We headed to Edisto Island to explore the serene nature and charming mom-and-pop shops of the quaint island town an hour away from the Charleston peninsula.
It's a nice getaway from the urban hubbub, and there's plenty to fill your day, from a trip to the serpentarium and island museum to walking along the picturesque beach of Botany Bay or perusing a row of beach stores.
Here are some of our top picks of ways to spend a relaxing day on Edisto.
Exploring nature & history
Botany Bay is perhaps one of the most well-known draws to the island, yet it's still a happily secluded slice of nature. The dirt road to get there is a little treacherous (you'll be driving 10 mph over divots and bumps), but the magnificent oaks draping overhead and the destination beach featuring two miles of undeveloped shoreline and scattered with a boneyard of dead trees along the sand, are breathtaking. If you find an empty conch, leave it on the branch of a tree, like the others that have been placed; you can't take anything home with you.
Another fun way to explore Edisto is by sea. Botany Bay Ecotours will take you from the marina out on a boat to search for dolphins. (I saw at least 10, including some babies!) You'll also learn more about the local Gullah culture or watch an incredible Lowcountry sunset.
This outfitter offers everything from paddleboard rentals to guided ecotours and instruction.
Enjoy a private, 3-hour ACE Basin tour along the South Edisto River, Ashepoo River or to Morgan Island. You also can circumnavigate Edisto Island, do the "inner loop" or go on a sunset cruise.
Want to go fishing? Charters can be arranged for inshore and offshore bait and tackle adventures.
Here, you can learn why Edisto Island and the ACE Basin are so vital to the local environment. There are hands-on exhibits, a touch tank and a trail system featuring a 4,000-year-old shell midden.
Want an overnight trip on Edisto? Try camping out at Live Oak within the 1,255-acre Edisto Beach State Park. There are both furnished cabins on the salt marsh and outdoor tent and RV campsites, plus 1.5 miles of beach and 4 miles of trails.
Wheel around Edisto on a bike or golf cart with the help of this rental company near the marina.
Also near the marina, you'll find fishing charters, kayaks, paddleboards, guided river tours, shelling adventures and marine supplies.
Located a little farther from the marina, discover this bike, kayak and golf cart outfitter near some of the island's main shops.
Alligators, snakes and lizards, oh my! The first true serpentarium in South Carolina opened on Edisto Island, and it's still open and dedicated to the preservation of some of our local scaly and slithery friends.
One of my favorite parts of the island is the museum, which offers unique island history, from the stories of enslaved African Americans working on plantations to Civil War artifacts and the island's role in secession. As a local, I must admit I still learned a lot I didn't know. There's also a room-by-room checklist scavenger hunt to make sure you caught all the golden nuggets within.
The marina is a site all unto itself, for watching pelicans and dolphins, fishing or crabbing. On Wednesdays, from April through October, the marina's park hosts an arts and crafts market from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The sole golf course on the island is a recreation destination for putters, pitchers and drivers alike.
Need a stuffed animal alligator? A pirate T-shirt? A large straw hat? You're sure to find it at this variety gift shop.
Get your surfboards, waterproof watches and other active beach gear here.
Love a good pun? Then you'll appreciate the name of this beach shop, which offers jewelry, gifts and clothes.
Located at the oceanfront, this multilevel location serves as a seafood restaurant, a bar, a fishing pier, a gift shop and an ice cream stand.
Edisto Resort Wear & Gift Shop
Jungle Road offers a strip of shops and restaurants. Among them is this gift shop, which features everything from seashell bracelets and Edisto T-shirts to sunblock and shot glasses.
From watermelon ukuleles to shark tooth necklaces, this island shop on Jungle Road features a bevy of souvenirs. The clothes are a mix of boutique style and island flair.
Get a blast from the (Blockbuster) past at this DVD rental and ice cream shop.
You can also grab a cone on this Jungle Road strip at this old-time candy store, which offers 12 flavors of Italian ice and 9 flavors of frozen yogurt in addition to other sweet treats. The Betty Boop on rollers skates statue out front is a nice touch.
This Edisto art studio and shop also offers acrylic painting classes.
Need a refreshing snack while you laze on the beach? Get your fresh avocados, limes, watermelon, peaches or cantaloupes here. There are also homemade pies.
Stop for farm-fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits at this highway-side market. You also can order ready-to-eat food, like pimento cheese, chicken pot pie, she-crab soup and blueberry, peach or key lime pie.
Another Edisto food-to-go staple is Geechie Boy, which sells stone-ground grits, cornmeal, dressings and more.
Pick up a beach read on your way out to the island at this locally owned bookshop. You also can find nautical maps and charts here. Resident cat Emily Grace will help you find what you need.
Get your beach-themed home decor at this store along Highway 174.
Also along the highway, you'll discover this art gallery, which displays works by both local and nationally acclaimed artists. It's been around for 32 years.
Drinking & Dining
This seafood dive has been around since 1948 on Edisto, serving the local catch of the day. There's also cheap and craft beers, along with a lunch and dinner menu featuring salads, sandwiches, wings and seafood.
This laid-back waterfront restaurant at the marina is an ideal dinner locale on the island with steam boat sandwiches, fried and broiled seafood options and even some Italian specialties including blackened chicken Alfredo. For dessert, try the Derby Pie.
If you're looking to grab a bite to eat for dinner on your way off the island (or maybe you're staying the night), this seafood restaurant is highly recommended. Ella & Ollie's offers a shrimp scampi pizza, fried green tomatoes, shrimp-and-grits and bacon-wrapped meatloaf.
The sister of Ella & Ollie's seafood restaurant is this taco joint right next door. It which uses fresh, local ingredients to craft fire-roasted salsa, brisket tacos and chimichangas.
This homey restaurant that serves both lunch and dinner is located along Jungle Road in the mix of shops. Whether you're looking for chicken tenders or fried flounder, you can find it here, along with po' boys, burgers, seafood platters and beer-battered fries.
Sit on the outdoor patio at this colorful little kitchen and eatery that offers burgers, hot dogs, cubans, tacos and fish and chips. The hushpuppies and sweet honey butter appetizer hits the spot — I can vouch for that.
If you're craving an Italian pie, this pizzeria along the Jungle Road shopping strip might do the trick.
Are tacos more on your mind? Try this Jungle Road shopping strip neighbor, which serves classic Mexican fare, surf-and-turf and nachos. You also can get breakfast burritos, quesadillas and tacos here until 11 a.m.
Owned and operated by island natives, the Waterfront Restaurant serves food from shrimp boat-to-table. The menu includes a crab-cake sandwich, fish tacos, seafood combos and sweet potato fries.
This highway-side restaurant offers right-off-the-boat seafood to go, including baskets of shrimp, oysters, scallops, flounder, catfish, whiting and crabs. Pair those fresh catches with fries, onion rings, coleslaw or hushpuppies.
This local bar and restaurant on Big Bay Creek offers gumbo, pot roast, lasagna and other comfort foods, along with some brewskis.
Breakfast options include chocolate chunk muffins, cinnamon rolls, banana bread and biscotti. Add a refreshing iced coffee or strawberry-banana smoothie.
Attached to the Edisto Pavilion Beach Store is this bar and grill, which has a special summer menu featuring daily drink specials. There also are some specialty beach cocktails, local and craft beers and a diner-style menu, grilled cheese sandwiches included. There's karaoke on Sundays.
This upscale restaurant on the island, literally located in an old post office, has an extensive wine list to pair with fresh seafood entrees.
Take a Detour
If you've never been out to Johns Island to see the Angel Oak tree, an Edisto Island roadtrip might just be your chance. Though it's a little off the main path, a quick detour will route you to the wondrous historic site. Bring your camera!
Located on Wadmalaw Island, this vodka and moonshine distillery offers tastings and tours. The sweet tea vodka is a local favorite.
Also located on Wadmalaw Island is the Charleston Tea Plantation. Tour the factory and then go on a 45-minute trolley ride to see tea production in action, with a stop at the state-of-the-art greenhouse.
You might take a short detour to nearby Kiawah Island, which is home to an open-air shopping and dining destination called Freshfields Village.