Of all of Charleston’s oceanfront sea islands, Edisto Island is the least well-known by far. This is likely due, at least in part, to misconceptions about its location. When compared to Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach, Edisto Island seems relatively far away. But, it is only about a 45-minute drive from West Ashley—which is roughly the same as the drive to Kiawah Beachwalker Park or to Folly Island on a busy summer day.
Unlike Kiawah and Folly, traffic is rarely an issue on the way to Edisto Island. This is likely due, at least in part, to its relative obscurity. So, while Edisto Beach may seem worlds away, the reality is that getting here doesn’t typically take much longer than getting anywhere else.
Getting to Edisto Island
When routing to Edisto Island, most GPS systems will tell you to take Savannah Highway to Ravenel and turn left on Route 165. While this is an option, the better option is to take the slight left onto State Route 162 at Nancy’s Exotic Plants—as long as there isn’t a train holding up traffic. This route is more scenic, and it lets you avoid any potential issues with traffic further down 17.
On Route 162, you will pass through the Town of Hollywood and continue to the intersection with Route 174 which is controlled by a blinking light. Turn left, and then you won’t turn again until you hit the ocean.
This section of Route 174 is the Edisto Island National Scenic Byway. Shortly after you make the turn, you will pass through a tunnel of live oaks and other old-growth trees with natural dwarf palmettos growing underneath. Then, you will come to the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The bridge offers impeccable Lowcountry views in either direction, especially during sunrise and sunset.
Stopping Along the Way
While many people who plan a day trip to Edisto Island head straight to the beach, there are some enticing options for stopping along the way.
The first of these is Marsh Hen Mill, on the right just over the bridge. Here, you can grab a cup of coffee if you’ve run out, or you can browse the shop for some true Lowcountry grits or a preemptive souvenir for the day.
Or, a few minutes later, you can make a stop at King’s Market. While King’s Market is popular with locals, it is perhaps one of the Charleston area’s best kept secrets. While the dirt-floor shop has locally grown produce, for a day at the beach you might opt for pralines, fudge, or one of King’s Market’s famous key lime pies instead.
Keep driving, and about 10 minutes or so later you will see a hand-painted sign on the left for George & Pinks. While George & Pink’s is literally off of the beaten path, a short trip down the rough-and-tumble dirt of Edingsville Beach Road is well worth it. George & Pink’s specializes in fresh produce as well, but you can also find local favorites like Cheerwine to take with you to the beach.
If you left your book at home, you can make one more stop before you get to your final destination. The Edisto Island Bookstore is a small, local bookstore run by Edisto Islanders. The front of the store features books by local authors, but you can find bestsellers and children's books as well.
Parking at Edisto Beach
Parking at Edisto Beach is typically pretty easy. The layout is similar to Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island, with oceanfront parking lots every block (for a total of 37 parking areas). If one of these lots is full, just keep driving to the next one—you will almost certainly find a spot before too long.
According to the Town of Edisto Beach website, parking is allowed from 6:00am to 10:00pm, “and is enforced by the local police department.” So, just make sure you don’t stay too late. Be sure to avoid parking at the pier (unless you are shopping or having lunch), since the spots here are for customers only.
Restaurants, Rentals & More
Speaking of having lunch, there are several options on Edisto Island. The restaurant on the pier, Coot’s Bar & Grill, has traditional beach fare with oceanfront views. There are also several restaurants on Jungle Road, including options for seafood, pizza, burgers, and more. Long-time favorites on the island include The SeaCow Eatery, Waterfront Restaurant, and McConkey’s Jungle Shack.
If you continue driving toward the southern tip of Edisto Island, you will find more restaurants here as well. These include Pressley’s at the Marina and Dockside Restaurant & Bar. If you will be staying on the island through dinner, Ella & Ollie’s offers twists on Lowcountry favorites along with other menu options in an upscale atmosphere. For dessert, you can get ice cream at Pelicans Pizza & Ice Cream on the pier or at the ice cream shop at 117 Jungle Road.
If you are interested in renting bikes, the loop around Edisto Beach is about eight miles, and the island also has a dedicated off-road bike path. If you are interested in renting a kayak, you can do so at The Marina at Edisto Beach located at 3702 Docksite Road. You can launch there into Big Bay Creek and either head east up the creek or west toward the South Edisto River.
