Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise

Hunting Island, the most popular state park in South Carolina, attracts more than a million visitors annually and was recently named a top 10 beach Trip Advisor.

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the well-preserved, five-mile stretch of South Carolina coast you’ll find a maritime forest, the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state, and the pristine sandy beach.

Hunting Island State Park is only 29 miles off Interstate 95, the main corridor between Florida and the Northeast, approximately halfway between Savannah and Charleston.

Approximately 3 miles long and 1 mile wide, the park encompasses 5,000 acres of sandy beach, maritime forest, and saltwater marsh. It is classified as a true semitropical island.

The island got its name because it was once used for hunting deer, raccoon, and other small game animals and waterfowl. Once used as the hunting preserve for wealthy planters’ families, Hunting Island was renowned for its hunting parties that lasted several days.

Hunting Island possesses the best developed slash pine-palmetto forest in the state and is one of the best sites to observe South Carolina’s state tree, the Cabbage Palmetto, in its native habitat.

Cabbage palmettos stretch out onto the sands of the magnificent beach, which is more than 400 feet wide in places at low tide.

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beautiful beach is not the only attraction at Hunting Island. The salt marsh is one of the most productive habitats in the world. Rich in nutrients, the salt marsh provides food and shelter for many different life forms. It is the home of waterfowl, small mammals, and many amphibians and reptiles.

Most marine life is also directly or indirectly dependent on the salt marsh. Some, such as the shrimp, live and spawn in the sea as adults but come into the shallow productive waters of the salt marsh to mature. Others, such as the fiddler crab, spawn in the marshes; then the young swim out to sea where they remain until nearly grown.

Many animals spend their entire lives in the marsh while others visit the marsh for food. There are few places on earth where plant and animal life are so varied, so abundant, so unusual, and so fascinating.

Probably the most spectacular feature of Hunting Island is its 19th-century lighthouse, which stands with three remaining original structures in the middle of the park.

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hunting Island Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in South Carolina that is publicly accessible. From the top of one of the most distinctive lighthouses in South Carolina, guests can stand 130 feet above the ground to take in the breathtaking, panoramic view of the Atlantic Coast and surrounding maritime forest.

The lighthouse tower is open for climbing; hours vary seasonally. For an admission of $2, visitors can climb the 167 steps and walk around the observation deck for a lofty view of the barrier island and surrounding seascape.

The lighthouse was closed for repairs in May 2003 when cracks were discovered in several of its cast-iron steps. In a renovation that spanned more than 18 months, construction crews not only repaired the cracks, but installed steel braces beneath them for reinforcement. Left unpainted, the silver-gray braces stand out in sharp contrast to the black cast-iron stairs. The contrast helps distinguish between the original structure and modern improvements, which protect the lighthouse’s historic integrity.

The original structure was built in 1859 and rebuilt in 1875 after it was destroyed during the Civil War. A unique feature of the lighthouse is that it was constructed of interchangeable cast-iron sections so it could be dismantled should it ever need to be moved. Severe beach erosion made it necessary to relocate the lighthouse 1.3 miles inland in 1889.

RV and tent camping is available at the northern end of the park near the ocean. Each of the 200 sites has water and electrical hookups; 102 sites offer 20/30/50-amp electric service. Some sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet; other up to 28 feet. In addition 10 trail sites with access to water are available for tent campers. Camping reservations are available. Complimentary Wi-Fi is now available in the campground. Dump stations are located at the exit of each campground area.

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To begin and end your day, be sure to catch the splendor of the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and the sunset over the salt marsh.

Although plenty of activities can keep you occupied, the true beauty of Hunting Island is its atmosphere—a blend of sights and sounds that almost forces you to relax, to escape the rush of today’s life, to forget that the interstate is less than 30 minutes away.

The park is open year-round, and in the off season its solitude and charm are even more pronounced.


