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The Weekender: Edisto Beach

(The Weekender is a first person, travel series highlighting short getaways with less than a four-hour drive from Augusta. The Weekender is an opinion column)

Edisto Beach. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

The Edisto Island National Scenic Byway is one of the signals that we’re almost there — almost to the place where the fresh saltwater breezes erase all stress.

To that point, we’ve meandered down two-lane roads, winding through smaller spots on South Carolina’s map such as Olar and Lodge. But as the road arches over the intracoastal waterway, we’ve reached the final leg of the journey.

 The Spanish moss drips in silvery ringlets from the venerable trees standing guard along Highway 174 as we pass the historic churches, the Edisto Island mystery tree in the marsh, the Edisto mattress tree and the serpentarium.

A view of Edisto near sunset. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

So much draws me to this quirky little island with its beach houses with monikers such as Sweet Carol Ann, A Fish Called Wanda, Turtle Tracks, Captains Retreat and Sea-Esta.

But it’s the natural beauty of Edisto or Edi-slow as it’s sometimes called that is one of — if not the — main attractions for me. My kids never liked it much. “There’s nothing to do, Mom,” they’d say and roll their eyes.

But that’s the point for me to go to Edisto.

There’s nothing that I want to do except relax and allow my senses to feast on the beautiful scenery. If I wanted to go shopping or be a tourist, I could go to any number of locations, but there are few places where I can go an enjoy pristine shorelines that aren’t crowded with towering resorts.

Technically, they aren’t correct because there are plenty of outdoor activities to do – kayaking, fishing, boating. But what they meant was – no shows, no amusement parks, no outlet malls, no flashing lights. And they are correct with that.

 On a recent, bitterly cold January morning, I had the beach practically to myself as I walked along the sandy shore. The squawking of the gulls and the swashing of the waves provided the soundtrack as I racked up my steps on my Fitbit. I stopped only long enough to take photographs of swaths of sand caked with shells or to video the sandpipers as they scuttled along the shore, fiercely charging at the waves on their retreat to the sea, only to turn tail feathers and run as the waves in turn charged back at them.

Birds along the Edisto shore. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

Encounters with wildlife are common at Edisto.

Pods of dolphins swim and play near St. Helena Sound and Big Bay Creek. My husband and I have kayaked in that area and been wowed with up-close and personal views of the dolphins as they passed by.

But hands down, my favorite activity at Edisto is watching the sunset. I can’t think of any other place I’ve been where crowds gather just to watch the sunset. I’ve even seen people bring beach chairs to sit and take in the view, and of course, there are plenty of cameras to record the event.

On a cloudless day, sunsets are a main attraction — a magical spectacle where rich tones of lemon, vermilion, magenta and tangerine splash the sky.

The sun just as it dipped into the horizon on Jan. 14, 2023. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

Sometimes the clouds obscure the view at the horizon, but on my most recent trip, I was rewarded for enduring the bitter cold with the clearest of skies revealing the sun’s magnificent descent. It was well worth it.

Edisto Beach can be a day trip, or you can stay longer. For us, it’s the perfect spot for a weekender.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at Subscribe to the newsletter here

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