Location Spotlight: Boneyard Beach at Botany Bay

March 31, 2022  |  Edisto Island, South Carolina

Tucked away about an hour south of Charleston is an incredible beach on Edisto Island, South Carolina. in the 19th century, this beach was part of the Sea Cloud and Bleak Hall plantations, which both produced what was considered the finest cotton in the world. After World War I, the boll weevil decimated the cotton crops, at which time the plantations changed to the production of timber. In the 1930's one man purchased both plantations and joined them to form Botany Bay Plantation.

Two oak trees fight the time and tide as the Atlantic Ocean encroaches on what was once a grove filled with oaks but is now a boneyard beach.

Resilient

Two oak trees fight the time and tide as the Atlantic Ocean encroaches on what was once a grove filled with oaks but is now a boneyard beach.

I visited Botany Bay twice while in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in the spring of 2016. A half mile walk through a marsh leads you to a pristine white sand beach, filled with fallen trees bleached by the sun. The beach was once a grove of oaks, until the Atlantic Ocean encroached and eroded away the land. The first day I visited I was treated to a pastel sunrise. I spent quite a bit of time exploring the beach, photographing, and just enjoying the warm water running around my ankles as I worked.

The sky begins to lighten just before sunrise on the boneyard beach at Botany Bay Plantation on Edisto Island, South Carolina.

Reflections Erased

The sky begins to lighten just before sunrise on the boneyard beach at Botany Bay Plantation on Edisto Island, South Carolina.

I spent a week in South Carolina, and I loved my time on the beach so much I decided to visit for a second sunrise. The second time was even better, as some dramatic clouds moved in for sunrise. There wasn't much color, but the warm glow behind the clouds added some nice interest. I ventured even further down the beach, finding some stumps that were slowly wearing down thanks to the relentless waters of the ocean.

The Atlantic Ocean flows over the boneyard beach at Botany Bay Plantation on Edisto Island, South Carolina.

The Low Country

The Atlantic Ocean flows over the boneyard beach at Botany Bay Plantation on Edisto Island, South Carolina, at dawn. These husks of wood are all that remains of once mighty oak trees, eroded by wind, sand, and water over time.

The coolest part of the beach, in my mind, are two features that are as far as I know, no longer there. There were still two old oaks, standing tall in the water. Unfortunately, Hurricane Matthew washed them away in 2017, and caused some major changes to the beach itself. Also, the beach is now inaccessible from 3 hours before high tide to three hours after high tide, and many of the fallen trees that were further up the beach are now under water. This was five years ago, so it's possible more changes have happened since then.

The boneyard beach at Botany Bay Plantation at sunrise.

Dawn on the Carolina Coast

The boneyard beach at Botany Bay Plantation at sunrise. Over the years the tides have changed and eroded areas where thriving forests once stood. Many of the trees are now fallen over with their massive root systems exposed to the elements.

The two mornings I spent on Botany Bay Beach were incredible. It saddens me that the beach is no longer as it was, but then, this is also why I photograph- to preserve these places in some way to show others, even when they are gone.