Staycations: Exploring the Low Country

By Jaime Dailey - bio | email

HUNTING ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - Tourist from all over come to visit the Coastal Empire and Low Country.

But in this tough economy, many residents here are choosing to enjoy attractions close to home.

In Beaufort County, we went to two destinations where you won't have to drive far or spend much to enjoy a real vacation.

Sometimes getting away doesn't mean you have to travel far. Many people these days are taking advantage of gems right here in our own backyard like Hunting Island State Park.

"I think it's probably South Carolina's best kept secret," said Hunting Island volunteer Charlie Harrel.

"The water, the scenery, I've been to a lot of beaches around the world and this is one of my favorite beaches," said Tony Oterro from Beaufort.

And there's plenty more to do. You can fish from the pier and enjoy the scenery or for a minimal fee, you can even make your own souvenir practicing the Japanese method for recording a catch.

"It was only $2 to do a fish printing that you'll have a souvenir," said Ann Mann of St. Helena Island.

And kids of all ages can get an up close look at "Buddy" and other creatures in the nature center.

The best part is visiting the island won't break the bank. It's just $4 for adults and $1.50 for kids.

"Being able to go to the beach and capture nature, that's priceless I think," said Mann.

And this getaway is one that can really stretch to new heights as you climb your way to the top of a historic lighthouse for an extra $2.

"Incredible, awesome, especially with the nice breeze," said Jody Thomskins about the view from the lighthouse.

And there's another educational destination on the other end of the county on Hilton Head Island where history and nature really come to life. It's the Coastal Discovery Museum on Honey Horn Plantation.

"It's beautiful, educational," said Joy Geier.

For just a $3 donation fee, you can explore the history within the Discovery House.

Inside the museum, there is a special spot just for kids where they can pull out bins and see all kinds of things like sea turtle bones.

And there are plenty of inexpensive tours throughout the property. There are also board walks where you can get an up close look at all kinds of Low Country wildlife and plants.

"I feel like I'm on a mini vacation," said Adrian O'Neil of Bluffton.

"I've learned more today about the salt marsh than I have in 12 years living right on it so it's been great for me and I'm really looking forward to bringing my family here this summer," said Ann Weed of Hilton Head.

And with just a push of a bird call button, there's a chance you can really interact with nature.

"The clapper rails in the marsh were answering this recording, which amazed me to no end," said O'Neil.

Both Hunting Island and the Coastal Discovery Museum have all kinds of programs going on now and coming up this summer so check them out.

In fact, next month the museum will be opening up their new butterfly enclosure.

©2009 WTOC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.