SC174 Scenic Road – Edisto Island National Scenic Byway


Back in the 1970’s, when we drove from Columbia to Edisto Beach, it seemed like this stretch lasted forever. Like we’d entered the Twilight Zone and were doomed to go over the same stretch of road forever.

In my defense, I was a bored teen and we’d been on the road for hours, or so it felt.

It didn’t feel like that this time. I took in all the sights (and the road of course since I didn’t want to have an accident) and stopped at places of interest along the way.

This section of road, from the Mckinley Washington Bridge at Dawhoo Creek to Edisto Beach State Park became a South Carolina scenic byway in 1988. A little over twenty years later, 2009, the seventeen mile segment became a National Scenic Byway. Along the way, the road passes maritime forests, salt marshes and creeks, and historical sites. It pretty much represents the barrier island landscape typical of the southern South Carolina coast.

There’s a lot to see, more than one would imagine for a seventeen mile stretch especially if you want to take a proper look see.

 Oak Avenue to Botany Bay

In my day trip, I didn’t get to see all of it. My priority of the day was Botany Bay WMA and that took up most of day. It is well worth lingering over. I stopped at three historic churches, wandered a bit through Edisto Beach, the town, and took in the Intracoastal Waterway from the boat ramp at the bridge. I didn’t get to the state park, but I’ve been before, nor the aquarium or the museum. All of those cost a fee. The State Park is well worth the money, but I had to go home.

Edisto Island Presbyterian Church

The Mystery Tree

If you are able to camp or get a cabin at the state park, please take your time in visiting the places around here.

From SC174 you can visit :

  • Botany Bay
  • Edisto Beach State Park
  • Edisto Beach
  • Edisto Island Baptist Church
  • Edisto Island Presbyterian Church (oldest congregation in continuous existence in SC)
  • Mystery Tree
  • Old First Baptist Church

Zion Reformed Church

There’s also the Edisto Island Museum and the Serpenterian. Look online for hours and fees.

How to Get There:

From US17, drive south on SC174. It is west of Charleston.


What’s Close By:

  • ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge
  • Dungannon Heritage Preserve
  • Caw Caw Interpretive Center
  • Charleston

Robert Mills

Traveling around South Carolina, sooner or later you’ll come across a building designed by Charleston born architect Robert Mills. Born August 12, 1781, he’s been called the first U.S. professionally trained architect. His most famous work is the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Other well known buildings are the Treasury Building and the Old Patent Office, which is now part of the Smithsonian.

After attending what’s now the College of Charleston, Mills moved to Charleston where he not only studied with the architect who designed the White House, James Hoban, but befriended then President Thomas Jefferson who granted him access to his library of architectural books.

In 1816, Mills moved to Baltimore, but when he found himself with too few projects, he accepted the State Architect and Engineer position in South Carolina in 1820. Thus you can travel the state and find his courthouses, jails, bridges, canals, and other public works.

In 1830, he moved back to Washington, DC and that is where he worked on the public buildings and Washington Monument.

There are numerous works around the state and I have chosen those I’ve visited to highlight.

Perhaps one of my favorites is the Fairfield County Courthouse in Winnsboro. Built in 1823, it’s across from the town clock. You can’t miss it with the sweeping black staircases. Those were added later. I believe they were part of Mill’s design however. Additional funding needed to be appropriated before they could be built.

Landsford Canal is another favorite. It’s a two mile long canal with locks along the Catawba River in the Landsford Canal State Park. A trail goes along and through it. It’s one well worth the hike.

Georgetown County Courthouse was a bit difficult to take a good picture of with all the necessities of modern living, like telephone and electrical wires dangling in front. This was built in 1828 in temple form using a variety of styles such as Greek Revival with Roman Doric columns and a Renaissance style foundation.

Mills designed the Union County Courthouse and Jail, but only the jail remains, now the police station. A pity about the courthouse. Built in 1823 with walls of granite blocks, it survived the Union soldiers who marched through, but didn’t survive the wrecking ball. The jail was built 1822.

Pointsett Bridge may have been designed by Robert Mills. It was built in 1820 when he was state architect. There’s no definite yea or nay if he did or not.


He also designed a few structures in Columbia and I’ll highlight them in my next post.

Myrtle Beach State Park

Over time the city of Myrtle Beach has crept up on this park, but it still remains an oasis from the hustle bustle. If you camp here a week, which we’ve done, checking out Myrtle Beach and its tourist amenities are part of the trip.

