McClellanville is a charming, sleepy little southern shrimping village located midway between Charleston and Pawleys Island with a number of exciting things to do from historical sites to cultural attractions. It is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the Grand Strand if you need a break from the sun and sand during your stay at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
McClellanville was incorporated into the Church of England as the St. James-Santee Parish in 1706 although it was settled as early as 1685 by French Huguenots. The parish was very prosperous due to the indigo, rice, and cotton which was showcased in the architecture of the homes. The name St. James-Santee Parish became synonymous with rice plantations, homes of architectural grandeur, and culture.
McClellanville village was established in the late 1860s when local plantation owners A.J. McClellan and R.T. Morrison sold lots near Jeremy Creek to planter in the Santee Delta seeking refuge from summer fevers. Incorporated in 1926, McClellanville became, and still is, known best for its shrimping fleet and seafood industries.
Once a coastal retreat for wealthy rice and indigo planters, historic McClellanville is now a fishing village with a simple and laid-back lifestyle and that is the way the residents like it. Working residents who don’t make a living from the sea travel outside of McClellanville for employment. “On the first Saturday of May each year, the friendly, free-spirited town welcomes visitors to its perch on Jeremy Creek to celebrate the bounty of its waters with the popular Lowcountry Shrimp Festival and Blessing of the Fleet.” (discoversouthcarolina.com)
McClellanville is proud of its rich history and created a museum detailing the town’s legacy from the early settlements of the Sewee Indians to the great Santee Delta plantations to the growth of the seafood industry. It is located on the edge of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and has one of the prettiest, most pristine estuaries on the Atlantic Coast.
Surrounded by the Francis Marion National Forest, McClellanville has miles of hiking, horseback riding and biking trails. There are also creeks and rivers for fishing and kayaking and several campgrounds and recreation areas. Below are five fun things to do on your visit to McClellanville as described at discoversouthcarolina.com/articles/5-fun-things-to-do-in-mcclellanville:
- Hop aboard the ferry to Bulls Island.Coastal Expeditionsoffers eco-tours through Cape Romain’s breathtaking oceanfront wilderness, home to some 300-bird species. The island features 16 miles of trails and a seven-mile stretch of undisturbed beach, including the famed Boneyard Beach, a weathered forest of oaks, cedars and pines stranded in the surf.
- Visit the Sewee Visitor & Environmental Education Center.Learn more about Cape Romain’s ecosystems and the unique natural history of the Lowcountry through interpretive exhibits and special programs offered at the center throughout the year. Be sure to check out the viewing area for the half-dozen endangered red wolves that live on the property.
- Take a hike in Francis Marion National Forest.Four wilderness areas offer visitors the chance to explore 259,000 acres of lush pine stands, swamps and marshes. A variety of wildlife can be found in the preserve, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Among the many trails near McClellanville, two of the most popular are the Sewee Shell Mound and I’on Swamp interpretive trails.
- Tour Hampton Plantation State Historic Site.The Colonial-era rice plantation features an elegant Georgian-style mansion built between 1730 and 1750 with the profits of “Carolina Gold” rice, grown and harvested by African slaves. Guided tours are offered at noon and 2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday and 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
- Stroll along the sidewalk on Pinckney Street. Historic clapboard homes shaded by grand oaks line the town’s main corridor. Browse through the handful of shops and then have lunch at T.W. Graham & Co., which features a menu of dishes made with the harvest from the chef’s own crab pots.
