If you’ve been dreaming of a vacation destination where you and your family can get away to a relatively quiet place, and just relax together on a beautiful unspoiled and uncrowded beach, then Harbor Island South Carolina is that perfect place you’ve been looking for! My family has vacationed in Harbor Island several times over the last few years- and we absolutely love it there!
Located in South Carolina’s “low country”, Harbor Island is about 14 miles east of the historic town of Beaufort. This small island consists of beautiful pastel-colored privately owned homes and condos right alongside 2 1/2 miles of perfect white sand beaches. (You can find home rentals on VRBO and Home Away).
Harbor Island is a quiet and laid-back vacation destination because you’re not competing for beach space in front of a collection of high-rise hotels. It is a very family-oriented, most of the other vacation guests that we met were there with their kids and even with their grandparents (like us!) But what really sets Harbor Island apart is it’s natural setting. The island is a protected wildlife habitat, so as you walk around the community you can visit viewing areas where you can watch alligators in the marshy inlet and see dozens of sea birds nesting in the trees. The homes and condos are part of a residential community that also has three swimming pools, tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts, and it seems that most everyone here drives around on golf carts. Because it is a private residential island, traffic is very limited, so I felt comfortable allowing my kids to run ahead of me on the street as we walked towards the pools or to check out the wildlife viewing areas.
The water off of the beach is relatively shallow (and deliciously warm!) and as you walk along the beach you’ll have a chance to see horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, ghost crabs, and all kinds of sea birds- not to mention dolphins jumping in the waves! From May to September the beaches are also a nesting site for endangered loggerhead turtles- so visitors are asked to keep their window shades and blinds closed from sundown to sunup to help protect the turtle hatchlings. And sometimes you’ll even spot a shrimp boat or two right out your window!
One side of Harbor Island fronts the ocean, and the other side a tidal march with many water passageways. We were able to paddle our kayak from the beach right in front of our rental home back to the tidal marsh inlets where we were observed turtles, crabs, and even a group of baby sharks! My husband was hoping we would spot a gator or two sunbathing on the banks- but no such luck! So our alligator-viewing was limited to the wildlife viewing area.
There are great restaurants located near Harbor Island including our favorite Johnson Creek Tavern where my kids indulged in crab legs by the bucket, and we pinned dollar bills to the ceiling with our names on ihem-hoping that we’ll be able to spot them the next time that we visit!
The nearby town of Beaufort offers lots more in the way of great restaurants, grocery and souvenir shopping, and things for the kids do. You can take a carriage ride through the historic town, watch the Marine and Navy aircraft fly over the city, and if you happen to be there over the Fourth of July- you can see fireworks and the Marine Band play over at nearby Parris Island.