South Carolina’s Lowcountry Has a Long History and Long stretches of Beach
By Callum McLaughlin
Spanning the coast between the famous southern cities of Charleston and Savannah, the South Carolina Lowcountry is an often overlooked beach vacation destination.
The area is dripping with both beach town summer spots and Southern charm, complete with long stretches of wide-open sand, Spanish moss and spacious southern beach homes built in an architectural style native to that area.
Perhaps the works of author Mary Alice Monroe, whose works include, A Lowcountry Wedding and The Summer Girls may have helped boost awareness of the area but local residents and entrepreneurs are looking to go a step further.
One of the Lowcountry’s most recognizable and delicious commodities is their famous oysters, a food that area is known for and is currently hyping up with the opening of the new Lowcountry Oyster Trail.
Regardless of how much one does or does not salivate at the mention of oysters, the use of the word “trail” to describe the Lowcountry’s new tourism initiative is perhaps a bit deceptive.
A visit to their website will reveal a series of maps in and around the town of Bluffton, with trails tailored to foodies, adventurers, history buffs and families. “It’s a way to introduce travelers who want to experience the Lowcountry and aren’t there just to be passive observers,” says Larry Hughes, founder of the Lowcountry Oyster Trail.
“We want to get them involved in showcasing whether it’s the foodie experience or whether it’s the art and the history, the culture of the Lowcountry. The Lowcountry oyster trail is a way to give them an opportunity to define and develop their own itinerary, have for anywhere from three hours to three or more days.”
And truly there is enough to do to keep the interested traveler in the area busy for days. For fans of history, there is the Cole-Heyward House, a historic house museum built by slaves from the West Indies and inhabited by descendants of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Additionally, there is nearby Hilton Head Island, which houses a museum about the Gullah Geechee, a cultural group of African-Americans who live on the east coast of the southern states and are known for their artisan woven baskets and for speaking the only creole language native to the United States.
One can also experience Hilton Head Island from a birds-eye view by taking a zipline canopy tour that takes you over the treetops.
Fans of art and giant seafood shells (no doubt there must be at least a few who are both) there is the Shell Art Trail, a path of murals painted on giant oyster shells (and by giant I mean up to four feet tall). Visitors are encouraged to take “shell-fies” with the artwork, each of which depict some sort of historical or cultural scene relevant to the Lowcountry, and each includes a fun fact about oysters.
“In Bluffton, South Carolina alone,” says Hughs, “you’ve got nationally registered historic places that can give you a true sense of what it was like for people living here several hundred years ago.
You have an incredible educational museum at the Port Royal Sound Museum, the Maritime Museum, which over in the Buford area. There is so much to, in terms of how to adventuring, whether it’s kayaking or a dolphin tour, or going out on a sailboat from Hilton Head for a sunset cruise.
It just goes on and on and really one of the things that we try to make people understand through the site and when they’re on site is that there’s such a variety of experiences for them to participate in.”
Seafood is the Highlight
History and ziplining aside, the main draw to any attraction literally named after seafood is going to be the cuisine. Highlights include local seafood concoctions (especially the oysters of course) and the Gullah Geeche’s famous rice dishes, and those curious about where their food comes from can take a fishing tour of the May River or visit the oyster farm in Beaufort.
“It’s history is combined with the hospitality and the foodie experience. They can come down and really learn more about where their food comes from and why it tastes the way it tastes. ”
As undiscovered as the Lowcountry is, it truly has everything a vacationer, and a traveler in search of a good experience can hope for. History, sunny beaches and most importantly good food. t’s history is combined with hospitality and foodie experience.
“Oysters are a 4,000-year-old food source,” says Hughes, “and embedded in Lowcountry history, and we hope they’ll come and enjoy an oyster roast and get to know not only the people but the wonderful communities that support all of that.”