Story by Lisa Allen
It is our great fortune that those who thought to “develop” the vast expanses of our Lowcountry didn’t lose sight of the gifts they were given. For generations, large tracts of land were virtually untouched by man, leaving the area rich in live oaks, loblolly pines and palmettos, all of which created perfect habitat for deer, hawks, osprey and thousands of migratory birds. It also made for excellent hunting and fishing grounds for well-to-do northern industrialists more than 100 years ago.
As the developments took shape over the last few decades, each carved out a special way to drink in the beauty around us, as well as respect the rich sporting history that preserved the plantations.
Huge parcels will remain off limits to any disturbances other than trails. Structures that are built are designed to blend in, not stand out. Tread gently is the mantra.
Most communities also have made it their mission to let every resident experience that wildness for themselves. Horses are a large part of that ambiance, preserving a timeless partnership of man and beast to traverse the quiet and beauty around us. They didn’t stop there. Naturalists and fishing guides point out the many species that share the Lowcountry with us.
“We aren’t pretentious,” says general manager Paul Castraberti. “We embrace families. We have more than 100 children here.”
Indeed, it is a child and adult paradise, with an equestrian center, a river club, a golf club, miles of trails and two docks for boating and fishing.
The four-member nature center staff arranges 7 a.m. kayak trips, nighttime Owl Prowls, fly-fishing excursions and trips to a nearby sporting clay range. They also will launch and pull out your boat if backing up a trailer and maneuvering a boat in 1.6-knot tidal currents with a sidewind isn’t your thing.
Oldfield is also the home course for the USCB golf teams, giving the community even more energy.
To expound on the list, there is an equestrian center, an outdoor pool, and an indoor lap pool. There are tennis courts, riding rings, bridal trails, table tennis, fire pits and a general store that doles out free ice cream for kids.
“We have so many amenities here,” Castraberti said. “You can easily pack your calendar every day around the clock.”
Sarah Molesky, equestrian center director, said the center’s goal is to expose kids to the world of horsemanship, from three-day events, to jumping, and dressage. “We teach them how to be horsemen,” she said.
The center’s collection of 20 horses ranges from polo ponies to standardbreds to horses rescued from poor conditions. Some are boarded by non-residents and others are owned by Oldfield itself.
“There is one horse that some people thought would never be safe around children. Now, his favorite thing is being the unicorn at kids’ parties,” Molesky said.
She enjoys seeing the confidence grow with riders and horses. “I love to see the light bulb go off when they finally figure something out.”
At the nature center, the staff helps residents and guests get outside. The charter boats are on the water most days, said Jill Kombrink, Oldfield naturalist.
“The Outfitter Center is not just about getting people outside, but educating them about the Lowcountry and what makes it so unique,” Kombrink said. “Everything is very natural here and we have to live within it. Some people are afraid of alligators, but we keep educating them about how to safely coexist with them.”
Oldfield also is home to South Carolina’s only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing school and recently earned the Audubon International Sustainable Community designation, only the eighth granted in the country. Hilton Head Island was designed a sustainable town at the same time.
“I think what makes Oldfield unique is we have staff to go with all of our amenities,” Kombrink said. “We don’t just equip you and send you on your way.”
The 3,000-acre Spring Island served as a trading post in the 1700s, a cotton plantation before the Civil War and a renowned quail hunting preserve in the early 20th century.
In the 1980s, new owners proposed an extremely low density development that preserved the island’s natural beauty, its history and offered inspiration for artists.
Spring Island allows only 410 homes, set aside 1,000 acres as a nature preserve and established a trust fund to support forever a nature center staffed with full-time naturalists.
The Spring Island equestrian center encompasses 31 acres, with 29 acres of pastures and paddocks, an all-weather flat arena and round pen, plus sand and grass jumping arenas. Over 30 miles of manicured trails on the island wind through salt marsh, live oak forests, pine savannahs and old agricultural fields. The club’s full-time fishing guide offers both inshore and offshore fishing charters aboard club-owned boats all throughout South Carolina. Redfish, trout, cobia and tarpon provide great inshore sport, while wahoo, dolphin, king mackerel and tuna are favorite offshore game fish.
