What would you do if you had 36 hours in Charleston, SC? The New York Times recently wrote an article about spending 36 hours in Charleston, SC. You can find it here. They mentioned the Charleston Hat Man (Just off Broad Street) and the Charleston Shoe company (on King Street not too far from Broad). Not too far from there is a great tour company called Charleston Footprints which begins at The Historic Foundation Gift Shop. (108 Meeting). As far as restaurants go, a local favorite is FIG. If you are in the mood for a little pick me up, try Bin 148. The owners are French and offer wines by the glass, cheese, charcuterie,and fresh baked bread.
Another great day trip is Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner, 30 miles from Charleston in Berkeley County. The 195-acre park is situated at the site of historic Stoney Landing Plantation along the Cooper River, where a 22-mile canal was opened in 1800 for the purpose of connecting to the Santee River and giving upstate South Carolina a direct water route to the sea. The entrance to the park's interpretive center is built in the shape of a canal lock, and the original water route featured ten such locks in bringing flatboats filled with cotton from higher elevations to the sea-level of the Cooper River. Besides this fascinating piece of South Carolina history, the park also features a replica of the famous CSS David, a unique semi-submersible torpedo boat built on the plantation during the Civil War. The 19th century plantation house is still intact at the park as an exhibit as well, and there are miles of hiking trails along bluffs rising from the river. Next door, the Berkeley Museum is worth a visit with its varieties of genuine artifacts from the days when Stoney Landing was a rice plantation worked by slaves. Period tools, building materials, eating and drinking utensils and embroidery are among the wealth of artifacts from both slave cabins and the plantation house. This section of the Cooper River leads to the 1930's Santee-Cooper dam that replaced much of the old canal, where today wildlife abounds in a fresh-water habitat that attracts ospreys, cormorants, herons, egrets, and white tailed deer. For information on the park, go to www.santeecanalpark.org.
As early Spring awakens the flora and fauna of coastal South Carolina, a great day trip for nature lovers awaits at Francis Beidler Forest in Dorchester County. Deep in the heart of the famed Four Hole Swamp, this pristine stand of ancient bald cypress trees towers majestically over a serene wetland landscape. The 16,000 acre Francis Beidler Forest is owned by the National Audubon Society, and is accessible by foot along a 1.75 mile boardwalk, as well as canoe and kayak paddling trails.
With cypress trees standing over one hundred feet above, and gently flowing fresh water below, the forest is a dazzling sensory experience. Thousands of conical “cypress knees” project from the black waters that are darkened by the organic matter through which the flow seeps, and the air is filled with sounds of creatures who flock to this natural sanctuary. Pileated woodpeckers tap on lofty limbs, while prothonotary warblers sing their hearts out below. Alligators rip the air with mating calls, while crawfish and slider turtles gurgle from beneath the surface. Ducks, deer, amphibians, fish and waterfowl all call Francis Beidler home, and its immense peacefulness has a wonderfully restorative quality.
Francis Beidler Forest is open Tuesday-Sunday from 9am to 5pm. It is located in Harleyville, approximately 45 minutes from Charleston near Harleyville, SC. For more information visit www.beidlerforest.org.
