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An Insider’s Guide to the Lowcountry Sea Islands

By: The Local Palate

A snapshot of Johns Island, Wadmalaw Island, Kiawah Island, and Seabrook Island

It’s no secret that the sea islands are some of the most picturesque parts of Charleston, and eager visitors come every year to slow down for vacation and enjoy what Lowcountry living has to offer. Home to oak-lined roads and rural pastures, these barrier islands have seen a drastic influx of development that has transformed the area from once-sleepy Southern towns to thriving suburban outposts. From visiting old and new dining establishments to experiencing the largest live oak tree east of the Mississippi, there’s plenty to keep you rooted out here.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island resort part of the sea islands, the sun setting over the water and green.


With a newfound influx of people, Johns Island has seen a boom in the local restaurant scene, with what seems like a new place opening each week. But even with so much new, you can’t miss out on Wild Olive, where you’ll find simple, rustic Italian food in an intimate setting—it’s a favorite of the locals for a reason. Look for handmade pasta and entrees highlighting ingredients from the local food system, accompanied by an approachable wine list.

A table spread with pizza, pasta, salad, and tiramisu at La Tela Pizzeria on Kiawah Island, one of the sea islands.

A popular lunch spot, complete with its own market, the Stono Market & Tomato Shed Café is your one-stop shop. Owned by the Ambrose family (and known locally to have some of the best strawberries around), the market is situated on their Wadmalaw Island farm. Here you can indulge in Southern classics like roast pork and gravy with sides, and their unbeatable tomato pie and squash casserole. After lunch, stroll over to the retail side, where you’ll find an abundance of local products like Carolina Gold rice and homemade peach preserves, as well as take-and-bake dishes from shrimp and crab casserole to sweet potato casserole.

At Kiawah Island’s Freshfields Village, La Tela Pizzeria offers a welcoming atmosphere during those long summer nights. Their wood-fired Neapolitan style pizza, specifically the prosciutto di parma piled high with peppery arugula, will have you yearning for more. Order a bottle of Barolo, a couple of starters, and a pie, knowing it’s all coming from, and supporting, local farmers.

Located down Maybank Highway, HUM Grocery is well worth the drive for its no-frills atmosphere. Be sure to order a barbecue sandwich with “wadma-slaw,” along with banana pudding by the cup for a picnic by the picturesque shores of Rockville, a truly endearing, historic coastal town.


A glass of white wine held outside 48 Wine Bar on Johns Island, one of the sea islands

Low Tide Brewing might be one of the best breweries in the Charleston area, with unique craft beers on tap like the Aloha Beaches, a thirst-quenching pineapple wheat beer. Spirit aficionados can head over to Charleston Distilling Co. to find a variety of handcrafted distilled spirits inspired by the Charleston area. Carolina Reaper Pepper Vodka? Crosstown Straight Rye Whiskey? The bottles are yours.        

In Freshfields Village, Forty Eight Wine Bar & Kitchen offers 48 wines, 48 local craft beers, and 48 menu items every single day.

On Johns Island, Minero serves a delightful burrito griddled with a crust of Oaxacan cheese on the outside, but don’t miss their daily happy hour, which includes a $7 house margarita (frozen or on the rocks), $2 Modelos, and $4 chilled shots of your choice.


Home of the largest tea garden in North America, the Charleston Tea Garden is the perfect Wadmalaw Island escape. Stroll around and take a tour to learn how tea is produced, while soaking up the tranquility of rural sea island life.           

Angel Oak Tree, one of the most famous sea islands attractions

While you’re in the area, be sure to stop by Ambrose Family Farm and get your hands on some of the region’s best organic produce. The sea islands are known for producing world-famous tomatoes, so depending on the time of year keep an eye out for juicy ripe tomatoes, Sea Island red peas, or pick-your-own berries.

The pristine beaches are well worth visiting too, and Kiawah Beachwalker Park has accessible features like parking, a boardwalk with ramps, restrooms, and picnic areas with grills.

The most famous attraction on the Sea Islands is the Angel Oak Tree—for very good reason. The centuries-old trunks stretch out farther than seems possible, leaving visitors in awe of its beauty and sheer magnitude.

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