If you could earn a merit badge for outdoor beauty, the Lowcountry would be an ideal place to start. So leave your fellow Khaki Scouts at Camp Ivanhoe behind and explore nature in its natural element.
Francis Marion Forest
If you want to get away from it all, the Francis Marion Forest is your best bet: it’s easy to get to (just take Hwy. 17 North past Awendaw and you’ll start seeing trailheads). It’s beautiful, and it’s huge — at least by South Carolina standards. There are several trails to explore, but our favorite is the Swamp Fox Passage, which is a section of the cross-state Palmetto Trail. Just make sure you bring bug spray — it’s not just the mosquitoes that’ll get you out there, it’s ticks and chiggers, too.
Edisto Beach State Park
Edisto is one of the few places nearby where you can camp on the beach — like, right on the sand a few feet from the water. There’s another campground a bit farther inland, but if you can deal with all the sand, which will find its way into your clothes, food, toothbrush, and everything else, the beach is the way to go. It’s breezy, peaceful, and quiet, plus you get to go to sleep to the sound of the ocean.
Givhans Ferry State Park
Paddlers love Givhans Ferry, as it offers easy access to the Edisto River Kayak and Canoe Trail, a 21-mile stretch of river that you can follow all the way to Walterboro’s Colleton State Park. If paddling isn’t your thing, you can swim or tube in the river, or wander down one of the park’s two hiking trails. There are no rental facilities at Givhans Ferry, so make sure you bring your own watercraft if you’re planning to paddle.
Just past Pawley’s Island, you’ll find Huntington Beach State Park, so named for the famously wealthy couple Archer Huntington and sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington (they also founded Brookgreen Gardens, the botanical and sculpture park just down the road). This park is known not only for its beautiful beach and unsullied marshes, but also for Atalaya Castle, the massive home which the Huntingtons spent their winters in until 1947. The home is open for self-guided tours, so when you’re done with all that nature stuff, you can wander on in. And if you’re really done with all that nature stuff, hit up dirty Myrtle Beach, just 15 miles north.
Hunting Island State Park
With 5,000 acres of marsh and woodland and three miles of beach, Hunting Island is a true nature-lover’s paradise. While you can’t camp right on the beach, you can pitch that tent pretty darn close — several sites are located just a few steps off the sand. Hunting Island also has a historic lighthouse and a quiet lagoon where you can fish or wildlife watch, which makes it perfect for a day trip, too.
Lake Marion at Santee
The beach is nice and all, but living where we do, we can do the beach any time. When’s the last time you went swimming in a lake? Lake Marion is big, beautiful, and close — just a little over an hour’s drive. We love the lakeside campsites, which give you plenty of space in a pretty wooded setting.