Things to Do at Edisto Beach
When planning a day trip to Edisto Beach, you can do as much or as little as you want. You can spend your day relaxing on the beach and walk to get lunch when its time, or you can go hiking, biking, kayaking, or all of the above. Some of the most popular things to do at Edisto Beach include:
- Botany Bay – Botany Bay is one of the most unique areas on Edisto Island, if not one of the most unique areas in South Carolina. Botany Bay’s “boneyard beach” is covered with sun-bleached tree remnants, and it is currently only accessible from the Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area’s parking lot at low tide. It has been featured in movies and TV shows including Netflix’s Outer Banks; and, as the SC Picture Project’s website shows, it offers some stunning photos opportunities.
- Edisto Beach State Park Trails – Edisto Beach State Park has campsites for those interested in staying overnight; but, for those planning a day trip to Edisto Island, the park’s shaded trails offer a respite from the summer sun. The trails wind through the park’s natural landscape and offer several views of Big Bay Creek.
- Kayak Rentals – Renting a kayak and exploring Big Bay Creek offers a unique perspective on Edisto Island. The houses along the creek quickly give way to the wilderness of Edisto Beach State Park, and you can easily forget that you are such a short distance away from civilization. Alternatively, you can head toward the South Edisto River for a view of Otter Island, but just be aware that you will be in open water if you go too far.
- Relaxing on the Beach – Whether you want to spend all day on the beach or relax on the beach in the afternoon after a morning kayaking or bike riding, Edisto Beach is relatively uncrowded compared to the more popular beaches at Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Folly Island, and Kiawah Beachwalker Park. If you want as much space to yourself as possible, head toward the southern end of the island.
- Shopping for Souvenirs – The shop at the pier has traditional beach souvenirs, and there are a couple of shops at 117 Jungle Road. The Edisto Island Bookstore has mugs, maps, and other gifts as well.
Sample Itinerary: A Day Trip to Edisto Island
Leave early so that you can catch a glimpse of the sunrise as you head over the ICW on the Edisto Island National Scenic Byway. This will also help ensure that you can find a parking space within walking distance to the shops and restaurants on Jungle Road. Pick a spot on the beach to spend your morning relaxing in the sun.
For lunch, head over to Jungle Road and pick the restaurant that speaks to your stomach. After lunch, treat yourself to a sundae, or get a nostalgic candy from your youth at Sugartime.
Get in your car and head over to The Marina at Edisto Island. Rent a kayak on the dock and head east toward Edisto Beach State Park. Take your time and enjoy the view. Depending on when you get back, either go to Ella & Ollie’s on the island for dinner, or stop at Roxbury Mercantile on Route 174 for dinner on the patio with live music on your way home.
Planning Your Day Trip to Edisto Island
Interested in planning a day trip to Edisto Island? If so, here are some of our top tips for Charlestonians and vacationers alike:
From downtown Charleston, take Savannah Highway to Route 162. Continue on Route 162 through Hollywood to Route 174, then turn left and drive straight until you hit the beach. If the sand is your first stop, turn right on Palmetto Boulevard and start looking for a spot in the oceanfront parking areas at every block.
When To Go
You can go to Edisto Beach any time of year. The island has mostly vacation homes, and most of these homes fill up during the summer. So, consider coming during the offseason if you can. But, if you can’t, don’t worry, you will still find Edisto to be far less crowded than any of the other beaches around Charleston.
Parking is available at the 37 oceanfront parking lots on Palmetto Boulevard. The island’s restaurants, The Marina at Edisto Island, and 117 Jungle Road have plenty of parking as well.
Local favorites on Edisto Island include King’s Market, Waterfront Restaurant, The SeaCow Eatery, Waterfront Restaurant, and Ella & Ollie’s for a nice dinner out. Sugartime is another local favorite that sells saltwater taffy and other sweet treats.
Off the Beaten Path
If you are looking for things to do on Edisto Island off the beaten path, check out Botany Bay and Edisto Beach State Park. Your effort to hike the trails in both locations will be well-rewarded.
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