SHELDON, S.C. – The South Carolina Lowcountry is a magical place. Here, the ebb and flow of ocean tides keeps the landscape constantly changing. It’s fertile ground for wildlife, and a haven for those searching for a true outdoor experience.
Within the heart of this fabled area, there’s Brays Island Plantation. Located just south of Charleston, S.C., and along the Atlantic’s Harbor River, this 5,500-acre private community is as distinctive as it sprawling. Towering live oaks line the entryway, while manicured dirt roads wander through dense forests and open meadows.
Brays is a shared plantation, which means 90 percent of the land is shared by all owners. This leaves a vast amount of property available to indulge in shooting, fishing, hunting, golf, boating and more.
The key is 325 one-acre circular lots.
Sumner Pingree, a cattle rancher and land conservationist, bought Brays in 1963. The island was his own personal playground. This is where he hunted, fished, planted row crops and raised cattle up until the 1980s. That’s when he got to thinking about what he wanted to do with the property upon his retirement. Pingree didn’t want Brays turned into a conventional development, so he consulted with Robert Marvin, a fellow landowner and planner.
What they came up with was innovative — circular lots. Spread out over the entire plantation, the lots give members better use of the land, as well as privacy and mesmerizing views. Within each one-acre lot, members can build their dream home facing any direction.
“Any owner that lives here is the beneficiary of 5,200 acres that are held in common,” said Paul Burton, a Brays member. “They will never be developed.”
The Lowcountry is a sportsman's paradise, such as this time of season when hunting is in full swing. (Photo: Brays Island Plantation)
While other private communities are winding down for the season, Brays is just getting started. Hunting season is in full swing. The property offers acres upon acres of wide open fields and nests of quails, dove and pheasant, as well as more than 20 miles of estuaries that are ideal for catching reds, flounder and black drum among others.
“It’s the most amazing package of amenities on the planet,” said John Hickey, another Brays member. “It has everything I like to do outdoors. And I’m outdoors all day, every day.”
And this is the place to do it.
Talk to members and they will say they weren’t always shooting sporting clays and riding horses. For some, it was an acquired taste. But once it took hold, it was on.
“That’s what happens here at Brays,” said Justin Rhoten, director of shooting sports. “Most are somewhat familiar with guns, but they fall in love with shooting clays. They’re dedicated, too. Often times, it’s women more than men.”
Amidst all there is to do at Brays, golf is still at a high level. Opened in 1990, the 18-hole, Ron Garl-designed par-72 layout takes its cues from Scottish links courses. Natural hazards and large greens challenge your club selection, as well as your nerve. And as expected, tee times are never a problem.
BRAYS ISLAND PLANTATION
Location: Sheldon, S.C.
Patrick Rhyne has spent the last 20 years building luxury and private community brands across the United States, Mexico and Caribbean. He lives in Asheville, N.C.