Hunting Island State Park is one of South Carolina’s most popular state parks. Located 16 miles east of Beaufort, it offers opportunities to observe birds, wildlife, native plants, and salt marshes. Raccoons and deer abound at the park, as do herons, gulls, terns, and egrets. The 5,000-acre park offers the state’s best slash pine-palmetto forest. It is one of the best public sites for seeing the South Carolina state tree, the cabbage palmetto, in its native habitat.
Activities include swimming in the ocean and enjoying the clean, white beaches. Fishing in the lagoon for whiting, spot, trout, bass, and the drum is extremely popular, especially among local residents. Many visitors enjoy picnicking, and bikers find easy pedaling along the Park’s smooth roads, on the beach, and on several off-road bike trails. For walkers, there’s a one-mile nature trail, a four-mile hiking trail, and a marsh boardwalk.
The Park naturalist conducts organized educational activities such as “The Beach at Night,” birding, tide pool exploration, lessons in crabbing and shrimping basics, and much more.
Each February the Park sponsors a Women’s Coastal Skills Clinic. Local paddling guide Jea Chapman conducts a kayaking clinic. Other skills taught at the clinic are motor-boating, fishing, casting a shrimp net, and cooking Frogmore stew, a local dish.
The Hunting Island lighthouse is the only South Carolina lighthouse open to the public. A lighthouse has stood on Hunting Island since 1859. The present structure dates from 1875, although when its original location began to erode, it was disassembled, moved 1.25 miles, and reconstructed. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Park has 200 campsites with individual water and electric hookups. Most are available by reservation only (call: 866-345-7275), with only 20 available on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground offers heated restrooms, showers, and a dump station. Some relatively secluded tent sites are available. The Park also has 15 two- or three-bedroom cabins for rent. Each has heat, air conditioning, bed and bath linens, television, a fully-outfitted kitchen, bathroom, etc.
Fun Hands-on Learning Activities at Hunting Island State Park
Learn about the ecosystem of the southern coastal area of SC while camping at Hunting Island State Park through family-friendly interpretive programs.
Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina offers a variety of free and low-cost interpretive educational programs for campers who wish to learn more about the area, the wildlife, and the history of this popular SC beach vacation destination. Some of their programs include:
- Lighthouse Life
- Beach Explorations!
- Alligators of the Low Country
Hunting Island State Park’s Lighthouse
Hunting Island hosts the only lighthouse open to the public in South Carolina. Campers can readily see the lighthouse if they take a short walk from the campsites to the beach and pier to the right. Children may think they are playing a game of peek-a-boo as they watch for the rhythmic light to appear and disappear.
Most travel from the campsite area to the park via car or bike in order to see the lighthouse up close, and some guests may be treated to a view of deer along the way. The Lighthouse Life program gives guests a guided tour of the historic lighthouse station. Learn more about the life of a lighthouse keeper and see exhibits of original supplies. Find out the height of the lighthouse, the number of steps, and other interesting lighthouse facts, and then climb the steps to the top for an amazing view of the island.
There are a minimum height requirement and a $2 fee for climbing the lighthouse at the time this article was published.
The sea is brimming with life, and the Beach Explorations! program gives participants of all ages the opportunity to catch a close-up glimpse of a wide variety of beach life. Visitors take a closer look at tidepools to discover seemingly stagnant water that is teeming with life.
Campers who wish to get wet may volunteer to help reign in a catch using a large net. This program is ever-changing with the environment. Campers may have the opportunity to see many sea animals such as baby pufferfish or learn about tiny animals that resemble jellyfish. Those who are brave may learn how to pick up a crab and then try their hand at it. Guides may also give information about the loggerhead turtles that migrate to the island each summer.
Alligators of the Low Country
Enjoy an indoor interpretive program about one of the world’s oldest surviving class of animals: alligators. This program is located in the Hunting Island Nature Center, where campers can view a wide variety of sharks’ teeth, see snakes, and see several other interesting displays. A slide show provides pictures and detailed information about these interesting and often misunderstood creatures.
