Wednesday, September 1, 2021 / by Sonya Reiselt
Just 17 miles east of Beaufort lies a paradise oasis unlike any other: Hunting Island State Park. With a long weekend ahead, it’s the perfect time to enjoy this popular destination for both locals and tourists, alike, and experience the best that the Lowcountry outdoors has to offer. There’s a reason why this remarkable park attracts a million visitors each year and it won’t take you long to figure out exactly why!
Hunting Island boasts a beautiful historic lighthouse that also happens to be the only one that has public access in the state. Admission is $2 per person and visitors will find the 167 steps to the top well worth it when they take in the picturesque view of the barrier island and the vast seascape! Tickets are by reservation only either online or in-person.
There are many trails within the park that are fit for people of all levels of expertise! Whether you’re looking for a challenge or a casual stroll with the kids, Hunting Island has an option to suite you! Here are some of the most popular trails within the park:
· Breach Trail – One of the easier trails that are only a length of .2 miles. It’s a perfect little walk to the breach in the lagoon and its ever-changing ecosystem.
· Diamondback Rattlesnake Trail – This 1.9-mile trail is ideal for experienced both hikers and bikers, alike, as it’s of moderate difficulty with a couple of difficult areas to get through.
· Little Hunting Loop Trail – An easy, .5-mile trail that allows visitors to explore a small island, lovingly known as “Little Hunting Island”, that was created due to damage from hurricanes Matthew and Irma. It’s also a loop trail, making it a wonderful option for families with children.
· Magnolia Forest Trail – A trail meant for both hikers and bikers that is a total of 1.2-miles. This trail is ideal for guests looking for access from the campgrounds to the beach, lighthouse, lagoons, entrance, and visitor center.
· Maritime Forest Trail – A wonderful option if you’re hoping to see some wildlife! A total of 2 miles, this easy trail will take you into the forest, which houses many different kinds of birds, deer, and other animals local to the area.
There are over 5 miles of beaches and shoreline to enjoy while visiting Hunting Island, all of which is ideal for so much more than just swimming! When you’re visiting, you’ll experience ample opportunities for fishing, dolphin watching, boating, paddling, and shell collecting. When visiting the beaches, make sure to catch the best sunset in all of the Lowcountry on the Marsh Boardwalk! If you’re camping in the park with your dog, they are also permitted on many parts of the shoreline.
There are over 100 campsites, between two grounds, located within Hunting Island, all of which are just a couple of steps from the ocean. Able to accommodate both tents, as well as RVs (up to 40 ft.), camping is the perfect option for a long weekend if you’re looking to enjoy everything that Hunting Island has to offer! Dogs are also allowed on all sites as long as they are on a leash.
If you’re looking for an educational experience while visiting Hunting Island, make sure to take full advantage of the nature center. Here you’ll have access to learn from the professional naturalists within the park to learn, and experience first-hand, about loggerhead sea turtle nesting and hatching season, kayak through the various lagoons and get up close with native wildlife such as large birds and alligators!
While the Lowcountry is more than fortunate to have its fair share of outdoor oases within it, there really is nothing quite like a visit to Hunting Island. From the scenic views, from sunup until sundown, to the ever-changing ecosystem, it’s the perfect location for a day trip, long weekend, or a family favorite go-to spot!