Charleston & Beyond: Getting to Know the Lowcountry

South Carolina's Lowcountry has the kind of rich history, stunning scenery and welcoming atmosphere that you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else. The region covers the four southernmost counties of the state and includes sprawling swamps and marshes, woodlands and coastal beaches and islands. Here you'll find small towns brimming with charm and southern hospitality, paired with excellent food and surprisingly diverse natural beauty. Not surprisingly, these attributes make the Lowcountry a beloved vacation destination for many in the south.
Cheryl M Skyscanner

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Old Sheldon Church Rd, Yemassee, SC 29945

This place is seriously haunting. If you have the chance, come first thing in the morning before the fog burns off so you can witness the ruins at their eerie best. There is something strangely peaceful about wandering the remains of a once grand place and visiting Sheldon Church feels like a spiritual experience.

anoldent flickr

Beaufort is pretty much the quintessential Lowcountry coastal town. It's full of independent restaurants and small shops along one main street before fading into quiet neighborhoods shaded by spanish moss covered oak trees. Shrimp boats skim the water and provide a smile-inducing background to this town.

Kelly Paras Skyscanner

Hunting Island State Park North End

1775 Sea Island Pkwy, St. Helena, Beaufort, SC 29920-4808

When I came to Hunting Island I had no idea what was in store for me. In a matter of minutes, while wandering the north end of the beach, I fell in love. This is one of the most enchanting places I have EVER been! Due to tidal pulls and erosion full trees have been uprooted and discarded on the beach. During low tide, the trees lay in tangled messes and are absolutely hauntingly mesmerizing!

Kelly Paras Skyscanner

Charleston Tea Plantation

6617 Maybank Hwy, Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487

Charleston Tea Plantation is in fact the only tea plantation in North America. It's a great day trip from downtown Charleston where you can tour the plantation, learn about the growing, harvesting and packaging process and taste dozens of tea blends. Be sure to try their famous peach tea and pick up some sachets to take home.

Kelly Paras Skyscanner

Saint Helena Parish Chapel of Ease Ruins

St Helena Island, SC 29920, United States

The ruins of St. Helena's are both strikingly beautiful and a solid lesson on the happenings of St. Helen's Island. Once a church for plantation owners, it became a haven for freed slaves when plantation owners were forced from their lands during the Civil War. It also showcases traditional tabby (oyster shell) construction that's indicative of the Lowcoutnry.

Kelly Paras Skyscanner

Old Slave Mart Museum

6 Chalmers St, Charleston, SC 29401

While some of the museums found in Charleston are overly-touristy and frankly campy, the Old Slave Market Museum bucks that trend. This place is well curated and provides an in-depth look into a seriously ugly time in Charleston's history. Even though it's a small museum, you could easily spend an hour or two pouring over all of it's content and artifacts.

Lowcountry Museum

1 Lowcountry LN Yemassee, SC 29945

Instead of running around to local museums all over the Lowcountry, save some time and just visit the Lowcountry Museum (it also operates as a Visitor's Center). At this museum, which by the way is located in the uber scenic Frampton Plantation House, there are displays from 10 area museums that will give you the Cliff Notes view of the entire region.

Kelly Paras Skyscanner

E Ashley Ave

E Ashley Ave, Folly Beach, SC 29439, USA

Folly Island has a charm that's hard to ignore; only a short drive from downtown Charleston, it's easy coastal ambiance is a welcome contrast. Driving E Ashley Ave you'll seeing the best of Folly Island houses - they have a unique character and whimsy that's all their own. Some of these places look like sea-side tree houses!

Kelly Paras Skyscanner

Red Piano Too Art Gallery

870 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC, United States

When driving around the Lowcoutnry, making a stop at the Red Piano Too Art Gallery is well worth your time. There you'll find several rooms packed to the brim with local handcrafts and artwork - everything from paintings to traditional handmade seagrass baskets. Even if you're just browsing, this place will give you a well rounded view of art common in the region.

Eileen R. Smith Skyscanner

Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

23 Ocean Lane, Hilton Head, SC 29928

Hilton Head is without a doubt the main vacation/resort island of the Lowcountry. As such, I highly recommend splurging for a night or two to soak up this higher-end side of the region. In a surprise to no one, the Omni is the epitome of rest and relaxation. The property has a restaurant, excellent gym, several pools and hot tubs, fire pits and a private beach. *Sigh*

arnybo flickr

H2O Sports

Harbour Town Marina, 149 Lighthouse Rd., Hilton Head Island, SC 29928, United States

One of the coolest ways to explore the Lowcountry ecosystem is from the water. And while you can take boat tours through the marshes and estuaries, I think it's much more fun to hop on a SUP and paddle the area yourself. It's a great way to get up close and personal with the regions waterways and H2O offers excellent tours to guide you along the way.

Ken Lund flickr

A visit to St. Helena's Island will give you a full history lesson on the Gullah culture of the Lowcountry. The Gullah people are the African-American descendants of slaves who, due to relative isolation over time, developed their own creole based language and culture that mixes African and American traditions. These are a people that I knew nothing about before visiting St. Helen's Island - I highly recommend spending some time here to learn about this fascinating culture!

