The 4,600-acre preserve includes three miles of undeveloped beachfront. This wildlife management area exhibits many characteristics common to sea islands along the southeast coast: pine hardwood forests, agricultural fields, coastal wetlands, and a barrier island with a beachfront. Only this tract has been left undisturbed.

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park, Superior, Arizona

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, tucked into the foothills of Picketpost Mountain near Superior is a state park like no other. The Arboretum is home to hundreds of species of desert loving plants from around Arizona and other parts of the world. This venerable “Arizona oasis” has nearly three miles of paths and trails winding through colorful gardens, woodlands, and native riparian habitat. Founded in 1924 by mining magnate Col. William Boyce Thompson, the Arboretum is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden and offers over 323 acres to explore.

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary, Walterboro, South Carolina

There is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary located in the middle of the historic and picturesque city of Walterboro, South Carolina. Easily reached from I-95, the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place to leave the traffic behind, stretch your legs, and enjoy nature. Located within the ACE Basin, the East Coast’s largest estuarine preserve, the 600- acre Sanctuary features a network of boardwalks, hiking, biking, and canoe trails that are perfect for viewing a diversity of a black water bottomland habitat.

Worth Pondering…

We can never have enough of nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

Edisto Island’s Botany Bay Preserves Plantation Landscape

Botany Bay is one of the most serene and beautiful locations in the Lowcountry

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve located adjacent to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of Edisto Island. The 3,363-acre preserve includes almost three miles of undeveloped, breathtaking beachfront that you’ll never forget. The area lies near the North Edisto River just south of the intensely developed resort islands of Kiawah and Seabrook and just north of the rapidly developing Edisto Beach area.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area’s location near the North Edisto River places it within the boundary of the ACE Basin Focus Area, one of the largest remaining relatively undeveloped wetland ecosystems along the Atlantic Coast.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The features of this wildlife management area are characteristic of sea islands along the lower southeast coast: pine hardwood forests, agricultural fields, coastal wetlands, and a barrier island with a beachfront. Only this tract has been left undisturbed, providing coastal habitat for a wide range of wildlife species, including loggerhead sea turtles, the state-threatened least tern, and neo-tropical songbirds like the painted bunting and summer tanager.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay is very accessible; you can tour most of the property in half a day or less. Simply pick up a free self-guided driving tour guide at the information kiosk and you’re on your way. The 6.5-mile route begins along a magnificent avenue of oaks interspersed with loblolly pine and cabbage palmetto, the state tree. Look for colonies of resurrection fern growing on the spreading oak limbs. After a rain, the leaves of the resurrection ferns turn a beautiful bright green.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you get to the four-way stop, turn right into the beach access parking lot. There you’ll find the trailhead to the half-mile Pockoy Island Trail where a causeway built by slaves takes you over the marsh and through a densely wooded hammock. Then cross a small barrier island to arrive at the preserve’s 2.8 miles of seashore.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Erosion on Botany Bay Beach has left a “boneyard” of dead trees along the sand creating a unique coastline you’ve got to walk to fully appreciate. Shell collection is prohibited; as a result the beach is full of whelks, scallops, clams, mussels, oysters, sea stars, and sand dollars. The best time to visit the beach is at low tide when a wider section of the shoreline is exposed.

Botany Bay Preserve ice house © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continue the driving tour by staying on the beach access road until you get to another parking area just past the four-way stop. It’s a short walk from here to two small buildings built in the 1800s. The white wooden Gothic Revival structure once served as the icehouse (pictured above) for Bleak Hall. In the old days, ice shipped from the north was packed in sawdust and stored in the tabby wall foundation.

Botany Bay Preserve tabby shed © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The other building is a tabby gardener’s shed (pictured above) erected next to the now overgrown Japanese formal garden, the first of its kind in North America. The camphor, olive, and spice trees are long gone but ivy, several types of privet, and a few other exotic plants still thrive along the edges of the old garden.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Farther along is another tabby structure. During the Colonial period, it was used as a barn and later it was used as equipment shed. The road then takes a couple of sharp 90-degree turns, winding along the salt marsh and offering spectacular views of Ocella Creek. This section also features lots of century-old live oaks draped in Spanish moss.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From there, you’ll pass the chimney of a slave house and a couple of ponds created in the 1970s as a habitat for wood ducks, wading birds, and many aquatic species. Cross the dike and you’ll enter the former Sea Cloud Plantation.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The final section of the driving tour features the remains of the Sea Cloud Plantation house and a brick beehive built by slaves in the 1700s as a source of drinking water.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay is free and open to the public except on Tuesdays and during scheduled hunts. Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.

