McClellanville, a historic fishing village, is well worth the drive
By Jenny Peterson
Photos by Aleece Sophia
A hop, skip and a jump away from Mt. Pleasant sits the historic and quaint town of McClellanville, just past Awendaw. Far enough away for an old-fashioned day trip with memorable sights and experiences and you can still be home by dinner. With plenty of things to do and explore, a day outing—or even a long weekend in McClellanville—is well worth the drive.
If you don’t keep a sharp eye out driving down Highway 17, you could miss it. You’ll know you’re getting close when you start to see old churches dotting the side of the road. A dark green sign for McClellanville with a picture of a shrimp boat lets you know that you’ve arrived.
Take a hard right off Hwy 17 and the sprawling oaks envelope you almost immediately, like a scene right out of a postcard. Clapboard homes on large lots line either side of the road on Pinckney Street—McClellanville’s Main Street—and once you enter the main strip, you can see why visitors fall in love immediately. McClellanville is picturesque town—a fishing village evident by the dozens of shrimp boats docked at the end of the street—hat has retained its old-world charm.
Looking to explore? Check out a loose itinerary below for ways to enjoy this slice of Charleston County.
10:00 a.m. There are many historic churches in McClellanville, and the Old Bethel AME Church, built in 1872, is a marvel to behold. Down a dirt road, the church stands among the large oak trees, striking in its construction, with unique cypress fish scale shingles. It is hailed as the oldest African American Episcopal (AME) church in McClellanville. The church is not currently open to the public but received a moment in the spotlight when it was a location for the Neflix show Outerbanks. 398 Drayton St.
10:30 a.m. The Santee Nature Preserve is a wonderful, passive state park where you can choose your own adventure among a number of nature trails and points of interest. It’s run by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and free to explore. The marshland trail, right off a parking lot, is an easy and family-friendly 1.9-mile round trip trail that brings you over a swampy boardwalk. The Cape Trail, 5.4 miles round trip, is the best option to see alligators. 220 Santee Gun Club Rd.
11:15 a.m. A history buff’s dream, the 1.6 mile El Dorado trail at Santee Nature Preserve takes you to the crumbling, yet majestic, ruins of a former 1700s-era plantation home that was previously owned by Thomas Pinckney, an early American statesman. In its later years, it was home to a gun club. Nature has taken over the remains, but the tall brick chimney and brick foundation remains, and you can envision the grandness—with a marvelous view of the South Santee River to boot. 220 Santee Gun Club Rd.
12:00 No trip to McClellanville is complete without stopping in for a bite at T.W. Graham & Co. seafood, on picturesque Pinckney Street, where you’ll find seersucker-clad locals, tourists and even a few park rangers enjoying the best and freshest fried seafood in the Lowcountry. Owner Patrick Runey is a regular in the dining room and screened-in patio, seating tables and catching up with the regulars. He buys the restaurant’s catch just blocks away from Carolina Seafoods and will convince you to indulge in the house-made pies—worth the extra calories. 810 Pinckney St.
12:45 p.m. Right across from T.W. Graham’s is the McClellanville Arts Council museum and gift shop, where a variety of local artwork, from paintings to seashell wall hangings, is up for sale. Rotating art exhibits highlight South Carolina artists. The current exhibit, Unseen, is a collection of portraits and botanical paintings by Elizabeth DuBose Porcher Mahoney, born in 1908 in Porcher’s Bluff, SC and the former curator of education at the Charleston Museum. 733 Pinckney St.
1:30 p.m. A drive down to the docks at the end of Oak Street and you’ll see why McClellanville is known as a fishing village. So many shrimp boats are docked along Jeremy Creek, they’re double-parked. Shrimpers are hard at work unloading their catch, which they sell directly to Carolina Seafoods and Livington’s Bulls Bay Seafoods, right on the water. 22 Oak St.
2:15 p.m. Spend the afternoon on the sprawling grounds of the Hampton Plantation State Historic Site and marvel at a 230-year-old oak tree that George Washington saved from removal in the year 1791. The Hampton Plantation State Historic Site is home to the final remnants of a colonial-era rice plantation and home, once owned by the Pinckney and Rutledge families. Many informative plaques dot the area and tell the difficult history of slavery on the grounds. The plantation now serves as an interpretive site to learn about the system of slavery and rice cultivation in the region. The area is run by South Carolina Parks and is free to explore. 1950 Rutledge Rd.