Monday, November 4, 2013

Hunting Island State Park

It was back to the coast this weekend for a once in a lifetime opportunity (well, more like once every two years, but more on that later), and we decided to make the most of the opportunity and hit the beach. In addition to a three-mile stretch of sand, Hunting Island State Park has a historic lighthouse and was not too far a drive for us - so off we went!

Watching for alligator at the Hunting Island visitor center
Attracting over a million visitors a year, Hunting Island SP is located 30 minutes from Beaufort, SC. With a campground and one cabin to rent (book a year in advance!), it is a great summertime destination for those looking to get away from it all. After a quick stop at the visitor center to get our gator fix for the day we headed to the lighthouse, hoping things would warm up a bit and temperatures would climb out of the “chilly” range for some time on the beach.

Halfway between Savannah and Charleston, the lighthouse served as a gauge for vessels between the two cities for many years. Constructed in 1859, it replaced a lightship on the shoals of St. Helena Sound, but a mere two years later was destroyed by the Confederates so that the Union couldn’t use it. By 1873 a new lighthouse was under construction, one that could be moved inland if the shoreline changed, and in 1875 it was complete. As soon as 1889 the lighthouse had to be moved; it took four months and $51,000 to move it 1.25 miles. In 1933 the lighthouse was decommissioned, although the tower does currently have a functional light in its tower (the light is not used for navigation). For $2 visitors can climb the 167 steps (175 if you include the 8 steps into the lighthouse) for a fantastic view of the Sound, beach, Hunting Island SP and the ocean.

Being November we had expected to have the place to ourselves, but were surprised to find North Beach (adjoining the lighthouse) crowded, as a 5k was just finishing up. The waves could hardly be heard over the loudspeaker blasting music and race results, and so we headed south to find solitude. South beach was just the place, other than a couple other groups enjoying the sunny day on the beach, we were alone. The boys didn’t seem to mind the temperature of the water, although it was a tad cool for me. One enormous sand castle complex later extremities started to get cold, and so we packed up and headed even further south.

With almost ten miles of trails, the State Park provides plenty of opportunities to observe wildlife and explore the nature of Hunting Island. We opted for the Marsh Boardwalk, which ended with great views of the marsh to the east.

At the very south end of the island just before the bridge to Fripp Island, is the fishing pier and nature center. We checked out the snakes, turtles and other aquarium wildlife at the nature center and then walked out on the pier. Extending 1,120 feet out into Fripp Inlet, it’s a popular spot to catch drum, bass, spots, trout, shark, whiting and croaker. A dolphin surfaced not even twenty feet from us, catching me unawares and making me laugh. We peered into a few buckets to see what people had caught, but soon came time to head inland to Beaufort for dinner. As we crossed the miles of marsh back to mainland South Carolina I watched the sun and wind play over the grasses; the sand and surf had brought on a healthy appetite that I was looking forward to satisfying in Beaufort that evening…


  1. Looks great. That is one area we haven't visited. We've been to Savannah, Tybee Island and Charleston--but not to Hunting Island. Hope you had a good time. Looks like loads of fun!

  2. I do work on nearby (Oakatie, SC) Callawassie Island once a year or so for Indy friends. Need to visit again to see the progress on recovery from Blackbeard's ship in Beaufort Inlet.

    I do work once a year or so for Indy friends at their place on nearby (Oakatie, SC) Callawassie Island. Need to visit to see how work has progressed on recovery of relics from Blackbeard's ship in Beaufort Inlet. For great seafood go the Skull Creek Restaurant on Hilton Head.


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