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1/1/2009 Center for Carolina Living: Edisto Island
Although the Sea Island cotton-producing plantations are long gone, there are still elegant remnants of that bygone era. A number of remarkably-preserved homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and can be toured once each year through the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society.
Today's visitors and residents may have roots that go back for generations, or they may simply have discovered Edisto and know it is a treasure. Luckily, the town works hard to keep it as unspoiled as possible. Needless to say, commercialization is not a priority here.
One thing Edisto Island does have is beauty: the ocean with its waves lapping the beach, the marsh grass cut by creeks (and inhabited by sea birds, including the Great Blue Heron), and the homes, beckoning families to return, year after year.
Restaurants are casual in dress, but upscale in their attitudes about food. The freshest seafood is prepared in so many ways - all of them mouth-watering. For those who want to catch their own dinners, fishing trips provide scenery, expert assistance and always, the chance of bringing home a trophy.
There also are sightseeing boat tours that explore the surrounding waters. Canoe and kayak rentals are plentiful. On land, cycling is a preferred mode of transportation. (Even in your car, "leisurely" is the operative word, because although there are no traffic lights, the speed limit tops out at 35 miles per hour.)
Other forms of recreation include golfing, and, of course, shopping for souvenirs from unique galleries and gift shops.
The Edisto Island Serpentarium is "dedicated to the recognition, preservation and study of the world of reptiles." Nearby museums highlight life as it was. But, beach walking and sitting on the sand remain favorite past-times.
Visitors can choose from beachfront resorts or old family homes. Whether the length of stay is a week or a generation, a complete range of services from banking to health care is there.
Doris and Robert Woods are lifelong South Carolinians, but had never traveled to Edisto Island until the spring of 1994. "We were immediately drawn to the natural beauty of the coastal area, with the live oaks, palmetto trees, friendly people, climate and the relaxed lifestyle," Mrs. Woods explained. The couple moved to the island permanently in March of 2006.
"Not only do we enjoy beautiful vistas at every turn, including gorgeous sunsets, but we also are very involved in church, local clubs and preservation groups," she said, noting the Turtle Project, Open Land Trust, Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society, Art Guild and Women's Club.
The island also has a number of charitable and civic clubs, such as the Lions Club, Kings Daughters, Habitat for Humanity and Home Missions. "Edisto churches are very involved in the community with a clothes closet, food pantry and tutoring programs in the local schools," she said. "This island has so much to offer."
Katherine O. Pettit has worked as a writer, magazine editor, printer and public relations consultant. The Columbia resident has published more than 250 articles in magazines and newspapers. Her writing explores a variety of subjects including travel, lifestyles, business and management.