So you're tired of it all: the car horns, the gridlock, the desperate hunt for parking, the sand packed with umbrellas and towels, the kids screaming for snacks and souvenirs.
You just want to get out in nature. The real question is, how far?
Bull's Island near Awendaw is as remote as it gets, sticking farther out in the Atlantic than anything in Charleston or to the south. No cars. No crowds. No concessions. Um, really not much of anything to draw the casual tourist.
If the $40 foot-traffic ferry ride across the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge isn't daunting enough for the casual beach-goer, the mile-long dune trail slog to the beach is. Then, there are the mosquitoes, no-see-ums and horseflies. The sun can be punishing and you have to carry your liquids. The lone bathroom and storm shelter are back by the ferry landing.
Yet the island's 7-mile stretch of sand is as sweet and wild as it gets. In spots, the surf crashes against a "boneyard beach" of skeletons of fallen trees. White pelicans, roseate spoonbills and monster fish. The place just astounds. But don't mind the alligators.
Whoa, you say, not so wild. How's your sense of timing? The barrier island beach at the Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area on Edisto Island is a mere half-mile stroll across the causeway from the parking area.
It, too, has a wide open "boneyard" beach of sprawling limbs of dead live oak. It's strewn with sea shells and teems with marine wildlife such as dozens of pelicans gliding close overhead.
But there's no drinking water or toilets. No dogs are allowed. No collecting shells. It's likely too dangerous to swim, with fallen trees littering the surf.
And when they say open, they don't mean it stays that way. Keep your eye on those climbing waves. The barrier island has been so severely eroded by recent storms that it's largely underwater from about three hours before high tide until three hours after.
Getting a little discouraged? Your best remote destination might be the closest one, Morris Island, right there at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, just northeast of Folly Beach. Same deal: no water, no toilet, really nothing. You have to boat over. The inlet currents are worrisome.
But you'll be more on your own than not. The island's famed ocean-swamped inlet lighthouse is right there and the shelling can be very good. If it gets too primeval for you, you have an out: Anchor your boat on the back side of Morris, an estuary beach facing Fort Sumter. It tends to draw weekend boating party crowds.
No, wait, you say. I want a drive, not an journey. Well, car tripping to a natural beach can be done, but don't think you'll be out on your own. Here are some options:
- Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort. Maybe the most primitive of South Carolina's sought-after beach parks, it can be jungle-like in spots. But you will see other primates: It's also the most popular state beach park.
- Edisto Beach State Park. Its best natural feature is the one often overlooked, Edingsville, the bare-strand overwash beach just a flip-flop through the sands to its northeast.
- Huntington Beach State Park near Murrells Inlet. Huntington can get crowded, there at the south-most stretch of the Grand Strand. But managers have done a good job of mixing touches like a gift shop with programs and a sweep of maritime landscape to wander.