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part 1 of 3 june hilton head I july bluffton I august the lowcountry

the seven wonders of [hilton head]



part 1 of 3 june hilton head I july bluffton I august the lowcountry

the seven wonders of [hilton head] Sure, there’s plenty of golf around here, and everyone knows to stop at the Harbour Town lighthouse when in town. But if you venture off the marked trails every now and again, you’ll find that Hilton Head Island and the surrounding Lowcountry are filled with vast stores of hidden wonder, places and phenonema that don’t necessarily appear on all the tourist maps. Throughout the summer, Monthly will spotlight some of these slightly more hidden gems, without which the Lowcountry wouldn’t be the place we call home. And we’ll start right here on Hilton Head and Daufuskie.



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turtle power


First of all, no collection of local wonders (hidden or otherwise) would be complete without the island’s mascot: the nationally threatened loggerhead sea turtle. Loggerhead sea turtles nest on island beaches between May and August, the massive females coming ashore at night to find a prime piece of oceanfront real estate. The females will dig a nest, deposit their eggs — an average of 120 — shield them from hungry predator-types with sand and quickly (well, relatively quickly) make their way back to the sea. Two months later, tiny two-inch turtle babies sneak out of the nest and point themselves instinctively toward the brightest light they see: their ocean home, where they’ll spend the next 25 or 30 years growing to massive adulthood. Such a delicate process, as you might guess, is susceptible to dangers both natural and man-made, and local groups like the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project, managed by the Coastal Discovery Museum, keep a close eye on the reptiles’ nests from May through October. During that time, residents know to keep their beachfront lights off after 10 p.m. from May 1-Oct. 31, pick up their trash and, most of all, leave nest sites alone. Jeff Vrabel Read more:

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dolphin strand feeding

Dolphins: cute, playful, friendly and, when hungry, organized. The animals are certainly plentiful in local waters — particularly Calibogue Sound, which is kind of like a dolphin social club. Much rarer is a coordinated hunting behavior called strand feeding, which is unique to a very few parts of the southeastern coast. Here’s how it works: At low tide, small groups of bottlenose dolphins herd hundreds of fish toward a flat or beach. Then, all at once, the dolphins will leap onto


the bank to create a huge wall of water and energy, feast on the fish buffet and, when done, shimmy back into the water. This isn’t something you’ll see on your average twilight beach stroll; guides and locals can point you to the largely wild backwaters where it’s visible. Also, we should note that the phrase “leap” here indicates some sort of graceful natural phenomenon, but when this happens, it can be pretty startling. Dolphins, one tends to forget with the cuteness, are big. Jeff Vrabel

braddock point cemetery >

Tucked away in Sea Pines Plantation is a small piece of history that tells a larger story about Hilton Head. Braddock Point Cemetery is a resting place for native African-Americans, some of whom are thought to be descended from slaves. The small graveyard is really off the beaten path, nestled between condo high-rises on Spinnaker Court off Lighthouse Lane, and it gets its name from Capt. David Cutler Braddock, who commanded a ship named the “Beaufort” in the mid-1700s. Braddock sailed the Carolina coast keeping his eyes on Spanish activities and would hide out in a small cove in what is now Sea Pines. There are about 40 gravestones in the Braddock cemetery; the headstone, which appears to be hand-chiseled, is that of Susan Williams, who was born in 1861 and died in 1921. The cemetery is still in use; Robert E. Williams was buried there in 2008. BILL LITTELL / IWL PHOTOGRAPHY


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‘the blank spot on the map’

When Charles Fraser first laid the foundation for what would become Sea Pines, he did so with the philosophy that the natural state of the island would always come first. The homes and facilities of the resort, he believed, shouldn’t

encroach on the marshes and forests that blanketed the island, but co-exist with them. As if to drive the point home, inside the resort lies the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, 605 acres of space where Fraser’s philosophy reaches