Caw Caw Interpretive Center

5200 Savannah Highway, Hollywood, SC 29470-5542

Located in Ravenel, Caw Caw offers over 6 miles of hiking trails that lead you through the nature preserve and over tributaries and coastal waterways. Caw Caw is best known for its pristine lands and abundance of birds - it's considered one of the best places in the state for birdwatching. Also watch out for otters and alligators!

Misty N Skyscanner

The Angel Oak Tree

3688 Angel Oak Rd, Johns Island, SC 29455

Probably the single most photographed tree in the south, Angel Oak is a sight to behold. And at over 1,500 years old it has earned it's place in the record books and some people consider it the oldest living thing in the US. It's massive limbs creep out in every direction like tentacles on an octopus. Even when it's surrounded by tourists snapping photos, there is something undeniably majestic about this tree.

Shady and Laurie Skyscanner

This island is so relaxing! I have friends who spent a week every summer of their childhood at Edisto, so when I went to the Lowcoutnry for the first time, I knew I had to make a stop here. And it didn't disappoint - the beach is clean, calm and peaceful and the whole island has a mellow attitude. It's an ideal place to rent a beach bungalow and hang with friends or family for a long weekend.

Parris Island

Parris Island, SC 29902

It may seem odd that there's a Marine Corps Recruit Depot in the middle of the Lowcountry, but it's presence here actually fits quite well with the deep patriotism that exists in the area. A drive through Parris Island will give you a shot of patriotism as well - Marine Corps and American flags fly on every corner.

Kelly Paras Skyscanner

Plums Restaurant

904 Bay St, Beaufort, SC 29902

Casual, easy, cheap. That's Plums in a nutshell. It's a local joint that does a fantastic, quick lunch service and is set directly on the marina-front park in Beaufort. The pimento grilled cheese is out of this world and as it melts in your mouth, you melt into the comfort that is this Lowcountry town.

Kelly Paras Skyscanner

Sleepy doesn't quite properly describe Port Royal; the pace here is it's own level of leisurely. The town has a huge boardwalk that stretches out over the water and shrimp boat masts punctuate the horizon. Not many out of towners take the time to stop here, so by doing so yourself you'll be treated to a real look the slow coastal life.

The Waterfront Restaurant

136 Jungle Rd, Edisto Beach, Edisto Island, SC 29438-3005

When on Edisto Island, you'll be well served to plan on dinner at The Waterfront Restaurant. As a beachfront restaurant it's not surprising that they excel at seafood - fried shrimp and flounder are some of their most popular dishes. There aren't a ton of dinning option on the island, so having a spot that consistently dishes up delicious grub is key.

jeffgunn flickr

Pinckney is such an amazing place! It's the first place I saw armadillos in the wild (you know other than as roadkill on the side of the highway)! There are tons of easy walking trails that meander through the refuge and make for a great active afternoon outdoors. The staff here is super friendly and happy to chat about any questions you might have - they are a wealth of knowledge!

South Carolina Artisans Center

318 Wichman St, Walterboro, SC 29488, United States

Every third Saturday of the month this little arts center hosts live art demonstrations free of charge. The place might be small, but it is packed with work from local artists and the proprietors are all too excited to explain technique, materials and themes to anyone interested. Given the diverse history and influences found in the region, it's fascinating to see what local artists produce.

Dockside Restaurant -- CLOSED

1699 11th St, Port Royal, SC 29935, United States

If there is one thing that South Carolina is known for, it's catfish. Served in all kinds of different ways, but always fresh right out of the water. One of the best haunts to experience catfish in the whole state is Dockside Restaurant in Port Royal. You'll feel like you've been invited into someone home and their grandmother is cooking for you. The fact that the restaurant is right on the water (hence the name) only adds to the authentic experience.

Marshgrass Adventures

63 Wharf St, Bluffton, SC 29910, United States

The waterways of the Lowcountry are home to what may seem like a surprising animal - dolphins!! They can been seen all over the region and Bluffton is a great jumping off point for a day on the water in search of these friendly and vibrant creatures. Marshgrass Adventures offers kayak rentals and guided tours along the May RIver.

Ann S Skyscanner

Rainbow Row

83 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401

Rainbow Row is Charleston's answers to San Francisco's Painted Ladies. It's a solid row of brightly colored homes that has become one of the most photographed streets in the city. These row houses represent the longest continuous stretch of Georgian-style homes in the US and their location on E Bay Street just a block from Waterfront Park makes them really easy to find.

Kelly Paras Skyscanner

Old Sheldon Church Rd

Old Sheldon Church Rd, Yemassee, SC 29945, USA

Throughout the Lowcountry, oak trees strewn with spanish moss line streets and neighborhoods. It sets the tone for the region - one that's playful yet majestic. Driving Old Sheldon Church Road is an absolute must if you're in the area. Here, oak trees form arches over the road creating a tunnel of branches and moss. It is so gorgeous!!

Last updated at Jul 05, 2017