Folly Beach actually offers three enjoyable day trips, each with a separate appeal. In the heart of the island community, which is nicknamed the "Edge of America", the Charleston County Parks Commission runs the beautiful Edwin S. Taylor fishing pier that stretches more than 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. Decked out with a tackle shop, rod rentals, and separate fishing stations with water basins, cutting and measuring boards, the massive pier also has a 7500 square foot mezzanine area ideal for spectacular views of the Folly surf. The pier, which is second largest on America's East coast, is host to a number of fishing tournaments throughout the year, in which anglers can land channel bass, tarpon and mackerel. The Mezzanine area is also host to various dance events, and Folly Beach has long been famous for the sound and sights of the official South Carolina dance, the Shag. From the convenient pier parking lot which has an all day fee of $7 per vehicle, there are shops, an Oceanside restaurant, restroom and shower facilities. Open until 11pm from April through October, the pier offers a wonderful opportunity for sunset and evening strolls to the sound of pounding surf and an island background known for its entertaining nature. Down on the South end of Folly Beach at the terminus of East Ashley Avenue, is Folly Beach County Park, which offers more serene surroundings in a setting that is completely unspoiled. Park entry is a flat $5 fee, for which there is simple open-space parking, one restroom hut, and an endless horizon of waves, sand dunes, and sea breeze. The South end of Folly Island stands over the confluence of Atlantic Ocean and Folly River, overlooking Kiawah Island. In between the islands, visible from the Folly park, is Bird Key, a small, uninhabited sand island where shorebirds flock and nest. On any visit to the park, visitors are guaranteed to see breath-taking avian activity – from diving pelicans to swooping black skimmers. The pristine waters provide a visual feeding frenzy, with dolphins splashing through shallows in search of schools of fish. At this remote spot, it is very likely that visitors can see one of the dolphin's most captivating behaviors, called "stranding". The dolphin will swim fast toward the beach, pushing a wall of water filled with fish in front of them on to the shore. The dolphin will literally come out of the water to eat the fish, then wiggle its way back into the water. Even without the continuous show of creatures, this undeveloped end of Folly Beach is worth a trip just for a great beach walk along foaming surf and towering dunes. Finally, there is the open area on the North end of Folly, which is also Charleston County property, but offers no facilities. This quarter-mile hike through scrub myrtles and oaks is rewarding in its magnificent views of the old Morris Island Lighthouse, standing surrounded by water in Lighthouse Inlet, just off the beach. The 1876 light is a famous landmark in Charleston, and has stood strong against storm and waves for more than a century, colorfully painted in white and black striping from its days as a marker for the U.S. Lighthouse service.
Less than two hours drive north from Charleston, Brookgreen Gardens offers a remarkable day trip filled with visual splendor. The 9200-acre tract is a famed sculpture garden and natural habitat, boasting elegant metallic and stone figures that accentuate lush botanical backgrounds.
Created from a group of former rice plantations by the Huntington family in 1931, the gardens now display more than 1200 featured works of such renowned sculptors as Adolph A. Weinman, who created the frieze of the US Supreme Court, and Glenna Goodacre, creator of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington DC. The largest sculpture at Brookgreen, Laura Gardin Fraser’s Pegasus, is carved from 1575 feet of white granite, and took nine years to complete.
European settlers who first came to this area in the 16th century had the right idea – find an attractive coastal location with and a wealth of waterways and natural beauty, settle in, and enjoy it. So Beaufort still beckons today, offering historic charm amidst a spectacular landscape of pristine natural serenity.
Visiting Beaufort from Charleston is a pleasant hour and a half driving experience once you enter the ACE Basin area on U.S. Highway 17 south of the Edisto River. ACE stands for the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers that meander through 350,000 acres of protected land that includes a National Wildlife Refuge. This former expanse of rice plantations and timberland attracts increasing numbers of bald eagles, swans, geese, ducks, and deer, and a detour down Bennett’s Point Road to St. Helena Sound is one of the most enchanting drives in South Carolina.
Nearing Beaufort, man-made beauty provides worthy stops as well. The brick columns of Old Sheldon Church, just off Highway 17, are as compelling in ruins as any building is complete. Flanked by towering oaks in the hushed perfection of a shady glade, the colonial church has a fascinating history as described on an historical roadside marker, and is a perfect spot for a short stroll or picnic. Turning down U.S. Highway 21 to enter Beaufort across the mesmerizing vista of Whale Branch Creek, it’s worth making a quick detour on road S-7-42 to the old railroad village of Seabrook, whose classic siding and other historic buildings seem as though you’ve returned to another era.
The jewel of the journey is Beaufort itself, with its grand antebellum houses and churches, majestic moss-draped oak trees, and wonderful waterfront promenade and park along the sparkling Beaufort River. A sidewalk showcase of stately mansions is an easy stroll in a sight-packed historic district that also features museums and such elegant interiors as the 1790 John Mark Verdier House, where the Marquis de Lafayette fell in love with Beaufort nearly two centuries ago.
With so much more to enjoy at nearby St. Helena Island and its famous Penn Center, as well as the fabulous “mobile” lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park, it’s well worth a night’s stay in Beaufort. The lively café district along Bay Street features colonial taverns and chic restaurants, and the City Loft Hotel is a comfortable, upscale accommodation in the heart of the historic district on Carteret Street. Complete with espresso bar, morning pastries and a micro spa, this invigorating boutique hotel complements sensory Beaufort mornings with dolphins splashing along Waterfront Park and Carolina wrens whistling sweetly in Magnolia trees.
If you are planning on staying the night book your reservation