Beach Camping - Hunting Island State Park, SC
Looking for the perfect camping spot on the Atlantic Ocean located on a barrier island? Then I’ve got the camping spot for you – South Carolina’s Hunting Island State Park situated on the north end of Hunting Island. Converted into a state park by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s, it was once the private hunting preserve of the South Carolinian landed gentry. This 5000 acre park is home to multitudes of wildlife including deer and raccoons. The beach is a nesting ground for Loggerhead Turtles.
The ocean and beach are the obvious draws and you won’t be disappointed. Long stretches of unspoiled beach front this magnificent state park. Parts of the beach make you feel you are in the Jurassic Era with large timbers of driftwood, almost a tree boneyard, while other parts have a packed, sandy beach. It’s the perfect place to play in the surf, hunt for shells or catch a few rays all while staying in a great campground.
Hunting Island State Park Beach
Nothing beats a beautiful beach to fill your soul!
All Campsites are NOT Created Equal
Campers know that all campsites are NOT created equal. That being said, I’ve never had a bad time camping even in a less than perfect campsite. At Hunting Island some of the sites front directly on the beach especially if you are a tent camper. Check out sites 4, 5, 38 and 41 for tents, and sites 39, 46, 47, 48 and 50 for RVs or trailers. One thing to be aware of – the beach at parts of the campground have experienced severe erosion so it is possible in a few years that several more beachfront campsites will be lost.
Other campsites have a nice beach view such as sites 7, 8 or 9. Some sites are bordered by the sand dunes while others are nestled in the trees, a good walk from the beach. Be aware that there are several loops in this campground. You can see a park map of Hunting Island at http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/files/State%20Parks%20Files/Hunting%20Island/HI-CampgroundMap2012.pdf.
The further back you go in the campground, the further from the ocean you go. Each loop accommodates all size campers from tents to large rigs. Front loop sites offer 30 amp service and water hookups. Although sites 78, 80 and 82 don’t have a direct water view, these sites have some privacy and a place to walk my two dogs. In addition, each of these sites are less than a minute walk down the path to the beach, but dunes are in front of the camp sites. On the opposite end of the park, site 58 is nestled into the woods with plenty of room to walk dogs. This site is perfect for early spring and late fall camping. Larger rigs will appreciate the middle loop where 50 amp service and water is available. I like sites 91, 93, and 95, but 89 and 96 are good too. They are directly behind an easily navigable beach path. The far back loop is more densely wooded and quite lovely though it would be a longer walk to the beach. Bring a bike if you book there. The second and third loops are quite nice though, especially in the late fall and winter months when you need protection from the winds. Late November gets quite chilly and windy on the front loop.
Children and Pets
Both are welcome at Hunting Island. There is a great playground for children located in the second loop when the little ones are tired of the ocean and need another diversion. There is also ample space here to throw a football or Frisbee. The playground is centrally located so it is an easy walk or bike ride from most sites.
Pets must be leased at all times but are welcome on the beach. Hunting Island even provides doggie bags to keep the walkways and beaches clean.
The bathrooms at Hunting Island are state park bathrooms – nothing fancy but with plenty of hot water. Generally they are clean during the spring and fall, but could use an extra cleaning during summer when usage is heavy. There is a dump station conveniently located within the park and one as you exit the park.
A plus is that the park offers free Wi-Fi. I was able to stay connected by getting the code at the camp store. Be aware that connection is sometimes slow. Cell phone service was strong. If you are a television watcher and want to use your satellite, reception definitely depends on the site. This is a wooded island and the campground is full of coastal pines, palmettos and palms. Trees are great for shade, but not always conducive to receiving a satellite signal; plan accordingly. I was able to pick up several local stations though with my antenna.
Hunting Island State Park is one camping spot you do not want to miss. For more information on Hunting Island State Park, visit http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/huntingisland/introduction.aspx.
Essentials for Beach Camping
Don't forget: sunscreen, beach chairs, umbrella
Things to do When You are Tired of the Beach
I never tire of the ocean or beach, but if you need a break from the sun and surf, there are other activities for all ages.
Visit the Lighthouse
The Hunting Island lighthouse is the only lighthouse in South Carolina that you can climb. Admission is only $2.00 and the views of the ocean and marshland are breathtaking. By my count, there were 167 steps. If it is high tide or the tide is coming in, go by car or bike on the road or you will be stranded. It’s just a short ride from the campground. During low tide, the walk down the beach to the lighthouse is easy and you also get to view the “boneyard” of downed trees, which is an amazing site.
Visit the Marsh Boardwalk
The Marsh Boardwalk is located on the west side of the park on Highway 21, a very short drive from the campground. Here you can often view fiddler crabs, blue crabs, and birds such as egrets, blue herons, ospreys, and sometimes a bald eagle. If the timing is right and you get lucky, you just might see dolphin in the tidal creek. The views here are magnificent and one of the best spots to watch a sunset. Be sure and take your camera; there are some wonderful scenes just waiting to be captured by you.
Riding my bicycle is one of my favorite activities at Hunting Island and I don’t even have to leave the park campgrounds to see a diverse landscape or wildlife. There are great paved roads within the campground for bike riding. Streets are one way and most campers drive very slowly in the park so I feel quite safe. For those who want a longer bike ride, the Island Bike/Hike trail is 8 miles long and is open to both hiking and biking.
Pier and Nature Center
If you enjoy fishing, you can fish from the pier, which extends over 1200 feet into the Fripp Inlet and is located at the southern tip of the island. For pier fishing only, a South Carolina fishing license is not required. Rods and reels are available through the loaner program at the Nature Center. In addition to pier fishing, surf fishing is a popular activity and bait and tackle can be purchased at the campground park store.
Located near the pier is the Nature Center, which features wildlife and marine displays.
Visit Historic Beaufort
Sixteen miles east of Hunting Island is the coastal town of Beaufort. It is a precious Southern town just brimming with beautiful downtown houses and gardens. Take a walk in the area and come away with ideas for your own home or garden or sign up for a carriage tour. Stroll the downtown shopping district. Quaint shops abound - some quirky, some definitely southern, and all quite unique. Beaufort has a large arts scene and many galleries feature local artists. Don’t miss the waterfront park which overlooks the Beaufort River and the Intracoastal Waterway. It is a delightful setting and the perfect place to sit and dream awhile, rest, or even take a picnic lunch. Tables and “porch” swings face the water for easy relaxing and there is a children’s playground close by. Making it even more user friendly, public parking and restrooms are nearby. To learn more about Historic Beaufort visit http://www.beaufortsc.org/.