The fringe of the Charleston metropolitan area features a semi-circle of rural towns, such as McClellanville, Moncks Corner and Edisto Island perfect for a day-long escape.
While their centers often offer small-town charm, most visitors also come to enjoy the vast stretches of open space chock-full of trails, farms and quiet waterfronts from lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.
Here are some of the highlights.
Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge
Only 20 miles north of Charleston is a national wildlife refuge that is home to almost 300 species of birds. Its 100 square miles are a microcosm of the Lowcountry’s natural world, encompassing barrier islands, salt marshes, a web of waterways, miles of beaches, fresh and brackish water impoundments and a maritime forest. It’s also the coastal terminus (or beginning) of the Palmetto Trail that stretches across the state.
Center for Birds of Prey
This Awendaw nonprofit is nestled on a 152-acre campus next to the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge and Francis Marion National Forest. Its mission includes medical care for injured birds, environmental education and scientific research. It offers flight demonstrations featuring hawks, falcons and eagles and tours of its aviaries.
With Edisto’s deep agricultural roots and vacationers with houses full of people to feed, it’s no wonder that S.C. Highway 174 farm markets such as King’s and Geechie Boy are some of the most happening places on the island. George and Pink’s is another legendary produce spot a little farther off the highway down a dirt road — keep an eye out for the sign along Highway 174.
Edisto Island Serpentarium
This display of reptiles is as much educational as an adventurous peek into the lives of creatures from around the world and native to the Lowcountry. On display are more than 30 alligators, from babies to more than 11 feet long; both nonvenomous and venomous snakes; and turtles, including Joe Turtle and Spike, some of the largest tortoises on the planet.
Edisto Island State Park
The beach and campground come together at this destination. There are acres of tall oak trees and palmettos that mesh with ocean and marshland, making it a great spot for hiking and biking. The park includes a beachfront section that recently reopened after Hurricane Matthew as well as a large inland chunk with extensive trails and a nice interpretive center.