A Look at the Low Country’s Fabled Charms
At the southernmost tip of the spinning top that is South Carolina lies the fabled Low Country, a four-county region with Charleston International Airport (CHS) its closest hub, nestled between a labyrinthine, marshy Atlantic coastline and the lazy Savannah River with Georgia on its western bank.
To call the Low Country a microcosm of the American South, while accurate, would be to understate its deeper importance as a cultural talisman and living embodiment of not only what the South aspires to be, but the nation as well.
Whether intentional or not, first-time visitors to the Low Country often come away somewhat dazed that these lowlanders have apparently figured out to live in peace, know it, and are more than happy to share the secret with the rest of us.
The late, great Southern novelist Pat Conroy, who made his home in Beaufort, introduced the masses to the magic of the Low Country this way in The Prince of Tides:
“To describe our growing up in the low country of South Carolina, I would have to take you to the marsh on a spring day, flush the great blue heron from its silent occupation, scatter marsh hens as we sink to our knees in mud, open you an oyster with a pocketknife and feed it to you from the shell and say, ‘There. That taste. That’s the taste of my childhood.’”
Here are 10 places to get your own great taste of the Low Country:
The Rhett House Inn, Beaufort, Parris Island: For a taste of the Low Country you’ve seen in such movies as The Prince of Tides, Forrest Gump and The Big Chill, stay in this magnificent 1820 (!) bed and breakfast where the stars stayed during filming. Rhett’s butlers will even book you into the exact room where Barbara Streisand, Robert Redford, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks and others called home during production.
Kings Farm Market, Edisto Island: For a literal taste of Edisto, head to this charming dirt-floor market that specializes in seasonal farm-fresh fruit and produce, fresh casseroles to go and its own exotic concoctions, including FROG jam (fig, raspberry, orange and ginger), peach butter and moonshine jelly.
Sea Pines Forest Preserve, Hilton Head Island: Located halfway between Coligny Beach Park and Harbour Town, this fabulous island forest preserve offers a blissfully shady stroll beneath a natural aviary with lake views, a fishing dock and abundant alligator gazing.
Daufuskie Island: This slice of paradise is beloved for what it doesn’t have: automobiles, malls, gas stations, convenience and grocery stores. It even lacks bridge access. But rest assured, once you’ve taken the public ferry hop from Hilton Head Island and spent the day enjoying its beautiful Atlantic beaches on your rented golf cart, Daufuskie Island will become a Low Country favorite. Lunch at the Old Daufuskie Crab Company is included in the price of a day trip.
Old Sheldon Church ruins, Beaufort: One of the first Greek Revival structures ever built in America (1745-55), this church was burned down by the British during the Revolutionary War, rebuilt, then burned again by Union forces during the Civil War. Today, it’s brick colonnades and archways paint a masterpiece against the hanging-moss-laden live oaks.
Lucky Duck Distillery, Yemassee: Yes, you could tour the Low Country without sampling the Lucky Duck’s white lightning, including their newest flavor, peanut butter cup. But why would you?
Harbour Town Golf Links, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island: This par-4, 18-hole golf course, designed by Pete Dye in consultation with Jack Nicklaus, has been home to the Heritage Classic PGA Tournament (now known as the RBC Heritage) since 1969. Be sure to bring your mashie, as there’s more than a whiff of Scottish links to this challenging seaside course.
Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant, Hilton Head Island: Owners Dave and Raina Peck keep the Island Gullah (native) cuisine alive with such Low Country favs as shrimp and grits, potato chip meatloaf sandwiches and Charleston fried green tomato BLTs. They hablo gluten free as well.
Rose Hill Mansion, Bluffton: Originally built in the late 1850s, this Gothic Revival antebellum mansion and sculpted grounds draws its share of wedding and special event rentals, as well as offering daily tours at 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Penn Center National Historic Landmark District, St. Helena Island: Even those who prefer Sea Island sunbathing to historic tours will be captivated by a visit to one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves. Penn School’s founding teachers helped lift 32,530 Beaufort plantation slaves, freed in 1862, up from slavery by instilling “habits of self-support” in order to “elevate their moral and social condition.” It’s rich history, lovingly preserved here, continues as a shining beacon for human dignity. Simply breathtaking.
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