On my last trip to Myrtle Beach State Park, I got in early morning while the sun still stretched long shadows across the ground. If you don’t like battling traffic, early morning is the best time to get around. They were just setting up for the beach crowd as I moseyed to the long pier. Fishermen and women already staked their spots on it, poles out, waiting for that nibble. Here’s a great spot to see the sun come up.

There’s a lot the park has to offer besides swimming and fishing. There’s biking, hiking, birding, and camping. They have 350 campsites and a few cabins for rent. If you little ones, partake in the scavenger hunt. You don’t have to be a child to do it, it’s for all ages. Each takes about an hour and each qualify for the Habitat Patch which is only available here.

Besides the one mile beach, there are two trails, the Sculptured Oak Nature Trail and Yaupon Trail. Both are easy. The former is half a mile long and the latter .4 miles. You can combine the two for a longer hike if you want. The Sculptured Oak Nature trail takes you through one of the last stands of maritime forests in this part of South Carolina and it’s a Heritage Trust site. When you walk along the beach, take note of the sand dunes system and the sea oats.

This park was one of the first parks in SC, opening in 1936. It was built by the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corp, which built so many parks during that period.

There is a fee to enter the park. Check the website as prices vary throughout the year.

How to Get There

Located off US17 BUS/S. Kings Hwy


What’s Close By:

Huntington Beach

Myrtle Beach


Brookgreen Gardens

Main Street

Main Street. Where all the action is. Or used to be. Or where it’s at again. It all depends on where you are. Driving around, you’ll never know what kind of Main Street you’ll find and how you’ll find it. Maybe there’s not much left, physically, but the memories are still there and there’s always something interesting. If you’re lucky you’ll bump into someone who remembers what it used to be, bad or good.

According to the Municipal Association of South Carolina, there are 270 towns and cities with a population of 50 and higher. 270 main streets, they maybe called something other than ‘Main’ Street. 270 downtowns. Somehow I thought there’d be more.

Big or small, I like to take a walk around Main Street, time willing. Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, etc, all have bustling downtowns. In the smaller places, the sidewalks might roll in after six p.m. leaving you amazed the store’s closed so early. It happened to me. Here are a few downtowns, Main Streets, I’ve taken pictures of. Enjoy.

Sumter with Opera House


Newberry with their opera house


Georgetown                                                    Cheraw

Great Falls

Chester                                                  Olar


Botany Bay WMA

The highlight of the day was to be Edisto Beach State Park. I never got there. I ended up tramping all over Botany Bay WMA (Wildlife Management Area) and by the time I left there wasn’t enough time. I mentally put this on my ‘a place to bring visitors’ list.

The park is closed on Tuesdays so I arranged to go on another day of the week. I arrived early and stopped to take a picture of the Mystery Tree, a leafless tree on the south side of SC174 festooned with the theme of the month. It’s right opposite Botany Bay Road. Drive slow down this oak lined road. It’s truly picture taking worthy. I can’t say how many times I stopped to snap a quick photo.


At the information kiosk, stop to sign in and grab the driving tour guide. The a 6 1/2 mile loop dirt road winds through the park. It gives plenty of stops along the way to discover the 4,600 + acre preserve with ponds, coastline, pine forests, wetlands and other characteristics of a barrier island.

My first stop was the hike to the two plus mile long undeveloped beach with the ‘boneyard’ of dead tree skeletons. The beach here is eroding and the salt water destroys the palms and other trees creating a sight one rarely sees. Collecting shells is forbidden and people have created shell trees, hanging them on the bare branches.


Next up on the tour are the grounds of Bleak Hall Plantation. To see are two buildings from the 1800’s, the ice house and a carriage house. You can take the trails on out to the marshes or continue on the driving tour to visit the fresh water ponds, moss draped oaks, and the many species of wildlife and flora. I saw egrets and pelicans and fiddler crabs and deer. There’s much more of course to see. There’s the ruins of the Sea Cloud plantation house and a brick beehive, which fascinated me. I’d never heard of one before. This one was built by slaves in the 1700s.

Give yourself plenty of time to see this place. If you camp at Edisto Beach S.P. this would be a great trip. You can ride your bike on the loop as well

How to get there:

Take SC Highway 174 towards Edisto Beach. Turn left onto Botany Bay Road, located about 8.5 miles south of the McKinley Washington Bridge. Follow the dirt road about 2 miles to near where the road dead-ends. Turn left at the gate and into the property.


What’s Close by

Edisto Beach SP

Scenic SC174

Mysterious Tree

SC Hiking Books

When I plan a trip, two of the books I like to consult are these:  Hiking South Carolina by John Clark and John Dantzler and 50 Hikes in South Carolina by Johnny Molloy. I had another, but I prefer these.

