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Hunting Island is 'wealthy' in animal, plant life


March 02, 2018

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Located a short drive north of the popular beach destination of Hilton Head, Hunting Island is a nature lover’s paradise. Over a million people visit this state park each year to relax, hike, and to enjoy all of the natural beauty the South’s barrier islands have to offer.

Hunting Island was designated a state park in 1935 and is still the most visited state park in South Carolina. It owes at least some of its continued popularity to its historic lighthouse which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. The light is the only publically accessible lighthouse in the state and, while it is no longer in use and the original lenses are on public display, a smaller lamp is maintained and in permanent use. The lighthouse was rebuilt after its destruction by Confederate forces during the Civil War. The original structure was built in 1859. Lighthouse tours begin at 10 a.m. daily with the last tour running at 4:45 p.m. Tickets are $2 per person.

The park is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily with the park office and nature center observing more limited hours. The nature center houses several species of reptile and amphibian native to the island, including the American alligator. Located at the south end of the island, it is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The biggest draw to Hunting Island, as promised, is the wealth of animal and plant life which calls the island home. Loggerhead sea turtles return annually to the island’s 5 miles of beaches to build their nests. Around 3,000 acres of salt marsh provide a habitat for deer, raccoons, alligators, egrets, herons, and wood storks along with various crabs and fish. The island’s 8 miles of hiking and biking trails wind through mature maritime forests where keen-eyed birders may spot migratory species like orioles, tanagers, and painted buntings. Another great place to spot wildlife is the man-made lagoon which the wildlife has truly made their own. Species rare to shallow Atlantic coastal waters such as Barracuda and even sea horse have been spotted.

Though the park suffered damage in last year’s hurricanes, all facilities are back open and the majority of the trails are accessible, though fishing is still prohibited at this time. Make sure to check at the park office to see which areas are open for visitors. The entry fee for Hunting Island is $5 for adults and $3 for children 6-15.


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