Haig Point on Daufuskie Island is ready-made horseback riding territory. The 8-mile-long island doesn’t have cars but it does have miles of beach and trails on which to ride. And like many other Lowcountry communities, it is rife with local expertise, be it about fishing, either deep sea or inland, crabbing, wildlife or vegetation.
Haig Point’s Equestrian Center offers members every service from grooming and boarding to lessons and trail rides. Riders can choose either English or Western tack and technique. The 12-stall barn includes a tack room, lounge, restroom, office and wash/groom stalls. Hanging out in the barn is irresistible. The stables turn out onto three acres, ensuring plenty of grazing time. Staff is onsite every day.
Also, Haig Point Club has partnered with Melrose to offer visitors the only beach trail rides open to general public in the Lowcountry.
Daufuskie Island Trail Rides is open to all levels of riders from beginners to advanced; offering beach rides, historic rides and custom rides. With 18 stalls and 24 horses, Daufuskie Island Trail Rides will create customized experiences for a group of up to six riders at a time.
The Historic Ride will take guests on a one to three-hour session past historical landmarks; including the First African Baptist School and the historic school house where famed author Pat Conroy taught. The Beach Horseback Ride is a ninety minute to three-hour ride that offers a ride along Haig Point’s pristine beach for unmatched views of the ocean and wildlife.
Booking starts at $125 per rider. Transportation over to Daufuskie Island on the ferry can be purchased for an extra fee. Additional offerings such as wine and cheese packages can be added to enhance the experience. For more information, visit www.daufuskietrailrides.com.
Claiming “the corner lot of Bluffton,” Moss Creek was one of the first developments on the mainland and grabbed a prime parcel on the Intercoastal Waterway. Its Equestrian Center is a focal point for Moss Creek, which sits on the foot of the bridges to Hilton Head. The Charleston-green fences surround paddocks in which riders can learn the fine arts of dressage and hunter jumpers. Wooded paths and marsh boardwalks round natural bends throughout the community, providing hikers and bikers stunning vistas of the pristine and private Fording Island Nature Preserve and Blue Heron Sanctuary. The preserve’s 11 acres are home to a maritime forest supporting various trees, shrubs, and other plants. The 36-acre sanctuary is fed by a mixture of fresh and brackish water, and is home for many wading birds, ducks, fish and alligators.
About halfway down the winding four-and-a-half-mile drive into Palmetto Bluff, you’ll have a revelation. You’ll either get it or you won’t. If you get it, you’ll appreciate the landscape and the tunnel of oaks under which you are traveling. If you don’t, you’re likely questioning why you don’t see any houses, where the road ends, and whether your GPS has sent you the right way. If you get it, you’ll enjoy the journey, appreciate the protected environment that surrounds you and arrive wanting more.
At 20,000 acres, Palmetto Bluff is one and a half times the size of Manhattan. An epic playground, where the built and unbuilt environments live in harmony, wrapped by 32 miles of riverfront. Here, getting outside is paramount. Palmetto Bluff’s conservationists and guides are contagious with their knowledge and passion and are driven to inspire everyone to immerse themselves in the environment. There is no better place to have fun on the water, the marsh and in the woods.
With more than 12,000 years of history uncovered by onsite archaeologist, Dr. Mary Socci, history is the fabric of the community. Socci studies artifacts that reveal the fascinating details about previous occupants of the area. These artifacts are on display at the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy Reading Room in Moreland Village. The Reading Room also features an ever-changing look at the history of the place with maps and miniature exhibits.
Bike the Bluff: Check out the Off-Road Bike Tour, a great introduction to off-road biking in the Lowcountry. Departing from Moreland Village, the ride loops through the brand-new Palmetto Bluff off-road bike trails. Winding through the maritime forest and beautiful pine, palmetto and oak glades, the trails range from single track to gently rolling wide trails on flat elevation terrain that makes this ride perfect for beginners and families. The Moreland Bike Shop has opened in Moreland Village. The store offers Pedego electric bikes.
On the water: With 32 miles of waterfront, Palmetto Bluff contains a plethora of creeks, waterways and unknown territories waiting to be explored. A bench of US Coast Guard captains are at the ready to get your day on the water started.
