A WILD Winter

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge Photos courtesy of Allyson Jones

Explore the great outdoors this season and enjoy exceptional hiking and biking opportunities at area nature preserves, state parks and greenways.

Bluffton

Buckwalter Place Greenway Trail

This 1.35-mile scenic trail attracts residents and visitors alike. Enjoy the opportunity to explore nature at your own pace. A free interpretive walking guide is available for download by scanning a QR code conveniently located on nature trail signs located on-site. buckwaltersc.com/recreation.html.

New River Trail

A linear recreational pathway hugging both sides of May River Road, the New River Trail is ideal for walking, running or biking. Part of the East Coast Greenway, this 5.2-mile pathway runs along a former railroad bed that once supported the Seaboard Air Railway. Wind through hardwood forests, former rice fields and grassy paths while keeping an eye out for wildlife. townofbluffton.sc.gov/engineering-department/public-works/parks.

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

This National Wildlife Refuge once served as the plantation of Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a prominent lawyer active in South Carolina politics from 1801 to 1815. Today, this 4,053-acre refuge offers a wide range of ecosystems—including tidal saltmarshes, forests, fields and freshwater ponds which support bird and plant life and is ideal for hiking. Home to bobcats, alligators, white-tailed deer, raptors, ibis, herons and egrets, Pinckney Island offers scenic beauty and tranquility. Naturalists are available to guide tour groups through interpretive programs and exhibits. fws.gov/refuge/Pinckney_Island/about.html.

Hardeeville

Sergeant Jasper Park Photos courtesy of Jasper County Parks & Recreation

Sergeant Jasper Park

Discover 321 acres of natural beauty in Jasper County. This Hardeeville nature destination is ideal for year-round biking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, disc golf and other outdoor activities. Birding opportunities abound, so be sure to bring your binoculars! jaspercountysc.gov/departments/departments-i-w/sgt-jasper-park.

Hunting Island

Hunting Island State Park

South Carolina’s most popular state park, Hunting Island features five miles of beaches, thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, a saltwater lagoon and more. Don’t miss the Hunting Island Lighthouse, which stands 130 feet tall, providing spectacular views of the ocean and the surrounding maritime forest. Stay overnight at one of 100 campsites (two-night minimum required) to immerse yourself in natural beauty. southcarolinaparks.com/hunting-island.

Town of Port Royal Cypress Wetlands
Photos courtesy of Allyson Jones

Town of Port Royal Cypress Wetlands

Developed by the Town of Port Royal, the Cypress Wetlands offers boardwalks, paved pathways and roadside trails, forming a loop around the wetlands. Explore cypress and tupelo swamps and enjoy breathtaking views of native flora and fauna, from wading birds to river otters. portroyal.org.

Savannah

Oatland Island Wildlife Center Photos: Oatland Island Wildlife Center

Oatland Island Wildlife Center

Oatland Island Wildlife Center features informative outdoor displays showcasing live creatures native to coastal Georgia, like wolves, bison, cougars, bobcats, bald eagles and reptiles. There’s a two-mile trail that loops around the area, taking you through the marshes and brush of the area, leading from one exhibit to another. oatlandisland.org.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Photos courtesy of Allyson Jones

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Immerse yourself in local flora and fauna at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Established on the remains of an 18th-century rice plantation, the refuge is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Stop by the Visitor Center and then explore more than 40 miles of trails and a driving loop where you can spot alligators lounging in the water and migrating waterfowl feeding in rivers and waterways. fws.gov/refuge/savannah.

Skidaway Island State Park

Skidaway Island State Park covers over 500 acres and has six miles of hiking trails winding through marshes, forests and salt flats. There’s plenty to do here, from bird watching to bike rentals, camping, hiking and an array of workshops. Plus, there are plenty of picnic tables, as well as an open-air station with exceptional panoramic views of the coastal ecosystem. gastateparks.org/skidawayisland.

Hilton Head Island

Audubon Newhall Preserve 

Owned and operated by the Hilton Head Audubon Society, this natural treasure is located off Palmetto Bay Road and includes 50 acres with trails meandering through several distinct coastal ecosystems. The preserve, which is part of the Hilton Head Island Birding Trail, is a favorite for local birders as well as outdoor enthusiasts. hiltonheadaudubon.org.

