Edisto Beach State Park
A savvy camper could easily make the case to ease into South Carolina's Edisto Beach State Park, make camp, string up some lights, and a hammock or two and call it a day. The beachfront location is hard to beat and a few days camping on the Atlantic Coast would do a lot to refresh your spirit.
No matter what kind of camp you choose to make of it, Edisto Beach State Park will appeal to most everyone in your party. While the ready beach access is enough for some, there are a few off-site adventures to throw into the mix. One could even begin before you arrive!
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
If your approach to the South Carolina coast routes you anywhere near Columbia, then we highly recommend a stop at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. Proving that small zoos can be excellent, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden makes great use of its 170-acre site which houses more than 2,000 animals of every sort including an excellent reptile exhibit, gorillas, very loud Siamang apes plus lions, tigers, AND bears – cue the obligatory "OH MY!"
Be sure to pick up a park map on your way in and catch one or more of the free animal feedings or demonstrations. If you have extra time, buy an Explore More Card so you can take part in activities ranging from feeding the giraffes and lorikeets to climbing the rock wall and riding the carousel. Zipline tours are also available for the adventurous.
Since we skipped the rides and attractions, it took us about three casual hours to see all the animal exhibits which gave us plenty of time to linger around the family favorites - we easily spent fifteen minutes enjoying the Siamang apes swinging and howling.
The morning started out cold (we went mid-March), so we began with the indoor exhibits like the reptile hall and birdhouse, and then did the outdoor exhibits as the day warmed up. We'd advise the reverse in the heat of the summer.
Family Favorites: We enjoyed the reptile exhibit hall, the gorilla family (baby gorilla was mighty cute), watching the Siamang apes swinging and howling, koala bear, and penguins.
Things to Know:
- Budget Tip: We used our family North Carolina aquarium/zoo membership for half-price admission. Another cost saving option - purchasing online at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden website saves $3/ticket.
- Zoo Tip: For best critter interaction, feed nectar to the lorikeets first thing in the morning - the birds are full after a couple of hours.
Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve Driving Tour (4 miles from Edisto Beach)
If you can tear yourselves away from the splendid beach at Edisto Beach State Park and do just one side trip, than Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve should be your go-to destination. Just four quick miles up Highway 174 from Edisto, Botany Bay Plantation, a State Wildlife Management Area, is made up of two former plantations, Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud, and covers 4,687 acres. During the years 1820-1860, these land parcels produced the lucrative Sea Island cotton under enslaved labor. Later, the land was used for farming and timber. It has only been open to the public since 2008.
You most likely passed by the unassuming and unmarked entrance to Botany Bay Plantation as you drove down Highway 174 on your way to Edisto Beach State Park. An elegant tunnel of live oak dripping with Spanish moss, Botany Bay Road leads to the main gate information kiosk where you must register for the free driving tour. You will be given a driving tour map describing each of the fifteen numbered spots along the 6.5 mile driving tour through a mixed oak, pine, and sabal palmetto (or cabbage palm) forest, marine and estuarine wetlands, and still managed agricultural fields.
With a speed limit of 15 mph and a few stops along the way, leave yourselves a couple of hours to fully appreciate the tour. Two stops that should definitely make the short list are the Botany Bay "Boneyard Beach" and the plantation outbuildings.
Things to Know:
- Free admission - donations accepted.
- Only 15 passenger vans or smaller are allowed on the touring road.
- No RESTROOMS or trash receptacles on the property
- CLOSED on Tuesdays or for special hunt days.
- No collection of shells, artifacts, driftwood - nothing may be removed from the property/beach grounds.
- Be careful of tides - either side of the high tide reaches to the tree line - don't get stranded.
- No dogs or horses allowed on the beach.
- No drones or metal detectors.
- Carry water, sunscreen, hat, and bug spray.