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See a Different Side of the Grand Strand on a Lowcountry Tour

You may know about the Grand Strand's 60-mile stretch of beautiful, white-sand beaches and lush golf courses, and you're probably familiar with Myrtle Beach's many popular attractions, including its shopping, dining and entertainment venues. But there's a side of the South Carolina coast you might not know about tucked away off the beaten path and/or unreachable from dry land.

For guests at the Caribbean Resort & Villas, the Lowcountry section of the Strand is a great place to escape the bright lights and experience a slice of nature that will make you fall in love at first sight. Situated in the areas surrounding Murrells Inlet, Pawleys Island and Georgetown, which are located 15 to 30 miles south of the Caribbean, the Lowcountry consists of pristine wetlands and maritime forests connected by tidal creeks and rivers that are navigable only by boat.

That's where Cap'n Rod's Lowcountry Tours comes in. Bringing a lifetime of knowledge about local waters and Lowcountry lore, Capt. Rod Singleton offers a variety of unique boat tours to some of his favorite spots along the South Carolina coastline, including undeveloped barrier islands, long-abandoned rice fields and plantations, and other secluded areas that you have to experience to believe. His mix of Southern hospitality, seamanship and storytelling converge to provide a perfect getaway.

Offering a variety of trips both inland and out on the high seas, Cap'n Rod's Lowcountry Tours takes passengers to some unique locales. Perhaps most popular is the Lighthouse Shell Island Tour, a four-hour trip to a barrier island that is uninhabited by man but is home to a long list of wildlife you can see from the boat and during the 1.5-hour visit on the island. Watch dolphins, eagles, turtles and other coastal species in their natural habitat while you look for seashells.

The highlight of the tour, however, is the old lighthouse that stands guard to the entrance of Winyah Bay, which has guided ships safely into Georgetown for generations. Passengers can take photos of the classic Carolina-style craftsmanship while they scan the beach for rare shells, sharks' teeth and other souvenirs. This trip is scheduled around low tide to allow the boat access to all the islands and inlets, and it departs from Georgetown. The cost is $35 for ages 13 and up, $30 for ages 4-12 and free for ages 3 and under.

Another memorable trip is the Plantation River Tour, perfect for folks who love a good history lesson and prefer the calmer waters of rivers over the ocean. Sailing out of the Wacca Wache Marina in Murrells Inlet, this tour takes passengers back in time to the old rice and indigo plantations that once made the Lowcountry among the wealthiest regions in Colonial America. See former slave quarters, rice fields and the remnants of wealthy plantation homes while you also soak up the scenic beauty.

Nature lovers also enjoy the Plantation River Tour because of the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. Salt marshes and swamps are home to a wide selection of animals, such as alligators, otters and birds of prey. The Intracoastal Waterway, Big and Little Pee Dee Rivers, Waccamaw River and Black River, as well as the isolated community of Sandy Island, are among the many sights shared by Cap'n Rod and his crew during this three-hour tour. The trip is scheduled around high tide, and the cost is $35 for ages 13 and up, $30 for ages 4-12 and free for ages 3 and under.

Cap'n Rod's Lowcountry Tours also offers private charters for special events like wedding parties, reunions and group outings, catering the tour to your occasion. For more information about times and tours, visit www.lowcountrytours.com.