The small town of McClellanville, South Carolina holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been going there for over a decade in search of redfish in nearby Bulls Bay. The town reminds me of two places I love. It has the friendly, rural qualities of the town I was born in: Dillon, SC (many of you will be familiar with it because it is the town where South Of The Border is). It has the natural beauty of one of my favorite places on Earth: Charleston. After all, it is just 45 minutes north of the Holy City.
Why I Love The McClellanville SC Area So Much
For these reasons and many more, from the moment I first set foot in this quaint town, I knew that it was a place that I would always cherish. The slow pace of life, the beauty of the natural surroundings, and the friendly locals make it a town that is truly one-of-a-kind.
I remember how slow and quiet my first trip to McClellanville was. It was like stepping back in time. The roads were silent, the homes were older, and the small churches you drove passed were from a bygone era. It felt like I had been transported to a different world, where life was simpler and less hectic. It was a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
The natural beauty here was, well, the one word that comes to mind is lush. Live Oaks and Spanish Moss really make you feel like you are in the Lowcountry, or on the set of some old movie. By the water, you can see the seagulls and pelicans fighting for scraps, watch the towering shrimping boats head out to Bulls Bay and beyond, and hear captains and first mates congratulating each other on their recent successes on the water, over a beer of course.
The Beauty Of Neighboring Bulls Bay and Cape Romain
One of the first times I visited the area, I stayed with a friend at a campground just down the road at Buck Hall Recreation Area and Boat Landing and headed out on the water daily to explore the vastness of that area. Nestled near Bulls Bay on the Intercoastal half way between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, McClellanville really is the perfect place to escape the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet on the water. The maze of marshes in the bay’s neighboring Cape Romain National Refuge are stunning. Full of egrets and herons, tailing reds, dolphin, crabs, oysters, and even the occasional eagle and bull shark. If you wind your way through the marsh all the way to Bulls Bay, boaters really are rewarded. Crowd-free beaches on Cape Island and the lonely Cape Romain Lighthouse are must-visits. Just be weary of the big swings in the tide. Sometimes upwards of 6 and 7 feet if I recall correctly. This area is not a place you want to get stuck at. But this remote location combined with Cape Romain beauty makes this area even more of a special place…at least for anyone with a boat for access.
But what really makes McClellanville so special is the people who call it home. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and always ready to share a story or two. The local restaurants are down-home delicious with super friendly service. The town takes pride in their community, and it shows in everything they do. Whether it’s the annual the Fourth of July parade, Lowcountry Shrimp Festival, or the weekly Land & Sea Market.
So Much History In McClellanville SC
The Deer Head Oak is estimated to be over 1,000 years old, making it one of the oldest live oak trees in the state. It stands at an impressive 68 feet tall with a trunk circumference of over 20 feet, and its sprawling branches extend up to 120 feet wide. The tree is named after the shape of one of its branches, which resembles the head of a deer. The Deer Head Oak is a beloved symbol of the town. It has been featured in many paintings and is even on the town’s official seal. The tree truly is a living testament to the beauty and resilience of nature, and it serves as a reminder of the rich history and heritage of McClellanville.
Tucked away in the historic fishing village of McClellanville SC is St. James Santee Episcopal Church, built in 1890. Designed with intricate care, from its black cypress shingles, made with a handsaw, to its frame crafted from cypress and longleaf pine, this beautifully structured building stands as a monument to times past. Framed amongst a sea of live oak trees, St. James Santee presents an awe-inspiring view that delights parishioners and visitors alike-a reminder of faith and resilience.
The Village Museum
The Village Museum near McClellanville SC is an amazing destination for anyone interested in discovering the history and culture of the Lowcountry region. On its grounds, visitors can explore reconstructed 19th-century cabins from all over the area. Each is complete with furniture and other artifacts from that time. Within the museum’s collection are records of local Native American stories, photographs, boatbuilding tools and techniques, accounts of maritime adventures, rice planters’ journals, sea islanders’ folklore and much more. It certainly offers something special for any visitor looking to explore the region’s past or curious about how people traditionally lived in this area!
Nearby Francis Marion National Forest
The Francis Marion National Forest is renowned for its variety of landscapes and diverse wildlife. From wide open meadows, colorful swamps and dense forests, there’s something for every hiking enthusiast. Furthermore, wildlife viewing opportunities abound – herons, alligators, deer, and raccoons are a few examples of the exciting creatures you may encounter during your hike. If exploration and adventure is your passion, the Francis Marion National Forest guarantees a unique outdoor experience like no other. So take a hike and explore what this lushland has to offer.
Pinckney Street Live Oaks
While exploring the quaint coastal fishing village of McClellanville, take a moment to wander down a piece of history. Pinckney Street was once the major thoroughfare in town and is now lined with old homes and moss-draped live oaks that tell the story of times gone by. The best way to experience this charming stretch is by foot, as the quiet street gives one the opportunity to appreciate its unique beauty without traffic noise or distraction. As you walk along, take your time looking at historic homes and listening for sounds of nature; this might be one of the most peaceful walks you take all year.
If you’re looking for the perfect way to experience a piece of local history, a visit to the Brick Church at Wambaw is the perfect place to start. Built in the early 1700s and situated along the old King’s Highway, this church holds so much charm and nostalgia. Still used to this very day as an event venue, standing strong and reminding us of its stoic beauty, it stands as a reminder of days past. Tours are available for those wanting to gain insight about what really makes this parish’s original church special; it’s certainly well worth the effort.
It’s Close To Charleston, SC Too!
Despite McClellanville’s rural location, it’s one of the most charming spots in South Carolina and well worth visiting. While relatively unpopulated, travelers won’t find any accommodation options within town limits. Fortunately, Mt. Pleasant is just down the road. Post House Inn is a great place to ‘post” up when trying to visit McClellanville SC.
And if you aren’t opposed to staying in Charleston SC, it’s a quick 45 minutes drive and has plenty of lovely hotels to choose from. Some of our favorites include the following. We love The Spectator Hotel for its modern glamor. We enjoy the French Quarter Inn for its classic elegance. The Dewberry Charleston has such a chic style, The Vendue is perfectly located. And if you seek the ultimate luxury experience, then Hotel Bennett is a great option. There are a ton of other options in all sorts of price ranges, and there are amazing Airbnbs in the area too.
Once you book your accommodations, enjoy all that McClellanville SC has to offer! Some of our favorites are below.
Our McClellanville SC Top Lists
- Francis Marion National Forest
- Ion Swamp
- Little Wambaw Swamp Wilderness
- Charleston Zipline Adventures
- Hampton Plantation
- Tibwin Plantation
- Sandy Point Beach
- Cape Island
- Cape Romain Lighthouse
- Boneyard Beach on Bulls Island and Bulls Bay
- TW Graham & Co.
- Buckshot’s Restaurant
- McClellanville Diner