Visitors get the opportunity to feel alligator scales and learn the difference between alligators and crocodiles as well as common myths about these interesting animals as the guide gives added information and an opportunity for questions. Hunting Island is home to a resident gator that guests may have the opportunity to see from the safety of a boardwalk.
Hunting Island State Park Offers Family-Friendly Fun
Campers who would like to learn more about the ecosystem of South Carolina’s Low Country have the opportunity to take part in hands-on education throughout their stay. Volunteers, members of Friends of Hunting Island, and staff who present the programs tend to have a love for the environment and seek to preserve the natural beauty of Hunting Island. Many of the programs are free and open to all ages, but a few have associated fees or height or age restrictions for safety reasons. Check the current Hunting Island State Park calendar of events for the latest dates and times.
Fun & Economical Family Activities Near Hunting Island State Park
Discover interesting, inexpensive, and unique kid-friendly activities near South Carolina’s Hunting Island State Park Campground.
Families camping at Hunting Island State Park can easily spend their entire vacation at the park while enjoying the natural beauty and hands-on educational programs offered in and around the campground. For those who wish to venture out a bit, a wide variety of fun activities are a short drive away, including:
- River Safari on Port Royal
- Water fun and more at Wardle Family YMCA at Port Royal
- A visit to The Chocolate Tree and a large playground in Beaufort.
Go on a River Safari at Port Royal Near Hunting Island Campground
Campers who would enjoy a boat ride without the hassle of pulling their own watercraft might enjoy a 90-minute boat ride at Port Royal. Captain Bill offers rides on a 24-foot pontoon boat with full-sized mounted chairs for comfort. Riders can enjoy the beauty of the water and learn about Port Royal as Captain Bill tells of the various animals and plants, history of the area, and perhaps a surprise or two. He might even let one of the kids be captain for a bit.
Captain Bill provides tours seven days per week. Early morning or late evening tours tend to be more comfortable during warmer weather, and Captain Bill may be able to accommodate longer tours if requested.
Visit the Wardle Family YMCA While Camping at Hunting Island
Although Hunting Island offers the Atlantic Ocean, loggerhead turtles, a lighthouse, fishing pier, and many other water-related activities, some people may prefer to swim in a pool. At the time this article was published, the Wardle Family YMCA participates in the A.W.A.Y. (Always Welcome at the YMCA) program. This means that if a camper has a membership at their hometown YMCA, this facility will allow that member in for free. Check with the YMCA regarding the number of free visits offered during the dates of the vacation.
This facility offers an indoor and outdoor pool. If the weather does not work for swimming, the Wardle Family YMCA offers group exercise classes, including Zumba and Zumba Kids, as well as weightlifting, and other health- and fitness-oriented activities. Childcare is provided per their schedule. A playground outside encourages kids to climb, slide, and play.
Watch Candy Being Made at The Chocolate Tree in Beaufort, SC
Feel like a kid in a candy store when visiting The Chocolate Tree. This store offers a nice variety of unique candies and confections and relief from the heat. During certain times, the friendly staff will make the candy in a room with a viewing window. Surrounded by chocolates and sugary treats, it is hard to pass up a taste test at this store. They also offer baskets, tins, and trays for campers who wish to spend a bit more and purchase a gift or a souvenir.
Just down the road from The Chocolate Tree is a large park full of a wide variety of play equipment for children of different ages. The older kids might want to check out the huge rainbow-shaped see-saw while the younger kids may love to bounce on an animal. The playground is nicely shaded with bathroom facilities on site.
Active Play for Kids Near Hunting Island State Park Campground
People who camp at Hunting Island State Park near Hilton Head, South Carolina can enjoy a nice variety of engaging, unique activities located near the campground. Whether the family wants to look for dolphins and other aquatic animals on a boat ride, watch candy-making, or work off the extra calories at the YMCA, these short trips may provide leisure activities that are fun for the entire family.