Spring is slowly warming towards summer and we found ourselves with time to spare on a recent Saturday morning. There is real pleasure in discovering a new local area, in finding those out-of-the-way towns and venues in the lowcountry that are an easy drive from Charleston, but that we never seem to take the time to enjoy. So my young son and I climbed in to our pollen encrusted truck and took off south down Hwy. 17 out of Johns Island headed for Walterboro, a sleepy little time capsule in rural South Carolina.
Charleston has charm and indulgence in equal measures. It serves this up in a southern and perpetual rendition of the Sermon on the Mount. No one ever becomes tired of it but we become accustomed to it's largess. Walterboro to Charlestonians is a place somewhere further south, near the Ace River basin that is not one of those local areas they would likely consider as a destination.
We drove into Walterboro past the airport, the final training ground and jumping off point for so many Tuskegee airmen. The weather was mild so we abandoned the truck and set off on foot. First stop, the Colleton Country Museum. We were greeted by a helpful woman who gave my son a basket of toys to enjoy and me a private tour. I learned of Clovis, Palio and Woodland Indians. Of the tribes that inhabited the area until recent times and their subsequent treatment. Of slavery and rice cultivation, cotton farming and of Sherman's march across the Ace River basin to lay siege to Charleston. Of schools and local "5 & dime" stores and bygone days of drug stores still selling soda and ice cream.
Main street has had some recent updates, the town has refused to die in the way many small, southern towns have. It's full of antique shops to while away the hours. I spoke to John, who runs a store selling cakes and soda, trinkets and a huge display of Christmas decorations of all things, a bit of a surprise being that it's April! Three old timers on main street, rocking slowly in the sunshine gave me directions to the ice cream shop. They would not let me go easily though and we whiled away a time swapping stories and reflections.
Ice cream was my son's preferred destination so off we went. They sold delicious home made ice cream for sure, but also BBQ and Gullah gourmet. Cliff's Hotdog Station, you really should try it. A plate of Goat stew, red rice and beans may not sound great but trust me - it was. I closed my eyes and was back in the Africa of my youth, the sounds and smells of Lagos and Abidjan came flooding back. It was, for me, a day of discoveries and surprises.
Later as we drove back to Johns Island along Hwy. 17, my young son fell asleep and I reflected on my mood and the open, easy welcome that has been extended by the good people of Walterboro. In truth I found it a little humbling. We will go back again sometime soon I think.
Note: Beyond Walterboro SC, there is so much to discover in the lowcountry and throughout the barrier islands - whichever mode of transportation you decide to take. If you're looking for more places to explore in the Charleston area, have a look at our FREE Discover Charleston Guide below to seek out your own lowcountry favorites ...
click the guide to view the booklet!
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