While we are a North Carolina family, partial to our own home state and particularly to our own North Carolina Coast, we recently spent some time farther south around Beaufort, South Carolina. There’s just a twinge of irony in this because we love sending clients and friends to Beaufort, North Carolina (check out Bringing Home Beaufort) and had never visited the South Carolina namesake (learn about the pronunciation differences between the two towns).
We had a ball and want to tell you about one of the highlights of the trip: the afternoon we spent at Hunting Island State Park.
Hunting Island is a small island with 4 miles of Atlantic coastline about 40 miles or so south of Charleston, and about 15 miles southeast of Beaufort.
The island is home to one of South Carolina’s most popular State Parks, the Hunting Island State Park.
On our first visit to the Park, we were a bit skeptical (again a little healthy North Carolina pride and prejudice) especially because of the entrance fee. Nearly all North Carolina State Parks are free to enter and Hunting Island State Park charges a small fee of $5.00 per adult and $3.00 per child 6–15. Children under 5 are free and South Carolina seniors are $3.25.
Once we began the drive into the Park, the fee was no problem at all.
To reach the park, you simply drive southeast out of Beaufort on Highway 21. Once on Hunting Island, you’ll see plenty of signs, with the main park entrance being a left turn off 21. We took that left, paid our fees at the guard house and drove along the narrow one-way drive into what seemed like another world. You enter a forest that seems to be almost a solid canopy of tall pines with shorter Palmettos and other palms growing beneath, with shrubby palms scattered on a bed of pine needles cushioning the forest floor.
As our kids have been reading Tolkien, The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again, at school in recent weeks, we all decided that the area must be a tropical version of middle earth, that our photos simply do not do justice to.
There is parking tucked along the winding drive and we chose a spot near one of the boardwalks leading to the beach. The boardwalks give easy access through the forest and we found ourselves enthralled by scenery – the beach was great, but all the palms growing beneath the pines were a real draw for folks from non-palm growing country.
We walked north along the beach for a few hundred yards until we came to one of the landmarks that the park is famous for, the Hunting Island Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse was originally constructed in 1859, though it was destroyed during the War Between the States and rebuilt in the 1870s. It is the only South Carolina Lighthouse that is opened to the public and for an additional $2.00 fee you can climb the 167 steps to the top for some amazing views.
Looking up into the Lighthouse
We braved the climb, which was surprisingly easy – with the exception of a bit of inevitable vertigo. There’s a landing after each pitch of steps for frequent rest breaks. Nearly all the landings have windows so you can enjoy the view from different heights. The Lighthouse narrows as you climb higher, and on a busy day some wait time on the landings would seem likely.
The view from the top is incredible, and well worth the fee.
The Lighthouse seemed incredibly well-maintained with a great paint job and beautiful rust-free iron steps.
Jennifer and the kids at the top!
While we had to head back to Beaufort sooner than we wanted, we’re already planning a return trip to enjoy the rest of Hunting Island’s offerings including some extensive trails, a fishing pier, and of course, the wonderful beach.
Let us know if we can help you in any way with a visit to Hunting Island, and never forget to: