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 last October. The Category 2 storm caused more than $5 million in damages, wiping out the dunes and oceanfront camp sites, destroying roads, restrooms and parking lots. Except for the Nature Center, Hunting Island has remained closed to the public, although parts of the park reopened on June 2.
While recovery efforts continue, the North Beach Day-Use area is now open, as well as the lighthouse, the lighthouse gift shop and picnic areas. South Carolina’s only publicly-accessible lighthouse was originally built in 1859 and rebuilt in 1875 following its destruction during the Civil War. In 1889, it was dismantled and relocated a mile inland due to severe beach erosion. Later, the lighthouse underwent 18 months of repairs beginning in 2003 to reinforce the 167 black cast iron stairs.
The Nature Center on the south end of the island is also open featuring live reptiles and exhibits highlighting the park’s natural resources with special programs offered several times a week, including an Interpretive Lighthouse Tour on July 13 & 20.
Photograph courtesy of Allyson Jones.
Hunting Island State Park is located 17 miles east of Beaufort on U.S. 21 (2555 Sea Island Parkway). Due to the parking shortage, a shuttle will run from St. Helena Elementary School. Call (843) 838-2011 or visit southcarolinaparks.com for program, parking and re-opening information.