Natural wonders

The Lowcountry is filled with beautiful nature preserves, parks and wildlife refuges. Here are the five best.


Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

©ARNO DIMMLING

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge was donated to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1975 and is comprised of five islands and many ecological islands formed by years of tree growth. Many species of wildlife call the refuge home. As you walk along the trail, you could see white-tailed deer, shorebirds, wading birds, and alligators. Keep an eye out for a siege of herons or a flock of egrets or white ibis.


Hunting Island State Park

©JESSIE BAKER

Boasting acres of maritime forest, a saltwater lagoon, and miles of beach, Hunting Island is perhaps the most notable park on our list. Stop by the Visitor Center to learn about the different ecosystems throughout the park and then head over to the Nature Center for additional information on the natural habitats. Hit the trails to take in the sights and sounds of the wildlife. You’ll definitely want to climb to the top of the Hunting Island Lighthouse to take in the picturesque views. Want to make it a weekend visit to the park? Rent one of the campsites (two-night minimum) complete with electrical and water hookups.


Coastal Discovery Museum

©LLOYD WAINSCOTT

The Coastal Discovery Museum, located on the historic Honey Horn property, is the perfect place to explore the evolution of the Lowcountry. A map and information on all the property has to offer is available at the Discovery House. This is the best place to begin your visit. Once you step outside, you will find yourself immersed in history as you stroll along the trails past towering live oaks. If you’re lucky, you will see the Marsh Tacky horses in the fields. Further your exploration of the Lowcountry with off-site programs that are offered by the Coastal Discovery Museum.


Sea Pines Forest Preserve

©ARNO DIMMLING

For almost five decades, locals and tourists have been enjoying the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. What started with just a few trails has developed over the years into so much more. Today, visitors can enjoy horseback rides, guided boat tours, fishing excursions, and wagon tours. Want to explore the preserve on your own? Grab a map and take in the scenery at your own pace along the bridges, trails, and wetland boardwalks. Visit the 4,000-year-old Sea Pines Shell Ring and Warner W. Plahs Wildflower Field and stroll along the boardwalk at Old Lawton Rice Field and the Vanishing Swamp.


Audubon Newhall Preserve

©MIKE RITTERBECK

Located on the south end of Hilton Head, the Audubon Newhall Preserve is fifty acres of walking trails that will make you feel interconnected with nature. Pick up an informational brochure, which includes trail guides, before you set off on your adventure. Along the different trails, you will see many types of plants and trees that include native and non-native flora. A must-see within the preserve is a pocosin, a wetland area that was once a characteristic feature of barrier islands. A boardwalk located at the end of the Newhall Trail will lead you to the pocosin.


Also worth A visit

Other nearby natural wonders worth checking out:

Spanish Moss Trail (Beaufort)

Victoria Bluff Wildlife Management Area (Bluffton)

James M. Waddell, Jr. Mariculture Research and Development Center (Bluffton) Jarvis Creek Park (Hilton Head Island) Palmetto Dunes Lagoon (Hilton Head Island)

Cypress Wetlands Walking Trail (Port Royal) Sands Boardwalk (Port Royal)