See these lovely people? They’re my lovely people, my lovely family, and somehow, despite the busyness of all 23 of our lives, we gathered from California, Indiana, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania on the low country shores of Edisto Island in South Carolina for a week-long family reunion.
Did I mention they’re such very lovely people?
Even the two children who, if pressed I’d have to claim as my own, are acting anything but lovely in this pic.
Our family reunion week was filled with evenings of conversation, wine, and rocking chairs on dusky porches, days of sun-scorched beach bocce games, children covered in sand, pluff mud, and sunscreen, and a runway of peach desserts intended to exploit the peak-season South Carolina peach crop.
Peaches taste better here. Corn tastes better here. Okra tastes better here. Shrimp tastes better here. Boiled peanuts don’t taste good anywhere. But I’m sure even boiled peanuts taste slightly better here. Edisto Island just has a way of dusting everything with some sort of summer fairy dust that lifts and sparkles the ordinary into extra-ordinary.
7 (new) Reasons You Should Vacation on Edisto Island, SC
7. Kayak with dolphins
And just like that, I slip in a sure-sell vacation cliché: dolphins sell. Who wouldn’t want to kayak on a river/ocean estuary and be surrounded by a pod of frolicking dolphins? Lest I fail to disclose all, we kayaked with baby dolphins. It’s pretty much as awesome as it sounds. Add to that experience the chill drips from paddles, a brisk marsh breeze, a sore rump, and the clickety-clack chatter of oysters, and you’ve got a pretty good idea why a vacation on Edisto should include a family kayak outing.
6. Charleston, SC
Never have I visited such an elegant city. Charleston simply oozes grace.
If the city could speak, she’d simply give her best Southern lady drawl, “Hey, y’aaaaaaall” and we’d all fall gobsmacked in love and move into one of her townhouses South of Broad and live happily ever after and imbibe Provencal rosés and goat cheese from Goat.Sheep.Cow every afternoon while catching the breeze in our shady private back garden and listening to the soft clip-clop of the horse-drawn carriage tourist tours.
We’d bop around town on a mint green bicycle. It would sport a bicycle basket, of course. We’d make standing reservations to dine on life’s best fried green tomatoes at Cru Café. We’d unwind daily with an iced lavender latte from Black Tap Coffee.
We’d simply wallow in luxurious love with this swampy, gracious Southern city and never return to real life. Charleston is a quick 60 minute drive from the beach front of Edisto Island. Close enough that I keep making day trips to catch her quietest whisper, “Hey, y’aaaaaall…”
Those in the know about grits, know about Geechie Boy. The rest of us stumble across the market and mill serendipitously. Grits and cornmeal are top notch offerings, but some surprises also await: tractor-churned homemade ice cream? The cool graphic tees? Geechie Boy Market farms home-grown produce naturally and sustainably. Another Geechie treat, which is more than enough to draw me the 25 minutes from the beach to the market, is the donuts and coffee: iced or hot served up with a paper bag of homemade, cinnamon sugar dusted donuts. Geechie Boy quickly became our go-to spot for fresh produce and pantry staples, out-pacing the local Bi-Lo grocery store on price and quality by a mile. And can we just talk about that huge red chair? Prime photo-op spot. Plus the kids demand that “Grandpa needs to make us one!” Start sawing, grandpa.
4. Edisto Beach State Park trails
Edisto Beach State Park trails are reason enough to make me a life-long runner, walker, or biker. Miles of trails wind through marshes, hammock islands, and pine forests. Some mornings I don’t see another soul but am kept company by battalions of fiddler crabs, squirrels, and deer. The various vistas along the trails will itch your trigger finger, so bring the camera with you. My favorite launch point for the trails comes just before the causeway on Highway 174 leading onto Edisto Beach. No parking nearby this entrance, so lace up the running shoes, park your car in the Bi-Lo lot and start your run/bike/walk by traversing that causeway back toward the entrance.
3. Family homes
Edisto Island is a best-kept summer vacation secret in part because it has zero hotels and motels. No quick turnover of vacationers. No mass marketing push to camp out at the nearest Hilton or Marriott. While some vacationers spend a week at the condos associated with the Wyndham Resort on Edisto, that’s as close as you can get to commercial vacation accommodations. Everything else on the island is family homes. We are insanely blessed that my parents own a beach home on Edisto. Waves of Grace is available to rent year round, but any time my parents reserve a few weeks for themselves, we throw our luggage into the minivan and show up on their sandy doorstep. Hello!
Most vacationers, then, find a favorite home-base on the island and make reservations for the same vacation week, sometimes for 20 years running or more. This summer, in addition to Waves of Grace, my family also rented Boyhood Memories, a lovely home settled right on the marsh with a killer sunset view. New to vacation island renting? My advice would be to plan your vacation a year in advance (the nice homes book at least a year in advance), and work with a knowledgeable rental agency to find just the perfect home for your needs.
2. Glass Onion
Sweet. Potato. Hash. I can’t say this emphatically enough. Go to The Glass Onion restaurant and order anything on the menu containing the words “sweet potato hash.” My personal favorite is the brunch hash offered with a perfectly prepared sunny side up egg and a fried chicken leg. Trust me on this, you will salivate in memoriam.
Or just go to Glass Onion and order, well, anything on the menu. Located just 15 minutes from the Charleston airport and 45 minutes from Edisto Beach, Glass Onion serves up southern favorites with locally sourced foods and a careful attention to culinary detail. They’ve earned rave critical reviews from the foodie powers that be, but the prices, atmosphere, and attitude remain humbly welcoming.
(Want to try a little Glass Onion at home? GO chili is solidly ensconced in our family favorite recipe rotation.)
1. Botany Bay
If you’re willing to do a little work to reach this beach, Botany Bay will reward you by being one of the most haunting, mesmerizing beaches you’ll ever visit. Located on the carefully protected grounds of a former plantation, Botany Bay beach can only be reached by hiking along a half-mile path. But the view, once you arrive, will arrest you in your tracks. Skeletal trees, choked by sea water, line the beach. Whelk, conch, and clam shells, forbidden to be taken off of the beach (thanks to over-zealous shell collectors), line the tree branches. Smooth stretches of sand pockmarked with tidal pools spread in every direction.
That’s my newest list of seven reasons to vacation on Edisto. What’s your family’s preferred vacation spot? Got any other low country tips for me?