Beach at Botany Bay Plantation

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Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area comprises 4,687 acres and is located on Edisto Island, south of Charleston. This is a unique destination where one can hike, bike or take the 6.5-mile driving tour, as you imagine life on a coastal plantation in the 19th century.

On this property, acquired by Daniel Townsend II in the 1780s, are the remains of two large plantations, Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud. The land was farmed until the early 1900s, with Sea Island cotton the staple crop for many years.

Several structures remain as they were back then. There are also ruins and features of the property that played a role in both the Civil War and World War II.

The most popular attraction here is the 2-mile stretch of undeveloped shoreline, nicknamed Boneyard Beach.

Drive about a mile into the Preserve and turn right to the parking area to access the half-mile walkway over coastal wetlands.

I visited Boneyard Beach two years ago on a cold and rainy day and had the beach to myself. On that visit, there were quite a few old live oaks standing tall in the surf, void of any foliage for many years, their trunks worn smooth from the ebb and flow of the tides.

They made for a dramatic silhouette that has long been a favorite for nature photographers, especially at sunrise.

In October 2016, the barrier islands of South Carolina had an unwelcome visitor: Hurricane Matthew.

The Botany Bay beach had severe erosion before the storm, but Matthew pushed it back another 30 to 40 feet into the maritime forest.

To walk the beach, visitors should check the tide charts and time their arrival at low tide or just before.

After Matthew, Botany Bay Plantation was closed for more than a year. The causeway path to the beach had to be rebuilt in sections and tons of tree and brush debris removed.

I went back to the beach in January to see for myself how the beach had changed. The storm was just too powerful for the live oaks. They now lie toppled over, creating huge sculptures on the beach. While it is sad to see them down, the beach is no less beautiful, just different.

You can still get gorgeous photographs of the tree skeletons and marvel at the natural beauty of the beach. A huge variety of seashells, many of them unbroken, can be found - but be warned, you can only take photos of them. No artifacts are allowed to be removed from the beach and this is strictly enforced.

Botany Bay Plantation is an easy 85-mile drive from Bluffton. Take Highway 17 north to SC-174 east, and then it is 19 miles to Botany Bay Road.

Visitors are asked to sign a log book upon entering the Preserve; you can pick up a map that includes general and historical information.

You will want to wear comfortable beach-walking shoes and, of course, bring your camera.

Glenda Harris of Bluffton is a freelance writer and editor, nature lover and aspiring novelist.

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