The Misconception of a Not-So-Sleepy Coastal Town Called Edisto Island
If you ask most people in the Charleston area where they prefer to hit the beach, you likely won’t be surprised to hear the usual suspects headed your way: Folly, Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms. You may even get the occasional Kiawah beach goer.
But Edisto Island? Who’s driving ALL the way out there, right? Turns out a lot of people—and in fact, this supposedly sleepy little beachtown has more going on than I ever expected. Only 45 miles from downtown Charleston, I found it an easy, breezy ride that not a single person in the family minded. That’s baby, sassy 7-year old, mom and dad endured and approved—almost unheard of.
So, what did we do first? What was on the agenda? What did we discover as Edisto’s very own can’t-miss stops? Continue reading for all the food, fun, family-friendly activities we enjoyed on our Tasty Trip on Edisto Island.
We were ready for lunch by the time we arrived. Needless to say after being tipped off about “Sushi Nachos” at a place called Whaley’s, we headed straight there, located at the far end of Edisto only a few blocks from the beach. As it turns out, this gas station turned local seafood restaurant and bar was hopping, already full at midday with satisfied customers and a busy waitstaff. That didn’t stop them from quickly getting us seated and cold drinks in front of us.
Going on its 16th year in business, Whaley’s isn’t your fine dining destination while in Edisto—and that’s exactly why locals and tourists alike love it. Named one of the top seafood dives in SC by Coastal Living just last year, it feels homey and comfortable. Like you just know you’ll run into one of your friends when stopping in on a whim for a cold beer and the Sarah Jane BLT.
Of course we did get the Sushi Nachos and after much build up in my mind, they did NOT disappoint. Rather than a mound of tortilla chips, Whaley’s serves it up on crispy fried wontons, stacked with ahi tuna, avocado, a tomato salsa and the perfect combination of sweet teriyaki and spicy wasabi aioli.
While the food and the laid-back atmosphere make this a go-to beach bar, it’s their story that draws me in. Owner Van Maxwell first remembers Whaley’s as the filling station his own mother was bitten by a dog in the parking lot when he was 12 years old. As he admits, not a great story, but still his oldest memory of this building that dates back to 1948. Or the fact that George still slings drinks as the “oldest bartender in SC” behind the bar at Whaley’s. Or the efforts Whaley’s made to feed first responders 3 meals a day for 4 days straight following Hurricane Matthew’s destruction in 2016.
Whatever your reason for loving Whaley’s, there’s likely a story to go along, too.Clearly we spent plenty of time at Whaley’s, stuffing ourselves good and full. For that reason we didn’t have time—nor the appetite—to venture in search of more food but we did get some recommendations for next time:
•Ella & Ollie’s (Personally recommended to us by Van, who says, chef/ owner Brandon Rushing can throw down with the best of any downtown chef around!)
•E & O Taco (The sister taco spot of Ella and Ollie’s located right next door.)
•Flowers Seafood Company (Side of the road-fresh catch-kind of deliciousness.)
•The Old Post Office Restaurant (Serving classic upscale seafood dishes.)
There’s more to Edisto than hitting the beach or retreating from the sun for food, though. With a mostly tourist-based population, the town offers history, nature and recreational fun.
•Take the group out for a round of golf at The Plantation Course at Edisto.
•Go on an eco tour with Botany Bay Ecotours or Botany Bay Kayak Adventures.
•Charter a fishing boat with Fontaine Charters or Edisto Watersports & Tackle.
•Visit the Edisto Island Serpentarium for snakes, gators and other reptilian friends to the delight of visitors, young and old.
But maybe save the best for last.
As you leave the island, you’ll pass Botany Bay Plantation on your right. Drive down the beautiful oak-covered, dirt road to the 4,600-acre preserve where you’ll eventually be greeted by a kind volunteer to get you started. With a map in hand, you can travel the self-guided 6.5 mile trail, taking you along a historical route that dates back to the 1700s. It’s both beautiful and sad; marked by evidence of slavery, civil war history and family legacies, all set upon fields of crops and century old live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss. The newer additions to the preserve, such as Jason’s Lake—a man-made lake reserved exclusively for catch and release fishing for the youth—is a welcomed breath of fresh air.
The “tree boneyard” upon the shore of Botany Bay Beach (a quick right before truly starting the driving tour) is a must-see and absolutely worth the half mile walk to get there from where you have to park.
After leaving Botany Bay Plantation you have two more stops to make if you’re up for it.
You can stop by the Geechie Boy Mill & Market to see where they both make and sell stone-ground grits, their dressings and other country favorites.
Or—and this was a highlight for us—you can swing into King’s Farm Market for a little bit of, well, anything and everything. The sign for Key Lime Pie is what pulled us in but we ended up leaving with Blenheim Ginger Ale, a smoky steak rub and ice cream after perusing the books, suncatchers, and local produce and products for sale.
It’s a good thing I was only holding a $20 bill because I could have spent a small fortune on all the random, yet enticing, odds and ends available inside King’s.
So, there you have it, Edisto Island. A hodgepodge coastal town with a little bit of everything for everyone. And did you know that Edisto Beach is one of the last beaches you can legally consume your favorite beer or cocktail on—without a visit from beach patrol?
Not so sleepy after all, now is it?
By Krysta Chapman