Botany Bay Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Two roads diverged in a wood, and

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

— Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More

Edisto Island is one of the few surviving unspoiled beach communities in the U.S.

Edisto Island, a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, lies only about an hour south of bustling Charleston as the pelican flies. But Edisto, part of a chain of more than 100 tidal and barrier islands along the Atlantic coast between the mouths of the Santee River in South Carolina and St. Johns River in Florida. is a world apart.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVers and other visitors to Edisto Island choose to come here—they don’t come by accident. And so it was with us.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using New Green Acres RV Park in Walterboro as our home base, we spent an enjoyable week exploring the Lowcountry. Known as The Front Porch of the Low Country, Walterboro, county seat of Colleton County, is situated just off of I-95 and is a popular stop for RVers.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was pleasant 75-degree day in early December that we toured Edisto Island: Edisto Island State Park, the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto River, named for the Edisto Indians (original inhabitants of the area), is the longest and largest river system completely within the state. It rises from springs 260 miles north, splits into North and South branches to flow around diamond-shaped Edisto Island (which is actually made up of numerous islands) and into the Atlantic.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

ACE Basin, an acronym for the Ashepoo, Combahee, and South Edisto rivers that arc through it, spans 350,000 acres, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast. These many acres of diverse habitat include protected uplands and wetlands, tidal marshes, barrier islands and beaches, and a host of wildlife.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The North and South Edisto branches flow into the ocean a little more than a dozen miles apart and roughly half way between the two is Botany Bay and Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area, a near-wilderness that makes up nearly a fourth of Edisto Island.

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Edisto River is one of the most unique waterways in the world. It is the longest undammed or free flowing “black water” river, and takes up twelve counties in the state. It is the longest and the largest river completely within the borders of South Carolina.  The most interesting part of the Edisto River comes to fruition near Edisto Island. The consistent yet peaceful current makes it perfect for wildlife and for paddling enthusiasts. Floating the Edisto River will show you banks filled with ancient live oaks, Spanish moss, and many forms of wildlife.

Edisto Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our first stop, Edisto Island State Park, includes an interpretive center and two campgrounds that offer 112 standard sites with water and electric hookups—ocean-side and near the salt marsh. 49 of the standard campsites offer 20/30/50 amp electrical service. Several sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet. Each campground is convenient to restrooms with hot showers. Reservations are recommended.

Edisto Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following our island drive with stops at several locations along the extensive beach, we toured Botany Bay Plantation, a South Carolina state historic site and wildlife management area, located off SC Highway 174 about 8.5 miles south of the McKinley Washington Bridge. You’ll follow the dirt road about 2 miles to near where the road dead-ends and turn left at the gate and into the property. 

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pure bliss. That’s the only way to describe Botany Bay Plantation. 
The 4,630-acre plantation on Edisto Island was a gift from the Margaret Pepper family. It was given to the state in 1977 by Mr. Pepper, but was only able to be used after his wife passed away so she would have the opportunity to continue her years on the land she loved. 

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The land itself is full of nature’s rich beauty—from the sunflower fields to the salt marsh and fresh water ponds to the Spanish moss draped oaks to the miles of private beach; it is emblematic of Lowcountry’s unique environment and appeal. 

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The clearly marked driving tour showcases the features of the plantation including the archaeological structures of historical significance. Take a walk down any of the trails and absorb the unique beauty of this unspoiled land.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Touring Edisto Island and Botany Bay Plantation provided us with a chance to step back in time and fall in love with the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry. 

Worth Pondering…

There is a peculiar pleasure in riding out into the unknown. A pleasure which no second journey on the same trail ever affords.
—Edith Durham