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.