There are many hidden gems on Hilton Head Island that visitors rarely “discover” unless it’s by accident. One immediately comes to mind. At first we didn’t want to share this because we like the quiet (REALLY quiet) and the lack of people. If you’d like to get a hint of what the island looked like before development began you must visit the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. It’s sort of like having a National Park in your back yard, especially if you’re a guest of Sea Pines. Even if you’re not it’s definitely worth the $5 gate fee.
The Forest Preserve is 600 plus acres of forest, wetlands, walking trails and one of the most spectacular wildflower field you’ll ever see. Officially called the Wildflower Meadows, they’ll be in bloom starting in a week or two, then go on for several weeks well into the summer. There’s an old bench at the end of the meadows. It sits on an old dike and the meadows stretch out before it. Check out this Google map link to get an idea of this uncommon place.
There are four lakes, great for freshwater fishing (You’ll have to be a guest and get a permit. We can help you there.) either from the shore or a rowboat (they’re for rent to guests). Kayaking is great too. You’ll see all sorts of wading birds and one of the largest rookeries in the state.
In the center of the Preserve, facing Lake Joe, is Fish Island, a great place for picnics (there’s a covered shelter) and Cub Scouts (and other kids) use it as a camping area. There are also restrooms there and a water fountain.
Of the two entrances use the one at the school and you’re 5 minutes away from a 4,000 year-old Indian shell ring. Check out the link above for the Preserve and download the PDF map.
Click here for a great story about someone “discovering” the Forest Preserve, written in 2004. You’ll understand.
Down side: The alligators are real. Do not mess with them. The bugs are real. Spray generously (depending on the time of year). Spray often. Sea Pines’ Lawton Stables offers trail rides through the Preserve. (Click here for a cute story about Lawton Stables.) Trail rides means horses. Some of the walking trails are shared by the horses. Our advice: watch your step.
We’ll have more “secrets” to share soon.