Take a step off the beaten track to experience these under-the-radar, hidden gems of the Lowcountry.
By Anna Lee Hoffman
The Lowcountry is teeming with natural beauty no matter where you are, but it’s not uncommon for the rush of tourism to overshadow all that Mother Nature has to offer. Whether you’re a tourist looking to avoid other tourists, new to life in the Lowcountry, or a local wanting to experience a new spot, consider visiting one of these delightful hidden gems. These locations will provide endless summer fun and an experience that will allow you to appreciate the Lowcountry’s beauty in all of its wonder. Take in views, watch wildlife and listen to the sounds of nature that are all too easy to miss.
Hunting Island Marsh Boardwalk Trail
The Lowcountry is overflowing with quiet, unknown hotspots, and this does not exclude Hunting Island Park; one of the state’s most frequently visited parks. Hunting Island is the site of South Carolina’s only public lighthouse, bringing in millions of visitors each year. However, not many of these visitors know to take a stroll down Hunting Island’s Marsh Boardwalk Trail — a wooden boardwalk through the marsh near St. Helena Island. This short boardwalk is flat and approximately half of a mile down and back, so it’s enjoyable for all ages (bring your dogs). The views from the trail are an absolute dream for nature lovers or animal watchers, as walking along its trails transports families and explorers alike into an untouched natural paradise. At low tide, it’s common to view fiddler crabs scampering across the salty marsh floor, and birds swooping swiftly through the breeze. The trail includes a built-in fenced platform, perfect for admiring the wildlife or watching the sunset over the salt marsh. This location is incredibly awe-inspiring and allows a beautiful and pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of tourist season.
Get there: State Road S-7-406, St. Helena Island
Baffling beach break
Burkes Beach Folly
Burkes Beach Folly is an astonishing break in Hilton Head’s long stretch of beach that leads into a unique area to explore. Heading south on Burkes Beach, you’ll know you’re there when your path up the beach is interrupted by a thin stretch of ocean water reaching all the way up to the dunes. This small-scale inlet flows inland all the way to the marsh behind and serves as a wonderfully calm and shallow place to swim around and take in the views in all directions — the stretch of beach, the steady ocean and the tranquil marshland. Burkes Beach Folly is a picture-perfect place to have a picnic, sit by the ocean and take in the natural beauty of the dunes, marsh, and beachfront on Hilton Head Island.
Get there: To avoid the sharp rocks on the other side, the best way to get there is to park in Chaplin Park near the end of Burkes Beach Road on Hilton Head Island. Once on the beach, hang a right (south) and walk until you find it.
Take a swing
Swings at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park
The stretch of seawall overlooking Beaufort River provides a flawless view of the sunset from the various restaurants, art galleries and shops. However, if you’re looking for a peaceful place to escape the dinner rush and crowd of sunset watchers, travel down the seawall to find these swings hanging in a corner of the popular park. These tucked away swings hang down and sway with the Spanish moss, providing a perfect sunset-watching spot after dinner. They are fun for all ages, perfect for children to swing off some energy, to steal a romantic moment, or just to chill and enjoy an ice cream cone.
Get there: Bay Street, Beaufort
Broad River Fishing Pier
Running adjacent to Okatie Highway Bridge is a 1,800-foot fishing pier that is newly renovated and accessible from the intersection where Robert Smalls Parkway meets Savannah Highway. This pier was created when a new Broad River Bridge was built, and they left part of the old bridge from which people could cast a line. Travel East on 170 and make a left to exit. The fishing pier is a little over half a mile down off of this side road. Broad River Fishing Pier is “co-located” and shares a parking lot with Broad River Boat Landing. There is a boat ramp on site, and is well lit at night to make it out safely after a long evening of fishing off of the pier. There are various amenities such as complimentary parking, clean restrooms and available trash cans to keep the pier clean and taken care of. Redfish, sea trout and sea bass are just a few of the many fish awaiting what you’re casting over the pier’s edge.
Get there: Robert Smalls Parkway (170) and Savannah Highway, Burton
Float your boat
Marshland Road Public Boat Ramp
Towards the upper-middle half of Hilton Head Island, just off Marshland Road is a boat ramp with shallow access to Broad Creek — the perfect place for launching a kayak. This boat ramp is a wonderful and private place to throw a cast net, crab trap or fishing line, or enjoy a peaceful kayak or paddle board ride. This boat ramp gives access to the northernmost point of Broad Creek, providing a quiet and shallow launching point to take in the serene native marshes and admire the beautiful Hilton Head homes along the shoreline. Just off the shore, the wildlife in Broad Creek is abundant, so take advantage of the opportunity to observe many species of birds, fish and other wildlife in its natural habitat. The ramp is located next to Old Oyster Factory, a perfect place to grab a bite to eat after a long day on the water.
Get there: 97 Marshland Road, Hilton Head Island