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its zenith and nature remains just as unspoiled as it was when he laid the first brick. “It’s the blank spot of the map; you can see it in satellite photos. It stands out from thousands of feet above,” said David Henderson, wildlife biologist for Community Services Associates.“That’s what makes it special.” But there’s plenty to explore in that blank spot. The Preserve offers bike rides through history along antebellum rice dikes that

harken back to Sea Pines’ days as a rice plantation. There’s fishing in Lake Mary, a 30-acre marvel and the largest freshwater lake on the island. There’s bird watching and picnicking. And perhaps most impressively, there are shell rings that date back to nomadic Indian tribes from 4,000 years ago. “There’s something for everyone,” added Henderson. Charles Edwards

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singing sands

If you listen carefully while walking the dunes of Hilton Head, you may discover that the sand sometimes “sings,” or produces audible sound vibrations that can be compared to the strains of a chorus, or the playing of violins. The idea is not a new one. Thoreau encountered singing sands while walking on an Atlantic Ocean beach; he noted that the sound resembled that made by rubbing a finger over wet glass. Charles Darwin was the first scientist to discuss the phenomenon; in his “A Naturalist’s Voyage Around the World,” he wrote: “Leaving Socego, we retraced our steps. Each time the horse put its foot on the sand, a chirping noise resulted.” The “singing” may be the consequence of billions of minute crystals being rolled against each other by wind. Or, since the sounds are sometimes more pronounced after sundown, it could be that the cooling of the sand at night creates shifts and settling in the dunes.


In any event, the next time you go for a walk, keep your ears tuned for a secret island song. Mary Syrett


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strachan mansion

Here’s something you don’t see every day: 25 years ago, developers strapped a mansion to two barges and floated it 100 miles down the Intracoastal Waterway.


“It was daunting,” Randall Page, general manager at Haig Point, said of the engineering feat that brought Strachan Mansion to Haig Point on Daufuskie Island. “But can’t you duplicate that with something new. It has good bones, and that feeling of warmth and tradition.”

the misunderstood lighthouse


If you head to Daufuskie Island’s Bloody Point in search of the famous lighthouse, don’t bother looking up. This is a different kind of lighthouse. “I’ve worked hard around the world to tell the true meaning of one of South Carolina’s most misunderstood lighthouses,” said Joe Yocius, better known as Lowcountry Joe, the current keeper of the Bloody Point Lighthouse.

The Strachan Mansion (pronounced “Strawn”) was built in 1910 by shipping magnate J.S. Strachan. It faced demolition in 1986 and was advertised as “for sale” to anyone who would move it. Glen McCaskey, account executive for Haig Point’s ad agency, convinced the developers of Haig Point to purchase Strachan for $1 and the move was on. The relocation had to be carefully planned to navigate the tides, tricky currents and open bridge spans, sometimes with only a foot of clearance. When all was said and done, the house landed at Haig Point on April 29, 1986, with only a single window broken. The move turned out to be a public relations boon for Haig Point. It proved to any worried potential home buyers that – despite being isolated on an island – the community was capable of providing anything. And despite the costs associated with moving a three-story, 7,500-square-foot, 300-ton house – in one piece – 100 miles, the purchase ended up being a bargain.“In many ways, it’s our front door,” Page said.“We have events there, a bar, our general store. And it’s right by our docks, so all of our members pass through. I think it will always maintain that feeling of the center of community.” Tim Hager

Rather than a traditional tower, this lighthouse looks like a normal, two-story home. The difference is a dormer window that opens up to reveal a lens that used to align with a second positioning light to provide boaters safe passage into the Savannah River. That second light has been lost to the ages, and now the lighthouse serves a purpose more historic than navigational. Having survived cyclones, the ravages of age and the process of erosion which required the lighthouse be moved a quarter of a mile inland (by oxen, no less), the lighthouse serves as silent testament to Daufuskie’s past. And few appreciate that like Joe. “All we are keepers of the past,” he said. Charles Edwards


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Seven Wonders of Hilton Head  
Seven Wonders of Hilton Head  

Sure, there’s plenty of golf around here, and everyone knows to stop at the Harbour Town lighthouse when in town. But if you venture off the...