Coastal Islands, South Carolina

Coastal Islands, South Carolina

Extending from Georgetown beyond Savannah are remote islands with subtropical vegetation and rich natural and cultural history, shifting sand dunes and trees densely covered with Spanish moss. There are oak forests, a variety of lagoons and marshes and therefore a large amount of animals such as turtles, alligators, dolphins and numerous bird species such as osprey, herons and storks. The cultural heritage of the region is based on the legacy of the slaves who were brought here from West Africa and who, after liberation, allowed their traditions – such as music, cuisine and the Gullah language – to live on. A few islands east of Beaufort preserve the natural and cultural history of the region and its people.

According to a2zdirectory, the 165 square kilometer island of St. Helena – accessible by car via Hwy 21 – is one of them. The famous Penn CenterĀ became a center of Gullah culture. It was founded as a school in 1862 by abolitionists from Pennsylvania during the Civil War. Since its inception, the center has played a prominent role in the civil rights movement. Famous figures like Martin Luther King and groups like the Christian Leadership Conference met here to promote the movement. A small museum in the old schoolhouse tells the history of the center. There are photos and numerous documents that can be viewed. Storytelling programs are still encouraged. Once a year there is a festival honoring the Gullah culture. (Penn Center, 16 Penn Center Circle W. St Helena, SC 29920, )

Since 2017 there is the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park. This is intended to commemorate the Reconstruction (the reintegration and reconstruction of the southern states after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery). The Historical Park includes Darrah Hall at the Penn School for freed slaves, the Brick Baptist Church built in 1855 and taken over in 1861 by about 8,000 freed slaves. The Historical Park also includes the Old Beaufort Firehouse in Beaufort and the Camp Saxton Site and Emancipation Grove in Port Royal.It was here that General Rufus Saxton publicly read the Emancipation Proclamation to a gathering of 3,000 former slaves in 1863. (Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, 706 Craven Street, Beaufort, SC 29902, )

Incidentally, the center of the 13,000-inhabitant town of Beaufort on Port Royal Island is worth seeing, because there are more than 100 listed buildings in the Historic District, which have often been used as a film set. Galleries, boutiques, cafes and restaurants serving excellent local cuisine are picturesquely situated under ‘live oak trees’ with Spanish moss hanging low or along the waterfront. For more information about the state’s second oldest city:

About 25 km east of Beaufort is the 5,000 hectare semitropical Hunting Island with the state park of the same name. There is a beautiful long stretch of sandy beach (which rarely gets crowded), walking trails, a campground and a historic 1870 lighthouse. It’s the only one open to the public in South Carolina. 167 steps lead to the top, from where you can enjoy a great view of the surroundings. (Hunting Island, 2555 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920, )

At the heart of the Lowcountry is the charming town of Bluffton – across the bridge to Hilton Head Island on a hill overlooking the May River, world famous for Bluffton Oysters. Antebellum homes, historic churches and specialty shops line the historic district beneath moss-draped oak trees. The best place to start is at the Visitor Center in the historic 1840 Heyward House. ( 40 Persimmon Street, Suite 102, Bluffton, SC 29910, )

The Gullah-Geechee Corridor stretches 30 miles through 79 islands off the South Carolina coast. The aim is to protect the national heritage of the Gullah Geechee culture with its traditions and values. The Corridor also includes the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, a rice and indigo plantation approximately 10 miles northeast of Charleston (1254 Long Point Road, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464, )

For more information: Gullah Geechee Corridor, 2817 Maybank Highway, John’s Island, SC 29455, and

South Carolina’s most luxurious beach resort, Hilton Head Island, is also very popular. The island is named after British navigator Captain William Hilton, who explored it in 1663. The 12 mile beachfront is one of America’s most popular beach destinations and the golfing Mecca of the entire East Coast. Around 35,000 people live in Hilton Head, as the city is usually called. Per capita income is many times the South Carolina average. In addition to the bathing facilities, there are more than 300 tennis courts (four of the top 50 tennis resorts in the US) and 22 world-class golf courses (another 11 nearby). Sports enthusiasts can cycle through the dunes or along the beach. Boat tours for dolphin watching are also offered, and there are opportunities for fishing, horseback riding and ziplining. The selection of sporting activities is huge and aimed at the whole family. There is even a winery on Hilton Head Island. (Island Winery, 12A Cardinal )

Coastal Islands, South Carolina

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