Hunting Island State Park

Located on the southeastern coast of South Carolina, Hunting Island State Park receives more visitors per year than any other park in the state.  Hunting Island has over four miles of beaches and thousands of acres of salt water marsh and forests, and an 1870’s era lighthouse and museum dedicated to the lighthouse keepers who used to inhabit the island.

The campground is located on the northern end of the island, and has accommodations for both tents and travel trailers.  The campground also boasts its own store and restroom/shower facilities.  Note that the restrooms are not usually stocked with hand soap or paper towels, so bring your own.  There are also cabins for rent on the southern end of the island and a few private homes as well.  If you plan on spending the night on the island, plan it months, if not a year, ahead of time.  The campground sports 200 spaces and there are around 13 cabins and they all fill up fast.

On most days you can surf at Hunting Island, with the best surf coming on the rising tide, about two to three hours before high tide.  There is a sandy bottom, with the occasional tree stump close in to shore due to constant erosion.  The surf has a beach break, with average swells for the east coast and short to medium wave lengths.  Some days there is also an undertow to contend with.  While the waves aren’t spectacular or particularly powerful they are decently fast and you can certainly spend a good day surfing there.  Catch a good north east swell and the surfing steps up with faster, more powerful waves.  Eastern swells are a bit softer and southern swells make for poor surfing.

Most people hit the beach mid-island around the lighthouse area, which tends to be the most crowded.  Head south from there and the crowds thin out.  Possibly the best waves are on the southern end near the cabins.  During the week, though, crowding isn’t usually an issue.  Surfers many days will have the waves to themselves, as it is rare to see more than a handful surfing off the island at any time.

The swells aren’t too large, so sea kayaking is always a possibility.  Another great place to kayak on the southern end of the island is the lagoon.  The lagoon was created by sand dredging and is home to a variety of sea creatures, including barracuda and sea horses.  Since it opens up to the sound between Hunting and Fripp islands, the water is usually quite peaceful, making for easy paddling.  Bring your own kayak, because kayak rentals are few and far between.  The closest thing to a surf shop resides in Beaufort, about a 45 minute drive away.

The nature trail, approximately six miles,  runs the length of the island through forested sand dunes and doubles back from the southern tip along the lagoon and ends at the lighthouse area.  You can pick up the trail at the campground or lighthouse area.  There is also a branch that leads to the boardwalk and observatory on the western side of the island in the salt marshes.  There are also bike trails that criss-cross the island, but nothing really noteworthy.

Hunting Island State Park also serves as a hatching place for loggerhead turtles.  Beginning in mid-May, the female loggerheads lay their eggs in nests on the beach at night.  Interested people may volunteer to help during the hatching months – mid-July through October – to keep watch on the beach and keep any predators from getting the newly hatched turtles as they make their way to the ocean.