Saturday, April 12, 2014

Seven Unforgettable And Unusual Charleston Lowcountry Sights Worth Experiencing

From the majestic surf-laden skeleton forest of Boneyard Beach on Cape Romain's Bulls Island to the shell-laden fallen timbers of sun soaked Botany Bay Beach on Edisto Island and from every iron gated, cobblestoned alley way and oak draped byway in-between, unforgettable estuaries and landmarks are a hallmark of Charleston's Lowcountry. Many of these unforgettable sights are natural wonders. Some of them are long standing, man-made constructions. And a few of them are audaciously imaginative fabrications that leave you amusingly scratching your head.

One strange and unusual spectacle that left you scratching your head was the sight of an old mattress hanging by four ropes from a large oak tree located on Edisto Island. At first glance, I thought it to be repulsive, but reflecting back on it I found the contrivance posing as a double-wide hammock to be amusingly uncanny, and so did many others. An ingenious invention of practicality and southern comfort, it was enterprising. So enterprising, the maker and owner of the swinging quilted pad, Frank Gadsden, charged drive-bys $10 to take pictures. The "Mattress Swing" no longer hangs from the old oak tree standing at the bend in the road on Highway 174. Time and unforeseen circumstances have vanquished it.

With that tidbit of Lowcountry trivia in mind, I have selected seven of the more unforgettable and unusual sights located around Charleston's Lowcountry for your consideration and amusement. Some of the them are associated with various notable restaurants and establishments, and others stand alone. You will want to make specific plans to visit some of them and a few of them you may unsuspectingly happen upon while traveling the highways and byways of the Lowcountry. Armed with the necessary background information, you will enjoy them all the more--"To be prepared is half the victory."

1) At the entrance of the Shem Creek Park boardwalk, you are greeted by Pete the Pelican; a 9-foot tall sculpture covered with marine debris collected from Charleston waterways during the 2011 Beach Sweep. The boardwalk extends 2,200 feet from the park's entrance on Coleman Blvd to near the mouth of Shem Creek. The $2.5 million park and boardwalk were built and inaugurated in 2011. It includes a 250 foot floating dock where visitors can tie their boats. Pete the Pelican has been there since April of 2012.

2) In the middle of a grassy marsh on Edisto Island where Botany Bay Road intersects Highway 174 stands a solitary, ragged tree covered not by the assumed green foliage one would expect for that species of topiary, but by pink inflatables and a ship's wheel--at least on the day I saw it. This peculiar sight is called the "Mystery Tree" by Edisto locals. Stories suggest nobody knows who started the tradition--thus the mystery. Throughout the year for generations, it’s been adorned with beach chairs, flip-flops, seasonal decorations and a host of other things by locals and vacationers alike. The original tree was sadly up-rooted by an unknown group of pranksters, but happily replaced with another to carry on the tradition--once again by an unknown party. One story insinuates it is a bottle tree.

3) This retired tractor can be seen on your approach to Freshfields Village, which sits at the crossroads of Kiawah, Seabrook and John's Island. Quaint and walkable, it is a perfect mix of shops, businesses and restaurants. Nostalgic murals, sidewalks integrated with oyster shells and lush landscaping are some of its features. It is also a venue for cultural events like outdoor concerts, art exhibits and festivals. The new Andell Inn opened in the spring of this year--named after the Andell family, who settled in the region in 1876 and once owned all of Seabrook Island. It has 100 rooms with rates beginning at $250 a night.

4) Pirates and Shem Creek go together like oyster festivals and Charleston. This knife wielding scallywag can be seen on the Tiki level of RB's Seafood Restaurant. The original restaurant, a 35-seat eatery located in an old fish shed next to Red's Ice House, was reduced to ashes and rubble by an accidental fire. Rebuilt, RB's now seats more than 300 guests and has been nominated "the number one waterfront restaurant" several times. On your visit, request seating on the Tiki level where table arrangements are a wooden swing with a grass-thatched top--very relaxing. Read the review.

5) Infamous Hurricane Hugo indelibly left its mark on the Lowcountry and in the psyche of its residents. Another Shem Creek restaurant established in 1994, this eatery was named after a shrimp troller victimized by the storm to commemorate the occasion. Its name is the Wreck of the Richard and Charlene or quite simply The Wreck. The vanquished troller was lifted from where it was moored and impaled onto the pilings of a nearby dock. The wreckage was eventually removed. Displayed on the restaurant's property is the wreckage of another boat called Great Aunt Margaret, shown in the photo. An interesting side point about the restaurant: You mark menu selections with a crayon instead of the waitress writing them on a pad. Read the review.

6) This compilation of metal pieces and parts has no apparent significance that I know of--it just simply is. I came across it driving on Bears Bluff Road to the Irvin House Vineyards on Wadmalaw Island. Irvin House is a 48-acre winery and vineyard. It is the only domestic winery in Charleston, South Carolina. Some of its other amenities are walking trails, a petting zoo, a garden, large pond, winery, gift shop and the Firefly Distillery--home of the world's first hand-crafted sweet tea flavored vodka. The Lowcountry Trolley features a tour of the vineyard called Island "Sip n See." When you take the tour and are heading down Bears Bluff Road, look out the windows on the right side. You will see this Lowcountry oddity featured in the photo. Be sure to say hello to the white Brahma bull that roams freely among the vines.

7) Another boat made famous by Hurricane Hugo is The Folly Boat. Carried off on the storm's surging waters, it came to rest on the edge of Folly Road. You will pass it on your way to Folly Beach--known for Charleston's only full-service oceanfront hotel; Tides Hotel, a famous pier; the Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier, and surfing area; the Washout. Amateur graffiti artists cover the boat with their inspirational creations with the permission of the city of Folly Beach. Not far from this landmark is the locally loved Bowen's Island Restaurant, made famous by a movie and oysters. Read the review.

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