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Named one of America’s top ten beaches by TripAdvisor, Hunting Island State Park sits just 16 miles east of historic downtown Beaufort and is South Carolina's most-visited state park.
Located near Beaufort, Port Royal & Sea Islands, Hunting Island is conveniently situated to give visitors a taste of nature near charming and relaxing seaside towns. Along with Fripp Island, it is one of the six Beaufort Barrier Islands that naturally protect our area's mainland. This semitropical state park is home to an array of wildlife and is ideal for hiking, fishing, kayaking, and other outdoor activities. Hunting Island maintains 100 campsites with amenities that include water and electrical hookups, shower and restroom facilities, and a playground so families and guests of all ages can enjoy this beautiful park.
The island was first named Reynolds Island after its first official owner, Richard Reynolds, whose family owned it through much of the 18th century. It was changed to Hunting Island because it was a favorite hunting ground for regional plantation farmers during the mid-1800s. Long before European settlers arrived, the island was inhabited by Native American communities who left behind relics of their culture.
The island was declared a state park in 1941. Several notable aspects make it unique, from its flora and fauna to the famed and reportedly haunted lighthouse.
Hunting Island Lighthouse
The island’s iconic lighthouse, constructed in 1859, was destroyed by Confederate Army soldiers to keep it out of the hands of the Union Army during the United States Civil War. Rebuilt in the mid-1870s, it was moved farther inland to avoid beach erosion and remained a working lighthouse until 1933. It is said to be haunted by a former keeper’s daughter.
***Lighthouse closed for renovations***
A variety of fauna is abundant within this 5000-acre park. Wildlife here includes deer, alligators, diamondback rattlesnakes, and many others. A conservation program exists for the inhabiting loggerhead turtles on the island, considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The island is a paradise for birders, boasting hundreds of different water-loving species.
The maritime forest is home to a myriad of trees, plants, and flowers, including the Sabal Palmetto. A type of palm, the Sabal is SC’s official state tree and can grow up to 90 ft. tall. Live oaks dwell here, too, some surviving up to 1,000 years. Cacti, such as prickly pear and yucca, also thrive in this environment.
Salt Marsh Ecology
The Atlantic Ocean-facing side of the island offers nearly five miles of soft white sand. Yet the salt marsh lagoon portion of the island enjoys a unique and dynamic ecosystem where dolphins, tiger sharks, shrimp, crabs, and certain turtle species flourish. Osprey and eagles are easily spotted hunting here.
These are just a few of the intriguing aspects of Hunting Island that make it a unique destination for all.
You can spend days on Hunting Island and never run out of exciting activities for you and your family. Some of the ventures you can take part in include:
The park maintains miles of hiking trails throughout the island’s forest. Horseback riding is permitted along the park’s ocean beach, where you can also swim and enjoy the waves. Guests can fish, kayak, go tubing, and paddle board along the salt marsh, which also makes a great spot for birding and photography.
The boardwalk that enters the salt marsh is a wonderful spot for birding, relaxing, watching nature, and practicing photography. Fans of the film “Forrest Gump” may recognize the areas around the boardwalk, where several scenes were filmed.
Whether you prefer to sleep in a 40 ft. camper or a rustic tent under the stars, Hunting Island has the option for you. This state park is known for its scenic vistas and attracts visitors from near and far, no matter the weather. Many more activities are available on the island, including a nature center and visitor center. The park also offers special seasonal entertainment and educational events.
With so much to explore, Hunting Island makes for a great getaway when visiting Beaufort, Port Royal & Sea Islands. Our team will be happy to help you plan your visit. We recommend looking at the weather for Hunting Island before arriving at the park, which is open daily from 6am to 9pm. Children and senior citizens enjoy an entrance fee discount and the park has wheel-chair accessible amenities. Contact us today to learn more about Hunting Island and the many area attractions.