This guest post is by C. Hope Clark from www.chopeclark.com
The Atypical Beach Vacation for the Atypical Tourist – Edisto Island
Beaches conjure visions of motels, neon, souvenir shops, lifeguards, and a sea of visitors strewn across the sand. Partying, maybe. All sorts of floats and rafts in the water, close enough to bump at the next wave. To some, that’s the typical beach vacation. To others like myself, the more atypical tourist, those are the opposite of what makes for a great getaway.
And the ultimate atypical beach vacation is hands down Edisto Beach, South Carolina.
One hour south of Charleston, down a long two-lane highway that ends in the Atlantic. No motels. No franchises. No buildings allowed over 41 feet tall. Porch lights off at dusk to keep from confusing the turtles. One old grocery store that’s a far cry from a rambling, neon Publix. The tap water tastes salty, and there isn’t any room service. You might have to bring your own sheets and towels.
There’s you, the beach, the jungle of the island you go through reaching the beach, breezes, and no traffic noises. You usually rent one of the worn-out houses, none of which are more than three blocks from the ocean on one side, and the marsh and its jaw-dropping sunsets on the other.
The Edisto mantra is that you leave your problems on the other side of the Big Bridge, which is otherwise known as the McKinley Washington Bridge over the Dawhoo River. And few people go back across at the end of the week without wishing they could remain on that beach forever. Very few. But there’s one time of year, that doesn’t involve summer, that attracts the Edisto faithfuls, and that’s in October for the Edisto Museum’s annual Edisto & Beyond Tour of Historic Plantations, Churches and Graveyards.
Unbeknownst to most, Edisto Island families pre-Civil War once rivaled the richest of Atlanta, Charleston, and New Orleans. Sea Island Cotton amassed what today would be millions for the Seabrooks, the Jenkins, the Townsends, and a dozen or more other old families. Edisto’s history is long and rich. The Edisto Museum, via its tiny white house on the corner of Highway 174 and Chisolm Road, with its fierce graciousness, preserves this history in all its dignities and atrocities, preserving the past of the white and black cultures that gave the island its magic.
I belong to the museum not to support it, but also to receive early access to the Edisto & Beyond Tour each October. No two years are alike with different plantations, graveyards and churches opened to the public. Amidst the shadows of oak trees hundreds of years old, dripping in Spanish moss, you envision the people who preceded you on that island, picture the enchantment, sweat, and strife while you stand where others stood. Seeing where they worked, dined, and ultimately rested in peace. Ghosts, lovers, patriots, and rogues.
I was lucky enough to serve as a docent at Middleton Plantation, also known as Chisholm Plantation at one time and The Launch at another. These family properties sometimes changed titles as families passed them down. It offers a divine open view of the Combahee River.
Most folks in South Carolina can appreciate Middleton Place in Charleston County on Highway 61, the home of then Governor Henry Middleton. The Governor’s son Oliver built Middleton Plantation on Edisto.
Assigned an upstairs bedroom that belonged to one of the Middleton children, I’d spent much time investigating my assignment. I could tell you that the brass knobs on the doors, though antique, weren’t original because Union soldiers stripped the house of its valuables. That the handmade desk was a gift to the daughter, and the sea trunk used for European treks. That the plantation gained a reputation for its long-staple cotton only viable on the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia, varieties developed and transported by land barons and slaves alike.
As an author of two mystery series, one centered in the rural reaches of South Carolina and the other on Edisto, my research served me well as touring visitors asked questions about the time period, the families, and the architecture. Thank goodness for my agriculture degree from Clemson, enabling me to answer questions about the cotton.
Another docent handled the bedroom at the other end of the short hallway who turned out to be the sister to Lowcountry author Dorothy Benton Frank. What a joy to share literature, history, and a love of Edisto with someone equally infatuated with all three realms.
Each locale on the tour comes with a docent or two, each equipped to answer questions, each carrying a deep reverence for the graveyard, church, home, people, or in some cases, ruins and gardens that they are entrusted to teach about.
And the entire island embraces that day. You’ll find art shows in parks, and usually an author signing at the Edisto Bookstore. The museum opens its doors with remarkable and fresh displays to aid to your knowledge along with gifts of handcrafted jewelry, indigo, paintings, and more, each distinctively tied to Edisto.
There’s a reason people return to Edisto rather than bounce from place to place for their vacation needs. There’s a reason your watch changes to Edisto-slow time when you cross the Big Bridge. This is a beach where they define calm, promote simplicity, and accept visitors seeking that lifestyle, if only for a week. Like Shangri La, Edisto is a permanently happy place, isolated from the world, and deeply grateful to each generation that came before for creating such a haven.
BIO: C. Hope Clark’s latest release is Dying on Edisto, Book 5 of the Edisto Island Mysteries. She has also authored one other award-winning mystery series and is working on another. She founded FundsforWriters.com, selected by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for 18 years. Her newsletter reaches 35,000 readers. www.fundsforwriters.com / www.chopeclark.com
Edisto Island Mysteries
One death. Two detectives. And unexpected backup.
A Callie Morgan and Carolina Slade crossover, standalone mystery!
When a renowned—and now dead—travel blogger washes ashore on the banks of Indigo Plantation, Edisto Beach Police Chief Callie Morgan agrees to head the investigation as a favor to the county sheriff, whose reasons are as questionable as the death itself. When death turns to murder and a watchdog from the county makes her investigation difficult, Callie reluctantly turns to Carolina Slade and Wayne Largo, vacationing agents with the Department of Agriculture.
Because poison is growing on this plantation and someone knows how to use it well.
Murder, corruption, and page-turning intrigue are usually the elements that shine the brightest in mysteries like Hope Clark’s latest Dying on Edisto. But it’s the characters that bring a vivid literary element to Clark’s prose and create a strong emotional response to their tangled lives. The scenic town of Edisto Beach is peopled with a modern-day pirate claiming to be a descendent of Blackbeard, a degenerate travel blogger, a yoga teacher who drives a baby blue vintage Benz convertible, a mixed race waitress and her matriarchal grandmother, and a whole slew of wealthy and crooked good ole boys. Leading the cast are two strong female protagonists—a police chief and an investigator with the Department of Agriculture. Did someone say hemlock? —Susan Cushman, author of Cherry Bomb and editor of Southern Writers on Writing
“In a plot as complicated as the numerous waterways that create Edisto Island in South Carolina, C. Hope Clark has combined the characters from her two series to solve the murder of a renowned travel blogger. They mystery requires all of their detective skills and blends the two mystery worlds in a page-turning standalone. The story opens with a floater and progresses with edge-of-your-seat action. Prepare to be absorbed by Clark’s crisp writing and compelling storytelling. This is one you don’t want to miss!”— Carolyn Haines is the USA Today bestselling author of three mystery series. She is the author of over 80 books and has received numerous writing awards.
Hope Clark converges her sleuths, Carolina and Callie Jean, on Edisto Island for the finale, Dying on Edisto, concluding her two murder mystery series. Slews of fans always awaited these highly addictive and superbly penned novels – grabbing you from the first page and not letting go until the last. A pristine, sleeper sea island, two determined masters of law who butt heads, a mystery corpse from Atlantic waters, a few idiosyncrasies along the way – the absolute best cast and plot for an intense coastal thriller. ~Karen Carter, Owner, Edisto Bookstore