Edisto Beach: Everything You Need to Know

Boneyard beach on Edisto Island

Of all of the sea islands near Charleston, Edisto beach has a special place in my heart.

It’s close enough to Charleston to be an easy drive. And yet it’s far enough away that it hasn’t dealt with the levels of development of other islands.

Much of the river basin, as well as the island itself, is well protected from future development efforts, too.

Edisto Island, SC features pristine beaches, lush maritime forests, and a relaxed pace.

It’s a haven for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and those in search of a peaceful escape. Take a journey through Edisto Island and its many attractions, including the beautiful Edisto Beach. Then, get excited to plan the perfect trip to this hidden gem of the Lowcountry.

Quick hits

  • Discover Edisto Island and its stunning natural setting, peaceful drive down Highway 174, and old-fashioned way of life.
  • Experience fun & adventure with camping/cabin rentals, hiking/biking trails & boat ramps at Edisto Beach State Park.
  • Explore more sea islands near Charleston: Kiawah Island for golf courses & luxurious resorts, Hunting Island State Park for outdoor activities, Folly Beach for a relaxed beach vibe!


Discovering Edisto Island

A beautiful beach on Edisto Island, South Carolina

Nestled between Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA, Edisto Island is one of the state’s largest barrier islands. It boasts a stunning natural setting and an old-fashioned way of life. This picturesque island is home to:

  • Beautiful beaches
  • Amazing oceanfront state parks
  • And enchanting maritime forests

It offers a quiet, serene retreat for those looking to explore the wonders of the Lowcountry.

A peaceful drive down Highway 174 is your first introduction to Edisto Island. Marshes, rivers, and majestic oaks draped in Spanish moss line the route.


Beaches and Oceanfront State Parks

One of the main attractions of Edisto Island is its pristine beaches, particularly Edisto Beach. Situated on St. Helena Sound, it’s at the convergence of the ACE Basin and the Atlantic Ocean. Gently developed with low-level beach houses along its 4.5 miles stretch of sand, Edisto Beach is a tranquil and uncrowded environment. It’s the perfect place to soak up the sun, swim, or enjoy the stunning views of the tidal creeks and rivers.

Edisto Beach State Park is one of the four oceanfront state parks in South Carolina. It’s a site of breathtaking beauty, featuring the island’s shoreline and maritime forest. You’ll find a variety of recreational activities on offer, such as hiking, biking, and a boat ramp. Edisto Beach State Park is the perfect destination for families and nature enthusiasts alike.


Maritime Forest and Live Oak Trees

Marshes and maritime forest

The maritime forest on Edisto Island are a unique and vital part of the island’s ecosystem. These forests along coastal barrier islands and affected by sea spray, play a crucial role in protecting the area from storms and erosion. They also provide a home for a wide variety of Lowcountry plants and animals.

Live oaks, with their sprawling branches and Spanish moss, are the most common trees found in the maritime forests. After them come red cedar, loblolly pine, and wax myrtle.

As you wander through the forest, keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls this unique habitat home. Plenty of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals call this island home.


Experiencing Edisto Beach State Park

A family enjoying the beach in Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina

Edisto Beach State Park is a family-friendly spot with plenty of recreational activities. Camping and cabin rentals are at the campground. And hiking, biking, and boat ramps are all on offer. You’re sure to find your favorite way to enjoy this beautiful park.

Plus, the park’s Environmental Learning Center teaches about the island’s environment and history through engaging programs and guided tours.


Camping and Cabin Rentals

Edisto Beach State Park offers various camping and cabin rental options. They’re ideal for fully immersing yourself in the natural beauty of Edisto Island. With over 100 tent and RV campsites, as well as seven rustic cabins, the campground is only packed on the busiest of days.

Each campsite is equipped with electric/water hookups, fire pits, and indoor bathrooms. Other amenities include the park’s beautiful ocean views and the chance to spot native wildlife just outside your tent.


Hiking, Biking, and Boat Ramps

The park offers over 4 miles of ADA accessible trails. These trails meander through hammock islands, marshes, and maritime forests. One will even take you to the Environmental Learning Center. With seven different trails, including:

  • The Forest Loop Trail
  • And the Spanish Mount Trail

It’s a great way to take photos and experience the diverse landscapes and ecosystems of Edisto Island up close.

