Summer is almost here! You may be planning a staycation or a getaway to the Lowcountry. Either way, we highly recommend a scenic drive from downtown Beaufort to one of our favorite South Carolina State Parks, Hunting Island. It boasts miles of beautiful Atlantic beaches just steps from wild, natural habitats and walking trails. We’ve done this drive many times ourselves, and we have several ideas about what to bring and where to stop along the way! Remember, while you’re in the Lowcountry, it’s imperative to slow down and enjoy the drive!
Pack the Car
If you are planning to set up camp once you get to the beach, be sure to bring a picnic packed by Connie at The Cuthbert House Inn. Don’t have much beach gear? We have chairs, bicycles, and towels for guests to use. You can also stop at Higher Ground Outfitters for any sunscreen, coolers, or swimwear you may need. Their staff can also give you tips about the island or help you book a tour. Higher Ground is located on Lady’s Island, just over the infamous Woods Memorial Bridge out of downtown Beaufort.
Hit the Road!
The drive to Hunting Island State Park will take you through several historic sea islands. After Lady’s Island you will cross into historic St. Helena Island. As soon as you come over the bridge you will see Lowcountry Cider Co directly on your left. It’s worth the stop! Whether you’re looking for a sweet baked treat or an iced coffee, you’ll want to grab something to enjoy on the drive. They also have a beautiful back porch for sipping and enjoying the local flora and fauna.
You will also see the Gullah Geechee visitor center on your right as you continue through St Helena Island. Stop in and learn about the generations of Gullah Geechee residents living on the sea islands and ask about the opportunities to experience the art, culture, and history with a detour to Penn Center. A trip well worth the longer drive.
On Hunting Island
Hunting Island itself has plenty of options for activities and leisure. The history buffs will want to check out the lighthouse, the only one in the state that is publicly accessible. You can catch some incredible panoramic views if you climb to the top on a clear day.
The artists will want to book with Beaufort Photography Tours; we recommend the Boneyard Beach Sunrise Adventure. The secluded beach is a beautiful spot for dramatic and mesmerizing shots.
Those hoping for relaxation will want to bring a hammock and set up camp between two palm trees, listening to the waves come in, breaking only to look for sharks teeth or to watch for the occasional military plane headed to Parris Island.
For seclusion and personalized eco-tours, book a ferry to the neighboring St Phillips Island with Coastal Expeditions. Departing from the Hunting Island State Park Nature Center, the boat tour to St. Phillips Island is a naturalist-led eco-tour along the Story River to the St. Phillips Island dock. Once you reach the island, a park ranger will welcome everyone before boarding the tram to the beach.
Picture-Perfect Local Secrets
There are a myriad of perfect spots to stop for pictures, both historic and stunning. Some of our favorites are the St. Helena Prayer Chapel, Gay Fish Shrimp Co, and Machette Flats. Keep your eyes peeled as you drive toward the park, all of these spots will be on your right hand side. Blink and you’ll miss them! There is also a Marsh Boardwalk Trail (fans of Forrest Gump may recognize the scenery) which can be accessed via the southern entrance, across the road from the main park and beach access. Many first time visitors miss the opportunity to stop here.
Who isn’t hungry after a long day of hiking or lounging at the beach? On your way back to the mainland you have several options for great food. Stop at Beedos Burgers for an amazing fried shrimp basket or check out Foolish Frog for a fun atmosphere and picturesque view of the salt marsh. Our innkeepers Ed and Connie love to stop at the Johnson Creek Tavern, where you can watch ospreys feed their chicks right from the back deck.
If you’re not quite ready to head back, stop at one of the roadside farm stands, Barefoot Farms or Dempsey Farms. Both offer the opportunity to pick your own seasonal produce or take freshly picked fruits and veggies home with you. You may also want to check out local staples on St. Helena Island. At MacDonald Marketplace you can grab a bottle of wine for the evening and peruse local art and goodies.
Ready to explore the sea islands? Book a stay at Cuthbert House Inn, a historic antebellum mansion in beautiful Beaufort, SC.