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Lowcountry High
(2016 - Spring Issue)

Writer: Steve Winston

South Carolina stays with me.

The salt marshes and the live oaks drip with Spanish moss. Grand old plantations withstand the test of time. Aromas of a simmering Lowcountry Boil, fresh-caught oysters or the quintessentially Southern shrimp ’n grits linger on in my memory, as do the tangy salt air of the Lowcountry, the sweet mountain air of Lake Jocassee, and the beautiful landscapes. The Old South charm of Charleston echoes with the “cloppety” sound of horses’ hooves pulling 18th-century carriages. And, of course, there’s a huge dose of Southern hospitality. 

I keep going back. And each time I go, I uncover more treasures.

Historic Splendour

Charleston, of course, retains the old colonial ambiance that makes it America’s best-preserved city. Every street echoes with history . . . so loudly you can almost hear it. If the elegant old buildings along the sea wall could talk, they’d tell stories dating to well before the American Revolution. And one of the best ways to experience those stories is from a horse-drawn carriage.

The historic downtown district runs along the sea wall and to the marshes. Here you’ll find the wonderful City Market and 18th-century homes, plantations and churches, many of which are open for tours. 

The nearby historic village of Summerville, once frequented by wealthy plantation owners, has more than 700 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Across the Cooper River Bridge from downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant is a National Register Historical District where homes dating back to the Civil War are not considered “old”—because others date back to the Revolutionary War. From here you can take a boat to see Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started.    

For a fascinating peek into the Antebellum South, visit the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, founded in 1676 and open to the public since five years after the Civil War ended. Also in Charleston are other beautiful plantations such as Middleton Place, Boone Hall and Drayton Hall.

Don’t get the idea, though, that Charleston’s attractions are only historic. Family-fun spots such as Splash Island Waterpark and Frankie’s Fun Park will quickly disabuse you of that notion. And the nearby Kiawah Island Golf Resort features five championship courses, lush natural beauty and a reputation as one of the South’s finest full-service resorts.

Gullah Culture

In the Lowcountry, discover the Gullah culture, a living testament to the West African heritage of many residents of the coastal islands and seacoast. These descendants of slaves have worked hard to keep the traditions of their ancestors alive. Their music, festivals, crafts and food are a unique mixture of West African and Old South, and there’s actually a Gullah “language,” which incorporates both tongues. 

Take home a sweetgrass basket, unique to the Gullah culture, made by a local artisan. Try the distinctive seafood specialties prepared by the Gullah people. Listen to hand-clappin’ old spirituals and the storytellers who bring this isolated culture to life.        

One of the best places to experience Gullah culture is just eight kilometres east of Beaufort on St. Helena Island, where their tradition is as rich today as it was 200 years ago.

The Island Life

There’s also an excellent Gullah Museum on Hilton Head Island in the “Little Blue House” built for the grandson of a former slave in 1930. Hilton Head is about 145 kilometres south of Charleston. It’s not named after the famous hotel chain, but after the English sea captain who named it after himself when he discovered it in 1663. Captain William Hilton would surely be amazed to discover his little island has become one of the great resort areas of the South.

Here, the Harbour Town complex boasts seven restaurants (eight if you count the Spirit of Harbour Town dinner cruise), many of them on the waterfront. Enjoy outdoor performances under the “Liberty Oak.” The historic Harbour Town Lighthouse boasts a museum, some of the best views in town and the highest gift shop in town. You can go deep-sea fishing from Harbour Town, catch a sightseeing cruise or hop on the “Banana Boat” for the most thrilling ride on the island (you’ll get wet). 

Shelter Cove Harbour is another popular place on Hilton Head, with interesting boutiques, one-of-a-kind bistros and open-air restaurants. And you can rent just about anything that conveys you over or through the water.

Hilton Head has seven beautiful beaches, some with so few people that they feel like your own private beach. The island boasts more than 25 golf courses and over 200 restaurants, serving dishes from Gullah to Asian fusion and overlooking marshes or water.

Excitement Reigns

Then there’s the singular excitement of Myrtle Beach. 

As you might expect, the beaches are great playgrounds. But so are the golf courses—more than a hundred of them, some of which were designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones. There are some 50 mini-golf courses, three water parks, a 60-metre SkyWheel offering stunning views, and hundreds of nightspots, many of which feature live entertainment. Among them are the Hard Rock Café, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, the Carolina Opry and Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament.    

The Tanger Outlets are a mecca for shoppers and Barefoot Landing offers distinctive shops right on the Intracoastal Waterway. The battleship USS North Carolina is docked in Myrtle Beach. And you know any town with a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is going to be fun.

South Carolina’s a colourful mixture of variety, tradition, cuisine and just plain fun. There are 10 warm-weather months and, along the coastline, summer temperatures are moderated by soothing sea breezes. And, with 360 golf courses here, you could play a new one practically every day of the year!

From the mountains to the sea, there’s always a new experience to discover in South Carolina.

Travel Planner

Plan your South Carolina getaway at DiscoverSouthCarolina.com/Canada. For more information, visit:

Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce: beaufortsc.org

Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: charlestoncvb.com

Fort Sumter National Monument: nps.gov/fosu

Hilton Head Island–Bluffton Chamber of Commerce & Visitor and Convention Bureau: hiltonheadisland.org

Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau: visitmyrtlebeach.com

Summerville Visitors Center: visitsummerville.com

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