Harbor Island SC See + Do

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 activities for your vacation.

Bird Lover's Paradise

information from the Harbor Island SC Environmental Stewardship Committee

Harbor Island SC Birds

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 can be seen flying low over the waves in the St Helena Sound or resting 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 that are home to large wading bird rookeries with 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.

Harbor Island SC Birds


Check out the latest sightings on eBird:   Harbor Island and Harbor Island Beach.

Harbor Island SC Birds Facebook page

Sea Turtles

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.

Loggerhead Nest Harbor Island SC

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.  Also, if you dig a hole on the beach, fill it in before you leave the beach for the day.

For more information:

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.

Hunting Island State Park, has a large beach, coastal forest and marsh trails, a Nature Center, Lighthouse, and a popular filming location.

Harbor Island Lighthouse

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:

St Phillips Island

New Ferry & Tours depart from Hunting Island State Park's Nature Center

Historical Sites and Museums

in the area

EcoTours, Tours, Charters, and Excursions

in the area

Parks & Trails

in the area


Links to area courses:

Glowcountry Indoor Mini Golf in Beaufort

Lady's Island Country Club on Lady's Island

Olde Beaufort Golf Club - Miniature Golf coming soon! in Beaufort

Secession Golf Club in Beaufort

The Legends on Parris Island

Festivals and Events

Please note, many events for 2020 have been cancelled

Harbor Island SC Beach and Racquet Club

"The BRC"

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
  • Playground
  • Horseshoes
  • Shuffleboard

Travel Resources

Links to other state and local travel information:
Eat Stay Play Beaufort
Beaufort SC
Hunting Island State Park
SC Lowcountry Resort Islands
SC Just Right

Harbor Island SC FAQs

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions


answers to all your Harbor Island beach questions

When is high/low tide?

Harbor River Bridge Tides
Johnson Creek Bridge, Hunting Island Tides

Are dogs allowed on the beach?

Yes, but on a leash and away from the bird 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


Any tips for avoiding bug bites?

some recommendations from owners and visitors:


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?

Yes, get your SC Fishing License online.

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 of the island 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: How To article from the Eat Sleep Play Beaufort website

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

Russ Point just past Hunting Island State Park and before the Fripp Island bridge.

Other landings in the Beaufort area:

Golf Carts

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 drivers with a handicap placard and the turtle patrol

Can I drive a golf cart on the Sea Island Parkway?


Homeowner Questions

Check out our homeowner resources page, Harbor Island SC Owners

Lowcountry Lingo

some explanations on the language

Bottle Tree

Explore Beaufort SC's

Joggling Board

The Joggle Factory

Mobile Networks

Which mobile networks are available on the island?

Sprint & T-Mobile


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:

Cecillia Berger Photography

Christy Clark Photography

Craig Marsh

Delk Haigler

Eric Horan

Jessica Blackburn Photography

Kimberly Cairnes

Lexie Murray Photography

Phil Heim Photography

Wollwerth Imagery

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?


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:



some suggestions from owners and regular vistors

Where can I get my hair done?

Maxine's Hair, Waxing & Tanning

Mystic Blu

Salon 705

The Bay Street Salon & Drybar

Where can I get my nails done?

Christine's Nails

City Nails near Publix - a Best of Beaufort winner

Nails.com near Walmart

Harbor Island SC FAQs

Last updated 7/9/2020: Is something missing or incorrect? Please email us to let us know the updates.