Dense forests stretch west from the highway, while the unspoiled Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge stretches south of McClellanville nearly to Charleston, forming one of the largest and most important sanctuaries for migratory birds on the East Coast. Thousands of great blue herons, pelicans, terns, and ducks join the resident population of wild turkeys, feral pigs, deer, and alligators. To get a glimpse of the diverse life protected here, visit the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center (843/928-3368, Wed.-Sat., free), on US-17 at Awendaw. Exhibits inside explain the natural and human history of the region, and trails outside lead to a boardwalk viewing area and an enclosure that’s home to native red wolves.

Directly across from the refuge entrance on US-17, you can appreciate other aspects of the area’s culture at the homey SeeWee Restaurant (4808 N. US-17, 843/928-3609), a general store turned restaurant serving homemade specialties, including a fabulously rich she-crab soup, served with a shot of sherry on the side. The ambience is perfect—tin cans and bottles still fill the shelves, and locals stop by to offer their catches—and the low prices and friendly people make it worth planning your trip around.