Edisto Beach State Park
Situated on the central coast of South Carolina between Charleston and Hilton Head, Edisto Beach State Park gives visitors a chance to experience some of the area’s unspoiled shoreline. The natural beauty and variety of accommodations and activities have made Edisto Beach one of the state’s most-visited parks.
Adventurous groups can have overnight experiences, pitching a tent in one of two beach campgrounds or staying in backcountry cabins, some of which were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s. For groups that only want to come out for a day, the park staff offers a variety of activities.
“We have about six miles of trails through the maritime forest,” said park manager Susan Spell. “They’re hard-packed sand. On one of the trails, we have a shell midden, which was an old Indian mound where the Indians dumped oyster shells. We also have good birding in the maritime forest: egrets, storks and millions of seagulls.”
One of the most memorable experiences for groups that visit the park is participating in the sea turtle program. Edisto Beach is a major nesting area for sea turtles, and the park staff works to protect the nests and to help the hatchling turtles make it to the ocean. Groups that plan well might get to be part of a sea turtle hatching.
“We give turtle programs two nights a week,” Spell said. “They go out to the beach to see if they can catch a turtle coming in. When it’s hatch time, we take people out to see if we can catch any hatching. That’s an amazing thing to watch.”
Sapelo Island Reserve
One of the lesser-known islands on Georgia’s “Colonial Coast,” Sapelo Island Reserve presents groups with numerous opportunities to have one-of-a-kind experiences.
“Georgia’s coast has a number of islands,” said Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks. “Some of them are public and easily accessible, and some, like Sapelo, are harder to get to. That increases the mystique. You have to take a ferry to get there.”
A visit to Sapelo Island begins on the mainland, where a state park visitors center introduces guests to the area’s history and natural environment. Groups then take a ferry to the island, where they can have a daylong sightseeing tour or an afternoon at leisure. Tours go to the restored 1820 lighthouse and introduce guests to the community of Hog Hammock.
“The people of Hog Hammock are descendants of slaves along coastal Georgia,” Hatcher said. “Some of them rent out bed-and-breakfasts, and one person there serves meals to groups.”
The tours also go to the Reynolds Mansion, a historic home built in 1810 and later owned by the R.J. Reynolds family in the early 20th century. Today, visitors can see the murals painted on walls throughout the mansion and visit the basement bowling alley, which still has historic balls and pins.
Groups of 30 or fewer can also stay overnight in the mansion.
“You get the house to yourself, and they provide your meals,” Hatcher said. “It’s a very unique, special setting. One of my favorite places in the state is sitting on their back porch overlooking the Spanish moss and live oaks.”