Hunting Island, South Carolina

Oh, how the ocean has my heart. I do love forests and mountains and rivers and lakes but the ocean calls to my soul, unlike other places in nature. If I go too long without a visit I get weird and sad. Maybe it’s because my name literally means “of the sea.” Whatever the reason, I was so happy to get to the ocean! 

The Children didn’t understand why I was so excited about the ocean, they were like, “What’s the big deal?” I guess they haven’t spent enough time there to understand. So it touched my heart to see how they loved it. They had so much joy collecting treasures and exploring. Elijah said “We should come here more often” and Noah said, “We have to live by the ocean!”

I don’t generally love campgrounds, but our time at Hunting Island State Park was magical. The sites were just a short walk to the beach so we spent our days walking the beaches and collecting sand dollars. At low tide, the water was farther out than I’d ever seen and we explored way out and found horseshoe crabs and walked along the ocean floor.

The park has a really cool old lighthouse. For $2, we walked all 167 steps as we learned about its history and were rewarded with the most spectacular views.

South Carolina has an excellent Junior Ranger program. We had a class about alligators at the Nature Center and the children learned so much about the local sea life and park history. They earned their badges along with adorable hats and flashlights.

We’re from the west coast, so we’ve seen plenty of sunsets over the ocean. We’ve never seen a sunrise though. So, we got everyone up extra early and walked down to the beach with coffee and hot chocolate to make a core memory with our family.

sunrise at hunting island state park

Nearby we visited Botany Bay on Edisto Island. This is one of the most primitive beaches in the area and it was amazing! After a walk through the marsh, we stepped through the trees to a shoreline that looked like something you’d see on a film about pirates being shipwrecked on a deserted island. The beach is covered with huge driftwood trees washed ashore from hurricanes. There is a law there against collecting shells or taking anything from the beach. Because people can’t take, they don’t, therefore all the treasures of this magical place are there to be enjoyed. We spent the afternoon seeking and finding the most beautiful and humungous shells of all colors and shapes. We followed the lead of visitors before us and decorated the trees with them. This was one of my favorite days.

Driving in this area you will find cute little shack shops along the streets selling sweetgrass baskets. We stopped and spoke with the artist who explained that the tradition of how to weave these baskets this particular way began in West Africa and was brought along by her ancestors. The technique is passed down in families woman to woman, young girls learning from their mothers and grandmothers.  

Beaufort, the nearby town is a cute little place with southern seaside charm. Tom planned the perfect date with all my favorite things. First, we visited a local art gallery/visitors center dedicated to the works and history of the local Gullah people. Their history of being taken from Africa and forced into slavery is a very ugly part of American history but the way they have moved forward with resilience and weaved their culture into the south is one of the things that makes it such a beautiful place. I loved learning their stories and seeing their art.

Then we had a glorious bike ride on the Spanish Moss trail. We rode through the marsh and under the Oaks covered in Spanish Moss.

We almost missed Tom’s perfect timing of walking up the Port Royal boardwalk and observation tower for the perfect view of the sunset. We watched the sun fill the sky with rich colors that looked more like a painting than real life and we reflected on how beautiful this life is.

port royal boardwalk and observation tower

Where we Stayed:

After two years of travel, Hunting Island State Park has been one of our favorite campgrounds. The sites are simple, nothing super special about them but the close access to the beach and all the park has to offer make it a really special place to stay. The campground has playgrounds for kids, water and electric sites, showers and a laundromat. 

What I read:

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Technically it is set in North Carolina, but either way, it’s the marsh. Owen’s writing makes the landscape come alive and it gave me an extra special connection with the land as I was visiting. The story weaves history, mystery and love into beautiful descriptions of nature. You’ll love it, promise. 

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