Rhea and Alfred Swanson are originally from New York, but knew they wanted to retire to warmer climes. They visited Florida, Virginia, Kentucky and Arizona before happily settling in Orangeburg. “It was the kindness of the people that convinced us,” she says.
The couple had lived in Beaufort during a stint in the military, but wanted to be inland a bit. She works for the county attorney for Orangeburg. He is a retired minister who enjoys gardening year-round. They’ve been to the Santee lakes and will probably go again. “I’m happy just seeing the water,” Mrs. Swanson says.
One unexpected plus has been the abundance of antiques around Orangeburg. “We’re collectors, with pieces dating from 1850 to 1900. Not only are the antiques very lovely here, but they are much more affordable than those we’ve found in New York.”
The Santee lakes of Marion and Moultrie are a paradise for anglers. Expect fulsome catches of bream, crappie, catfish and, its most famous inhabitant, the landlocked striped bass.
Orangeburg County received the prestigious 2005 All-America County Award, which recognizes civic excellence. It has been known as the benchmark of community achievement for more than 50 years and competition is fierce for the honor.
Nearby, the small town of Elloree has the reputation for some of the best gift shops and antique galleries to be found in the area, and there are more hidden gems that beckon the discerning shopper.
The Elloree Heritage Museum & Cultural Center is a must-see attraction during a day trip to the area, discovering old plantation homes, churches, graves, and of course, Branchville, with the oldest railroad junction in the U.S.
Nearby Orangeburg has the Edisto River, which offers canoe trips under Spanish moss, by wildlife, and through dark, winding forests.
Closer to town, the Edisto Memorial Gardens have a wetlands park with a boardwalk that meanders along the Edisto River. As you walk to this boardwalk, visitors will have the wonderful opportunity to “Stop and Smell the Roses” as there is a display of over 4,800 rose plants representing at least 120 labeled varieties. Each year, the Orangeburg Festival of Roses covers the gardens in thousands of rose blooms. The festival is held in May, the weekend before Mother’s Day and includes events for all ages.
There are 14 golf courses in the five-county Santee region, along with three state parks and the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, with its trails and boat landings. Although agricultural fields still dot the countryside, and hunters flock to the area, today’s residents are just as likely to enjoy hunting for a tiny white ball down a long green corridor.
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