As I’ve mentioned previously, I have a bit of a lighthouse obsession. One of my best memories from my growing up years is going on lighthouse tours in northern Michigan with my Nana. If there’s a lighthouse within a few hours of me, I’m going to see it.
The Hunting Island Lighthouse is a special one because it is the only publicly-accessible lighthouse in South Carolina (there are others that you can view from the outside or from a distance, but this is the only one that you can actually climb.) Built in 1859, the lighthouse served as an important beacon along the coastline until it was deactivated in 1933.
Concerned that the Union army would use the beacon for navigation, it was destroyed by the Confederate army near the beginning of the Civil War. It was rebuilt in 1875, and was uniquely designed to be able to be disassembled and moved, if necessary. This turned out to be essential, as in 1889 it had to be moved a mile away (to its current location) because of the rising tide.
Visitors can climb the 167 steps (about 130 feet) through the tower to the observation deck for 360’ views of the Atlantic Ocean, Hunting Island, and surrounding marshes (totally worth the climb.)
The light no longer functions, but when it was operational it was visible for 17 miles, warning ships to stay away from the dangerous rocks and currents near the coastline. Currently, the original Fresnel light is at the base of the lighthouse for visitors to view. Campers or night visitors to the island can get a feel of what it was like when the light was still functioning, as a rotating light has been placed in the tower to ‘mimic’ the original one. It’s not bright enough to be used for navigation out at sea, but adds a unique element to the island.
Located 15 miles east of Beaufort, SC, Hunting Island State Park is a beautiful, 5,000-acre park with three miles of peaceful beach and lots of wildlife. The island has a rich history as a popular stopover point for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard and crew. It was used by locals as hunting ground for raccoons, deer, and fowl, which is where it gets its (rather unfortunate) name. The island is a popular camping spot – if you’re looking to legally camp at the beach, Hunting Island is your spot!
Visiting the Hunting Island Lighthouse:
Hunting Island Lighthouse is located halfway between Charleston and Savannah, so if you’re on your way from one city to the other, you can pull a Blackbeard and make the island a stopover point!
For info on camping and other park-related things, visit their website.
Address: 2555 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920
There is a $2 fee to climb the lighthouse tower. Admission is from 10am – 4:45pm daily March – October, and 10am – 3:45 daily November – February.