School is approaching but we still have a few slow days ahead. Budgets continue to stay tight and I think we are all burnt out on the home, DIY quarantine projects. I have come up with a true day trip that doesn’t constitute a lot of time in the car and once there you can get outside and enjoy!
I enjoy making suggestions for outside adventures not only because I believe getting out is important for mental health, but also because of our continued concerns with Coronavirus. Going on an outdoor excursion will provide you with some fun opportunities where you’re less likely to need a mask, but also can boost your own immune system!
Two hours and 15 min from Statesboro will get you to Santee, South Carolina where beautiful bodies of lake water, woods and a variety of unique stops await. Along with the state park and a wildlife refuge with hiking trails and wildlife, there are antique shops and restaurants nearby to create a perfect relaxing day.
You can start across the lake at the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. Make sure you begin this itinerary at the visitor center where there is an overlook of Scott’s Lake and a view of the Santee Indian Mound. If you want to venture out on one of their trails, they offer binoculars and backpacks on loan for free!
Open Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., the Visitor Center has information about the refuge such as species lists, interpretive guides, maps, and hunting/fishing permits.
For your children, the center has a “Kid’s Corner” with crafts, coloring books, and field guides. The wildlife exhibits give children an up-close look at some of the many “wild” residents of Santee National Wildlife Refuge. Your children won’t want to miss these exhibits. Mine loved this experience when they were young.
Not dependent on the visitor center, refuge boundaries are open sunrise to sunset. You can still enjoy the trails and the history. The Santee Indian Mound dates back more than 1,000 years, a mound used as a substructure of a ceremonial temple and also as a burial site.
Birding is a popular activity for visitors during the spring and fall migrations. Excellent birding opportunities exist on all four units of the refuge. A walk along the one-mile Wrights Bluff Nature Trail affords visitors the chance to observe songbirds, wading birds, and several species of waterfowl. Dingle Pond is home to a Carolina Bay and provides a unique habitat for several wetland species. Visitors may utilize a one-mile trail with an observation tower and boardwalk to get a closer look at wildlife. Nearly 40 miles of trails, including hiking and biking, can be found on the refuge for visitors to enjoy.
Another outdoor stop in Santee is the state park. Santee State Park is in the sandhills of South Carolina on the western edge of the 110,000-acre Lake Marion. The park offers boating, hiking, camping, birding, canoeing and kayaking. Well known for fishing, this park offers a chance to catch record size largemouth bass.
The 2,500-acre park was created in 1942 when Orangeburg County donated the land. It has two campgrounds with a combined total of 158 sites. If you decide to camp, I recommend calling with plenty of time ahead. Santee is located along I-95 so the campgrounds stay reserved and full. There are also 30 rondette cabins, 10 of which are on piers over the lake, providing a beautiful, serene view.
Consider taking a tour or paddle on Marion Lake. Fisheagle Wildlife Tours has a number of options on the surrounding lakes and waterways. The wildlife swamp tour is their original and most requested tour. Offered Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 1 p.m., this tour lasts approximately two hours round trip from Santee State Park and a little more than three hours round trip from Wyndham Resort. They are taking precautions above and beyond to keep their facility and boats clean and sanitized to keep their customers safe.
If you’d rather go out on your own, Fisheagle offers kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards for rent. Paddle over cypress knees and under Spanish moss and search for turtles and Great Blue Heron. Paddle Poplar Creek & Swamp or the lake shoreline within the park.
If a storm comes up or if you just enjoy the unique, you may want to check out the Tea-rific Teapot Museum nearby in Elloree, South Carolina. Listed in RoadsideAmerica.com, this museum has more than 5,000 teapots collected by Sybil and Julian Boland, exhibited in a large, blue tea kettle. Their Noah’s Ark section displays Bible- and animal-themed teapots. Penny Garrett is the new owner since 2019.
For some other unique shopping, you may want to visit Smith’s Super Store for some homemade fudge, jelly or hot sauces along with just about anything else you may want!
Located near I-95, Santee has a variety of restaurants available so check out Captain’s Quarters or fill up at the Cracker Barrel before heading back home.
It took a while before I made a visit to this area and I regret that I waited so long. It is easy to get to and once there, it feels exactly like the escape you needed. Leave at 8 a.m., walk a trail, take a tour, buy some fudge, eat dinner, and be back home by 9 p.m.
Santee National Wildlife Refuge
2125 Fort Watson Road
Summerton, SC 29148
Santee State Park
6 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily year round
$3 adults; $1.50 SC seniors; $1 children
age 6-15; age 5 & younger free
Fisheagle Wildlife Tours & Paddle Santee
Wildlife Swamp Tour – Regular
Wednesday Friday & Saturday at 1 p.m.
at Santee State Park (12:20 from
Wyndham Resort). Groups of 20 or more
available year round. Call to schedule.
Other times available upon request.
Historical Lock Trip – In October,
Wednesdays – Sundays (Mondays &
Tuesdays available with a group of 20 or
more), 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. departures
(from Gilligan’s Dock in Moncks Corner)
305 State Park Rd
Santee, SC 29142
Tea-rific Teapot Museum
2732 W. Cleveland St., Elloree, SC
Downtown. behind Boland’s Pharmacy,
which is on the north side of W. Cleveland
St./Hwy 47 between Main St. and the
Tuesday - Friday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturdays
by appointment (call to verify). Local
health policies may affect hours and
Admission: Adults $6.
Smith’s Super Store, Santee
9039 Old Number Six Hwy.,
Cristina Emberton was raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and relocated to Savannah for college. She has worked as a production assistant on films, and in marketing commercial and residential real estate. After a divorce and relocation to Bulloch County, Cristina earned her master’s, and discovered a connection to writing. She is now working professionally as a writer. She has two children, and is involved with scouting with them, teaches art for fun, and continues to get outdoors whenever possible.