South Carolina, Blending the Old and the New by Carmel L. Mooney

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. The place 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 and 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.


Carolina Low Country’s Palm Key Offers Unparalleled Beauty


One of the most beautiful and serene spots in the south is the Carolina Low Country and gorgeous Palm Key. This is a majestic place that’s both magical and peaceful looking out at the wetlands and islands of South Carolina, with huge sprawling oaks and Spanish Moss everywhere. We had a spectacular view from the deck of our gorgeous private rental home. There were even a few resident alligators in the pond.

The owners are multi-talented folks and cooked us a fabulous southern gourmet dinner at the main dining hall after we went crabbing to collect the daily catch from the crab pots.

We steamed the crabs right on the premises and you simply cannot get any fresher than that! Sitting at the head of the Broad River, about 17 miles from the sea, visitors to Palm Key are fortunate to enjoy miles of pristine salt-marsh, and blazing sunsets in this peaceful setting. Those looking for a romantic getaway will savor the tranquility, fantastic accomodations, and delightful meals.


At high tide, outdoor enthusiasts at Palm Key kayak to see the dolphins, egrets, and other resident wildlife right from the very cottages and homes on property. Palm Key’s knowledgeable kayak guides do everything to make kayaking in this unique locale truly unforgettable.


Palm Key is quite simply an unspeakably beautiful wildlife sanctuary, and the hospitality is unparalleled. It truly is a hidden gem, like none other.

While staying at Palm Key’s wonderful central location we took a spectacular road trip excursion and tour of the South Carolina Low country–all marshes and beaches and islands of South Carolina.


We ate lunch in Beaufort, South Carolina, at a wonderful restaurant called Panini Café, which just happens to have the very best Panini we’d ever had and a fabulous pasta salad with a creamy mustardy-sweet dressing…delicious!


We visited the Lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park, the Beaufort waterfront, the Old Sheldon Church ruins from 1745, Chapel of Ease from 1740, several beaches and numerous gorgeous plantations. One interesting point of interest was the grave of Thomas Heyward, Jr. who signed the Declaration of Independence.

The history and the beauty of the entire low country were unique and captivating. What a wonderful place, so peaceful and so breathtakingly pretty.