Edisto Island is one of South Carolina's Sea Islands, the larger part of which lies in Charleston County, with its southern tip in Colleton County. The Charleston County part is a census-designated place. The population was 2,301 at the 2000 census. The town of Edisto Beach is located in Colleton County. The island and town were named after the historic Edistow people, a Native American sub-tribe of the Cusabo Indians. They inhabited the island as well as nearby areas of the Low Country on the mainland.
Indigenous peoples often had fishing camps on the islands, using them seasonally. The historic Edistow people are known to have occupied the island as well as mainland areas and traded with the upcountry Catawba. The sub-tribe became extinct during the colonial period. The Wassamassaw Tribe of Varnertown Indians is a group of descendants of various tribes who intermarried and who have occupied a settlement between Summerville and Moncks Corner in Berkeley County, South Carolina. In 2005 they gained state recognition as an Indian group, one of six tribes to do so.
Edisto Island was developed by English and Barbadian colonists for large cotton and rice plantations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with labor done by hundreds of enslaved Africans. They developed the creole Gullah language and culture on the islands and in the Low Country, distinctive for its African traditions. Since the twentieth century, the island has been redeveloped for use as a tourist destination and resorts, although some private plantations remain.