Photo: Chris M. Rogers
Photo: Chris M. Rogers
Illustrated by Richie Swann
Day One: Savannah to Beaufort
Distance: 57 miles
Start your drive in Georgia's oldest city with breakfast at Back in the Day Bakery (backinthedaybakery.com), a former general store turned neighborhood haunt. We love the Cinnamon Toast Biscones ($3.50), a freshly baked marriage of a biscuit and a scone. (Check out the new cookbook The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, published in March.)
Head north on U.S. 17, which spans the Savannah River. As you cross the majestic Talmadge Memorial Bridge, roll down your windows and inhale the salty Lowcountry air.
About 25 miles off U.S. 17 is the small town of Bluffton, South Carolina. Stop by and visit the studio of potter Jacob Preston, whose hand-thrown plates, mugs, and framed tiles ($25 and up) are inspired by the colors of the nearby countryside (jacobprestonpottery.com). If he's not there, don't worry—he leaves his studio open and operates on the honor system. Just leave your payment on the cashier table on your way out.
Continue on to Beaufort via State 46 to State 170 (about 8 miles). Begin your tour of the city on Bay Street, the heart of historic downtown. Eat lunch at Plums (plumsrestaurant.com), where the crab cake sandwich ($10) comes with great views of the Beaufort River.
Walk down Bay Street for a tour of the 1804 Verdier House, whose rotating exhibits bring to life the city's 300 years of history (801 Bay Street; 843/379-3331). Down the street, stop at the Fordham Market (fordhammarket.com). In operation since 1946, it sells the works of local painters, potters, and candy makers. Nearby, McIntosh Book Shoppe (843/524-1119) specializes in Lowcountry lit. Find a good used book to peruse on the riverside swings at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park (parallel to Bay Street) as the boats glide by.
For dinner, head to Breakwater Restaurant & Bar (breakwatersc.com), and try the Southern Sampler Platter ($16), your choice of four appetizers. We like the beef carpaccio, fried oysters, fried shrimp, and South Carolina-style pimiento cheese. Turn in at The Cuthbert House Inn (cuthberthouseinn.com; from $169), a charming B&B inn with waterway views.
Day Two: Beaufort to Folly Beach
Distance: 110 miles
Begin your day with Cajun Shrimp 'n' Grits ($9) at Blackstone's Cafe (blackstonescafe.com), studded with roasted red and green peppers, onions, and sausage. Take U.S. 17 north roughly 30 miles, then head south on State 174—a National Scenic Byway lined with sweeping oak overhangs and Civil War-era churches—for a scenic detour on pristine Edisto Island.
In between Cypress Tree Lane and Blue House Lane, mother-daughter team Lillie Howard and Annette King sell their exquisitely crafted handmade baskets ($25 and up) at the sweetgrass basket stand (edistosweetgrassbaskets.net).
Have lunch at Po Pigs Bo-B-Q (843/869-9003), a buffet that elevates meat 'n' threes to a whole new level with their signature slow-cooked barbecue and 20 side dishes from field peas to turnip greens.
Head north via State 174 to the funky seaside town of Folly Beach, just 12 miles from Charleston. Check in early at the Water's Edge Inn, whose guest rooms and three-bedroom villas overlook the Folly River and its marshlands (innatfollybeach.com; rooms from $149).
If your room isn't ready, rent one of the inn's bikes to coast down Center Street, dotted with surf shops and mom-and-pop restaurants. Center Street dead-ends into Folly's main attraction: 7 miles of beach. Relax on the public sands behind the Tides Folly Beach hotel (tidesfollybeach.com), which rents pairs of beach chairs with an umbrella ($23/day).
For a great view, wander over to the Folly Beach Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier, a 1,000-foot structure that lets you hang your toes over what locals call the "Edge of America." Or, go dancing. Shag dance parties ($10) are held on the pier every other Friday night.
For the grand finale of your Lowcountry ramble, enjoy a feast at Bowens Oyster House (bowensislandrestaurant.com). Here, your own personal oyster roast is cooked over an open fire ($14 for a cafeteria tray full of them).