This is the view that greeted us when we woke up at the Hunting Island State Park Campground on the morning of December 17th. How could we not have seen this when we pulled into our campsite last night?!? Because it was dark is the reason; very dark with no streetlights. We could hear the ocean waves and knew it was nearby, but boy-oh-boy were we surprised when we saw this long, unspoiled beach and knew this would be our view for a couple of days (that’s the top of Toad in the foreground) – we were so excited!
Hunting Island is about 15 miles south and east of Beaufort (BYOO-firt). It’s one of the few remaining undeveloped sea islands in Lowcountry. Bridges offer the only access to this wild, marshland paradise. Just off the beach strands, forests of palmettos and live oaks that are draped with Spanish Moss which, incidentally, is neither Spanish nor moss; it’s an air plant full of biting bugs. This sand island is laced with sleepy tidal creeks that offers premium shelling for the few beachcombers we encountered during our walk. The whole sea island is a state park, and our campground was right on the pristine beach strand.
As we walked southward down the beach, we came upon a most unusual site. It seems that surf and ocean waves have reclaimed some of the island as hers. What stands behind where there once were big oaks and palms is an eerie yet beautiful graveyard of dead trees.
And much further down, past the 19th-century lighthouse, visitor center, and nature center in the park, is a lone house on stilts out in the surf. Er… make that a former house. In researching this queer site, we learned that sometime around 1980, erosion destroyed a portion of the highway and some homes along the then oceanfront, and the frame of the house in the below photo is all that remains. Erosion is constant on a barrier island like Hunting Island, and up to 15 feet of land is lost each year if sand isn’t pumped back to re-nourish the beach area.
We really enjoyed the quiet beauty of Hunting Island, and would have loved to camp here longer, but alas, our schedule marches us on south….