Carolina on our minds

Dive in South Carolina, drive to South America and zip over to Venice without intimidation: Travel tips from our expert.

Published May 18, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

A friend and I plan to drive to South Carolina, camping in the coastal areas. We may do some shipwreck dives as well. We don't have much information -- we just plan to jump in the car and go. Any travel tips for South Carolina islands?

For your planning purposes, consider "The Charleston, Savannah & Coastal Islands Book" by Cecily McMillan (Berkshire House, 3rd edition, 1999) and "Touring the Coastal South Carolina Backroads" by Nancy Rhyne (John Blair, 1992). Also, check out the official South Carolina tourism site.

The McMillan book has a section on camping, and you also can look at the Wildernet South Carolina Camping Guide.

There's also a Coastal Guide site with links to nine South Carolina coastal communities.

You can locate dive shops in South Carolina -- and elsewhere in the U.S. -- through Such shops will have information on local diving destinations and conditions. Another resource is "Shipwrecks, Pirates & Privateers: Sunken Treasures of the Upper South Carolina Coast, 1521-1865" by Edward L. Spence (Sandlapper Publishing, 1996).

While you're on the coast, check out the Gullah people, who have long been a low-key part of tourism near Hilton Head Island, S.C. The Gullah are descendants of freed slaves who speak Gullah, a Creole language combining African dialect, Caribbean cadence and English words. They live on the Sea Islands between Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. In recent years they have gained more widespread attention, and in 1997 Hilton Head hosted its first Native Islander Gullah Celebration. For Gullah history, visit

Where can one find information about driving from the United States into South America on the Pan American Highway? Are there any books or other sources on traveling that fabled route?

The authority on that route is South American Explorers, a club that monitors conditions along the Pan American Highway as well as all over Latin America. Among other things, the club knows where the gaps and ferries are -- and tells all in a 200-page packet available to members and nonmembers alike.

The "Driving Packet" contains updated trip reports from club members who have driven the route. It's a valuable source of information on how to get around Central and South America, including road conditions and the latest in meeting and overcoming the unexpected. The club also offers a quarterly journal and a catalog that contains one of the most complete order lists of books on that part of the world.

The Driving Packet is available for $25 to members, $30 to nonmembers. Order from the address below, or at the Web site. (Click on the online catalog, then, under special interest, "driving through Latin America.") Also available through the club site is Chris Yelland's book "Driving Through Latin America: USA to Argentina."

Annual membership costs $40 per person, $70 per couple. Join by contacting South American Explorers Club, 126 Indian Creek Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850; phone (607) 277-0488. A subscription to the quarterly journal is $22 for nonmembers.

Another resource is the book "Driving the Pan-American Highway to Mexico and Central America" by Raymond and Audrey Pritchard (Costa Rica Books, 6th edition, 1997, order from (800) 365-2342). Anyone bound for such a road trip might enjoy the book "Obsessions Die Hard: Motorcycling the Pan-American Highway's Jungle Gap" by Ed Culberson (Whitehorse Press, 2nd edition, 1996).

We're planning our first trip to Italy for the Biennale in Venice in the summer of 2001. Most of our friends are experienced Italy travelers and it's like pulling teeth to get useful first-timer information out of them. What are some good sources for preparing for our trip?

Fortunately for you and every other first-timer -- and all of us have been in that spot -- many guidebooks are written with the inexperienced visitor in mind. You've got many sources to choose from, including the digestible "Eyewitness Travel Guide: Italy" by Deni Bown (Dorling Kindersley, 1998); "Knopf Guides Italy (1988)"; "Rick Steves' Italy" (John Muir, 2000); "Insight Guides Italy (1998)" and the Cadogan series Italy guide, by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls (Globe Pequot, 1999).

Each of those publishers also offers a guide that focuses solely on Venice.

Venice is the perfect walking destination, so you may want to arm yourself with "Venicewalks" by Chas Carner and Allessandro Giannatasio (Henry Holt, 1991). An audiocassette version also is available.

Your dining experience may be easier if you're armed with a pocket guide such as "Eating & Drinking in Italy" (Capra Press, 1999). It offers insights into Italian cuisine and a two-way dictionary of food and food-related terms.

The Web has become a hotbed of Italian help, with some sites far more helpful than others. Several seem convinced that readers want to hear Italian music while browsing; someone should tell them the truth. An excellent site to start with is In Italy Online. An official site is Piy Italia. A site with many links is the Venice Italy Index.

By Donald D. Groff

Donald D. Groff has been dispensing travel advice for a decade for such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Kansas City Star.

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Latin America