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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…