Sea Pines Forest Preserve

Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn

Explore this 68-acre property, which is owned by the Town of Hilton Head Island and is one of the few remaining open spaces on the Island. Highlights include the Karen Wertheimer Butterfly Enclosure, the Heritage Crops Garden, the Mary Ann Peeples Pavilion, The Tom Peeples Discovery Lab and a Camellia Garden featuring more than 130 varieties of this stunning winter-blooming flower. coastaldiscovery.org.

Sea Pines Forest Preserve

Measuring more than 600 acres, the Sea Pines Forest Preserve is the largest tract of undeveloped land on Hilton Head Island. Hike, bike or ride horseback through lush maritime forests, beneath a thick emerald tree canopy. Don’t miss the Wildflower Field and Butterfly Garden or the ancient Native American Shell Ring. Trail maps are available at the Greenwood Drive entrance. seapinesliving.com.

Coastal Georgia

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island is a national park for those in need of a serious wilderness adventure. The island’s 19,000 acres—which include 18 beaches, five campsites and a forest full of trails—are mostly free from any sign of civilization. The only exceptions are a few historic homes built before the island became a national park, such as Plum Orchard Mansion that served as a seasonal home for the Carnegie family. Keep an eye out for wild horses meandering along the beaches and forest trails. nps.gov/cuis.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Harris Neck has been a haven as far back as the year 1500, when the Guale Indians lived in the area. In 1962, Harris Neck was designated a protected wildlife refuge. Today, the area is home to 350 bird species, including endangered wood storks, as well as alligators, salt marshes, coastal hammocks and more. fws.gov/refuge/harris_neck.

Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island offers some of the best beaches on the East Coast. Here, you can take your dog for a run along the pristine shoreline of South Dunes or Glory Beaches, tie a hammock to the branches and roots of the fallen trees on Driftwood Beach or rent a bike and cycle the 20-plus miles of trails. jekyllisland.com.



Featured Articles

Hunting Island

With five miles of pristine beach, an historic lighthouse, a nature center, a saltwater lagoon and ocean inlet, fishing pier, trails through acres of marsh and maritime forests and oceanfront camping, Hunting Island State Park attracts more than a million visitors each year. South Carolina’s most popular state park was forever changed after Hurricane Matthew hit […]

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Featured Articles

A WILD Winter

Explore the great outdoors this season and enjoy exceptional hiking and biking opportunities at area nature preserves, state parks and greenways. Bluffton Buckwalter Place Greenway Trail This 1.35-mile scenic trail attracts residents and visitors alike. Enjoy the opportunity to explore nature at your own pace. A free interpretive walking guide is available for download by scanning […]

2017 Lowcountry Marine Environment Year in Review

Sea turtles, dolphin and fish…Oh my! SEA TURTLES Since January of 2017, there have been 30 sea turtle strandings in the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton area. Eight of these turtles were still alive and transported to the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Charleston by the “Amberlance.” If you have not been to the South Carolina Aquarium, or it […]

Understanding the Importance of the Port Royal Battlefield

The fate of an important South Carolina Revolutionary War battlefield is still uncertain in Beaufort Country. While it is common for Revolutionary War battlefields to possess something of historic note, the 1779 Battle of Port Royal Island stands out with brow-raising distinction. Although conservative in size to other South Carolina battles, this was the state’s […]

Beaufort named The South’s Best Small Town in 2017

Each year Southern Living releases a whole set of lists boasting “The South’s Best,” which include a little bit of everything, from bookstores to breakfast spots and BBQ joints, not to mention beaches, islands and cities. In their 2017 accolades, Beaufort, South Carolina landed the number one spot and was named “The South’s Best Small […]

Gullah Heritage History

In the late 1600s, enslaved West Africans were brought to the Georgia and South Carolina sea islands to tend the rice and cotton fields. As the Emanciapation Proclamation brought freedom, many fled to Hilton Head Island and its Union Army outpost to start the first freedman’s village in the United States: Mitchelville. Many of the […]