Since we’ve been in South Carolina, I have asked people where they enjoy camping.  One of the top spots in the low-country is Hunting Island State Park located just outside Beaufort, SC.  Several times I tried to book a campsite last minute but there wasn’t any available.  When the time was close for the kids to be out of school, I did a search and was able to find a site for a Thursday to Saturday stay.  I grabbed it!  Couldn’t wait to see what made this a camping favorite.

We actually set-off for our journey at the agreed-upon time which is a rare occurrence.  The bummer was that we only made it to the other side of town before we got stuck in mid-day traffic.  Suddenly, the air-conditioner started blowing humid warm air.  Not good, NOT GOOD!  We turned off the unit, rolled down the windows and sweltered while we inched along Highway 17.  When we switched the A/C back on, there was a brief time of cool air before the hot, humid air took over.  Ugh!  Back to open windows.  It made me remember my childhood when air-conditioning was not a standard feature on a car.  How did we do it?  Soon enough we were traveling at 50 MPH with had a small breeze.  It was a long (and sweaty) ride down to the Beaufort area but we had to be grateful that it was not a longer trip.

Dempsey Farms – St. Helena, SC

I had planned to have a “local” dinner so we made two stops along Highway 21 on the way to our destination. First stop was Dempsey Farms.  What a treat!  I picked up some amazing corn on the cob fresh from the field, summer squash, heirloom tomatoes and some peppers.  When I went to pay, they said they only accepted cash or check and I had neither!  I told the farmer to please put back my purchases and bless his heart, he said to go ahead and take my bounty and come back another time to pay him. That sure doesn’t happen every day!

Note:  We did make a special trip to the ATM to get cash for him.  I will admit I planned on getting home and mailing a check to them, but we needed more of his incredibly sweet corn!  He was right…. we would be back!

Gay Fish Company – St. Helena, SC

Beautiful shrimp at Gay Fish Company – St. Helena, SC

Next stop was Gay’s Fish Company, also located just off Highway 21.  Here, I picked up two pounds of freshly-caught large shrimp!  They even pack it on ice for you!

Within minutes, we were pulling into the Hunting Island State Park Campground.  After our brief check-in, we headed to Site 129.  It was on an inner circle, but is was spacious and backed up to trees.  We were surrounded by pines and palms; an unusual combination in places other than South Carolina.

Site 129 – Hunting Island State Park Campground – St. Helena, SC

We quickly got the services turned on (electric/water sites only, there are two dump stations). It was a blessing to get inside that trailer for the air-conditioning!  It was then I realized that in our race to get to camp, we forgot to stop at the grocery store!!!  Of course, there were no volunteers joining me in the hot 20-minute drive back to Food Lion.  Instead, I embraced my solitude, turned up the radio and took the opportunity to soak in the beauty of the sea islands.  I even saw an osprey nest high up on a power pole with mama enjoying a fish as I drove by.

Sous Chef Mia wielding the knife – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

Drake preparing the skewers – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

Back in camp, it was time to start preparing our local feast!  My Sous Chef, Mia was on the cutting board preparing the vegetables for our skewers while I tackled shelling the shrimp.  Drake helped out by putting all the yummy ingredients onto the skewers.  Even though I had made the trip to the grocery for some marinade, at the end, I chose to go without.  Those skewers were absolutely amazing!  The succulent locally-caught shrimp were definitely the highlight of the meal.

Best beach sites are 45, 46, 47, 48 (shorter), 50, 52, 54, and 55 – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

The family took an after-dinner walk on the beach where we caught sight of these amazing campsites!  Who wouldn’t want to back up to the ocean?  We are definitely coming back when we can get a reservation for one of these incredible sites.

Back at camp we decided to forgo the fire since it was still so hot outside and opted to spend the last vestiges of the evening playing board games.  It was nice that everyone “unplugged” and got to enjoy each others company.