While yes, they cover some of the same hikes, they also contain different ones, and one or the other goes into more detail. For example for the Big Bend Falls hike, one books describes just how to get to the falls and the other details the entire Big Bend Trail.

One is not better than the other. If hiking is your thing and, if you can, get both. I snagged both of mine at a book sale. You can find the most recent editions in a hiking store, book store, or on-line. If you can only get one, I’ll describe each and you can make up your own mind.


50 Hikes in South Carolina

In the beginning of the book is a map of the state with the locations of all the trails mentioned in the book. With each hike description there is a topographical map useful in gauging how hilly the terrain is, but get a USGS map if the trail is rough and not well marked. The book, both of them, will tell you which one to get.

Also in the beginning is a table listing the hikes, their nearest city, the distance of trail, and other comments like if there is a waterfall or campground along the trail. The trails are divided into upstate, midlands, and lowcountry so you don’t have to go through the entire book looking for trails that are near to one another.

Each trail description is prefaced with the total distance, the hiking time, vertical rise, and difficulty rating. In the body of the description it tells you how to get to the trail head and describes the hike. There is a photo for each entry.


Hiking South Carolina

In the beginning of the book there is a state map of all trails listed and a legend (nice) for the maps that accompany the entries. The introduction includes how to be prepared, trail regulations, a section on the natural history of the state. This book includes the longer trails such as the Foothills and Chattooga. It does not include the Palmetto trail. That’s a volume of books by itself.

Each of the 62 entries contains a map, general description, location, distance, difficulty, trail conditions, and fees, if any. The body of the entry tells one how to find the trailhead, a description of the hike, and if there are facilities or lodging nearby. With the hilly trails there’s a graph showing the change in elevation. There are maps, but not topographical ones. Not every entry has a photo.

One thing I liked about the book were the appendixes: For more information (web addresses), Further reading, Hiker’s checklist, and Hike list. This organizes the hikes by distance – short and easy to long and strenuous.

Check these books out. Your local library may have a copy you can check out to see which one you prefer.

Huntington Beach State Park

Georgetown - Huntington Beach SP - 22 saltwater marsh

Huntington Beach State Park is an oasis off US17, especially after sitting in stop-and-go traffic. If you travel this stretch between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach, go early. But the trip is worth it at any time of the day.

I camped here. Having not made reservations, I didn’t know if I’d get a spot. I did and got sticker shock when I heard the price. Best make reservations and do so early. Because of the price I decided to spend most of my stay doing the sights here. I did go out to get food. There are several grocery stores nearby including Food Lion, which I like. Unfortunately I ate too much for lunch and had to take it easy a bit, but it was the heat of the day so: no problem. I read my book, then wandered over to the three-story park store. The store is on the second level and there’s a deck on top to gaze around. The bottom is open and a great place to sit and keep out of the heat.

Huntington Beach SP once used to be the winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. If the latter name is familiar, she is the artist behind the sculptures in Brookgreen Gardens. If you are in the area for a few days, that is a must see and is right across from the state park that bears their name.

Georgetown - Huntington Beach SP - 04 Atalaya window

The park used to be part of the Huntington estate and boasts Atalaya (castle in the sand), the Moorish style winter home of the couple. It was built during the Great Depression and only local workers were hired to build it. There’s a fee to visit it. During World War II, the Army Air Corps used the building. The park, with beach, freshwater and saltwater marshes, and a maritime forest opened in the 1960’s.

When I’d recuperated from overeating, I set out on a walking tour, to get the lay of the land so to speak. My feet took me along the main road toward the causeway between Mullet Pond and the saltwater marsh. I detoured to take in the pond, then set out across the causeway stopping to take pictures.

I had to stop to see why two young ladies were getting so excited. I saw the alligator, but there was more to this story. What I couldn’t see was the egret the alligator was stalking. The gator glided forward. A flutter of white rose up and the egret settled on land. The gator slowed.

Camping in the park, allowed to me to take in the sunset over the marsh and a sunrise over the Atlantic. Even with all the clouds it was pretty. There’s the Sandpiper Pond Nature trail, 1.2 miles, and the 3 mile long beach to wander. You can loop the two, the beach and nature trail together into a long hike if you wish. The Nature Center by the boardwalk to the saltwater marsh sadly burned down in July 2016. I got to see and hope they build it again. It showcased the SC coastal environment.

