I always imagined myself one day living at the beach. As a land-locked kid living ten hours away from the closest salt water, I looked forward to our yearly trip to the beach. Any other time of the year, my parents had to drag me out of the bed. Not on vacation. I was up with the sun and in my swim trunks, ready to go. I could spend hours in an imagined epic battle against relentless waves. Beyond the waves, I would just float and stare off into the horizon, wondering what the land on the other side looked like, what kids might be floating around and staring back in my direction, and what amazing creatures swam in between us.
When you’re ten years old, a future dual career as cop and marine biologist makes perfect sense, especially while you’re playing in the surf. As I approached adulthood, most of those childhood dreams faded away. The one that still remained was living at the beach. I was able to finally make that dream happen in August of 2016. The funny thing about dreams coming true is that they tend to be idealized. And romanticized. And sometimes the ideal doesn’t match the reality.
Living at the beach has its ups and downs. In this three-part series, I’ll cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of living the coastal life here in the Lowcountry. In this first part, I’ll cover a small portion of what’s good about living here. If I wrote everything good about it this would be a book, not a website post!
Living at the beach: The Good
The good news is that The Good totally outweighs The Bad and The Ugly combined. There are way too many good things about living here for me to cover in one blog post, but I’ll hit the highlights. And as long as I can keep adding to this site, there will be plenty of other posts with details on what’s good about living here. Let’s get started with…
Ahh…the beach. It means so many things to different people. But in one form or another, relaxation and fun generally top the list. My main reason for moving here in 2016
There are only two ways to know seafood came straight from the waters to your plate. You either have to catch it yourself (more on that later) or get it from the people who just caught it for you. You might possibly get fresh fish at a local restaurant, but you have to ask about it. Just because they serve seafood doesn’t mean it came fresh from local waters.
Once you’ve had really fresh seafood, the frozen stuff just doesn’t taste quite the same. And the selection…wow! From the delicate, mild flavor of fresh flounder to the full flavor of a Bluefin Tuna steak, there’s a texture and flavor of fresh fish for just about anyone to enjoy. If you like shellfish, the Blue crab, shrimp, and oysters here are plentiful and delicious.
Did I mention the fresh fish? If you can catch your own fish, you’ll not only have the freshest fish possible, but you’ll spend a great day on the water as well. You can go deep-sea fishing or just stay in the shallows on a local marsh. For both fish and other seafood, please check applicable laws and seasons before harvesting.
If fishing isn’t your thing, there’s a ton of other water sports to try. Boating, parasailing, skiing, surfing, windsurfing…what am I leaving out? Anyway…you get it. I don’t want to keep droning on about it. I might start to sound like Bubba talking about shrimp.
My favorite has to be kayaking. Hundreds of miles of tidal creeks and rivers wind through the Sea Islands, waiting for you to explore them. Bring your own gear or rent from one of the many suppliers in the area. You can explore them on your own if you’re an experienced kayaker. If you lack the experience or have never kayaked in strong tides, you might benefit from a guided tour. Getting lost or not knowing the timing of the tides can turn a fun day on the water into a nightmare. Besides, the guides here have a lot to share with you about local history and the marsh ecosystem.
Did you know dolphins (yeah, I know about the whole dolphin/porpoise thing) will hunt in teams and drive their catch onto creek banks? It happens right here in the low country of South Carolina. Take one of the boat tours out of Beaufort or Hilton Head or go kayaking into the many tidal creeks and you might even see it yourself. You’re at least likely to see them feeding or playing in one of the local rivers. You might spot some playful otters out there as well.
If you visit at the right time, you might get to watch loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs in a nearby sandy dune. Or even better…you might see dozens of her babies “boil” out of the nest and make their way back to the ocean.
Sea Islands Are For The Birds
Love birds? The birds sure love the Sea Islands. We’re on the Atlantic Flyway, a path migrating shorebirds take, some even coming from the Arctic. The National Audubon Society has designated some areas in the Sea Island as an Important Bird Area due to the abundance of bird species in the area and the importance of its location in the migratory path. We’re home to several endangered species, including the Wood Stork, Piping Plover, and Little Blue Heron.
Yes, there are alligators outside of Florida. I have at least a couple living in the lagoon across the street from me. If you know where to look, you can find plenty of them to view here in the Sea Islands. They really don’t seem to mind us being around them, but they’d rather avoid us than bite us. Don’t get too close, though. They’re wild animals and much faster than you think. And please…never ever feed them. If you do, you could be ensuring that gator’s death, a steep fine from the state, and possibly even jail time. Once a gator associates humans with food, they’re a danger and have to be put down. So enjoy seeing them from a distance, and let your only interactions be with a camera.
Did you know we have monkeys? We have a whole island full of them! An estimated 3500 Rhesus Macaques call Morgan Island home. Although they’re native to Southeast Asia, the colony originally came here from Puerto Rico as experimental animals. By all reports, our primate neighbors no longer endure any experimentation. The island is federally protected, and you’re not allowed to visit. But with a boat and a little luck, you might get a peek at them from a distance.
Festivals & Special Events
I don’t yet know about life in all the Sea Islands, but the South Carolina Lowcountry really loves a good party. And with our generally mild winters, you can find a festival or some other special event in every month of the year. Nearby Port Royal shuts down its main thoroughfare weekly for live music during the Spring and Fall months. They had their inaugural Deep Water Festival just this past weekend to celebrate the new life coming to their port area.
I’ve listed just a few of the local festivals here with links for more information:
- Beaufort International Film Festival
- The Original Gullah Festival
- MCAS Beaufort Air Show
- Beaufort Water Festival
- Beaufort Shrimp Festival
- Pat Conroy Literary Festival
- Penn Center Heritage Days
Like nearly anywhere, the weather here could go in both The Good and The Bad list. Or maybe even The Ugly. We’ll worry about the negative later…
Nearly all of the Sea Islands are located in a humid subtropical zone, That means we generally see hot, humid summers with frequent but brief thunderstorms, and mild winters with little chance of frost. Occasionally, Mother Nature throws us a curve and we get something unexpected, of course. But you can generally always count on great summer weather for visiting us.
Like the weather, Island Time can be good or bad, depending on your disposition. If you have no patience at all and start yelling at complete strangers in traffic, maybe you’d be better off staying on the mainland.
Island time here doesn’t move quite as slowly as in some other island settings I’ve visited, but it’s definitely noticeable. Some things run at a normal pace (whatever “normal” might mean to you). Other things…not so much.
When you live on an island, there may only be one road to get on or off. And if the bridge is turned or weekend traffic backs up, you’re stuck for a while. No shortcuts or bypasses will get you around it. And even when traffic clears up, some local islanders might slow you down anyway. We’re not all in a hurry. So just relax. Enjoy the moment while you’re here. If you must jockey for position on the road, cutting in front of other cars just to “get ahead,” please save that for the interstate travel on your way home. Better yet, take some Island Time with you on the way home. You’re more likely to get home safely that way.
Island Time = Less Stress
Speaking of that, let’s just be real with ourselves for a minute. You might not want to admit it, but you’d really be better off adjusting to island time and letting go of whatever’s building up all that steam. The world is a much better place when everyone’s not in quite such a hurry, nobody wants to take advantage of someone else, and everybody just gets along. Isn’t that why you come here for a vacation anyway? And if you want to live here, well…just leave all that nastiness behind you.
I could go on…
I could list plenty of other great things about this place I now call home. But I don’t want to give away all the surprises. Come visit for yourself sometime and experience all the great things about the Sea Islands.
Note: This is part 1 of a three-part series. You can read the part 2 here.