Experience the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry salt marsh estuaries on the Kayak Nature Tour. No experience is necessary for this laid-back excursion. A brief paddling clinic will introduce you to the basics of kayaking and get you comfortable in the boat. Then, depart on the May River to explore waterways teeming with wildlife. Herons, osprey and other birds are abundant, and you may have the opportunity to see local Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Your guide will discuss the organisms and processes that surround you. This excursion is a relaxed and informative journey that moves at your pace and provides a good introduction to kayaking.
Fly fishing school: A two-hour introduction to fly-fishing clinic is conducted on Lake Bales in Moreland Village, and includes: introduction to fly gear, line and fly recommendations, rigging your fly rod, casting techniques, fishing skills and a local fish species 101.
The vast outdoor playground that is Palmetto Bluff has an adventure for everyone. And, we’ve barely scratched the surface with enumerable other outdoor endeavors to enjoy including equestrian, shooting sports, yachting, paddle boarding, golf, tennis and even climbing a treehouse. But perhaps the most revered activity at Palmetto Bluff is the daily tradition of “Porching,” where residents and guests simply retreat to porch, with a drink in hand, and … relax.
Other great hangouts for the horse lovers in the Lowcountry.
Trail rides through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve let riders absorb the beauty that is Hilton Head Island. Pony rides are available for children and petting park is free to all Sea Pines visitors.
This Hilton Head Island farm, formerly known as Palm Paddock, reopened as Driftwood Stable in 2017 on Jonesville Road. It offers boarding, traditional equestrian training, a lesson program, summer camps and several clinics.
Rose Hill Equestrian Center
Rose Hill Plantation in Bluffton boasts this 50-acre fenced equestrian center, open to all breeds of horses. Ride on miles of meandering greenbelt trails throughout the north side of the plantation.
Rose Dhu Equestrain Center
Learn to ride for competition or just because you love horses at this Bluffton facility. It offers several programs from beginner to advanced. The experienced team can custom train your horse based on its needs.
This full service boarding facility in Beaufort offers lessons and seasonal day camps. Lesson programs are centered around developing confident and compassionate riders. Students are encouraged to be involved with all aspects of care.
Local Hunt Clubs
Whether it’s sitting in a blind with your friends or swapping stories over a beer at the end of the night, hunting is not a solitary activity. One of the biggest appeals to this sport, like any other, is the sense of community it brings. A great way to have that sense of community is joining a hunt club, where you will be surrounded by others who enjoy it as much as you do. Here in the Lowcountry, we have several hunt clubs, each with a different focus to bring you a unique experience.
Brays Island Hunt Club
- • Brays Island Plantation, near Sheldon
- Great for dogs
- With more than 30 pointing and flushing dogs and a resident dog trainer, Brays Island Hunt Club is the perfect place to hunt with your four-legged friend. They also offer training for your own dog. Expert guides can show you the ropes on any hunting experience you want.
- Sniders Highway, near Islandton
- Great for white-tailed deer
- Hunting is more than just a great way to relax and create memories with those you care about, it’s also a way to help the environment at Buck Forest. With a focus on white-tailed deer management for more than 20 years, it’s a great place to find your next stand. Its 3,222 acres of well-managed natural forest borders Rice Patch Creek and the Salkehatchie River.
Colin’s Lowcountry Hunt Club
- Near Ehrhardt
- Great for hogs
- This club holds property leases in some of the highest producing game-animal counties in South Carolina including Bamberg, Colleton and Hampton counties. It’s a great spot to hunt deer, hog and turkey.
Pine Cone Hunt Club
- Just south of Highway 17A, near Ridgeville
- Great for families. Good for hunting deer, turkey, hog, coon, dove and other small game
- This 3,000-acre, family-oriented club also offers an ice machine, fishing on four ponds, skeet shooting and more. Membership is limited to 15 full memberships. Dues are $1,200 each year.
Turkey Hill Plantation
- Log Hall Road, near Ridgeland
- Great for guided hunts and wing shooting
- If bird hunting is something you have considered trying, or something you already enjoy, Turkey Hill Plantation is a great place to visit. They have experienced guides who can take you out in search of quail, dove, duck or turkey (obviously). We’re mostly interested in the afternoon cocktail hour, though.