Where is Hunting Island State Park
Located on South Carolina’s eastern coast, Hunting Island State Park is an isolated barrier island that is known for its natural environment. The environment at the state park is widely undeveloped earning it designation as a part of the ACE Basin estuarine reserve. The land hosts a variety of marine and coastal vegetation and wildlife. Visitors arriving at Hunting Island State Park can expect to find acres of pristine beach, dense coastal forests, and marshland. The state park’s most notable feature is the 19th century lighthouse it holds. Hunting Island State Park lies between Charleston and Savannah, Georgia. Charleston, South Carolina sits 88 miles and a two-hour drive north of the park. Savannah sits 60 miles and an hour and fifteen-minute drive south of Hunting Island US State Park.
How Large is Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island State Park covers over 5,000 acres. The park is the most visited state park site in South Carolina and is one of the most popular Sea Islands on the east coast. Over the years the park has been featured in several magazines and won various awards. Recently, Hunting Island State Park was voted to be one of the top 25 beaches in the United States by TripAdvisor. The state park’s total beachfront territory totals over four miles, and the Hunting Island State Park trail system nearly totals ten miles. The park’s longest hiking and biking trail is the Island Loop trail that extends and traverses several of the park’s ecosystems.
Hunting Island State Park Weather
The weather at Hunting Island State Park remains rather warm and sunny for most of the year. However, in the summer months, the park can also experience hurricane activity and weather systems. Summer temperatures in the park average between 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In winter, temperatures in the park cool slightly and hover between 35- and 60-degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest temperatures of the year appear in Hunting Island State Park in January and February. The warmest temperatures arrive at the park in June, July, and August. On average, the park experiences around 75 days of precipitation a year. Rainfall totals in the park average around 45 inches per year.
When did Hunting Island Become a State Park
Hunting Island State Park first became a state park in 1935 when the South Carolina government and the Civilian Conservation Corps coordinated the creation of several park buildings and bridges. Over the years, the Hunting Island State Park beach has experienced heavy erosion on its southern edge due to heavy tides resulting from the Atlantic Ocean and Saint Helena Sound confluence. However, most of the island has remained unaffected and also undeveloped. The lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park has been recorded on the National Register of Historic Places and while not functional, features a rotating light that is turned on at night.
Things to do at Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island offers its visitors a variety of outdoor experiences. Our State Park Visitors Guide outlines the park’s most popular and notable adventures below.
Visit the Visitor Center
The Hunting Island State Park visitor center is the best place for visitors to start their adventure. The visitor center is located next to a small lagoon and connected to the park’s trail system. Park staff at the visitor center can provide brochures, maps, and pamphlets that answer generalized questions about the park. The staff can also answer specific questions about the park’s ecology, history, and future.
Explore the Nature Center
The nature center at Hunting Island State Park is a great place for visitors to gain an education on the park’s various habitats and ecosystems. Exhibits within the nature center feature live animals and displays that discuss several of the park’s wildlife and vegetation species. The nature center is located near the Paradise Fishing Pier.
Hike the Island Loop
The Island Loop trail allows visitors to traverse the maritime forest and the lagoon present in Hunting Island State Park. The loop trail is 6.1 miles long and rated as moderate because of its length. Visitors deciding to embark down the trail stand a good chance of spotting several wildlife species that reside in the park.
Enjoy a Beach Day
With over four miles of pristine beach to explore, visitors of Hunting Island State Park may want to have more than one beach day during their stay. The central and northern beach areas best suited for visitor use. The southern section of the beach is heavily eroded due to heavy tides that have formed in the Atlantic.
The Marsh Boardwalk trail in Hunting Island State Park is a famous stop for photographers visiting the park. The short .4-mile trail traverses the park’s marsh habitat through a series of boardwalks. Visitors hiking the trail will also arrive at a boardwalk deck overlooking a tidal creek.
Set up Camp
The campground at Hunting Island State Park contains 102 modern campsites that are fully equipped with electric and water hookups. The campground also contains modern bathrooms and hot showers. Tent campers and recreation vehicles are allowed to occupy any campsite. Reservations for campsites can be made through the park’s website and reservation portal.
Hunting Island State Park provides a home to a variety of wildlife species. Visitors interested in spotting various wildlife found in the park can consult the visitor center with where to start looking. Popular wildlife found in the park includes loggerhead turtles, deer, alligators, racoons, and diamondback rattlesnakes.
Look for Hatching Turtles
Visitors arriving at Hunting Island State Park in the summer may get lucky enough to spot volunteers with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources locating and protecting loggerhead turtle nests. Visitors that come across a sea turtle in the wild should report the sighting to park officials as soon as possible and never interfere with the turtle and its behavior.
When to Visit Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island State Park can be visited during every season. However, visitation in the park peaks in the summer season when temperatures are the highest in the park. Visitors looking to camp in Hunting Island State Park during their summer trip to the park should make reservations months in advance. Spring, fall, and winter are also great times to visit the park. These seasons offer smaller crowds and increased campground availability.
Must Have Items to bring to Hunting Island State Park
A trip to Hunting Island State Park requires a little packing and planning. Several essential items visitors should consider bringing with them when they visit the park are listed below.
Water and High Energy Snacks
Every trip outdoors requires water and a few high energy snacks. List of Parks suggest to hikers and campers in the park to bring additional water and snacks such as beef jerky, trail mix, and protein bars.
Swimsuit, Sunglasses, and Sunscreen
A beach day requires beach supplies. A swimsuit, sunglasses, and sunscreen will allow every visitor to enjoy time on the Hunting Island State Park beach while still being protected from the sun. Visitors may also want to bring a cooler full of ice to store all of their beach day drinks and snacks.
Sturdy Hiking Boots
The trails at Hunting Island State Park traverse a variety of terrain. A sturdy pair of hiking boots should be worn by any visitor embarking down any park trails. Avid hikers or visitors looking to hike more in the near future should opt to invest in a waterproof and lightweight pair.
Bug Spray and a Hat
Bug spray and a hat are also helpful items to bring to Hunting Island State Park. These items will protect visitors from the island’s insects. The hat can also provide shade and protect visitors from the midday sun.
Anglers visiting Hunting Island State Park should look to bring all of their fishing equipment and tackle. The park contains several fishing areas where anglers can set a hook. A valid South Carolina fishing license is required to fish in the park.
Where to Stay in Hunting Island State Park
Visitors looking to stay in Hunting Island State Park should make a reservation for one of the park’s various campsites. These reservations should be made well in advance for summer trips to the park and can be made through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors of the park looking to stay in a nearby hotel can checkout options in Beaufort, Port Royal, or elsewhere on St. Helena Island. Extended options are available in Charleston and Savannah, Georgia if visitors are willing to drive. Charleston is about a two-hour drive away from the park. Savannah is one hour south of Hunting Island State Park.
Food Near Hunting Island State Park
The closest food to Hunting Island State Park resides in Beaufort, Port Royal, and elsewhere on St. Helena Island. These cities contain various restaurants and grocery stores that can provide visitors with needed sustenance and supplies. Visitors looking for more options or a large culinary scene can either travel north or south of the park. Charleston is two hours north of the park, and Savannah is one hour south of the park. Each city contains a booming downtown center complete with various restaurants, shops, and bars.
Airports Near Hunting Island State Park
The closest airport to Hunting Island State Park is located in Savannah, Georgia. The Savannah - Hilton Head International Airport is located 63 miles and an hour and fifteen-minute drive south of the park. The next closest airport to the park is located in Charleston. The Charleston International airport is 90 miles and about an hour and forty-five-minute drive north of the park.