Georgetown - Huntington Beach SP - 67 sunrise

How To Get There:

Between Georgetown and Murrells Inlet off US17.


What’s Close By:

Myrtle Beach S.P.

Brookgreens Garden (right across from park)


Hobcaw Barony

Murrell’s Inlet

Rails to Trails

Barnwell- Williston - walking path

Rails-to-Trails are hike and bike paths built on former rail routes. They are relatively flat making a good surface for walking. Some are paved, some not. Some are quite long, good for riding bikes. One can rent bicycles along certain rails-to-trails paths, which is good if you don’t have a bicycle. Like me. I might have to invest in one.

Newberry - Peak - Palmetto Trail 07 trestle bridge over Broad River

Rails-to-trails came about after the consolidation of rail lines. In the 1960’s uneconomical branch lines got closed. It didn’t take long for the first hike/bike path to be created, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in Wisconsin. The longest, when finished, is going to be 321 miles. That’s the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska.

The longest in South Carolina is the Swamp Fox passage of the Palmetto trail at 42 miles.

All in all there’s over 750 miles of abandoned railway in our state. To find some of them, click on the link below. It’s not inclusive as it misses some shorter trails like the section of the Palmetto Trail at Peak. Here one crosses the Broad River via a train trestle. Just for that alone makes it a go-to place. Then there are rail-to-trail paths through towns like Ninety Six and Williston and many more. The one in Williston was once part of the historic Charleston to Hamburg line.

Town Clocks

Aiken - Aiken - Laurens St 03 town clock - Copy

Drive through a town in South Carolina and chances are you’ll see a town clock. It may be on a building or, most likely, a clock mounted on a post and pedestal (called a street or post clock). I don’t know what about them caught my attention, but on my drives and walks around towns I started noticing them more and more to the point that if I see one, I take a picture. While many of the post town clocks look the same there are little differences and it’s fun to see how many different types exist. In Barnwell there’s even a sun dial town clock. I don’t have a picture of that yet, but one day.

Lancaster - Kershaw - Town Clock 03 detail - Copy

With watches and being able to check one’s cell phone for the time, the need for a town clock has lessened, but until about the middle of the 1900’s people relied on these town clocks for the time. They were set in the center of town and usually put on the highest structure so they could be seen, or heard for blocks around.

The clocks I’ve seen are in the center of the downtown areas although many aren’t on the highest structure anymore. One that is, is the Winnsboro’s town clock. This is the longest continuously running clock in the U.S. and has been running for over 100 years.

Fairfield - Winnsboro - 01 Town Clock Christmas - Copy


Edisto Island – Scenic Highway 174

Charleston - US174 - Dawho River Bridge 02

Eons ago, when I first went to Edisto Island with my parents, it felt as if SC174 was the longest road in the world. I used to imagine we’d entered another dimension and were doomed to nothingness. What can I say, I was a bored teen back then and the ride from Columbia was already too long. This was before cell phones, DVD players, and all the other diversions kids have today.

The last time I went, I enjoyed the trip and the scenery, excited to visit the sightseeables, and being able to knock off items from my SC must visit wish list. Several of these didn’t exist when I visited in the seventies such as Botany Bay Plantation and the Serpenterium.

The official start of the scenic portion of SC174 is the McKinley Washington Bridge over Dawhoo Creek It continues on to Edisto Beach State Park, a distance of about fourteen miles. This stretch of road became a national scenic byway in 2009. There’s an app for the The Edisto Scenic Highway 174. It can be used at any point on the road. I didn’t use the app on my trip. If you want to download it, go to iTunes and visit the app store.

Charleston - US174 - Trinity Episcopal Church 01

As you drive along you’ll pass scenery typical of a South Carolina barrier islands. There are marshes, woods, agricultural, and rural buildings that include several historic churches like the 1830 Presbyterian Church, the Zion Reformed Episcopal Church, and the Trinity Episcopal Church (ca 1876). The three sit a short distance aways from each other for easy viewing.

Charleston - SC174 - Mystery Tree 03

The Mystery Tree sits in the marshes opposite the road leading to Botany Bay Plantation. (Be sure to visit). The decorations change I’m told. When I visited in February there were valentine hearts on it.

How to Get There:

SC174 if off US17. From Charleston, take US17 south toward Beaufort. When you get to SC174 turn south. There should be signs for Edisto Beach State Park


What’s Close By:

There’s enough to see along SC174 to last awhile, but if you’re in the area a few days, there’s the ACE Basin which spreads across several counties (Beaufort, Charleston, and Colleton mostly),