Skeleton Trees – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

Special time with my daughter – Hunting Island State Park – St. Helena, SC

Morning broke and it was time for me to get out for my requisite beach walk.  I was lucky to have Mia join me this morning.  What a gorgeous time to be out on Hunting Island Beach!  Mia and I decided to head in the direction of the skeleton trees.  It is a surreal experience walking through these trees taken over by the sea.  We also came upon a large marsh where the small fish and crabs were ample.  We stood to watch the shore birds as they stood perfectly still before capturing their prey.  It’s time like this that I truly appreciate the beauty of this state that we now call home.  So peaceful and serene.

Marsh view – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

Back at camp we got ready to go out and explore a bit of Hunting Island State Park.  We started at the Hunting Island Nature Center where we saw baby alligators, turtles and my new favorite, terrapins; turtle family members who re semi-aquatic and live near brackish waters or swampy regions. If fact, there are so many that make this area their home, there are “Terrapin Crossing” caution alongside Highway 21!

The kids picked up their Junior Ranger books and we headed out to take a walk on the 1,220 foot fishing and crabbing pier.  The kids enjoyed watching one tenacious shore bird plucking multiple little fish out of the water for lunch.  A whole crowd gathered to watch him and he didn’t even seem to mind.

Fishing and crabbing pier – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

Blue crabs a-plenty – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

As we walked along the pier, most people said that they were not having much luck catching fish that morning,  but there was one guy who was really lucky.  It was a Korean man that drove all the way from Augusta, GA for the day to do some crabbing.  He was more than happy to show us his catch!  We also got to observe his methods.  He gently lowered his basket with chicken necks into the water right near the grassy edge of the water, left it there for a few minutes and gently pulled it up.  Voila!  Another blue crab to add to his cooler.

Tip: Want to fish but don’t have a pole?  Visitors can take advantage of the free loaner fishing tackle program and we saw several people enjoying the opportunity.  You do not need a fishing license here and you can buy bait at the Nature Center.

Tip: In the mood for some hiking?  There are several hiking trails located off the Nature Center parking lot. 

Beautiful sandy beach – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

Back at camp it was time to hit the beach.  We packed up our chairs and a bucket and made the quick walk to the beach.  The Atlantic is warm now and it was so fun to get in and bob around in the little waves.  Drake and Mia worked on making sand castles and art while I enjoyed soaking up some rays.  The perfect lazy beach afternoon!

Sunrise over the Atlantic – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

The next morning I woke up before the kids.  I quickly got dressed, grabbed my camera, and headed out.  I saw an incredible sight… through the trees the rising sun was glaring red!  I picked up my pace in hopes of capturing this rare sight but by the time I got on the beach, it was behind clouds.  Not to worry.  Within minutes I was rewarded with the most beautiful and awe-inspiring scene as the sun peeked through the clouds.

Volunteers locating a new Loggerhead turtle nest – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

Loggerhead turtle tracks – “X” means it has been located and recorded – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

As I walked I noticed some people in bright orange shirts and when I went to investigate, learned they were volunteers that go out each morning to locate new loggerhead turtle nests.  The volunteers believed they had found one as there were markings that showed a female had traveled to that location.  A man came with a stick who I believe they called, “the poker.”  He slowly and systematically explored the pit that was left.  Yep!  There were eggs in there!  They record the location and cordoned it off.  It was then I realized just how many nests were along the beach.  I was told they were currently at 93 nests and counting which was much better than the previous year.  They also alerted me that there were turtle tracks close to the campground where a female went up to lay her eggs, however, must have been spooked, and decided to made the long trek back to the sea without digging a nest.  If was a sad sight to see how much effort she made and have to turn around.

Tip: How can you help the Loggerhead turtles?  First, lights out on the beach!  Refrain from using flashlights or lanterns as sea turtles dig in the dark.  Next, if you or your kids are digging holes on the beach, please make sure to fill those holes back in when you are done.  Baby loggerheads can fall in get disoriented or worse, be unable to get out! Finally, do not walk on or dig around Loggerhead nests.  They need not to be disturbed.

