Sophisticated Charleston to Rustic Edisto Beach

Our trips to Edisto Beach in our Airstream made us anxious to return – by boat! – and we wanted to say Hi! to our buddy George, the World’s Grumpiest Bartender.

Day 46, November 29

One of our favorite camping destinations in our little Airstream Bambi is Edisto Beach State Park.  We love the simplicity and natural beauty, the lovely long undeveloped stretch of protected beach, and Whaley’s Store – a self-described dive bar with great fresh seafood and — wait for it — the World’s Grumpiest Bartender.  When we realized that Edisto was just off the ICW we had to organize a stop there.

We called ahead to the Marina at Edisto Beach to make sure they could accommodate us. The fellow who answered the phone went silent for a moment when he heard our inquiry.  After a pause, he said “You know there’s no one here this time of year?”  We said Yes! But we still want to visit.  He said they could accommodate us, and instructed us to simply pull up to the fuel dock by the flag pole and if no one was around, make ourselves at home.  This really sounded like our kind of place.  Quite a change from the Charleston MegaDock.

The scenery changed quickly from busy Charleston to laid-back low country.

Three days in Charleston is nowhere near enough to “do the city” but alas we still had the urge to press south towards warmer weather.  It had been a cold visit.  As we headed out to walk the dogs on our last morning it was just 32 degrees.  Brrrr!  On the flip side, it was clear and beautiful and calm, and a great day to be out on the water in a cozy pilot house. We were under way by 8:30 and we had less than 40 miles to go, so we could take it easy and enjoy the scenery.

And there was plenty of scenery to enjoy.

Turkey soup bubbled on the stove all day long.

We crossed the Ashley River into Wappoo Creek then Elliott Cutt before entering the Stono River.  It was a lovely, comfy ride.  We kept the boat at 1600 RMPs and about seven and a half lazy knots.  It was so lazy, in fact, that I dug the Thanksgiving turkey carcass out of the fridge, chopped up a pile of veggies, and tossed it all into our large soup pot.  Throughout the day the boat was saturated with the aroma of turkey stock bubbling away on the stove.  It was a perfect side-dish to the pleasant river cruise on a cold but gorgeous late November day.

Our curious little hitchhiker.

The rivers were lively with porpoises and the birdlife was plentiful.  After we got beyond the reach of Charleston, humanity was scarce.  One small bird took refuge in the sunshine on our cabin top and entertained us for a while until we tired of his pecking at the caulking in our hatches and gaskets around our windshield.

Just looking for a cheap meal.

Bruce tried various tactics to shoo him away, including running with windshield wipers, spraying the windshield water, and finally as a last-ditch effort, blowing our LOUD! horns.  None of this worked.  Determined little bugger.  I finally gave him a leftover hamburger bun.  He pecked happily at this treat for awhile, then flew away.  I guess he was hungry and knew how to find a cheap meal.

img_1348The Stono River became the Wadmalaw River became the Dawho River.  Shoaling was intermittent but not a big issue.  We crossed the North Edisto River, and as we picked our way through the narrow and shallow Watts Cut, Edisto Island lay on our port side.  It was actually a little bit exciting as we passed beneath the bridge carrying the Edisto Island National Scenic Byway which we have crossed numerous times with the Airstream.  It is a lovely road, full of history and natural beauty.

Bruce & Rody check out the dredging operation on Watts Cutt.

Watts Cutt had an active dredging operation under way — one that is sorely needed.  We had to pick our way past the dredge barge and sprawl of equipment in the narrow and shallow channel.

Glassy calm on the South Edisto River, with the open Atlantic Ocean in the distance.

Once out of the cut we turned south into the South Edisto River.  Edisto Island was not far ahead, at the mouth of the river and bordering the Atlantic Ocean.  The wind went flat calm.  The sun shone.  The two-knot river current was outgoing fair.  Porpoises escorted us downstream.  We knew we were headed the right direction.

Edisto has a massive year-round population of 414 people, which is probably why we like it so much.  The island was originally settled by the Edisto Indians, then by the Spanish in the 16th century.  Commerce began to develop and rice and indigo were the primary crops in the early years, until significant cotton plantations flourished.

In the 1920s, when the only access to the island was at low tide along beds of oyster shells, South Carolina residents began arriving on Edisto Island and Edisto Beach to build crude retreats.  These days it has a sleepy off-season and is a lively summer vacation destination.  Wyndham Resorts owns a very large chunk of the western end of the island, complete with golf course, houses, condos and a hotel facility.  It is not our favorite aspect of Edisto, but since we are always there in the off-season it is quiet and unobtrusive to us.

The State Park campground is on the eastern end of the island, which is also where the small town sits.  The Marina at Edisto Beach is on the western end, about three and a half miles from town and the State Park.  The marina is too far from town for a quick walk to the shops or grocery store, but it is just a few hundred yards to Edisto Seafood where you can literally get fresh local shrimp straight off the boat, and better yet, if you get it in season (like in November) it has never been frozen.  This is a fantastic treat.  We loaded up on as much as we could eat fresh, and a bit more to toss in our freezer on board.

George, the World’s Grumpiest Bartender, actually has a heart of gold.

The marina is also just about one mile from Whaley’s Store, where our favorite World’s Grumpiest Bartender spends most of his afternoons.  We stashed our shrimp and set out for Whaley’s determined to get there before George, who is something like 85 or 86, went home for the day.

You should order fresh Edisto shrimp at Whaley’s, but since we had a big pile of them waiting for us back on the boat, we ordered the excellent tuna nachos.

We were lucky!  He was there, and I think he even remembered us.  We had a really fun chat with him, and ordered up a plate of their tuna nachos: excellent.  A group of gals were there giving George a hard time about just about everything.  We all had a grand time.  Here’s to George – who may seem grumpy but he truly has a heart of gold.  We expect to see him there in the spring when we travel through on our way north.

Edisto presented us with a lovely evening.  We had a big plate of shrimp on board and enjoyed a beautiful clear, cold starlit evening on the creek.  It could not have been more perfect.

Edisto presented us with a postcard-perfect evening.


2 thoughts on “Sophisticated Charleston to Rustic Edisto Beach”

  1. If you stop in at St. Mary’s GA on the way home, visit the bar below the hotel. You might get to meet the bartender there whose claim to fame is that she was a pronouns star back in the 1970’s!


  2. Except for the lowdown on the heater problem, sounds like you are in the land of milk and honey now. Hope you guys have a great Holiday Season on board. I can almost see the smiles on your faces.
    Dean and Kathy


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