The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is a staple on the annual Charleston events calendar. Taking place at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, it is billed as “the world’s largest oyster festival,” with more than 45,000 pounds of oysters on offer along with a variety of other Lowcountry favorites.
For 2023, The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is presented by Toadfish. Toadfish sells fishing gear, tumblers, and other products designed for the Lowcountry lifestyle; and, according to its website, “every product sold helps clean coastal waters.” Toadfish helps to replant and replenish oyster habitats in Charleston and throughout the U.S., and to date it has planted nearly 300,000 square feet of oyster beds across the country.
What is The Lowcountry Oyster Festival?
The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is an annual event hosted by the Lowcountry Hospitality Association, a non-profit organization that helps to promote the interests of hotels, restaurants, and other foodservice businesses in Charleston. As oysters are the centerpiece, the festival includes raw oyster eating and shucking contests as well as buckets of steamed oysters available at market price. But, the event includes many other offerings and attractions as well. These include:
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Additional Lowcountry food options
- Live entertainment
- Children’s area with bounce houses and a climbing wall
- Local crafts
- Cookie decorating
- Other fun competitions and activities for adults and children
The Lowcountry Hospitality Association’s website indicates that the Charleston Area Beekeepers Association (CABA) will be onsite at The Lowcountry Oyster Festival for 2023 as well. CABA is “[a] club for all levels of beekeepers and those interested in being stewards for our bee population.” Charleston residents who are interested in beekeeping can visit CABA’s booth at the event, or visit CABA’s website to learn about local resources and watch educational videos.
5 Important Facts About The Lowcountry Oyster Festival
Are you thinking about attending The Lowcountry Oyster Festival? If so, here are five important facts for you to know:
1. The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is a Cashless Event for 2023
While many local festival events are cash-only, The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is a cashless event. So, be sure to bring your credit or debit card with you. While you can buy tickets in advance ($23 per person for general admission) online, you will need to use your card to make purchases at the event.
2. You Will Need Food & Beverage Tickets to Buy Steamed Oysters
When you get to The Lowcountry Oyster Festival, you will want to be sure to buy Food & Beverage Tickets. These are what you will use to buy buckets of steamed oysters and any other Lowcountry favorites (or beverages) you may want to try.
3. Children 10 and Under Get In Free
The $23 per person general admission price applies to adults and children age 11 or older. This means that children age 10 and under get in to The Lowcountry Oyster Festival for free. The Lowcountry Hospitality Association’s website lists several child-friendly activities at the event, including juggling, an egg toss, and limbo with local mascots such as Leo from the Charleston Battery and Charlie from the Charleston RiverDogs.
4. Parking is Free
Also unlike many other local events, parking at The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is free. According to the Lowcountry Hospitality Association, attendants will guide visitors to available parking spaces on the day of the event. Getting there early is strongly encouraged, and the Lowcountry Hospitality Association recommends ridesharing if possible as well.
5. The Lowcountry Oyster Festival Takes Place on January 29, 2023
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is taking place this year on Saturday, January 29. The gates to The Lowcountry Oyster Festival open at 10:00am, and the festival ends at 5:00pm Saturday afternoon. It is a rain-or-shine event.
Directions to The Lowcountry Oyster Festival at Boone Hall Plantation
As always, The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is taking place at Boone Hall Plantation in 2023. Boone Hall Plantation is located in Mount Pleasant off of Highway 17, just a short distance past the Isle of Palms Connector. From downtown Charleston or West Ashley, take the Ravenel Bridge across the Cooper River and continue on Highway 17 (Johnnie Dodds Boulevard) for approximately eight miles. From Daniel Island or North Charleston, take I-526 toward Mount Pleasant, then turn left onto Highway 17 for about 2.5 miles.
The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is using both entrances to Boone Hall Plantation. This means that you can either turn left onto Long Point Road (navigate to Boone Hall’s main address, 1235 Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant), or continue on Highway 17 until you see the second entrance on your left.
What’s So Important About Oysters?
Aside from the fact that they are a Lowcountry tradition that has endured for centuries, what’s so important about oysters?
Oysters play a critical role in Charleston’s marsh ecosystems. As a result, sustainable harvesting is critical, and it is equally important that coastal developments do not destroy the local oyster populations. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains:
“Oysters are a crucial component of global ocean health. These animals filter and clean the surrounding water and provide habitat, food, and jobs. In some places, oyster reefs can serve as barriers to storms and tides, preventing erosion and protecting productive estuary waters.”
A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water each day. By filtering the water, oysters help make Charleston’s pluff muddy waters a habitable place for many other types of marine animals. In Charleston, oysters also play an important role in the local economy; and, as noted by the NOAA, oyster beds help prevent erosion of tidal areas during hurricanes and other major weather events as well. In short, there are lots of reasons to love oysters—even if you (like many other Charlestonians) don’t find them particularly appetizing.
If you are interested in oyster restoration or planting an oyster bed in your coastal community, you can visit the South Carolina Department of National Resources’ (SCDNR) website for more information.