Serene Beauty – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

I continued down the beach and had the most incredible opportunities to photograph the skeleton trees and actually walked on to photograph the lighthouse that we would be visiting later in the morning.  I wasn’t the only photographer out.  There were several people out with their tripods capturing the gorgeous morning.  I imagine there are many mornings just like this one at this magical place!!

Hunting Island Lighthouse – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

After breakfast we headed to do the most anticipated adventure: climb to the top of the only lighthouse in South Carolina that is open to the public. We chose to get there right at 10AM in hopes of a cooler climb to the top.

We learned that the lighthouse we would be climbing was actually the 2nd lighthouse built for this area as the original was destroyed during the Civil War.  When it was reconstructed in 1875, they designed it so that it could be dismantled should it ever need to be moved.  It was a smart decision as the lighthouse did have to be moved in 1889 due to severe beach erosion to its current location .

Lighthouse entrance – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

Inside, we made the daunting 167-step climb up a very ornate iron staircase.  Winding upwards you can start to feel the ocean breeze through the little windows that are near the top.  Displays along the way give more information about the lighthouse keepers and the work they did.

Views for miles – Hunting Island State Park, St. Helena, SC

Finally!  We reached the top.  It was a little unnerving to stand out on the little platform but then the view takes over.  The spectacular ocean panorama is awe-inspiring.  When you round the back side, you take in the tree canopy seemingly stretches to the horizon.  The breezes are cool and refreshing up here.  It was Drake and Mia’s most favorite activity of the whole trip!

Tip: Kids must be at least 44” tall to climb the lighthouse.  There is a small per person fee to climb to the top.  Check website for details.

Point South KOA – Yemassee, SC

Site 11 – Point South KOA – Yemassee, SC

We were fortunate to get two nights at Hunting Island and had to move out on Saturday.  I knew we wouldn’t want to go home yet, so I booked a night at Point South KOA, located in Yemassee, SC.  This little gem of a KOA is tucked back among trees with spacious sites. We had an end site (#11) which was perfect for us and not too far from the pool.

Taking the Plunge – Point South KOA – Yemassee, SC

After the hot ride without air conditioning, we were all ready to jump into the pool  It was a relaxing way to spend the rest of the day.  I had wanted to try out their wine tasting (extra charge) but after all our time in the sun, I was beat!

After swimming, I did take some time to check out the several alternative ways to camp that Point South KOA offers.  Besides the clean camping and deluxe cabins that can be found at many KOA’s, they also had a couple of more unique options.  There is a real L&N caboose you can choose that  sleeps 6, comes with cable TV and a small refrigerator for drinks and snacks.  Also, there is a converted trolley-car that can sleeps up to 4 people and also comes with cable TV (no refrigerator).  Both of these options do not have bathrooms, and are not pet-friendly.  Check their website for more details!

Rent the Caboose – Point South KOA – Yemassee, SC

Interior of caboose – Point South KOA – Yemassee, SC

Stay in a Trolley – Point South KOA – Yemassee, SC

Interior of trolley – Point South KOA – Yemassee, SC

 

Damaged Cables – Don’t let this happen to you!

The next morning we were planning an early morning departure in hopes of arriving home before the heat of the day.  As Troy was disconnecting services, I pointed at this black cord that looked to be dragging on the ground around the hitch area.  It was a really good thing that I noticed!  It was the cable that houses all the electrical wires from the trailer to the truck!  It was obvious that it had been dragging for some time as the outer cover was completely worn away and the wires exposed; most of them broken!

Lucky for us, Troy knew how to at least doctor it up so we could get home and take it into our go-to, Palmetto RV Service for a more permanent repair.  We did have some electrical tape to reconnect the wires, but had to borrow some dykes to cut off the outer coating.  An hour later, we were on our way!

Tip: Even for short camping adventures it is wise to bring your tool kit ti handle any issues that may come up.

We did encounter a few problems this trip but it goes to show that you need to be flexible and try to be as prepared as you can.  Even with our air-conditioning failure, we had a fantastic time in the Beaufort area.  Better yet, I have a great list of places that I want to check out the next time I can get down there.