Aside from hiking, Edisto Beach State Park offers biking trails and two boat ramps, at the east end of Palmetto Boulevard and Myrtle Street. Whether you’re exploring the island on foot, by bike, or by boat, Edisto Beach State Park is easily accessible to all outdoor enthusiasts.


Environmental Learning Center

The Environmental Learning Center explores the island’s environment and history. It hosts a range of programs and guided tours. The center provides family-friendly exhibits and hands-on programs such as touch tanks.

Admission to the park’s Environmental Education Center is:

  • $5 for adults
  • $3.25 for South Carolina seniors
  • $3 for children aged 6-15
  • And free for children aged 5 and under

So, definitely not going to break the bank.

It’s a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the island’s unique ecosystem and the importance of preserving its natural beauty.


Wildlife and Natural Wonders of Edisto Island

A nature trail in Edisto Island, South Carolina

Edisto Island is a haven for wildlife and natural wonders. Its diverse ecosystems provide habitat for a variety of animals. Some of the ones you may see include: loggerhead sea turtles, white-tailed deer, raccoons, and various bird species.


ACE Basin

The ACE Basin is a pristine estuarine ecosystem.

The 1.6 million-acre ACE Basin watershed is centered around the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers (get the name?). It is one of the largest remaining undeveloped ecosystems on the Atlantic Coast.

  • Peatlands
  • Extensive tidal marshes
  • Managed wetlands
  • Barrier islands
  • Forested uplands
  • And wetlands

Are all part of this amazing network of interconnected ecosystems. The ACE Basin supports 33 different types of natural plant communities. It also provides critical habitat for waterfowl, migratory birds, and endangered species. About 203,000 acres in the ACE Basin are preserved in perpetuity.

Every year, 50 to 100 sea turtles lay their eggs on Botany Bay Island in the ACE Basin. The nests are screened to keep raccoons away from them. As a result, every year, the island is home to between 3,000 and 10,000 sea turtle eggs.

It is home to even more endangered and threatened species aside from sea turtles, like:

  • Wood storks
  • Egrets
  • Herons
  • Shortnose sturgeon
  • And even American bald eagles

Edisto Island and the surrounding ACE basin offers the opportunity to appreciate the wonders of nature.


Bird Watching and Marine Life

A family enjoying pet-friendly activities on Edisto Island, South Carolina

Birdwatching enthusiasts will be delighted with the variety of species that can be observed on Edisto Island, such as:

  • Loons
  • Gulls
  • Terns
  • Shorebirds
  • Sea ducks
  • Great blue heron
  • Snowy egret
  • And many more

Exploring the island’s diverse habitats, from maritime forests to tidal creeks, provides plenty of chances to spot these beautiful birds in their natural environment.

Marine life is also abundant on Edisto Island, with the chance to see dolphins, sea otters, alligators, and various fish species.

The island’s wildlife will leave you in awe.

Pet-Friendly Activities

A family enjoying a sunny day on Edisto Island, South Carolina

If you’re traveling with your furry friends, Edisto Island offers a range of pet-friendly activities to enjoy together. Take your pup for a walk on the beach, go for a boat ride, or explore the island’s nature trails. All are possible with your four-legged companion.

A cat likely wouldn’t be a fan of a boat ride, though.

From November 1st to April 30th, dogs are allowed on the beach without a leash. That said, a leash is required for the summer season, from May 1st to October 31st.

Dining and Shopping on Edisto Island

Sunset over Edisto Island, South Carolina

After a day of exploring the island’s attractions, visitors can indulge in delicious local cuisine at various restaurants, such as:

Even low-density Edisto Island has plenty to eat, from fresh seafood to classic Southern dishes.

When it comes to shopping, visitors can explore various local boutiques. Plus, hit up the gift shops at the Edisto Island Serpentarium and Edisto Island Museum if you’re desperate. That said, the best Edisto Island shopping is in Charleston. Don’t forget, it’s a small, underdeveloped island!


Events and Seasonal Highlights

A family enjoying a seasonal event on Edisto Island, South Carolina

Edisto Island hosts several annual events. They showcase the local culture and provide a unique, fun-filled excuse to make weekend road trips. The Edisto Beach Fall Festival and Turtle Auction celebrate the island’s heritage with live music, and food. It also features, of course, a turtle auction. The Annual Auction and Oyster Roast features a live auction of items donated by local businesses and organizations. The name doesn’t lie, however, as there’s also a delicious oyster roast.

Other popular events include the Edisto Beach Road Race, which includes a 5K run and a shag dance competition.