Some other activities and historical sites that you might be interested in checking out are:
- Wambaw Creek Wilderness Canoe Trail. Nature Adventures Outfitters will take you on a Kayak or Canoe tour of this Nationally Recognized and Designated Trail located in the heart of the protected Wambaw Creek Wilderness Area in the Francis Marion National Forest. This beautiful blackwater creek is a tributary to the Santee River and Was paddled by the Santee and coastal Plain Indians for thousands of years. The creek is surrounded by a seasonal floodplain swamp where giant 1,000-year-old Bald Cypress trees can be seen in the upper section and Water Tupelo, Water Oak, Water Ash, Red Maple and Swamp Dogwood shade the banks of its pristine black waters. It offers spectacular birding and wildlife viewing. Banks of the river reflect geological precedence of the rice era where historical earthen dikes give way to flooded subtropical forest of abandoned rice fields once owned by prosperous rice plantations. (http://www.natureadventureoutfitters.com)
- Buck Hall Recreation Area. It is situated along the Intracoastal Waterway providing access to Cape Romain national Wildlife Refuge which is 65,000 acres of marsh, tidal creeks and beaches as well as Bulls Bay, the coast’s best shrimp baiting area. It is an open, grassy campground in the Francis Marion National Forest and is used for shrimp baiting and fishing for a huge variety of fish such as bass, flounder, sea trout, snapper, mackerel, swordfish, crab, shrimp, clams, oysters and more. . A long portion of the Palmetto Trail, which leads from the marshes of the ocean to the mountains of South Carolina, is accessible from the recreation area. Most of the trail is unpaved and can be used for hiking, biking or horseback riding, although a few sections are restricted to foot traffic only.
- Washo Reserve–220 Santee Gun Club Rd, McClellanville, is a 1,040-acre natural area owned by The Nature Conservancy and includes hiking trails, a huge abundance of “knees” that are part of tupelo gum trees and bald cypress trees. The reserve features a 200-year-old freshwater cypress lake and cypress-gum swamp, which harbors the oldest wading bird rookery in continuous use in North America that contains alligators, and abandoned rice fields that are presently used as the home for alligators and birds which include egrets, ospreys, anhingas, night herons, and bald eagles.
St James Santee Brick Church. Formally called St. James Episcopal-Santee, this church is more commonly known as the Brick church at Wambaw due to its location near Wambaw Creek. Built in 1768, it is also known as the Brick Church or Wambaw Church, it was the fifth church to house the congregation of the St James-Santee Parish.
St. James-Santee Parish Episcopal Church. Located at 205 Oak Street, it was built as a chapel of ease in 1890 as the rice industry collapsed following the Civil War and families began to move away. As more parishioners arrived in the village to reestablish their lives, the Brick Church became obsolete and the chapel of ease, St. James-Santee Episcopal Church became the primary church and remains active today. The congregation of St. James-Santee holds a service at the Brick Church at Wambaw once a year.
Santee Coastal Reserve. Located at 220 Santee Gun Club Road, this 24,000-acre reserve is a Wildlife Management Area that includes two barrier islands accessible only by boat, several marked trails and a boardwalk into a freshwater swamp. For biking and hiking there are six marked trails: The Cape Trail is a 4.7-mile trail through old rice field impoundments. The Marshland Trail consists of a 1.9-mile trail with an 800-foot boardwalk into a freshwater cypress swamp. The Woodland Trail is a 2.3-mile trail through pine forests. The Eldorado Trail (purple) is a 1.6-mile trail through pine forests leading past the old Eldorado plantation ruins. The Ormand Hall Trail is a 6.2-mile trail leading through all of the habitats mentioned above. The Big Well trail is a 1.7-mile trail starting at the boat dock leading through marshland at the South Santee River.
Cap Romain Lighthouses—This pair of brick lighthouses on Lighthouse Island southeast of McClellanville are on the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. They survived Hurricane Hugo which devastated the area and were named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
- The Village Museum—Located at 401 Pinckney Street, the Exhibits demonstrate a time line of history beginning with villages of the Seewee Indians and the settlement at Jamestown, S.C. by French Huguenots, through the rice planting on the great Santee plantations and the establishment of the town of McClellanville as a coastal resort. Displays tell of the simple lifestyle of postwar farmers, the rise of timber harvesting in the 20th Century and the growth of the local seafood industry. The museum attempts to both educate its visitors as well as entertain them. (discoversouthcarolina.com)
A little over an hour’s drive from Myrtle Beach, McClellanville, South Carolina is a marshfront community with no traffic lights that welcomes visitors. It is one of the few remaining old working coastal villages, so why not go see the small town charm for yourself and try some of the McClellanville SC seafood.