Hunting Island State Park

Admission: $5; children ages 6-15, $3

Lighthouse admission: $2

RV Camping: $17-38

Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hunting Island State Park: South Carolina Paradise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Address: 2555 Sea Island Parkway, Hunting Island, SC 29920

Phone: (843) 838-2011

Directions: If traveling north on I-95, take Exit 8 (SR-170); if you’re traveling south, take Exit 42 (US-21 south); both routes leads through Beaufort (state park is 16 miles east of Beaufort on US-21)

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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Piggly Wiggly and South Carolina State Parks Partner on Annual Passport

Piggly Wiggly and the South Carolina Park Service are teaming up this Christmas season to give their customers a great deal on an annual State Park Passport.

Piggly Wiggly customers can get a 20 percent discount on an annual pass at Piggly Wiggly stores in the Lowcountry and the Midlands. The pass is good for everyone in your family or in your vehicle.

“We really are excited to have Piggly Wiggly as a partner in this promotion,” Duane Parrish, Director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT), said in a news release.

“And let me stress that this really is a great deal for Piggly Wiggly customers. If you are a family of four visiting Charles Towne Landing just three times during the year, the passport pays for itself!”

Piggly Wiggly will sell three different park passports. Customers will get a voucher at the store and can redeem it for a park passport at any state park.

The voucher can be redeemed any time in 2013. That’s important because it means current park passport holders can redeem their voucher whenever their current passport expires.

“Piggly Wiggly has been “Local Since Forever” and the beautiful natural resources showcased and preserved in South Carolina’s State Parks have truly been around forever.  The Pig family saw this partnership as a great opportunity to give our customers a significant admission discount to South Carolina State Parks,” said David Schools, President and CEO of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company.

Hunting Island is South Carolina’s single most popular state park, attracting more than a million visitors a year, as well as a vast array of land and marine wildlife. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Providing additional value to our customers builds loyalty to Piggly Wiggly, and if our partnership with SCPRT brings more South Carolinians into our state’s wonderful parks, it will be an exciting result.”

A great Christmas present could be the Park Passport Plus. The 20 percent discount means the cost drops from $99 to just under $80. Not only is it good at all 47 state parks, customers get a copy of the state park coffee table book, Beautiful Places, and many other free benefits at state parks.

Lowcountry residents will probably want to buy the Statewide Passport good at all 47 state parks. The 20 percent discount means the price is only $60.

Midlands’ residents will most likely be interested in the Inland Park Passport good at 42 parks (excluding 5 coastal parks). The 20 percent discount means the price is only $40.

“If you live anywhere along the coast, the Piggly Wiggly discount really is a great deal for you” says South Carolina State Park Director Phil Gaines.

“Our regular visitors come by places like Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park 20 to 30 times a year. The savings really add up quickly when you think about each visit costs $5 a person.”


South Carolina State Parks

Stunning forested mountains and towering waterfalls, blackwater rivers and scenic inland lakes, white sand beaches and ancient island shores, treasured American historic sites and priceless cultural treasures.

With more than 80,000 acres of protected lands from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the sand dunes of the Atlantic, South Carolina State Parks protect some of the most inviting natural, cultural and recreational destinations in the US.

At scenic State Parks, you’ll find the best boating, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking in South Carolina. One of the original 13 Colonies, South Carolina’s significant contributions to American history are brought to life in historic parks throughout the state.

A popular family, sporting, and group vacation destination, South Carolina State Parks feature cabins and villas, campgrounds, picnic areas, meeting rooms, and even equestrian stables.

Phone: (803) 734-1700 or (866) 224-9339 (toll free)


Park Passport Rules & Benefits:

Piggly Wiggly

Take it from Mr. Pig: When it comes to value and freshness, you can’t beat Piggly Wiggly.

Piggly Wiggly, America’s first true self-service grocery store, was founded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1916 by Clarence Saunders.

Today, with over 600 stores in 17 states, Piggly Wiggly brings home the bacon for millions of American families.


Worth Pondering…

Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning,

—Gus Kahn, 1922

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