Places to Stay on Edisto Island

A beach fence on Edisto Island, South Carolina

Edisto Island offers a variety of accommodation options. If a campground is just not going to cut it for you, there are other options here, from hotels and resorts to vacation rentals.


Hotels and Resorts on Edisto Island

Visitors to Edisto Island can choose from several hotels and resorts, including:

Each of these accommodations offers a range of amenities, such as outdoor pools, fitness centers, and free WiFi.

The hotels and resorts are conveniently located on Edisto Island. So you’ll have easy access to the island’s attractions and natural wonders. With a variety of options available, guests can find the perfect accommodation to suit their needs and preferences.

Another option is the Residence Inn by Marriott Charleston Kiawah Island/Andell Inn. That said, it’s on Kiawah Island, so about an hour drive away. And for that amount of driving, anywhere in Charleston is an option, too.

Check out our guides to:

Vacation Rentals on Edisto Island

For a more private and personalized experience, vacation rentals on Edisto Island are an excellent option. Companies such as Edisto Realty, Edisto Beach Vacation Rentals, and Airbnb offer a range of rental properties. Options range from cozy beach cottages to spacious family homes.

Vacation rentals provide guests with all the comforts of home while enjoying the beauty and serenity of Edisto Island.

More Sea Islands Near Charleston to Explore

If you’re looking to explore even more of the beautiful Lowcountry sea islands, below are a few more to browse. Each of these sea islands near Charleston offer its unique charm and attractions. There are even more opportunities to discover the wonders of the Lowcountry.

Kiawah Island

A walkway to the beach on Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Just 21 miles south of Charleston, Kiawah Island is a 10,000-acre barrier island. It’s famous for its stunning beaches, world-class golf courses, and luxurious resorts. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, such as:

  • Watching a beautiful sunrise over the ocean
  • Biking through the island’s picturesque landscapes
  • Or exploring the nature trails and wildlife at the Kiawah Island Nature Center
  • Lounging at Kiawah Island’s Beachwalker Park

Kiawah Island also offers a range of accommodations, all high-end. Options include the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the aforementioned Andell Inn, and the Sanctuary, also at the resort.

Hunting Island State Park

A boy exploring Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Just off the coast of South Carolina near the charming town of Beaufort, Hunting Island State Park is a 5,000-acre barrier island. It attracts visitors the most visitors in the state with its beautiful beaches, nature trails, and abundant wildlife. The park offers a variety of activities. Top outdoor activities include: fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, and camping.

Hunting Island State Park provides both rustic and modern camping options.

Folly Beach

A scenic view of Folly Beach

Folly Beach, a 6-mile barrier island located just south of Charleston, is known for its laid-back atmosphere, surfing, and fishing. Visitors can enjoy the island’s beautiful beach, explore the lighthouse, or head into town to see the nearby Charleston museums.

Folly Beach offers a range of dining and shopping options, as well as various accommodations to suit every traveler’s needs. With its relaxed vibes and array of attractions, Folly Beach is the perfect destination for a fun and memorable sea island getaway.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Edisto Beach worth visiting?

With its welcoming atmosphere and plethora of things to do, Edisto Beach is an ideal destination for a relaxing beach vacation. Its stunning scenery and wide range of activities make it a must-visit spot in South Carolina.

Whether you’re looking for some fun in the sun or just looking to relax, Edisto Beach is worth visiting.

Can you swim in the ocean at Edisto Beach?

Yes, you can swim in the ocean at Edisto Beach. That said, there are no lifeguards on duty, so you must take extra caution.

The beach offers plenty of space to relax with over 4 miles of shoreline.

Is there a difference between Edisto Beach and Edisto Island?

Yes, there is a difference between Edisto Beach and Edisto Island. Edisto Beach is on the southern tip of Edisto Island and is part of Colleton County, while the west and rest of Edisto Island is part of Charleston County.

What is the closest city to Edisto Beach?

The closest city to Edisto Beach is Charleston, which is located only around 40 minutes away by car. So you don’t have to travel far to enjoy nearby amenities!

There are plenty of attractions in Charleston, from historical sites to great restaurants and shopping. You can easily spend a day or two exploring the city and its surroundings.

What is significant about Edisto Island?

Edisto Island is significant for its role in the slave trade and the Plantation aristocracy that grew out of it. It was home to a large population of slaves, who worked the land to produce long-staple Sea Island cotton.

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