Exploring Edisto Island: A Guide for Families


The road that leads to Edisto Island is narrow and tunneled by live oaks. Although only an hour’s drive from downtown Charleston, this is a place that feels remote and charmingly antiquated. Four generations of my husband’s family have grown up going to the beach at Edisto, and one would be challenged to argue much has changed since Great-Grandma Bebe was a girl. The pace is slower. The air smells like pluff mud, and schedules are determined by the changing tide. A tourist may have to work a little harder to find the highlights, but if your family loves the outdoors and is more into chasing fiddler crabs than playing in arcades, check out Edisto Island and visit some of our family’s favorite places mentioned below.

A Guide to Edisto Island

What to Do and See:


Botany Bay Plantation

For a breathtaking walk on a boneyard beach, plan to visit Botany Bay at low tide. This is my favorite South Carolina beach and for good reason — this wildlife management area consists of over 4,600 acres of unspoiled coastal wilderness with hiking trails, a driving tour (it was a working plantation), and a pristine beach. You cannot take items from the preserve, so the shells collected and hung on the smooth limbs of fallen oaks are astounding. The experience is unique: the display of perfect whelk shells placed on the skeletal arms of once magnificent trees on the beach being retaken by the sea is a natural museum. It’s both a jungle gym for the kiddos and an art gallery for everyone!

Tip: Make sure you bring plenty of water and comfortable walking shoes, and stop to use the restroom prior to your visit. There is a 1/4 mile walk through beautiful hammock and marsh to access the beach, and there aren’t any services at the preserve.

Edisto Beach State Park

The park provides wonderful beach access, as well as a maritime forest and an expansive salt marsh, with a four-mile nature trail. The beach has excellent shelling, and the park offers a day-use area for beachgoers and overnight camping and cabin rentals.

Sound Beach

The waves at Edisto Beach can be large and the drop-off is not insignificant. There’s often a strong undertow. With young children, I prefer to visit the beach on the St. Helena Sound side of the island. My favorite beach access point is number 35, near The Marina at Edisto Beach. The water is calm and still, and mamas don’t have to worry about their little ones being overwhelmed by a big wave. Plus, you have a great chance of spotting dolphins from this vantage point.

There are public beach accesses with parking down Palmetto Boulevard from Mikell Street down to Yacht Club Road along the Western edge of the island.


Edisto Island Serpentarium

This is a must-stop for any reptile-loving kid (or adult). The Serpentarium houses a collection of various reptiles native to the southeastern United States. There are beautiful gardens and both indoor and outdoor displays. I’d recommend timing your visit to hit both the snake show and an alligator feeding.

Edisto Island Bike Path

People often refer to the island as “Edi-slow.” The pace is leisurely, and if there’s a hint of slow traffic, it’s only due to golf carts on Jungle Road. One of the best ways to see and navigate the island is by bike. There is a five-mile bike trail that offers a traffic-free tour through the backside of the beach town. My family loves biking from my in-laws’ house to get breakfast at the SeaCow or to one of several other restaurants and coffee shops, all of which are easily accessible by bike.

Festivals, Events, and Parades

Edisto Beach is a small town with fun local events, from parades (where candy is still thrown to children and you may catch a bag of boiled, pronounced “bawled”, peanuts) to Movies in the Park, bingo at the Lions Club, Arts in the Park, and an Arts and Crafts Market, there’s usually something going on for families to enjoy. Don’t miss the Christmas Parade!

The Mystery Tree

My children know we’re on the island and close to Grandma Bebe and Poppy’s house when we pass an odd-looking tree adorned with seasonal decorations. Directly across from Botany Bay off Highway 174, this Edisto icon delights children and adults alike with its changing appearance in celebration of the seasons. We don’t know who is responsible for the tree, it’s a mystery, but it’s fun to stop and take a picture at low tide.

Where to Eat


Edisto Seafood

Seafood doesn’t come any fresher than this. The boats pull right up to the dock behind this market.

Flowers Seafood Company

Stop here to pick up fresh, locally caught seafood for your Lowcountry boil, or Thursday through Saturday grab some lunch or dinner from their permanent food truck.

King’s Farm Market

This sixth-generation family farm and market offer u-pick and freshly picked produce and flowers, jarred goods, cakes, and pies, as well as scrumptious take-and-bake items. Make this your first stop if you’re planning to spend the weekend, or stop by on your way back to the mainland after a day at the beach. Our family can’t decide whether the pluff mud or key lime pie is better.

George and Pink’s Market

For a bit of Edisto history, visit George and Pink’s. This plywood market has been around for more than 40 years and offers fresh vegetables and flowers, homemade pies, local products like rice and grits, and maybe the island’s best-boiled peanuts.

Marsh Hen Mill

This fun store is just over Steam Boat Creek, and it offers heirloom products and the best stone ground grits in the world.


The Briny Swine

Two southern favorites are celebrated at this smokehouse and raw bar. Come for some locally sourced oysters and good BBQ with all the fixin’s.

Edingsville Grocery

This charming restaurant serves Lowcountry-inspired cuisine with locally sourced ingredients.

Ella & Ollie’s

A meal at this seafood restaurant would rival your dining experience at some of the finer eating establishments in downtown Charleston.

E&O Taco

A sister establishment to Ella & Ollie’s seafood restaurant, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better taco on the island (or anywhere in the Lowcountry).

McConkey’s Jungle Shack

This is a go-to for a good burger and a fish taco. We like the blackened mahi.

Pressley’s at the Marina

This first-come-first-serve waterfront restaurant offers some of the best views on the island as well as some great seafood.

SeaCow Eatery

This is our family’s favorite breakfast place on the island. They also offer great lunches and dinners, served on checkered tablecloths either indoors, outdoors, or on the patio. Our kids especially love this restaurant for the children’s meals served on a frisbee!


This Edisto Beach fixture is a classic seafood dive bar. The fresh fried catch menu items are the way to go.

Coffee and Ice Cream:

3 Gulls Creamery

For delicious Hershey’s Ice Cream and outrageous stuffed milkshakes, this is your stop.

Marsh Moon Cafe

This full espresso bar also serves tasty sandwiches, toasts, salads, smoothies, and bowls for lunch and breakfast.


This is our kids’ favorite spot for ice cream, Dippin Dots, and bulk candy. It’s always our last stop on our way back home, and it’s also a great place to watch the sunset after a fun day on the island.

I’d love to hear what other spots you enjoy at one of our favorite South Carolina beach towns.

A special thanks to my sister-in-law, Robin Killen, and nieces, Rebekah and Ruthie Killen, for several of the photos and great sightseeing tips. They are true Edisto girls!

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Elizabeth Crabtree Killen
Elizabeth grew up in the lake country of Minnesota, and she has always loved the water. She was thrilled when her work as a public health researcher and hospital administrator brought her to MUSC in 2012. Charleston has been the setting of all her greatest adventures, the best of which is being a mother to her 7-year-old daughter, Annabeth, then later in life finding love with her husband, Tim. She became a stepmother to his two teenagers, and now she’s also the mother of ‘two under two.' Elizabeth and her family live on Wadmalaw Island where they enjoy being on the water and in a space that accommodates the activities of their large, blended family.