EDIT on 10/13/16: Hunting Island is closed until the end of 2016 due to Hurricane Matthew.
Remember when I was wanderlusting about visiting Hunting Island back in May? Well, with Justin's permission, for Memorial Day weekend we took a detour on our way to Asheville, NC to visit Charleston, SC and this island/beach/public park. There was a hurricane moving in, so it was a tad bit overcast when we were there. Luckily, that didn't impact the beauty of the location too much; it just made it a bit more "moody" than it might have been otherwise.
Hunting Island is approximately one hour south of Charleston. The park is open between 6am and 6pm and costs $5 per person. While you can pay for the park entrance fee with credit card, be sure you have $2 cash per person if you want to climb the 130 foot high lighthouse (167 steps). If you keep your ticket to the lighthouse, you can enter again and again for the rest of the day, but keep in mind that only 20 people are allowed in at a time and children under a certain height (I don't remember how tall) are not allowed to enter the lighthouse at all.
Constructed in 1853, the original lighthouse was destroyed during the American Civil War; confederate soldiers were hoping to keep the union from using the lighthouse as a means of navigation. Nearly twenty years later, the current design was created by Major George H. Elliot; he designed the lighthouse so that it could be disassembled and moved as needed. Each section of the lighthouse weighs over 1200 pounds and is bolted together to form a shell that is lined with brick.
By 1888, the time had come to move the lighthouse inward. The ocean had risen within 35 feet of the lighthouse keeper's home due to beach erosion. Everything (the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper's home) was moved in by about a mile.
As you climb the black cast iron lighthouse steps, there are numerous platforms that will allow you to stop, take a break, and read a bit about the history of the lighthouse. Try picking up the 50 pound bucket that you will find on one of the levels; lighthouse keepers had to carry this bucket filled with oil up all 167 stairs every day in rain or shine to make sure the light in the lighthouse didn't go out!
On one side of the lighthouse, you will find a gift shop and some seating areas. Don't assume like we did that there will be food in the gift shop, unless you are looking for a tasty snickers ice cream bar! Yum! :) Drinks and ice creams in the gift shop cooler will cost far too much so consider bringing a picnic if you think you will get hungry while exploring Hunting Island Beach Park.
On the other side of the lighthouse, you will see the remains of the lighthouse keeper's home, the oil house, and the outhouse.
The lighthouse keeper's home burned to a crisp at the end of the 1930s, long after the lighthouse was decommissioned. Legend has it that the men sent to the island to build a bridge connecting St Helena and the Harbor Islands were playing cards one night when a lantern got knocked over starting a fire. Archeological digs uncovered the house foundation in the mid-90s
When you drive over Harbor Island Bridge to visit Hunting Island Beach Park, keep in mind that those bridges were not completed until the 1940s! This means that everything the lighthouse keeper (or assistant lighthouse keeper) needed, from equipment to care for the lighthouse to food and cleaning products for their home, all had to be brought by boat! The lighthouse keepers were essentially on their own during the 50 years the lighthouse was in service with supplies only being renewed with the arrival of boats. Plaques throughout the park pay tribute to the men who served the lighthouse and Hunting Island over the years.
Hunting Island State Park was a lovely place to visit for a day, even if rain drove us out after only a couple of hours on the shore. I especially loved the panoramic view from the top of the lighthouse, one of the only lighthouses with public access in South Carolina! The beach seemed like one from another world with beautiful trees lining the shore. The park plays host to a lot of locals rather than tourists, so Justin and I found Hunting Island Beach Park to be a great escape!
• $5 Entrance fee for the park
• $2 cash only entrance fee for the lighthouse
• Bring your own food/drink.
• No beach equipment available for rent
• located near Beaufort, SC
Learn more here.
Do you remember me talking about Hunting Island in May? Does this look like a park you would be interested in exploring?
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