Hilton Head is set in a beautiful and biodiverse region of South Carolina's coast, but most of the land on this particular barrier island has been built up. Visitors to this tourist hot spot drive right over miles of intracoastal salt marsh and may not even notice the wildlife haven that surrounds Hilton Head. If you want to slow down and enjoy nature in addition to glamorous comforts, you need not travel far from the resorts of Hilton Head. Pinckney Island is a national wildlife refuge located just a short drive away.
The island is reminiscent of the Lowcountry before urban development, with many acres of maritime forest still intact. The island has been altered from its perfectly natural state, but today it is managed for the benefit of wildlife. Freshwater impoundments provide homes for alligators, other reptiles, and amphibians. Surrounding salt marsh shelters marine fish hatcheries, and the mix of fresh and salt waters invite more than 250 kinds of birds to the island. Mowed fields and grassy trails create valuable forest-edge habitat for grazers and predators. There are also butterfly gardens planted for local and migratory species to stop over. Wildlife you may see include the American alligator, white-tailed deer, foxes, waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds, birds of prey, frogs, snakes, and many butterflies.
Several miles of trails crisscross the island. All are open to hiking and bicycling. Don't forget your camera, because there are many opportunites for photographing the bountiful wildlife here, and sometimes quite up close. Signs throughout the island provide information on ecology and natural history. You can fish here as well, but only in saltwater. In order to protect animals and their habitat, pets are not allowed on the island, and neither is camping. It is all day use only, with a gate that closes between open hours. Mosquitoes can be bad in the warmer months. There are no services or drinking water available on the island, so come prepared with all you might need for the day.