“Off the Beaten Path” may be a bit of a misnomer for this post given that the featured spots are along Highway 17, one of the main arteries through the Lowcountry, but they are both far enough outside the city of Charleston that they feel like a world apart.
About twenty minutes south of Charleston, the car dealerships, restaurants and strip malls give way to open land in the rural town of Ravenel. Only a few establishments dot the side of the highway, and three of them are real gems. One of these is the Caw Caw Interpretive Center, a nature center and wildlife preserve and one of our favorite parks in the area – we won’t dwell on it here since its dining options are limited to vending machines, but we highly recommend a visit when you’re in this neck of the woods! The other two, Champney’s Blueberry Farm and Ravenel Fresh Seafood, offer unique Lowcountry experiences not to be missed.
Champney’s is a family-owned and -operated blueberry farm offering both you-pick and already-harvested blueberries in season (typically, early June to mid-July). We recommend the you-pick option – coat yourself in sunscreen and bug spray, grab a basket from the open-air farm stand and get picking! Walking through the vast field of blueberry trees, it’s hard to believe you’re just a stone’s throw from the highway, but you’ll quickly get lost in the moment.
This year, the Lowcountry unfortunately got hit with a very late frost (23 degrees in March!), decimating a lot of the local blueberry and peach crops. Champney’s was not spared, and so the 2017 season will be much more limited than most years’. With that in mind, we headed to the farm on its opening day this past Saturday. It was sad to see so many bare trees, but we were very grateful that some of the berries survived so we could enjoy one of our favorites rites of early summer in South Carolina. Even with the smaller crop, we still managed to pick four pounds of blueberries in about an hour. Jack was actually semi-helpful this year too, though most of the berries he picked went directly into his mouth instead of his basket (and really, who could blame him? Few things in life taste as good as sun-warmed blueberries straight off the tree). We definitely rounded up when it came time to pay to make up for his “quality control” – and at a mere $2/lb, we were happy to do so!
Hot and hungry after our time at Champney’s, we headed 10 minutes farther down the road to Ravenel Fresh Seafood. Somehow this was our first visit to Ravenel Seafood, but it definitely won’t be our last! The small restaurant is easily visible from the highway thanks to the colorful coastal fishing murals that cover its exterior, and while the interior is more spartan, the food is anything but!
Everything is made to order, and our fried oysters, whiting and shrimp came out crisp and hot. The real star, though, was the garlic crabs: steamed, coated in a garlic butter that we are still talking about, served whole and ready to be devoured messily and immediately. These were seriously SO freaking good that we licked our fingers clean and debated ordering more despite the mountain of fried fish we’d already inhaled. After throwing in the towel and learning that hand sanitizer removes Old Bay residue quite, well, handily (sorry), we spent the car ride home trying to reverse engineer the garlic butter recipe.
If you need us this week, we’ll be eating blueberries by the handful and dreaming of those garlic crabs …
Champney’s Blueberry Farm Facebook page
4492 Rose Lane, Ravenel, SC
2017 season hours: Thursday-Saturday 9am-7pm
Ravenel Fresh Seafood Facebook page
5925 Savannah Highway, Ravenel, SC
Open 10am-7pm, closed Sundays