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Edisto Beach – South Carolina’s Hidden Gem




liz gunnBy Liz Gunn || One summer, after my junior year of college, I was invited to join some friends for a long weekend in Edisto. Oddly enough, even as a South Carolina native, I had never heard of Edisto. I grew up enjoying Horry, Georgetown and occasionally Charleston County beaches – purely out of proximity – but I never even knew this place existed.

My roommate and I got lost on the way there. Little did I know this wouldn’t be the last time I would get lost going to Edisto. It’s actually not the easiest place to get to, with its narrow, two-lane roads that seem to wind on and on indefinitely. Just when you feel like you’re there, you still have ten more miles to go.

It’s always worth the trip, though. My then boyfriend, now husband, bought into a house there in 2004, and it has since become our favorite refuge from the chaos of everyday life. With the exception of summertime, when Edsito does fill up with hordes of families and some tourists, it feels like a sleepy little island town.

For a somewhat secluded place, it actually has a lot to offer. You won’t find any amusement parks or outlets malls (thank God) but there is plenty to do and see. You can charter a boat and do some fishing or head to Botany Bay for some of the most beautiful scenery God ever created. There are golf carts and bicycles for rent, and the island is relatively small so you could feasibly park the car for the entirety of your trip.

There is one golf course, right in the middle of the island. Bring your sticks if you’re into that. The Plantation Course, designed by Tom Jackson, is ranked as one of South Carolina’s top 25 courses according to Golf Illustrated Magazine.

When you’re hungry, you can head to one of South Carolina’s best dive seafood joints, according to Coastal Living Magazine. Whaley’s Restaurant & Bar doesn’t look like much from the outside, and maybe even less once you walk in the door –  but the food is fantastic. I highly recommend the ahi tuna nachos as an appetizer and the steam pot for dinner. If you like fried seafood, it is said to be exceptional, too.

They’re open for lunch and dinner, every day. They also offer really great cocktails and stay open pretty late most of the time. On weekends, they often have live music – especially in the summer.

If you’re looking for something with a little more atmosphere and perhaps the best view – try Sunset Grille. It’s upstairs at Edisto Marina, and it really is the best place to watch the sun go down…hence the name. They offer complimentary shrimp dip and the menu is mostly what I would call classic southern seafood– nothing too fancy. They typically have great fish specials, though, and I usually order one of those.

For breakfast there is only one option I ever consider. You must eat at The Sea Cow. I know breakfast is breakfast to some people – but the only place I’ve ever had breakfast as good as The Sea Cow is in the French Quarter neighborhood of New Orleans…and that’s not even fair.

There is almost always a wait, even in the off-season. If you’re starving, and you very well may be by the time you get seated, order the “Moo Mania” or the “John’s Omelet”. I’ve never been able to put a dent in either one, but they’re both fantastic. My husband is very fond of their “Moo La La French Toast”.

The tap water in Edisto, while not great for drinking, makes the best grits you’ve ever had  – so be sure to order some of those while you’re at it, or make some for yourself. If you do decide to dine at home, stop by pick Flowers Seafood on the way in. If you stop by in the afternoon you can get fresh fish and shellfish that were caught that morning.

There is plenty to do and lots of good food choices, but my favorite part about Edisto is the vibe. It might even make you nostalgic for the vacations of your childhood. Its un-commercialized, relaxed way of life has always been good for my soul when I needed it most.

Liz Gunn is a wife, mom, travel enthusiast, food snob, daydreamer and lifelong Gamecock fan. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she lives in Columbia, S.C. with her husband and daughter.