Hunting Island State Park is home to one of South Carolina’s most beautiful beaches. This 5,000-acre park is only 16 miles from Beaufort. The reason the island is called “Hunting Island” is because it was once a hunting site for locals, who hunted birds, raccoons and deer there. The island was also famous for being a resting stop for sailors and pirates. The famous pirate called Blackbeard stopped at the island also. Although it was a popular place for hundreds of years, it did not officially become a state park until the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps built it. In addition to attracting humans, it is also a place that many wildlife species inhabit. The endangered Loggerhead turtle can be seen here at the hatchery where they are cared for. This park is an enjoyable destination year-round, as the climate remains moderate. Even in the intense southern summer heat, the ocean breeze helps to keep the park cool.
The Lagoon is one of the most sought-out areas in the park because of its tranquility. Unlike many beach-side parks, this part of the region resembles a tropical forest. In fact, it has been used in several movies as a jungle scene. Nature photographers, hikers and fishermen all enjoy this spot for their own purposes. Several rare species of birds native to the Atlantic coast can be seen here. Whiting, bass, trout and several other types of fish can be caught in the lagoon. Crustaceans such as crab and shrimp may also be caught. Kayaks, canoes and rafts are all allowed on the waters. There are well-kept paths around the lagoon on which hikers can enjoy a peaceful walk. This area is also home to snakes and ticks in thick brush and marshy areas, so stay on the marked trails. Swimming is not allowed here. Catfish inhabit the area heavily and can sting. Also there are undercurrents in some places. The biggest threat is the alligator. They are fast and aggressive at times an should be avoided if they are seen. Swimming is not very safe on the beach either. This area has been infamously well-known as a horrible place for rip currents for hundreds of years. Jellyfish are also plentiful in the ocean in parts that are deeper than knee-high – and they have a painful sting. Sunbathing, wading and shell collecting are fun and safe activities on the beach; many visitors have found sand dollars on Hunting Island’s beach. Large conch shells can often be found just before dawn.
Another interesting sight to see is the Hunting Island Lighthouse. Built in 1859 and restored in 1875, it still retains its integrity and is open to the public. It stands over 130 feet high and has over 150 steps to the top. Visitors are welcome to climb up to the top if they are bold enough to climb that many stairs. The lighthouse was closed in 1933. Originally it was built to warn ships to stay away, as this area was full of hazards. Today it provides an interesting piece of history to see, as well as a great workout for hikers or tourists willing to climb the stairs. Nearby, the Marshwalk provides another interesting hike. A long boardwalk is elevated above the natural marsh lands, where egrets and several species of crabs can be seen. There are several other plants, flowers, insects and reptiles that can be seen in the marsh also.
Camping is allowed in the park on designated sites. There are 10 tent sites and several sites for recreational vehicles with water and electric hookups. Reservations should be made in advance to guarantee a spot. There are check-in and check-out times on the campground. Visitors are advised to avoid bringing their own firewood to use in the campsite fire rings. Fees may change, but can be viewed on the park’s website for up-to-date rates. Due to the erosion of the southern part of the island, only one camping cabin is available and must be reserved far in advance. Pets are not allowed on the campground or in the cabin. For more detailed information, contact the park at:
2555 Sea Island PKWY
Hunting Island, SC 29920