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.
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 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. During summer months, you can locate sea turtle nests and assist the friends of Hunting Island Sea Turtle Conservation project with logging your findings.
Our Summer Package (when available) can be booked to guarantee your Hunting Island pass for one day of your stay.
Sea Turtle and Coastal Conservation
In cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our volunteers commit their early mornings from May through mid-October to walking the beaches of Hunting Island State Park, locating and protecting nests, relocating nests when necessary, and conducting 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. What will 2018 bring?
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.
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.”