On our recent trip to South Carolina to attend our son Pätrick’s Marine Graduation ceremony we took a side trip to shoot some coastal photos. Hunting Island is a 5000 acre State Park located near Beaufort, South Carolina. This secluded semitropical barrier island has been spared the encroaching development ubiquitous throughout the Lowcountry. The island was once a hunting preserve for the rich planters and elite, hence the name. It is one of the most interesting and beautiful beaches I’ve ever visited.

In fact, the unique beach was listed by Trip Advisor in 2013 as one of the Top 25 beaches in the entire United States. There is a 19th Century lighthouse you are allowed to climb which provides a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. The island is dissected by a dredged lagoon which is home to much diverse wildlife. A hiker before us had shot video of a school of dolphins playing near the mouth of the lagoon. Each year, many visitors come to watch the endangered Loggerhead Turtles emerge from the nests on the beach and make the trek to the ocean.

Part of the Hunting Island is subject to massive erosion. This has left the beach strewn with remains of tall oaks, pines and palmettos. It was a landscape photographer’s fairy-tale world. I could have spent days composing interesting photos but we only had about 30 minutes since we planned to do a bit of hiking before the sun set.

Forrest Gump on Hunting Island

Forrest Gump on Hunting Island

There are numerous trails traversing the park. Even though sun light was at a premium, we chose to take the 2 mile Maritime Trail, which was the longest of the hikes. Once we reached the end of the island, we decided to take the Lagoon Access Trail back to the parking area. This gave us the opportunity to take in the beautiful lagoon while not trekking back through the forest trail we had already seen. Most of the Vietnam scenes in Forrest Gump were shot on Hunting Island. I suppose the marshes surrounding the island, along with all the palmettos, hint a bit of South-east Asia. My wife marveled at the palms growing among the pines and oaks. Even the underbrush was acres of palmettos. Back home, yaupons and Chinese privet provide ugly and invasive underbrush.

Even though our time was limited we felt like we had more fun than if we had been at Disney World. I would love to make a return trip and spend a couple of days taking in all the natural beauty and vainly attempting to capture a glimpse of it with my camera.

Photo Credits:
©2014 John Cripps (all photos except three and the movie still)
©2014 Jennifer Cripps (The Spider Tree photos and John photographing the tree)
The movie still is from Forrest Gump
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