Hidden in Plain Site: Six Spectacular Spots on Sea Islands
Hunting Island State Park Lighthouse
Located between Harbor Island and Fripp Island is the secluded and pristine 5,000-acre Hunting Island State Park.
Besides wonderful beaches for strolling, an iconic standout is the historic 19th-century lighthouse. Climb to the top for a spectacular view of the South Carolina coastline. The lighthouse and its complex are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With ample grounds for exploring and relaxing, this state park is the perfect place to bring a picnic while taking in the salty air.
Open throughout the year, the lighthouse is free to visit, with a modest fee to climb the 167 steps to the top.
Did you know: The Hunting Island State Park Light is the only publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina?
Construction had been started in 1859 but was halted when the tower was destroyed during the Civil War in 1862. Completed in 1890, when operational, the lighthouse was visible to ships within a 17-mile radius. The Light also provided sanctuary to passengers aboard The City of Savannah II during the 1893 Sea Islands Hurricane, after the ship was forced upon the nearby shoals.
A short driving distance from the Light and part of Hunting Island State Park, is the most spectacular photo-worthy location on the islands, Boneyard Beach. Located before crossing the bridge to Fripp Island, park your car at the Nature Center and walk a ¾ mile path through the Everglade-like flora and fauna, and prepare to be dazzled. The 2-mile stretch of beach is home to countless sun-bleached fallen trees that sit sentinel and ghostlike along the coastline and in the water.
Did you know: Hunting Island is South Carolina’s single most popular state park, attracting more than a million human visitors a year. (Hunting Island FAQs | South Carolina Parks Official Site)
The tree graveyard is one of the most picturesque features to be found in the Lowcountry. Uprooted oak trees, pines, and palmettos are strewn along the shoreline. Take time to look down as you walk along the water’s edge to discover shark’s teeth or that special seashell to bring home as a souvenir.
Chapel of Ease and Ruins
Make sure to drive slowly as you travel down Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway off of Sea Island Parkway, or you may miss the shell of a former 1700’s church, the Chapel of Ease and Ruins. According to nationalregister.sc.gov, “the Anglican chapel was constructed in 1740 by planters on Saint Helena Island as a chapel of ease for parishioners who had difficulty traveling to worship at the main parish church in Beaufort, South Carolina. The ruins were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.”
The chapel and cemetery grounds are surrounded by South Carolina’s ever-present mossy oak trees. If you look closely at the remaining church structure, you will note hundreds of thousands of seashells embedded in the Tabby structure walls. “Tabby” is a mixture of shell, lime, and water.
Some reports say the grounds are haunted and if you visit the site near nightfall, it does not take a great leap of imagination to believe that to be true.
Did you know: The Fripp family tomb is located next to the Chapel of Ease and Ruins?
The Fripps comprised one of the largest plantation-clans in the Sea Island area, particularly Saint Helena Island. John Fripp came to South Carolina from England sometime in the late 1600’s. (Dissertation on John Fripp of South Carolina by Marshall Shore (beanweb.net). Their ancestors are buried at various sites in the area, including on the grounds of the chapel.
Pat Conroy’s Gravesite
Literary fans may want to visit St. Helena’s Memorial Garden to pay their respects to the gravesite of Southern author Pat Conroy, most noted for the book, “The Prince of Tides.” Conroy, who also wrote “The Great Santini” and “Lords of Discipline” died in 2016.
This small graveyard sits less than a mile from the Ease of Ruins on Earnest Drive. Visitors to his gravesite will note a large headstone and over the years, fans who have flocked there to pay tribute have left mementos such as ballpoint pens, baseballs, and notebooks.
Conroy attended Beaufort High School, and serious fans may also want to visit the Pat Conroy Literary Center for more information on this beloved author.
Did you know: It was in part due to his books made into movies that transformed Beaufort into a Hollywood film location favorite?
It seems only fitting to end this article with a quote from Conroy, a native son of South Carolina whose literary genius and life stressed the importance of discovery and travel: “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” ― Pat Conroy
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