South Carolina, Blending the Old and the New

We started our South Carolina getaway in beautiful Santee State Park where we took a morning Fisheagle pontoon boat tour of the swamps and gorgeous Lake Marion. We saw ospreys feeding their young in huge nests, egrets, herons, alligators, hyacinth, pungent water lilies, Jesus birds (they walk on water), snake birds, and other fascinating things like a dead alligator rotting on the banks of the swamp. (talk about stench from a 14 foot dead alligator lying in the sun)!!.

When we finally got our appetites back we dined at a wonderful, authentic, VERY Southern, diner at Lone Star BBQ just outside the park. Here, like much of the south, BBQ is a NOUN, not a verb. They offered tantalizing grits and tomato pie, hush puppies, ribs, chicken, bread pudding, collard greens, hash…and so much more—truly the best southern cooking. It’s a wonderful old mercantile as well as restaurant and well worth the stop.

The next day, we drove to Columbia, the capitol of South Carolina, and we enjoyed the South Carolina State Museum. Afterwards we checked into the Inn at USC, a beautiful hotel with exceptional service staffed by students who are learning hospitality and hotel studies. The service and hospitality both made the grade and deserved an A++.

Later we decided to sample yet another local BBQ called Little Pig’s BBQ, a must while in Columbia.

Columbia’s Zoo was outstanding with lovely gardens, and after a long day on foot we opted to relax on a sunset boat trip, sipping cocktails out on Lake Murray where thousands of purple martin birds congregate every night on “Bomb Island.” It’s a spectacle of nature to behold as thousands of birds perform as if on cue, to their own wondrous ritual and internal time clock.

Our next stop was famous Myrtle Beach and its outlying areas. The Marina Grande Dunes provided us a luxurious location from which to enjoy the area’s attractions and beaches. The pool was gorgeous and offered a romantic respite at night, as did the property’s own private beach.

After a lovely sunrise, we enjoyed Ripley’s Aquarium, Broadway at the Beach, Brookgreen Gardens Freestyle Music Park, and Huntington Beach State Park (affiliated with Huntington Beach in California) where we saw alligators in the marsh and where we also body surfed on the beach. So glad the gators stayed in the marsh and did not join us on the beach…I always say: “it’s better to eat lunch than be lunch!”

We drove to Carowinds, a unique Carolinas theme park, open year round, whereas half the park lies in North Carolina and half lies in South Carolina. Our rustic yet cozy cabin at Camp Wilderness on the edge of the Carowinds property, was the perfect place to stay while enjoying the park and the outlying areas. We even had a small kitchen, and the proximity to the attractions was very convenient.

In the morning we enjoyed a tour of South Carolina’s Old English Country and Historic Brattonsville, a colonial settlement, where the classic movie, Patriot, was filmed starring Mel Gibson. It was fabulous and the history was gripping. A fascinating woman, Miss Kitty, whose ancestors were the real slaves there on the actual plantation, gave us a period tour as well. We learned about the resident heirloom chickens, goats, and pigs that are actually endangered and are no longer farmed. It’s an actual working plantation even after 300 years.

So glad we followed the locals’ advice, we stopped in nearby, historic York for lunch afterwards at The Brandon House. The chef trained at the Cordon Bleu in France. Everything was delicious and beautifully presented. The darling, small, historic building that houses the eatery only added to the romantic ambiance.

Blending the old and the new, this South Carolina road trip far exceeded our expectations.