Home » 2000 Spring Break on Hunting Island

Hunting Island State Park, SC

Saturday, April 22, 2000 - 12:00pm by Lolo
81 miles and 1.75 hours from our last stop - 3 night stay


Surfs up!Surfs up!For us, Hunting Island was love at first sight. We've never really been into fancy beachside resorts and spas, but this was a semitropical paradise for RVers. Picture campsites shaded by palmettos, warm sea breezes coming off the ocean, and falling asleep to the lulling sound of the surf. This was just what we needed as a break from the routine of daily life and the fickle spring weather of the Northeast.

After our busy day at Charles Towne Landing and Magnolia Plantation, it was already 7:00 by the time we arrived at our campsite. Despite the hour, the boys felt they absolutely needed to go for a swim. After all, this was vacation and a time to get away from rules and schedules. They were right, so we followed them out onto the beach to watch them. It was here that we encountered Hunting Island's only flaw--gnats. As the boys swam delightfully in the waves, Herb and I swatted these annoying little pests like crazy. Hopefully, this was not going to be a persistent problem during the daytime. Finally, we got the boys, who were completely oblivious to the gnat situation, to come back to the motorhome to shower and have dinner.

I was pretty anxious for the boys to go to bed early because it was the night before Easter and we have this family tradition where we hide candy and presents all over the house for the boys to find on Easter morning. I thought this tradition would go away when they stopped believing in the Easter bunny, but no. I'm sure I'll still be doing this when they're 18. I guess candy and presents are still good regardless of the source. So I waited until I heard steady breathing coming from their beds and then sprang into action. It was pretty tough finding enough hiding places in the confines of the RV, but I think I managed to be somewhat creative. It took them a good hour the next morning to find everything.

Herb with boys bikingHerb with boys bikingThe morning was still a little cool for the beach, so we decided to explore the island by bike. For such a small island, there are certainly plenty of biking opportunities. In fact, that is one of the main reasons we chose to come here. The real novelty for us was that unlike the soft-sand beaches of the Jersey shore and New England, the sand on these beaches was hard enough to ride on. We decided to head out on the trails and then come back along the beach.

We found the trailhead near the entrance to the campground and set out on a dirt trail that wound up and down through a forest of oaks, pines, and palmettos. Although not too difficult, it was still challenging enough to provide some excitement. The kids had a great time hopping over roots and logs, maneuvering sharp turns between tree trunks, and just wreaking havoc in general. Andrew did manage one face plant along the way.

After about a mile or two the trail came out into a parking lot by the Visitor Center. We stopped in briefly to see the exhibits and to say hello to the alligator that was casually lounging in the small swamp across the way. From there, we found the trailhead for the Nature Trail and continued through more forest before looping back onto a trail that ran alongside the lagoon that cuts into the southern side of the island. It looked like Gilligan's Island.

Lolo and boys under palmetto palmsLolo and boys under palmetto palmsWhen we got to the end of the lagoon, we rode out onto the beach where we had a great time zipping and weaving amongst the driftwood and stumps of palmettos. After about a mile of this fun, we spotted the historic Hunting Island lighthouse rising above the palmettos. Time for a break, so we locked our bikes, paid our $2 fee, and climbed the 167 spirally steps to a tremendous view of the ocean and surrounding marshes. We learned that the lighthouse had not always been here, but had been moved 1 ¼ mile inland to this location back in 1889 because of erosion from storms. Pretty scary that that much of the island has been lost to the pounding surf. I hope this doesn't continue, because I'm really starting to like this place.

We spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach right in front of our motorhome. The waves here weren't the huge breaking type, but rather the kind that seemed to roll in forever, making for some great boogie boarding. Also, the gentle wave action along the water's edge made it a good place to skimboard. The boys had a terrific time, and since the gnats weren't as bad today, Herb and I did too. However, that mackerel sky wasn't too promising for tomorrow.

Sure enough, the next morning we awoke to pouring rain and strong winds. Being a bit of a weather-phobe, I spent most of the day clutching the weather radio, listening for orders to evacuate. Herb was quite amused. Actually, it was very cozy in there watching the palmetto trees sway and the campers in tents scurrying back and forth to the restrooms. It certainly was nice to be sitting in here warm and dry, watching movies and reading books.

The next day we were to set out for an overnight excursion to Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia. We had reserved our Hunting Island site for the entire week, so we were going to leave it vacant for one night and then come back to spend another three nights here."


Hunting Island State Park is located on a 3-mile barrier island just east of Beaufort, South Carolina. It offers one of the most tropical settings to be found on the entire South Carolina coast. This 5000-acre park contains 3 miles of pristine sandy beaches along the Atlantic shoreline, salt marshes, a lagoon, and a dense forest of oak, bayberry, and palmetto. Storms have eroded much of the shoreline, bringing the lush forests closer to the sea.

Hunting Island Lighthouse mit spouseHunting Island Lighthouse mit spouseA good place to begin a trip to the island is at the Visitor Center, which has exhibits on the cultural history of the island, its beach habitats, and the historic lighthouse. Right across from the Visitor Center is a small swamp where you are very likely to spot an alligator or two.

Another interesting stop is the historic Hunting Island lighthouse, the only lighthouse in South Carolina open to the public. For a $2 fee, you can climb its 167 spiral steps for a tremendous view of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding marshes. A unique feature of this lighthouse is that it was constructed of cast iron and designed to be dismantled and moved in case of erosion. In 1889, the lighthouse was moved 1 ¼ miles inland to its current location. The lighthouse was in operation until 1933.

From the lighthouse, it is a short walk to the beach where there are picnic shelters, restrooms, and a concessionaire. The beaches of Hunting Island are nesting grounds for Loggerhead turtles. Around mid-May, Loggerheads come up on the beach, dig a hole, and lay about 100 - 160 eggs each before returning to the sea. At night, Hunting Island personnel comb the beach for new nests and bring the eggs back to a hatching facility, safe from predators. After hatching, they are released to the sea.

The western part of the island contains the salt marshes, which many people believe to be the most beautiful part of the island. The Hunting Island marsh boardwalk extends across the marsh to a small island with a magnificent platform for observing the wildlife. The wildlife and the beautiful sunsets make this a lovely place to come in the evenings.

On the south end of the island, the beach is sandwiched between the ocean and a long inlet lagoon. The lagoon is home to hundreds of birds and other wildlife species--deer, raccoons, blue herons, egrets, pelicans, sand pipers, etc. It is also a great spot to crab or to fish for trout, bass, and puppy drum. The jungle-like setting of the lagoon was the filming site for the battle scenes in "Forrest Gump."

Near the lagoon is a 2.3 mile nature trail (good for hiking or biking) that meanders through the maritime forest and along the lagoon.

On the very southern tip of the island is a fishing pier which extends 1,120 feet out into Fripp Inlet. Fishing from the pier is excellent for drum, shark, whiting, trout, and bass. Next to the pier is a Nature Center with exhibits on the local marine life. There are saltwater tanks with live snakes, turtles, and other reptiles.

On the northern tip of the island is a 200-site beachfront campground nestled amidst the palmettos. Each campsite has water and electric.

The island is totally explorable by bike. In addition to the 8 miles of trails, the sand on the beach is hard enough to ride on. From the campground, there is a 1-mile bumpy, dirt trail through a semi-tropical forest to the Visitor Center. From there, a trail continues south along the lagoon and eventually out to the fishing pier.

Hunting Island State Park location map

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