Things to See + Do - Harbor Island SC
Experience the nature, history, and beauty of South Carolina's Lowcountry.
Once you've found a Harbor Island SC rental, it is time to start planning your vacation activities.
Bird Lover's Paradise
information from the Harbor Island SC Environmental Stewardship Committee
Harbor Island SC is part of the Beaufort Barrier Island's Globally Important Bird Area, a designation given by the National Audubon Society. Because of the Island's diverse habitats, it is home to over 200 species of birds that are either permanent or seasonal residents or migrate through in the spring and the fall.
Red Knots, which use Harbor's beach as a stopping off point on their spring migration from the tip of South America to the Arctic, can be seen in flocks numbering in the thousands. In the summer, the beach provides nesting areas for Wilson's Plovers and the American Oystercatcher. From late July to early May, the beach is home to the endangered Piping Plover.
All year round, seabirds such as the Brown Pelican and the Black Skimmers fly low over the waves in the St Helena Sound or rest on the sandbars.
The Ocean Marsh area contains a variety of trees and plants that provide safety and food for woodland birds and migratory neo-tropical songbirds like the Painted Bunting. There are freshwater lagoons with wading bird rookeries for egrets, herons, and ibises. Recently the Roseate Spoonbill has become a regular summer resident. At any time of the year, Harbor Island is a bird lover's paradise.
Check out the latest sightings on eBird online or with their app.
The Harbor Island SC Birds Facebook page is also a useful resource.
Nest Protection Project between May and October.
May through October is sea turtle nesting season. Harbor Island has a Sea Turtle Nest Protection Program that is permitted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Sea turtles are federally protected, so please do not touch, disturb, harass the turtles, their nests or hatchlings.
Harbor Island observes Lights Out on the beachfront after sundown to reduce light pollution, thereby preventing spatial disorientation for sea turtle nesting. If walking on the beach at night, please use a red filter flashlight. If you dig a hole on the beach, fill it in before you leave the beach for the day.
For more information:
- Harbor Island Turtle Program - Facebook Page for the latest nesting and hatching news, Turtle Talks, photos, and video
- SeaTurtle.org - Harbor Island SC Statistics - the #s
You can support the Turtle Program through their Amazon Smile Referral Link, search for "Harbor Island Sea Turtle Project Inc."
Hunting Island State Park
South Carolina's most popular state park is only 2 miles from Harbor Island.
Many Harbor Island vacation rentals will include a Hunting Island Park Passport to use during your stay. If not available, passes are available at the gate or online at the South Carolina State Parks Store or the Friends of Hunting Island.
There are several hiking trails at Hunting Island State Park to explore the park's maritime forest and marshlands:
More Outside Adventures
Dempsey Farm U-Pick is about a 10-minute drive from Harbor Island.
Morning Glory Homestead farm, fishing, and history tours
UPickDaffodils Flower Farm (seasonal)
Wimbee Creek Flower Farm in Seabrook for tours and flower design workshops
Camelot Farms Equestrian Center is about a 10-minute drive from Harbor Island, and beginners are welcome.
Natural Trails and Parks
- Harry C Chambers Waterfront Park
- Penn Center Nature Trail
- Cypress Wetlands Trail
- Sands Boardwalk @ the end of Sands Beach
- Spanish Moss Trail
- ACE Basin Trail
- Pigeon Point Park
On the Water
Coastal Expeditions operates a new ferry & tours to St. Phillips Island. The ferry departs from Hunting Island State Park's Nature Center.
Higher Ground on Lady's Island near Factory Creek and Lady's Island Marina offers kayak and SUP tours and rentals, and they will deliver to Harbor Island.
Charter Fishing at Outcast Sport Fishing
Reel Marsh Charters fishing and tours such as Swim Horse ride tours around Lands End and guided boat tours to view Morgan Island, aka "Monkey" Island minutes away from Harbor Island by boat. Disembarking is not allowed on Monkey Island, but its primate inhabitants are viewable from the water.
Tide Ryder fishing charters from the Port Royal Marina
Sites, Museums, and Tours
Walking, Trolley and Heritage Tours with Beaufort Gray Line
Walking and Van Tours with Beaufort Tours
Chapel of Ease at Lands End Road near Saturns Circle on St Helena Island
Fort Fremont is about a 20-minute drive from Harbor Island
Milton Maxcy House aka the "Succession House" at 1113 Craven in Beaufort's Historic District
Reconstruction Era National Monument and the Beaufort Arsenal at 713 Craven Street near downtown Beaufort
Robert Smalls House at 511 Prince Street near downtown Beaufort
Festivals and Events
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, many 2020 events have been canceled.
