st phillips island

State Park officials assessing St. Phillips Island

st phillips islandThe State Park Service is currently assessing the resources and logistical capacities of St. Phillips Island to develop a comprehensive management plan for the property.

Last December, in what is considered to be one of the most important conservation transactions in state history, environmentalist and philanthropist Ted Turner sold the 4,680 acre island to the State of South Carolina for only $4.9 million; a deal that will add more public beach access and camping to Beaufort County.

Once that plan is in place, a strategy will be established to optimize the visitor experience potential as part of Hunting Island State Park.

On an invitation-only media tour of St. Phillips Island last week, state park officials talked about the obstacles faced with assessing the island and offered a few ideas as to what’s to come.

Officials hope that it will be open before the end of 2018 for limited tours.

The island offers a few miles of pristine beach along with many trails in a maritime forest with old live oaks and even magnolia trees. It’s an utterly beautiful island with twisted old oaks along with many creeks and tidal pools.

The island is in a very primitive state.

st phillips island

Ted Turner’s private home on St. Phillips Island. Now to be operated by the State Park system. ESPB Photo

Archaeologists, historians and scientists will be analyzing the educational value, visitor uses and market for overnight accommodations that might eventually be there and could possibly include Turner’s house as a rental. A conservation easement held by the Nature Conservancy limits the number of additional structures that can be built.

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“St. Phillips is a jewel off the South Carolina coast, a pristine barrier island suffused with the natural beauty of the Lowcountry,” said Duane Parrish, Director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, which will manage the island. “The possibilities for shaping and offering exceptional coastal experiences are numerous.”

One obstacle is going to be access to the island. It’s about a 15 minute boat ride to get there.

st phillips islandLocated just north of Hilton Head, with St. Helena and Bay Point Islands viewable in the distance, St. Phillips served as a Lowcountry retreat for Turner along with his family and friends since 1979. 

It is surrounded by marsh and beach, and is accessible by boat ride up tidal rivers and creeks around Bay Point. Along with three boats and two vehicles, the sale also came with a main residence and a few other structures on the island.

“My family and I are thrilled that our beloved St. Phillips Island is now in the hands of the state of South Carolina,” said Turner, just after the sale was complete.  “After sharing many fond memories together on the island, my family and I now look forward to others being able to experience and appreciate the unique beauty and tranquility that St. Phillips has provided us for so many years.”

Read more about the sale of the island.

For over 100 photos of St. Phillips Island taken by Delk Haigler for ESPB, visit our Photo Gallery here.

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