Edisto Island is about 10 square miles and at the end of Highway 174. Getting here is a treat as the highway to reach Edisto travels over marshes and rivers with the ever-present canopy of oaks flanking each side of the road.

Edisto Beach is in Colleton County bounded by the Intracoastal Waterway, the north and south Edisto Rivers, the ACE basin and the Atlantic Ocean. With five miles of beach and only single-family and residential properties fronting the ocean, the appeal of being here isn’t for the “nightlife.” Unless the nightlife means quiet, moonlit strolls along its shores, it is and continues to be laid back.

Known as a “gently developed” beach and landscape, it is about 40 miles from Charleston.

One comes to Edisto to relax. To connect with all the phenomenal nature the Lowcountry offers. Whether it’s year-round living or part-time, there’s no place quite like it. Those who’ve lived here all their lives or who choose to move here do so for its ambiance.

Coming home

Mayor Jane Darby of Edisto Island said that after she and husband vacationed on the island for years, they moved there permanently in 1996. Darby, who took over as mayor in 2015 said that although Edisto isn’t her birthplace, it is the “place of her heart.”

“Edisto is a unique place and it evokes memories of coming home to a simpler time and place,” she said. “Our island is the ultimate escape from heavily populated areas. We have the basic necessities and a police department, fire station, ambulances staffed by paramedics and a medical air lift service.”

Touted as a family-friendly area, she and officials have ensured that Edisto’s strict zoning codes remain that way. “We work diligently to protect our island way of life and resist development pressure. Our comprehensive plan states very plainly that our vision of the future is to maintain our town as a low-key family-friendly area.”

Darby said that volunteers contribute their time and resources to preservation of the Edisto’s natural resources and way of life via the Open Land Trust, Edisto Island Preservation Society, Botany Bay, Palmetto Pride, Edisto Island Community Association, the Turtle Patrol and various other organizations.

“When you have a ‘slice of heaven’ why would you want it to change?” she said. “However, for public safety and due to damage from the storm season, we have three bridges in the final stages of replacement and a town-wide reverse osmosis system.”

The storms of 2016 and 2017 brought the Edisto community closer Darby said and that the majority of its residents are self-reliant with a “can-do” attitude.

“There is a feeling of peace and cessation of stress that you experience as your cross over the ‘big bridge’ coming onto the island,” she said.

Island charm

“I moved here 37 years ago and it’s like going through a time warp. It’s the way things used to be in the 60s,” said Jim Kempson of Carolina One.

Kempson’s daily routine includes riding his bike on the island, whether it’s going to the one grocery store or to the beach, the traffic is minimal. “I can ride my bike around the island and see far more deer than cars,” he said.

Don’t let the sleepy town beach town vibe fool you. Kempson stated that Edisto’s stringent beachfront retreat plan is part of the reason why it continues to be such a serene environment, with no multi-family properties on its beaches.

“There are no traffic lights, no shopping centers or outlet malls and there are 40-foot height limitations,” Kempson said. “We have no hotels or motels, one doctor and one dentist.”

Part of the island’s draw is that bygone era feel plus the cost of owning a home, second home or vacation home is considerably less than other beach communities such as Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach. Kempson said that he has a client that has lived all over the globe, has a home in East Hampton, New York and now, a second home on Edisto.

“Most of my buyers live within 200 to 300 miles that have rental homes on Edisto,” he added. “It’s a family beach so the rental season is when school is out,” Kempson said. “Edisto is a bargain – beachfront homes are from $700,000 to $1.5 million.”

Once a potential buyer or visitor understands the vibe of Edisto, many fall in love with it.

“Buyers can ‘get to know Edisto’ as I like to say by purchasing a condo for as little as $70,000,” said Jane Szorc of Atwood Vacations/Real Estate. “The most popular selling point would probably be a home on the beach selling between $300,000 to $500,000. A lot of buyers purchase these homes to enjoy themselves as well as to rent out, especially during the busy summer season.”

The state of South Carolina has guidelines pertaining to beachfront builds and Edisto takes those guidelines a step further.

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“You can’t build beyond the baseline that’s drawn by the state,” Kempson explained. “And on Edisto, you’ve got to be at least 10 feet behind that, but no further seaward than the average of the three closest houses.”

These restrictions ensure that people can’t “leapfrog” in front of each other meaning if you’ve got a view, you’ll keep that view. Beachfront is beautiful but so is creek or marsh front.

Kempson lists a creek front cottage at 2145 Bailey Island Lane on 10 acres that has an artist studio and workshop for $878,900. The compound is surrounded by nature with a private dock with float and a community deepwater dock and boat ramp. Another listing, a recently renovated, four bedroom, four bath townhome at 3767 Docksite Road for $795,500 has two story views of Big Bay Creek on one side and the Plantation Golf Course on the other side.

Kempson who has been a charter member of the Edisto Island Preservation Association and has chaired the Town of Edisto’s planning community for 17 years said that there are also maximum square footage limitations as well in the Town of Edisto.

“We speak in the dichotomy of the beach and the island,” he said. “The town has home after home with quarter-acre lots. Then there is the sandbar at the southern tip of the island. The island itself is 10 miles square and over half of the island is protected by conservation easements and parklands. In town, the maximum square footage is 3,850 square feet.”

The reason why

Edisto living is not for everyone, but that is precisely the reason why some choose to call it home. The Edisto area is home to over 3,000 residents and the island has about 1,500 residents.

“There is always something to do here,” Szorc said. “There’s the Plantation Golf Course at Wyndham Ocean Ridge. Residents and guests can purchase amenity passes which provides access to three swimming pools, tennis courts, a fitness room and an exclusive cabana.”

Szorc lists a two bedroom, one bath condo at 259 Sea Cloud Circle at Wyndham Ocean Ridge for $129,500 that overlooks the 17th fairway.

“Many folks are surprised to learn we have numerous exercise classes, including my personal favorite, yoga,” she said. We have a must-have annual plantation tour in the fall and plays and oyster roasts, plus many fishing and boating excursions throughout the year. The island can be as big or as small as you like to make it.”

Kempson agreed. “The peace, the quiet, the tranquility and the natural beauty are some of the best reasons to live on Edisto. We want to make sure we don’t mess up what we have – for better, for worse – the more you limit the availability of land, lots and houses, the more people want it. It will be reflected in property values and we don’t want to price people out, but sooner or later it happens on the coast.”