Hunting Island State Park

The ACE is the land within the horseshoe formed by the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers. Carolina Bays pock the northern section of the region1, but along the coast, waterways twist and wind, branching and spreading into the land like tree roots. It is, as the Marine Resources Research Institute calls it, a land of "sea islands, marsh islands, and barrier islands that are interlaced by estuaries, extensive salt marshes, intertidal areas, and oyster reefs."1 The result? Islands spaced beside one another like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in progress. In an odd coincident, in places, the topography somewhat resembles this canopy of pine that we spotted along the trail:

Within this "Sea Island Complex"1 is Hunting Island. Once a hunting ground for private citizens3, this lush barrier island is now a state park, and it was the first stop on our ACE tour.

Having visited Hunting Island SP in 2005 or 2006, going in we knew to expect a Visitor's Center with a pond and real-live Lowcountry alligator, a marshwalk, and a beautiful lighthouse. We found all but the alligator, but spent little time at most of these attractions. Our goal for this trip was to learn more about the park, and to do so by hiking.

Hunting Island SP has several hiking trails. Two main trails form a long oval, with smaller trails connecting the two at various intervals. From the Visitor's Center, we started on the Maritime Forest Trail, a mixed forest of palmettos and pines, moss-covered oaks twisted with time, with a forest floor covered with what looked like fan palms.

About a quarter mile into the hike, we cut to our left, to the Lagoon Trail. This path runs parallel to a man-made lagoon, where we spotted a pelican flying overhead. A scenic stop on this very scenic route.

We continued on toward the cabins. While at the Visitor's Center, I learned the park no longer accepts reservations for the cabins, as the erosion so prevalent in the coast is quickly claiming the area around the structures. In Coastal South Carolina, Terrance Zepke indicates Hunting Island is eroding both at the northern tip of the island, and at the central beach. Before reaching the path that would take us to the cabins, we cut to the right, crossed the road, and took a tour of the Marshwalk.

Once past the gazebo, we continued on to the tidal creek, where we watched egrets soar over the marsh.

We doubled back and took the Maritime Forest Trail, searching for wildlife as we hiked back to our car. SC's state park site states Hunting Island has "an array of wildlife, ranging from loggerhead sea turtles to painted buntings, barracudas to sea horses, alligators, pelicans, dolphins and deer, raccoons, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and even the rare coral snake (I did not know that). We saw an abundance of squirrels, a pelican, and a lone woodpecker. But the forest was a sight to see, and we enjoyed our time on the trail.

But our time at Hunting Island wasn't over. We couldn't leave without seeing the lighthouse.

According to Zepke's Lighthouses of the Carolinas, this structure was built in 1875, and was moved once to avoid erosion. Today, visitors not terrified of heights can walk to the top of the lighthouse for a small fee.

In addition to hiking, boating, bike riding, camping, picnicking, kayaking, or spending time on the beach are other activities one can enjoy at Hunting Island State Park. For more information, including entrance and camping fees, go to

3. Coastal South Carolina: Welcome to the Lowcountry, Zepke Terrance (Pineapple Press, 2006) p 217


Paul Cuenin said...

Great Post! Glad you guys enjoyed your visit. Erosion is a problem but I understand that the groins being put in on the beach to slow it have just accelerated the problem.

Kimberli said...

Thanks, Paul, and btw, I love your blog!

I'd heard the efforts to stem the erosion didn't work out as planned. I suppose it's the nature of a barrier island, though. One has to wonder what Hunting Island will look like in ten years. Talk about not taking something for granted!

Bill Barber said...

Great post, Kim! You are right - as sad as it is, it is the nature of a barrier island!

Kimberli said...

Thanks, Bill. Hunting Island is a sight to see though, isn't it?

And again, great photos! I loved your recent work in the Charleston area.

Kelvin Taylor said...

Enjoyed the TR. Yet another place worth visiting in the Carolinas. A nice time to visit w/out the hoards of thristy insects.

Kimberli said...

Thanks, KT. Yes, Lowcountry mosquites are large and quite irritating at times. Winter and spring are excellent times to visit if you're not a fan of deet!