Hunting Island State Park

Named the best state park in South Carolina, Hunting Island State Park has so much to offer. With one of the only lighthouses in the state that is publicly accessible and active loggerhead sea turtle nests during summer months, Hunting Island is considered one of the best beaches on the east coast.

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Hunting Island

With miles of pristine beaches and sun-warmed Lowcountry waters, centuries of rich heritage and timeless adventure, Beaufort, South Carolina (SC) is more than a historic getaway. It’s a place that stays with you long after you leave.

We invite you to experience The Beaufort Inn and enjoy a complimentary Hunting Island beach pass (limited availability; first come, first serve) to the best state park in SC and one of the best beaches on the east coast.


Hunting Island Lighthouse

Please note visiting hours may vary due to COVID-19.

The historic lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park is the only publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina.

For an admission of $2, visitors can climb the 167 steps and walk around the observation deck for a lofty view of the barrier island and surrounding seascape.  CHILDREN MUST BE AT LEAST 44″ TALL TO CLIMB THE LIGHTHOUSE.  Only six visitors may enter the lighthouse at one time, with staggered entrance, to provide a more unique visitor experience and to assist in preserving this historic structure.

The tower is open for climbing at 10 a.m. daily, with the last admission accepted at 4:45 p.m. each day during daylight saving time (peak season).  During Eastern Standard Time (off-season), the tower opens for climbing at 10 a.m. daily, and the last admission is accepted at 3:45 p.m.

The lighthouse is closed on Christmas Day for climbing.  Visitors may find the lighthouse closed during inclement weather due to safety concerns.




Length: 1.4 miles

Type: Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This trail starts at the “J” parking and winds along the lagoon. It leads you through the maritime forest while providing scenic views of the lagoon and various wildlife habitats.


Length: 2.0 miles

Type: Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This trail takes you deep into the interior maritime forest. You will see the dense vegetation that provides protected habitat for many animals including deer, raccoon, owls, hawks and squirrels.


Length: 0.2 miles

Type: Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This trail connects the Lagoon Access Trail and the Maritime Forest.


Length: 0.3 miles

Type: Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This connector trail intersects the Lagoon Access Recreation Trail, Maritime Forest Trail and the Diamondback Rattlesnake Trail to provide a path leading to the Marsh Boardwalk Trail.


Length: 0.25 miles

Type: Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: Designated a National Recreation Trail. This wooden boardwalk mixed with a crushed hardened surface is great for observing life in the salt marsh. The dock on the end provides an area for viewing magnificent sunsets.


Length: 0.7 miles

Type: Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This trail provides access from the Nature Center to the Diamond Back Rattlesnake, Maritime Forest and Lagoon Recreation Access trails. It also provides access from the cabin area to the trail system. Make sure to walk the bridge over the lagoon to see its beauty from a different perspective.


Length: 1.2 miles

Type: Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: With natural terrain and some hilly surfaces, the trail will take you from the campground to the entrance gate of the daily beach access areas, lighthouse, visitor center and lagoon access. From the entrance gate, you will walk the roads of the park in order to reach the areas within, so be prepared for vehicle traffic. You are sure to see plenty of beautiful magnolia trees along the way.


Length: 0.6 miles

Type: Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This trail starts from the Magnolia Forest Trail and ends at the Lighthouse parking area, providing campers with a route to the lighthouse without the worries of high tide or vehicle traffic. Featuring ancient rows of dunes as well as flatlands, populated by most of the island’s native plant and animal species, it is sure to provide enjoyment for hikers and bikers alike.


Length: 0.4 miles

Type: Hiking Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Description: This natural surface trail takes one along the edge of the forest to the ocean front. Hunting Island’s maritime forest of Live Oaks, Spanish moss and Palmetto trees can be easily seen along this trail.


Length: 2.3 miles

Type: Hiking and Mountain Biking Trail

Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous

Description: This trail is accessible from the Nature Center Scenic Trail and the Park Visitor Center. It is for experienced walkers and mountain bikes only. It is a moderately strenuous trail and has some difficult spots.


Horseback riding in South Carolina State Parks is a longtime favorite activity.

At Hunting Island State Park, you and your horse will find over four miles of coastal beach with breathtaking views, soft sand and ocean breezes. We recommend consulting the Tide Table as your best riding experience will be at low tide. Riding at Hunting Island Beach is available December, January and February, each year, and a permit is required. See below for rules and regulations.

Rules and Regulations

  • Our riding season is from December 1st through the last day of February

  • The cost of a permit is $25 per horse with a current Coggins Report

  • The permits are purchased at the Visitor Center

  • Parking is at South Beach and riding is only on the beach

  • Low tide allows the maximum space on the beach to ride

  • Riding on the trails is not permitted

Offsite Boarding 

We recommend our friends at Camelot Farms  for boarding if you are traveling a distance and want to enjoy a few days of riding. Their location on St. Helena Island is less than 15 minutes away.

Sea Turtle and Coastal Conservation

In cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, volunteers commit their early mornings from May through mid-October to walking the beaches of Hunting Island State Park. Volunteers locate and protect nests, relocate nests when necessary, and conduct nest inventories after the hatchlings emerge.

In 2017, volunteers located and protected 106 loggerhead nests in the six zones of the Hunting Island State Park Beach. Approximately 5275 young turtles successfully hatched, assisted by our efforts.

If you would like to walk as a visitor with a turtle patrol team any morning(s) June through September, please email [email protected] for more information on when and where to meet.


Loggerhead Sea Turtle Facts

  • The loggerhead sea turtle is the state reptile of South Carolina.
  • Loggerhead sea turtles are classified as “threatened” in the United States and “endangered” internationally. They are a state and federally protected species.
  • In the United States, loggerheads nest from Virginia to the Gulf Coast.
  • Loggerheads are carnivores, and eat crabs, lobsters, clams, sea urchins, and jellyfish. They use their powerful jaws to crush crustaceans. Juvenile loggerheads eat small invertebrates, such as crabs.
  • Adult loggerheads are between 33 and 48 inches in length and weigh up to 350 pounds.
  • Loggerhead lifespan is estimated to be 50 to 80 years or more.
  • Loggerheads reach sexual maturity between 20 and 35 years of age, mainly based on food availability.
  • Only females return to land, to lay their eggs. Males remain at sea their entire lives.
  • In South Carolina, females nest 4 to 7 times a season, with 12-15 days between nestings. The female usually then takes a 2 to 3.5 year “break” before nesting again.


Facts Continued…

  • Females may mate several times with different males, storing enough sperm for the entire egg laying season. Nesting season here in South Carolina begins in May and continues through August. Average egg incubation on our beach is 56 days.
  • Nest temperature determines the sex of the hatchling turtles. Hotter temperatures produce more females, cooler temperatures more males.
  • After hatching, the hatchling turtle remains in the nest approximately two days while its shell hardens and it absorbs its yolk sac.
  • Hatchlings must be allowed to walk to the water unaided. This allows them to imprint on our sand and orient themselves to the earth’s magnetic field. It has been shown that adult females may return to nest in the same region, or even the same beach, on which they were hatched.
  • After sea turtle hatchlings emerge from their nests, they vanish into the sea. Until recently, their journey was largely shrouded in mystery. Now, as technology advances, researchers are beginning to understand where turtles go during their so-called “lost years.”