Climb the Hunting Island Lighthouse in South Carolina

Visitors can still climb the Hunting Island Lighthouse for a breathtaking view over 100' high.

Written by

Jason Barnette

on

March 5, 2015

The Hunting Island Lighthouse has been accepting visitors since 1875 and today remains the only historic lighthouse in South Carolina you can still climb. Towering in the heart of Hunting Island State Park the lighthouse has a commanding view of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding maritime forest. Here is what you need to know if you want to climb the historic Hunting Island Lighthouse in South Carolina.

Visit Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island State Park is one of the most popular state parks in South Carolina. A cozy campground within earshot of the crashing waves, a long beach to explore, and several hiking trails offer plenty to do. But one of the best things to do is climb the original lighthouse.

Climb the Hunting Island Lighthouse

I was happy to hand over the $2 admission for the self-guided lighthouse tour. I climbed the stone steps leading into the base of the lighthouse and looked up. And up. And up.

From the bottom I could see the spiral staircase rising to the top. These 167 stairs were divided with platforms every once in a while. Each platform had an informational panel with details about the lighthouse.

Did you know the Hunting Island Lighthouse is one of only two cast iron segmented lighthouses in the country? The segments were made of cast iron and meant to be easily moved if necessary. Once fixed to a solid foundation the segments would be lined with brick.

The towering black and white Hunting Island Lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina
A black cast iron circular staircase leading upward into the Hunting Island Lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina
A flat platform along the cast iron circular staircase inside the Hunting Island Lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina

The circular cast iron staircase leads to the top of the Hunting Island Lighthouse.

View From the Top of the Hunting Island Lighthouse

It took me about twenty minutes to leisurely climb the 167 steps to the top. A small hatch opened onto a cast iron observation platform that wrapped around the top of the lighthouse. Despite everyone always saying, “Don’t look down!”, the first thing I did was look down.

But the very next thing I did was look outward. The platform was 110’ above the ground and offered a stunning view. The waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashed against the long, wide beaches. Pine trees swayed in the gentle wind. It was an amazing view that, despite my fear of heights, I enjoyed thoroughly.

I couldn’t stay long, though. The park rangers only allow 20 people inside the lighthouse at a time. I could see a bit of a line forming outside the entrance. With great reluctance I left the view behind and began the easier climb down.

A large beach and maritime forest spread out near the top of the Hunting Island Lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina

The large beach spreads out in the distance from the top of the Hunting Island Lighthouse.

South Carolina Lighthouses

There are ten lighthouses along the coast of South Carolina. Here is where you can find them and what you can do when you get there.

  • The Georgetown Light – Built in 1811 it is the oldest remaining lighthouse in South Carolina. It is not open to the public for tours, however you can take a guided boat tour to see it from the water.
  • Harbor Town Lighthouse – This lighthouse was completed in 1970 as a marketing ploy for the Sea Pines vacation rental community. It is open to the public for daily tours.
  • Morris Island Lighthouse – Originally built on Morris Island, this lighthouse today stands surrounded by the ocean after the island eroded away. Located off the north end of Folly Beach there is a nice place to see it from a distance, but it is otherwise off limits.
  • Charleston Light – Located on Sullivan’s Island this is one of two South Carolina lighthouses still operated by the Coast Guard and therefore not open to the public.
  • Hunting Island Lighthouse – Located in Hunting Island State Park, this lighthouse was built in 1875 and remains open for daily self-guided tours.
  • Leamington Lighthouse – Also known as the Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse, this lighthouse is located in the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on Hilton Head Island and not open to the public.
  • Governor’s Lighthouse – This icon of the Little River skyline was built in 1984 as a tourist trap. Although it is easy to see from several locations around the small community it is not open to the general public.
  • Haig Point Lighthouse – Built in 1873 this was the first lighthouse on Daufuskie Island. It is part of a private resort community only accessible by boat today and not open to the public.
  • Bloody Point Lighthouse –Built in 1888 on Daufuskie Island this lighthouse now includes a museum, interpretive gardens, and is open for daily tours.
The dull brown and white Morris Island Lighthouse, completely surrounded by the ocean, near Folly Beach, South Carolina
The dull brown and white Morris Island Lighthouse, completely surrounded by the ocean, near Folly Beach, South Carolina

The Morris Island Lighthouse, completely surrounded by the ocean now, near Folly Beach.

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