I spent two nights camping mere steps from the beach on this beautiful island, and totally recommend it to anyone looking for a stop at any time of year. What a find! Totally worth being the first place I’ve paid to sleep so far on my van trip. I did cheap out a little, though, and take a tent spot rather than be allowed to sleep in the van, which had the added bonus of being closer to the beach. While putting up the tent (in the wind), taking ot down and drying it out was kind of a hassle I’m not used to while doing the van life, it was a nice change to have all that air flow along with the sound of the ocean all night, and peeking through the flap to wake up to the sunrise seems even closer and more magical in the tent than the van somehow. I walked the beach at sunrise and sunset as the tide allowed, cooked over the campfire, and had a relaxing time here for sure.
Hunting Island is one of the southern coastal islands providing a barrier to the mainland, and is mainly a state park. Being a barrier island also means they take the brunt of hurricanes, storms and erosion, which is unfortunately extremely evident here. The camp site used to have beachfront cabins which washed away, and the beach is littered with bits of concrete, piping, and other last signs of these structures.
On the southern end of the island the beach, which is no longer accessible most of the time except by a footbridge thanks to the erosion cutting off access from the rest of the beach, the shore is covered in fallen and weathered trees. The lighthouse guide said they call it ‘the tree graveyard’ which seemed pretty fitting.
Thanks to erosion even the lighthouse had to be moved further inland, which it was engineered to do thanks to the foresight of the builders when the structure was being redone after the Civil War ruined the first one if I recall correctly. The giant iron pieces can be undone, and the building itself jacked up and moved. Crazy. From the top of the lighthouse I could see the whole island and those nearby, and we spotted a pod of dolphins feeding. The chatty volunteer gave me lots of info and suggestions for the rest of my day.
I must have walked almost every inch of that island’s paths, and was on my trek back to the campground when the whole path was just a swamp under at least a foot of water which I didn’t want to deal with, so turned back and added about 4 more miles to my trip. A good way to even out those sedentary driving days at least! Aside from this one setback, the paths took me past marshland, a lagoon, subtropical forest, and along the beach. Quite the variety pack.
In summer sea turtles come nest here, and the baby turtles hatch and go back to sea. If I ever have the chance to return then I would in a minute. Aside from it being too chilly to swim and missing the bulk of the wildlife, January was a wonderful time to visit. Nothing crowded, lots of space, quiet walks, you name it. What a special place.