Regularly Scheduled Ferries Now Available for St. Phillips Island

Tours now available to St. Phillips Island

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Just about 10 nautical miles South of Hunting Island lies an untouched piece of the Lowcountry. Now, you can finally explore St. Phillips Island for yourself.

You might not have heard of St. Phillips Island before, and most people have never even been allowed to step foot on it.

“Since the king granted the property, it has been in different families names, so this is the first time the public has been allowed to go out there,” Jonathan Weatherford, manager of Hunting Island State Park, said.

South Carolina’s state parks department bought the property from media mogul Ted Turner in December of 2017. Since then, they’ve been preparing the park for visitors. St. Phillips is one of just six National Natural Landmarks in the state.

“It is for natural lands, public lands that are protected, not developed, and are unique.”

That designation by the National Parks Service is an indicator of Turner’s conservation’s efforts on the island. It also means that a trip there places you in the shoes of the early explorers.

“When I get out to St. Phillips to the very end of the beach, and I look back into the island, you’re really looking at what the Spanish and French settlers would’ve seen in the 1500s.”

Those sights include giant, ancient oak and magnolia trees and rare wildlife like fox squirrels and indigo snakes.

Nobody knows more about the unspoiled beauty of this island than Ray “Boogie” Tudor.

"It's one of the prettiest islands you'll ever see. You can't imagine just how peaceful it is when the sun goes down."

The Beaufort native first took Turner to the island back in 1979. After it was purchased, Tudor served as the island’s caretaker and manager for nearly four decades. He was responsible for building trails, roads and even Turner’s home from scratch.

"There was nothing there. No roads, no buildings no docks. I would anchor the boat and go ashore and hope the boat hadn't run aground when I came back that afternoon."

Tudor describes working on the island as a dream come true, but he's excited for everyone who will get to experience St. Phillips for the first time.

“My wife and I had hoped that when the island was put up for sale that it would be used to show God’s creation out there to many people instead of another private owner, and certainly didn’t want any development out there at all, so certainly our wishes came true.”

Getting to St. Phillips:

Hunting Island State park offered a few scattered tours to St. Phillips Island in 2018 and 2019. They began regularly scheduled ferry trips and tours for the first time in mid-June.

  • Tuesday, Thursday - Saturday:
    • 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
    • 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • Departs from Hunting Island Nature Center.
  • Tickets
    • Adults: $45
    • Kids 12 & under: $25
    • This also includes an interpretive nature tour through the island.
  • COVID-19 precautions:
    • Ferry is limited to 50% capacity.
    • Masks are required while you’re on the trip to the boat dock, on the boat and on the island tram.
  • Register and learn more here.

What’s happening to Ted Turner’s former vacation home?

The manager of Hunting Island State Park says it will be rented out as a single cabin unit. The five bedroom house sleeps 12 people.

Right now, park officials are still finalizing the details, but they plan on offering a few different packages to outdoorsmen. You’ll also be given a food voucher with your stay to pre-order the groceries you’ll use during your trip.

Park officials say you should be able to stay there by October for a pretty unique trip.

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