Rumored to be a hideaway for Blackbeard himself, the aptly named Hunting Island was indeed for many years a notable hunting preserve, and its abundance of wildlife holds true to this day. The island is one of the East Coast’s best birding spots and also hosts dolphins, loggerheads, alligators, and deer. However, thanks to preservation efforts by President Franklin Roosevelt and the Civilian Conservation Corps, the island is no longer for hunting but for sheer enjoyment. And enjoy it people do, to the tune of a million visitors a year.
A true family-friendly outdoor adventure spot, Hunting Island State Park (2555 Sea Island Pkwy., 866/345-7275, www.huntingisland.com , daily 6 a.m.–6 p.m., until 9 p.m. DST, $4 adults, $1.50 children) has something for everyone—kids, parents, and newlyweds. Yet it still retains a certain sense of lush wildness—so much so that it doubled as Vietnam in Forrest Gump.
At the north end past the campground  is the island’s main landmark, the historic Hunting Island Light, which dates from 1875. Though the lighthouse ceased operations in 1933, a rotating light—not strong enough to serve an actual navigational aid—is turned on at night. While the 167-step trek to the top ($2 donation per person) is quite strenuous, the view from the little observation area at the top of the lighthouse is stunning, a complete panorama of Hunting Island and much of the Lowcountry coast.
At the south end of the island is a marsh walk, nature trail, and a fishing pier complete with a cute little nature center. Hunting Island’s three miles of beautiful beaches also serve as a major center of loggerhead turtle nesting and hatching, a process that begins around June as the mothers lay their eggs and culminates in late summer and early fall, when the hatchlings make their daring dash to the sea. At all phases the turtles are strictly protected, and while there are organized events to witness the hatching of the eggs, it is strictly forbidden to touch or otherwise disturb the turtles or their nests. Contact the park ranger for more detailed information.
The tropical-looking inlet running through the park is a great place to kayak or canoe.
Getting to Hunting Island couldn’t be easier—just take the Sea Island Parkway (U.S. 21) about 20 minutes beyond Beaufort  and you’ll run right into it.