South Carolina is home to numerous unforgettable state parks with picturesque beaches, breathtaking mountaintop overlooks, historic islands and many kinds of lodging opportunities. Nevertheless, the state park that is constantly hailed as the favorite among all visitors is Hunting Island State Park. Just the drive to the park is well worth the visit here as you can visually capture the natural beauty of the coast and the salt marches that seem to be preserved from another quieter time.
This 5,000-acre island and park features some outstanding amenities that include a campground carved into a palm tree forest next to the beach on the north end of the island, five miles of beaches, 100 campsites, a saltwater lagoon and a 6.1-mile loop trail around the island that traverses a maritime forest. Despite all of these possibilities, the Hunting Island Lighthouse is a main attraction for most visitors to the park. It was first used in 1875 and had a lamp that could be seen for 17 miles. It was decommissioned in 1933 and is now just a beautiful, beloved historical landmark. The 136-foot tower is constructed mostly of bricks and has an outer shell of cast iron sections that each weigh approximately 1,200 pounds.
The name Hunting Island came about because it was once a hunting site for locals, who hunted birds, raccoons and deer. The island was also famous for being a resting stop for sailors and pirates … including the famous pirate Blackbeard. Although it has been a popular place for hundreds of years, it did not officially become a state park until the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built it.
It is also a place that many wildlife species inhabit, but the most important one is the endangered loggerhead turtle. Sunbathing, wading and shell collecting are fun and safe activities on the beach. Visitors have found sand dollars, and large conch shells can often be found just before dawn.
At the far south end of the island near the bridge to Fripp Island is the nature center that is connected to a fabulous fishing pier. Local wildlife and birds can be observed in this area, and the fishing pier is located in a perfect spot to catch many salt water species of fish during the tidal changes or just use it as an avenue over the marsh for viewing and great photography!
The Hunting Island Marsh Boardwalk Trail begins on the southern end of the island and travels deep into the recesses of a salt marsh offering more than half a mile of exploration. The trail is primarily used for walking, nature trips and bird watching. At the end of the trail, a platform over the water creates a lovely spot to stop and enjoy the breeze from the ocean, and it might be the best place in the Lowcountry to watch the sunset. It is designated a National Recreation Trail.
This park is an enjoyable and unique destination any time of year because the climate remains moderate. Even in the intense southern summer heat, the constantly changing ocean breezes help to keep the park cooler than anywhere inland. For more info or reservations, check their website: www.southcarolinaparks.com/hunting-island.
Photos: by Bill Vanderford