First Friday Cruise-In @ Grayco
Taste of Beaufort
Beaufort Holiday Weekend: Lighted Boat and Street Parades
Area Courses + Mini
Harbor Island SC Beach and Racquet Club
As part of your rental, you will have access to the Beach and Racquet Club amenities (some COVID-19 restrictions apply)
- Large Lap Swimming Pool & Kiddie Pool (typically open from April to October)
- WiFi (network name Beach_&_Racket_Club)
- Bike Rental (for HIOA office during the week. 843.838.5257)
- Tennis Courts
- Basketball Court
- Golf Putting Green
- Sand Volleyball Court
- Gym with treadmills, ellipticals, and recumbent bikes
- Gym with free weights and machine
Links to area trip reports
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Harbor Island SC Beach
When is high/low tide?
Are dogs allowed on the beach?
Yes, but on a leash and away from the shorebird and turtle nesting areas. There are several dog waste bag dispensers around the island for convenient pickups.
Can we use outdoor canopies, umbrellas, and tailgate tents, etc. on the beach?
Yes, but please take it down and remove it by the end of the day.
Can I ride my bike on the beach?
Yes, but please walk your bike on the boardwalks to the beach.
Where can I rent a bike, kayak or standup paddleboard?
- Harbor Island Owners Association rents bicycles during the weekdays; call to set up, 843.838.5257.
- Higher Ground on Lady's Island near Factory Creek and Lady's Island Marina offers kayak and SUP tours and rentals, and they will deliver to Harbor Island.
- Barefoot Bubba's
- Island Spirit
What should I do if I see a sea turtle on the beach?
Do not approach the sea turtle. Call Harbor Island security at 843-838-4890, and they will notify the island's permit holder for the SC Department of Natural Resources' Sea Turtle Nest Protection Program.
Why are there military planes flying over the island?
"The noise you hear is the Sound of FREEDOM" from the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
What about trash?
It is always important to practice "Leave No Trace" whenever you visit Harbor Island. There are trash cans near every beach boardwalk. Also, The island's Environmental Stewardship Committee has started a pilot recycling program by placing recycling bins for plastics and cans at boardwalks #1 and #4.
Where is the closest place to get ice?
Mainline Market - about a 2-minute drive toward Hunting Island
Where can I get a Birthday cake?
Check out our Desserts section on our Eat + Drink page.
Does Harbor Island do anything special for the 4th of July?
Yes, there is usually a golf cart parade on or around the 4th.
Fishing & Crabbing
Do I need a license?
Any Harbor Island SC specific tips?
- "The island's north end of the beach is best for surf fishing."
- "Frozen cut mullet, squid hold up well in the surf. Recommend a rod stand that you push into the beach to hold poles. If just for fun Walmart would be the most economical to purchase a complete rig. Best fishing is 2 hours or so before high tide. You'll catch sharks, some whiting, redfish, seacats, and stingrays."
- "Head to the north end about an hour before low tide. Get some live mud minnows or live shrimp. I recommend live shrimp because it "matches the hatch" right now. Get some 4/0 circle hooks and 45-50lbs wire leader: braided 30lbs line and 3oz weights and bigger swivels. Try to get into the Channel and ... have a rod holder. Go to Beaufort boat and dock supply. Local is better. Tight lines, buddy!"
- Crabbing with Tia Clark:
Can I pier fish from Hunting Island?
A majority of the Hunting Island pier has been closed since Hurricane Matthew, and fishing and crabbing is currently not permitted.
Where are the closest boat landings?
Butcher's Island is just before the Harbor River Bridge.
Russ Point just past Hunting Island State Park and before the Fripp Island Bridge.
Other landings in the Beaufort area:
As a Harbor Island renter, can I bring or rent a golf cart?
No, there is an owners association rule that doesn't allow renters to bring or rent golf carts. Some Harbor Island SC rentals do include the use of a golf cart as part of the rental agreement.
Is there golf cart parking?
Yes, some parking areas have designated parking spots. "No Parking" areas mean no parking for golf carts too.
Can I drive a golf cart on the beach?
Generally, no, but it is permitted for the Turtle Patrol and drivers with a handicap placard.
Can I drive a golf cart on the Sea Island Parkway?
With so much beauty, Harbor Island SC is a perfect place to work on your photography skills or to use it as a natural backdrop for a special occasion or family portraits.
Can I get a recommendation for a photographer?
Looking to book a photo session during your visit? Here are some photographers that have worked on the island:
Rental Home Options
Are there any Harbor Island SC homes listed for Home Exchange?
Are there any handicap-accessible rental homes available on Harbor Island?
There are several homes on the island with accessible elevators.
Are there any rental homes available with a private pool?
Are there any 3-Bedroom Condos?
Which Villa buildings have elevators?
L & M
What TV channels are available on Harbor Island?
It depends on the provider: