Fort Howell Civil War historic site, a Hilton Head free family attraction

Hilton Head Island was captured by Union forces on November 7, 1861 after the Battle of Port Royal. The enormous amphibious invasion force, the largest until World War II, consisted of 77 ships (15 warships), 13,000 troops, 1,500 horses and tons of materials needed to establish the headquarters for the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Three years later Fort Howell was built by black Union Army troops to protect Mitchelville, the first town in the South developed specifically for the thousands of newly freed slaves.

Fort Howell historic site is located near the intersection of Beach City Road and Dillon, right across from Hilton Head Airport. Admission is free, the site is open daily from dawn to dusk and it takes about 15-20 minutes to cover all the grounds.

Built by U.S. Troops to protect Mitcheville the first freedmen town in the South

Fort Howell full layout



Fort Howell historic highlights:

• The earthen fort was named after Gen. Joshua Howell, who was killed in the battle of Richmond.
• The newly arrived 500 members of the 32nd U.S. Colored Regiment from Pennsylvania, under the command of Col. Baird and the 144th New York Infantry, were assigned the task of building the fort.
• Fort Howell was built in the middle of a large cotton field near the Port Royal Sound, on 3 acres of land once part of the Fish Hall Plantation of William Pope.
• It was designed for 27 guns, 11 field pieces and 16 siege guns.

After building the fort, the 32nd U.S. Colored Regiment participated in the Battle of Honey Hill, on November 30, 1864, sustain 51 casualties.

Bridge over moat at Fort Howell built in 1864

Traverse and moat

The first black troops in the Union Army enlisted on Hilton Head Island in 1862. Initially, men were reluctant to join the army, not wanting to leave their families and risk being captured by the Confederates which meant a return to slavery and death. Also, many Union troops were openly hostile to escaped slaves. To encourage recruits Gen. Hunter issued a pass to those joining the army:

“Now, be it known to all that, agreeable to the laws, I declare the said person free and forever absolved from all claims to its services. Both he and his wife and his children have full right to go North, South, East, West as they may decide.” D. Hunter Major General Commanding. April 19, 1862.

At the top of the North Bastion

North Bastion location

The unit was disbanded months later. Congress did not allow black men to serve until 1863, when the unit was officially organized as the South Carolina First Regiment. The men in the unit were former slaves from South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

By the end of the Civil War, 179,000 blacks in the Union Army and 20,000 in the Navy have fought for freedom and the end of slavery.

Whats left of Fort Howell at Port Royal sound

What remains from Fort Howell’s earthen fortifications

Moss covered trees at Fort Howell Hilton Head

Peaceful trail withing Fort Howell historic site

More historic sites in the area (data and map from Historical Markers Database website)
• Mitchelville site
• St. James Baptist Church
Battle of Port Royal
• Fish Hall Plantation
• Thomas Fenwick Drayton
• Two Gallant Gentlemen from South Carolina

Here is the map, all markers are within 1 mile from Fort Howell and have free admission.

All roads lead to Fort Walker? The Port Royal Battle, the Blockade, the Charleston Siege, and the first Gullah town (Hilton Head historic tour)

The Hilton Head Island history is rich and powerful, with the Civil War period as its most fascinating and nation-impacting act. We were lucky to experience it last summer, during the “Forts of Port Royal” tour provided by the Coastal Discovery Museum.

Things to know before you go
• The cost is $12 for adults and $7 for children ages 4-12 (subject to change check the museum website for latest prices). The tour lasts ~1:45 minutes, with the first half hour spent inside Westin Hotel, listening to a

Battle of Port Royal Civil War historic site

Here was fought the largest naval battle in US waters...


historic overview.

This part is the hardest to digest and enjoy by young kids. Amazingly, my then 4 years old, was happy to just doodle on the couch next to me.

• You are expected to drive your own car to Westin (where the tour starts) and the Fort Walker / Fort Sherman ruins inside Port Royal Plantation. Our guide courteously offered to drive us in his car, which we did.

• There is not much left of Fort Walker, just some earthen mounds surrounded by huge oak trees. The only visible ruins are from Fort Sherman (built on top on Fort Walker). However, the views of the Port Royal Sound are spectacular! Added bonus you can catch a glimpse of Ted Turner’s personal island…

• It gets very hot during summer. Bring a hat and water; wear sunscreen and insect repellent. Once on the fort grounds there is very little walk involved.

Incredible facts and funny trivia about the Port Royal Battle and Hilton Head
• Before the Civil War, South Carolina was one of the richest states. Thanks to its staple crop, the extra long and super fine Sea Island cotton, Hilton Head was believed to house the world’s most millionaires per square feet!

Port Royal forts ruins

Civil War Battle of Port Royal


• Fort Walker was the first fort built on the island, near the spot claimed by British Captain William Hilton during its famous expedition in 1663.

Erected in a hurry in 1861, the fort was meant to protect the South Carolina coast against Union attacks.

• On November 7, 1861, the “Battle of Port Royal” became the largest naval battle ever fought in American waters. 18 Union warships and 55 supporting craft led by Admiral S. F. DuPont, carrying 13,000 troops, 1500 horses, 500 surf boats, and 1,000 laborers, bombarded for over 4 hours Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard.

• The Battle of Port Royal established Hilton Head as the headquarters for the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, started the war-long attack on Charleston, and led to the creation of Mitchelville, the first town developed specifically for the newly freed slaves.

Mitchelville became the birth of the rich Gullah culture and was also the sight of the first mandatory education system in the United States!

A bloody family affair – The Confederate troops were under the command

Fish Hall Plantation design at Port Royal Sound

Modern day replica of Drayton-Pope Fish Hall Plantation home

of General Thomas F. Drayton, a prominent local plantation owner, politician, and president of the very profitable Charleston – Savannah railroad.

Amazingly, his brother Commander Percival Drayton will lead the Union Navy attack, including the USS Pocahontas, which was credited to have inflicted the most damage during the battle!

• Despite heavy bombardments there were less than 100 casualties, a significant low number by later Civil War battles standards.

• Following the battle, close to 50,000 Union troops were quartered on the island, more than the number of today’s residents!

• The U.S. Customs House on Robbers Row street, conducted enormous amounts of business as dozens of ships entered the port monthly from as far away as Boston. It is said that most of the goods were sold on the black market to the Confederates…

Here is the virtual tour of Fort Walker:

If you are really into Civil War fort battles, then drive 1 hour south to Savannah and visit the legendary Fort Pulaski. There are live cannon and musket firings in the weekends. Admission to the park is less then $5 (free for kids).

From Charleston to Savannah with love…Favorite places to visit with my kid in the Lowcountry

Here are the most surprising places I have found during my travel adventures in South Carolina (all approved by my preschool daughter). Today I’ll go over the Lowcountry: Charleston, Edisto, Beaufort, Hilton Head and Savannah.

The American LaFrance Fire Museum in North Charleston

This place is FUN with capital letters! Best of all its free for kids and only $6 for adults.

Kids get fired up in Charleston!

Drive a real fire truck at the North Charleston Fire Museum


Children can climb-on a real fire truck, go through a full-fledged emergency response, including a simulated street driving, honk horns, talk on the radio and push all sorts of buttons.

You get to see an amazing display of legendary fire engines from the 1700s to modern days.

I loved learning about the fire fighting history and its technological marvels, the fire trivia (i.e. Benjamin Franklin started the first successful fire insurance company in US) and the most devastating fires in the world (from AD 64 in Rome to 1906 in San Francisco).

The museum is open 10AM – 5PM (1PM on Sundays) and is located near the Tanger Outlets.

Charles Towne Landing Historic Park and Animal Fores Zoo

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of America, is a wonderful place filled with educational, recreational and fun things to do for everyone.

Walk the plank at Charles Towne Landing

17th century justice is served

The park is open daily 9AM to 5 PM. Admission is $5 adults, $3 children 6-15 and free for 3 and under.

Start at the Visitors Center to see how life was like in the 1670s for the Lord Proprietors, settlers, native tribes, indentured servants, and slaves.

Visit the Animal Forest zoo home to pumas, bison, alligators, black bears, otters, bobcats, wolves and a variety of birds.

Be a captain aboard Adventure, a life-size 17th century trading ship replica.

Walk, stroll, jog or bike along the marsh or through the 80 acres of magnificent gardens, featuring thousands of azaleas, camellias and centuries old oak trees.

Edisto Island Serpentarium

Gigantic alligators, deadly snakes, funny looking lizards and snappy turtles “with a face only a mother could love”…

Incredible reptiles on Edisto Island near Charleston

Edisto's best buddies

The park features beautiful indoor and outdoor exhibits filled with native species as well as weird reptiles from around the world.

Make sure to attend the live snake education programs (at 11, 1, 3 and 5PM) and the alligator feedings (12 and 4PM).

Some may not have the stomach for it, yet we were thrilled!

Kids really enjoy digging through pre-historic bones from once native saber tooth cats, whales, mammoths and giant bears.

Edisto Island Serpentarium is open May through Labor Day Thursday to Saturdays from 10AM to 6PM (Monday to Saturday in the summer).

Admission is $12.95 adults, $9.95 children (6-12), $5.95 children 4 and 5, free for those 3 and under.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Beautiful 18th century church near CharlestonA deeply moving and inspirational historic site remnant of the 1745 Prince William Parish.

Twice burned, once during Revolutionary War and again during the Civil War March to the Sea and yet still standing…

Amid tragedy there hope and rebirth. The ruins have become a very popular site for outdoor wedding ceremonies and a photographers composition dream.

Mark your calendar! Once a year, on the second Sunday after Easter, the prestigious St. Helena Church holds a public service at the ruins.

The church ruins are located on Old Sheldon Road right off highway 21 between Beaufort and Yemassee.

Hunting Island Lighthouse and State Park – Breath-taking views, romantic beach and lush maritime forest. Hunting Island State Park is the most popular park in South Carolina, and for good reasons.
Best state park in South Carolina The park jewel is South Carolina’s only publicly accessible historic lighthouse. Dating from the 1870s, the Hunting Island Lighthouse shoots 170 feet into the air, rewarding visitors magnificent views of the Lowcountry marshland and the Atlantic Ocean.

Enjoy 5 miles of soft sand beach, a wonderful lagoon home to seahorses and barracuda, thousands of acres of marsh and tidal creek, a fishing pier and some of the state’s most desirable campsites.

Admire up-close loggerhead sea turtles, alligators, pelicans, dolphins and deer, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and the rare coral snakes.

The loggerhead turtles nest on the island in the summer months.

Park daily admission is $4 adults, $1.5 children age 6-15 and free for children 5 and younger. Lighthouse ticket is an additional $2.

Parris Island Museum near Beaufort

An extraordinary place honoring the US Marines history, life as a recruit, and military accomplishments.

WWII Japanese cannon prize of war

Here I am!

Admire hundreds of unusual weapons and enemy captures from legendary battles, laugh at the “good life as a recruit” posters and learn about the inspiring US Marines history.

Little ones can earn the “Junior Recruit” title by successfully completing the museum exploration challenge.

Admission is free and the museum is open daily from 10AM to 4:30PM. If time permits take the island driving tour.

Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

This place has it all! A rich display of the Lowcountry heritage, an incredible saltmarsh ecosystem, world-class history walks and nature tours

Delicate beauty at Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

and a brilliant Butterfly Pavilion.

Admission to the museum, outside grounds and the butterfly enclosure is free (guided tours range from $5 to $20 per person).

Coastal Discovery Museum is open year around Monday to Saturday from 9AM to 4:30 PM, Sunday 11AM to 3PM.

Here is an overview of the fun things you can do with kids outdoor.


Fort Pulaski National Park near Savannah

A memorable Civil War battle marked the end of masonry fortifications after the “indestructible” Fort Pulaski fell after 30 hours of cannon firings.

Magnificent Civil War reenactments

Fort Pulaski, an incredible Civil War battle and military marvel

Admission is free for kids under 16 and $3 for adults and is good for 6 days. The Fort Pulaski National Monument has a plethora of educational family activities.

Learn about the tragic story of the Immortal 600 Confederate officers, and mind-boggling military strategies and weapons deployed at the time.

Make sure to attend the live musket and cannon fire demonstrations that are held each weekend.

Walk the scenic 0.75 mile Overloook Trail to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, originally built in 1837. The lighthouse escaped untouched during the 30 hours attack on the Fort despite the fact it was positioned straight in the line of fire!

Life is beautiful in the historic Lowcountry!

Free and romantic Hilton Head attractions: mysterous Leamington Lighthouse, a ghost legend and military treasure

Featured on the National Register of Historic Places, the Leamington Lighthouse, is a legendary historic site on Hilton Head Island.

1881 Lighthouse belived to be haunted by light keeper's daughter ghost

1881 Lighthouse belived to be haunted by light keeper's daughter ghost


Originally known as the Hilton Head Range Light Station, the unusual skeleton and cypress wood structure was built to guide ships into Port Royal Sound.

It is the only historic lighthouse on Hilton Head Island and one of few surviving lighthouses in South Carolina

Historic Highlights (courtesy of Friends of the Lighthouse)

• In 1863 Union troops built the island first light, but only 6 years later the original tower was destroyed by a storm.

• In 1881 a pair of range lights was erected to guide vessels into Port Royal Sound. The front light stood 35 feet high right above the keeper’s house while the rear light was served by the 95 feet high skeleton-like tower. The cypress wood lantern and watch room were reached by climbing 112 steps.

• In 1884, a mobile front range light was constructed to track the shifting channel.

Lighthouse cistern ruin

Lighthouse cistern ruin


• In 1932 the lights were decommissioned and during World War II the surrounding area became Camp McDougal, a training facility for Marines men, dogs and horses.

• In the 1960s, the keeper’s dwellings were moved to Harbour Town at Sea Pines Plantation Resort.

Currently, one dwelling serves as a Bakery and Cafe, while the other is home to the Sea Pines Real Estate Company.

• In the mid 1980s the lighthouse was incorporated into the new Arthur Hills Golf Course at Palmetto Dunes Resort.

• Today the only remains are the old brick oil house and the cistern.

The Lady in Blue Ghost Story… (from “Ghosts of the Carolina Coasts”, by Terrance Zepke, 1999)

In 1898 a powerful hurricane washed over the island. Keeper Adam Fripp rushed to protect the lights.

Drenched in heavy rain, Fripp made his way to the tower and up the spiral staircase. A powerful gust of wind shattered one of the glass panes in the lantern room.

The strain of the ascent coupled with the shock of the exploding glass was more than Fripp’s heart could handle.

What was once Camp McDougal WWII, a Marines training site

What was once Camp McDougal WWII, a Marines training site

His daughter Caroline noticed her father’s prolonged absence and went in search of him.

She discovered him inside the tower who, with a last breath, implored her to “keep the light burning no matter how dangerous the storm.”

Several days passed before anyone made it to the island. Caroline had managed to tend the light throughout the storm, but her sorrow and exhaustion proved too much, as she died shortly thereafter.

People say that on dark rainy nights a girl in a blue dress may be seen on the beach or near the skeleton tower signaling with her arms to “Go back… Go back”.

Avid for more ghost stories and romantic sites? Drive to Sea Pines Plantation to wander around the haunted Stoney-Baynard Ruins and 4,000 years old mystery-filled Indian Shell Ring.

Life is good at Sea Pines! Hilton Head free fun things to do with kids

On our second Hilton Head vacation I finally got a chance to explore the amazing Sea Pines Forest Preserve.

On the Buggy Gut swamp trail

On the Buggy Gut swamp trail


Admission is free, however visitors need $5 all day guest pass to get inside the Sea Pines Plantation.

In less than 2 hours we came close to alligators, anhingas and blue herons, and stepped back in time along the old Lawton rice fields and the prehistoric Indian shell ring.

That’s about all the outdoor trekking my 5 year old could take…so I drove to the Harbor Town playground, her favorite spot at Sea Pines.

Fun things to do and see

• Walk or bike on the historic trails through lush maritime forests and around pristine lakes. The most popular one is the 1 mile Boggy Gut board walk that takes you along an 1840 rice fields operation. Here is a detailed map along with the preserve overview.

• Admire the abundant wildlife, plants and trees. Common reptiles: alligators, snakes (copperhead, cottonmouth, black racer, Eastern King and yellow rat) and yellow-bellied turtles. The forest is a bird paradise, home or winter rest to over 200 species. Popular plants are the cat tail, saw grass, swamp willow, duck weed and marsh perry-wart.

Cute baby alligator resting on a log at Sea Pines

Cute baby alligator resting on a log at Sea Pines

• Fish at one of the several freshwater lakes inside the preserve. Only children can fish at Lake Joe. You can drive or walk to Fish Island. There are picnic tables, a shelter and restrooms. Permits can be for free obtained at the CSA Security Office. More info by phone at (843) 671-7170.

Organized “catch and release” fishing is provided by Sea Pines Plantation guides on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 10:30 AM. Fish for large mouth bass, crappie, bream and catfish with tackle provided by Shakespeare. Reservations are required, call (843) 842-1979.

Family fun fishing at Lake Joe

Family fun fishing at Lake Joe

• Walk around a replica of a 4,000 years old Native American ceremonial site made out of oyster shells. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Indian Shell Ring remains a mystery as no signs of permanent settlements have been found to date. Experts believe the area was used only for celebrations and hunting rituals.

In the middle of a 4,000 years old shell ring replica

In the middle of a 4,000 years old shell ring replica

Tips to know before you go
• Bring a bug spray! No see ums and mosquitoes really own the place. Apply sunscreen generously every 2 hours.
• Make sure to carry water with you, there are no water fountains around (at least none that I could see / use)
• Expect the unexpected…you never know what wildlife you may encounter. Some attractions look better on paper (like the shell ring)… while pleasant surprises pop up at every corner (we ran into a Christmas Present poem, a funny buck head like tree stomp and a baby gator)

Hi there Anhinga bird!

Hi there Anhinga bird!

Spend an hour with the earth and her nature
And I promise that you will surely see
The truest meaning of the season
The one best present you could receive
– The Christmas Gift

Make sure to also visit the rewarding Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn plantation for nature and turtle walks, exclusive history tours and beautiful butterflies! (admission is free, donations welcome)

Here is a virtual tour of our favorite historic sites you can visit on Hilton Head Island.

Live curious in the South Carolina Lowcouuntry!

“B” is for butterfly! Enjoy Hilton Head’s newest free family attraction at Coastal Discovery Museum

Hurray for the new butterfly exhibit at the Coastal Discovery Museum on the Honey Horn plantation. Children of all ages will be delighted to walk around jolly butterflies and see them emerge from chrysalises.

The outdoor garden is a shutterbugs and green thumbs mecca. There are so many beautiful flowers, plants and trees butterfly love to visit.

Entrance to the Butterfly exhibit at Coastal Discovery Museum

Entrance to the Butterfly exhibit at Coastal Discovery Museum

You can tour the habitat for free at your own pace every day from 9AM to 4:30PM (11-3 on Sunday).

Through September the museum offers guided tours on Mondays at 10AM and Wednesdays at 3PM for $10 adults and $5 children 4-12 years old.

Amazing escape artists butterflies resort to all sorts of tricks to survive. Some, like the Monarch, parade bright color wings to advertise their are toxic to eat. Others, like the Viceroy, take the shortcut and just mimic butterflies who are toxic.

Most butterflies learn to blend in the surroundings resembling leaves, sticks and even bird droppings! My favorite is the Buckeye that has owl-like patterns to scare off small birds.

Butterfly Insights

The Black Swallowtail is very common in South Carolina. The large yellow striped caterpillars

Black Beauty Swalowtail, most common butterfly in the Lowcountry

Black Beauty Swalowtail, most common butterfly in the Lowcountry


are a common sight to herb gardeners, easily devouring entire plants once they start eating!

The Black Swallowtail is one of the earliest butterflies to hatch (mid-March), after spending the winter as chrysalises.

Host plants: Water Hemlock, Queen Anne’s Lace, cumin, parsley, carrot, cilantro and celery.

The Giant Swallowtail when disturbed it ejects stinking chemicals to repel small predators like ants and spiders.

Host plants: Toothache and Citrus family trees.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail winters on Hilton Head as a pupa. Males often patrol the treetops and swoop down to intercept females for mating. The caterpillars change their appearance with each molt: first looking like bird droppings, then turning green and showing two large eye spots, and finally, changing brown as they start to pupate.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the state butterfly for Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, South Carolina and Virgina.

The Zebra Longwing males are attracted to both adult females and those still in their chrysalis, mating with them before they emerge.

Zebra Longwing warrior

Zebra Longwing warrior


Afterward they’ll deposit chemicals on the female abdomen that will repel other males!

Power in the numbers! The Zebra Longwing engage in communal night roosting when you can see up to 25 individuals hanging from a tree brunch.

Unlike other butterflies, the Longwing specie can also digest pollen from flowers. The amino-acids allow them to live much longer than the average 2-3 weeks butterfly life span.

Host plants: Maypop and Yellow Passionflower.

The Gulf Fritillary – Although the larvae are solitary feeders once in adult stage they can be seen congregating in large numbers, enough to completely defoliate a plant.

Stay Out! The larvae displays bright colors to advertise its toxicity to potential predators, thus it is mainly left alone.

Host plants: Maypop and Yellow Passionflower.

The Monarch is legendary due to its North American migration that takes five

The Mighty Monarch takes 5 generations to complete the annual North American migration

The Mighty Monarch takes 5 generations to complete the annual North American migration

generations to complete.

During the northward migration females deposit eggs for the next generation.

The 3rd and 4th generation will reach Canada by the late spring and in fall the last generation enters a non-reproductive stage lasting several months. They will migrate south and winter in California and Mexico.

Host plants: Milkweeds.

The Butterfly Life cycle (data from exhibits)

The adult butterfly lives around 2-3 weeks although there are few like the Monarch and Zebra Longwing that live for months. Butterflies spend their time eating, looking for mates, reproducing and in the case of females, laying eggs. At this point their life cycle is complete.

Butterfly eggs are about 2 mm in size and usually hatch out within a week, although for some species it happens the next spring.

Live metarmorphosis, see caterpillars and chrysalises develop before your eyes!

Live metarmorphosis, see caterpillars and chrysalises develop before your eyes!


Most butterflies lay about 100 to 300 eggs, yet the number varies wildly with each specie, from dozens to several thousands eggs.

The caterpillar is the only stage the butterfly grows in size. Most caterpillars grow for 2 to 4 weeks, yet some species will winter as caterpillars. Some even develop false eye spots to fend off potential predators!

The chrysalis stage can last from couple weeks to months. During metamorphosis tissues liquefy and change into the structure of an adult butterfly.


Amazing Butterfly Trivia

• A caterpillar grows 27 times larger than its original form. In human terms a 9 pound baby will end up weighing about 243 tons!
• Out of each 100 eggs laid only 2 will survive to become adult butterflies.
• Some male butterflies can detect a female up to a mile away based on pheromones emitted by her body.
• A butterfly can fly with half a wing.
• There are about 700 butterfly species in North America and about 28 thousands worldwide.
• Butterflies can see in all directions up, down, left, right, front and back all at once! They can also see in ultraviolet range light that’s invisible to humans.
• Some butterflies can drink fluids from tree sap, rotting fruit, bird droppings and even animal carcasses!

Now that you fell in love with butterflies drive to Columbia and visit Edventure children museum. It has a bigger facility featuring up to 10 species and over 200 butterflies.

Check out this list with my favorite things to do with young kids in and around Hilton Head.

Honoring history and our brave Marines, a driving tour around Parris Island

While visiting the inspirational Parris Island military museum take advantage of the free self-guided 15 miles loop driving tour. Download the brochure ahead of time; it has a brief description of all the attractions and turn by turn driving instructions. Here are the highlights (data taken from the brochure):


Interesting things to see near the museum

Iron Mike – Erected in 1924 and designed by Robert Ingersoll Aitken.

The Legendary Iron Mike (sketch)

The Legendary Iron Mike (sketch)

Dedicated to Parris Island Marines who gave their lives in World War I, it is officially known as the “Monument to U.S. Marines.”

The two field pieces on each side are 2.95-inch Vickers-Maxim Mountain guns made around 1900. The drinking fountain nearby is dedicated to all Parris Island Marines who died during World War II.

Iwo Jima Monument“Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue”

The heroic flag raising on Mount Surabach, Iwo Jima, in 1945 is an inspiration to all Americans as a symbol of freedom and personifies many of the Marines qualities: confidence, discipline, fidelity and the rugged determination to overcome insurmountable odds.

This version of coated plaster was made by Felix de Weldon to raise money for the much larger bronze monument that was eventually erected in D.C.

Douglas Visitor’s Center – Over 100,000 people visit Parris Island each year. The visitor’s center is named for Paul H. Douglas who at age 50, enlisted in the Corps, becoming the oldest recruit to complete training.

As a Captain, Douglas was sent to the Pacific theater in a non combat role. While there, he talked his way into a combat role, later receiving two Purple Hearts!

Leatherneck Square and Confidence Course – Here you can observe recruits

Parris Island Military Museum

Parris Island Military Museum

undergoing rigorous training to prepare them for hand-to-hand combat.

The main point of interest is the Confidence Course, first introduced in 1958 and updated in 2002.

Constructed of logs, cables, pipe and rope, this tests coordination and endurance.
The most challenging of the 11 obstacles is the “Dirty Name” and the “Slide for Life.”

Memorial Park and Molly Marine – Opposite Depot Theater, is a Memorial Park honoring the 5th, 9th and 14th Defense Battalions which trained at Parris Island during World War II.

The centerpiece is a replica of the famous Molly Marine statue, dedicated to the service of all Women Marines. The original was commissioned during World War II by a Reserve recruiter in New Orleans. The sculptor, Enrique Alferez, was a Mexican immigrant who himself wished to become a United States Marine.

4th Recruit Training Battalion – Here is the training for female recruits. Women began serving in the Corps in 1918 in the Women’s Reserve. In 1948 females were integrated into the regular Marine Corps, and in 1949 the first class graduated at Parris Island.

Now that you’ve worked an appetite dine at Traditions located nearby on China Hutung. Traditions, once near the Dry Dock, was converted to an officer’s club in 1920 and moved to its present location in 1939. Lunch is served Sunday through Friday.

Weapons and History Trail
Page Field – Named for Captain Arthur Hallet Page Jr., a Marine aviator from 1918 to 1930. The field was most active during World War II when it used a variety of aircraft

The Few. The Proud. The Marines

The Few. The Proud. The Marines


such as Navy dirigibles, Corsairs, Wildcats, B-25 bombers, a glider squadron and a barrage balloon detachment. Today, Page Field is part of the Weapons and Field Training Battalion.

Charlesfort and Santa Elena National Historic Landmark – Along the 1/2 mile Nature and History Trail you can admire a crashed WWII bomber, the Parris Island lighthouse keeper’s home and the Santa Elena Monument.

From here take the interpretive trail through the 16th century Santa Elena town site, one of the most historic early colonial sites in North America. Brochures are available at the entrance of Fort San Marcos or in the clubhouse. Artifacts from the site are in the Parris Island Museum.

Rifle Range – Finish the driving tour at the Rifle Range, where recruits learn the basics of the M16A2 rifle. Each must become proficient in firing from the 200, 300, and 500 yards lines using various positions: off hand, prone, sitting and kneeling.

Each marker in front of the ranges is named for a Korean or Vietnam war battle in which Marines participated. The first range is Inchon, followed by Starlite, Chosin, Hue City, and Khe Sanh. The pistol ranges are named Pusan and Mount Suribachi.

More family attractions around Beaufort
• The historic St. Helena Episcopal Church the second oldest yet fastest growing church congregation in South Carolina (free)
• The magnificent and resilient Hunting Island lighthouse ($2 on top of park admission)
• The creepy-crawling, jaw-snapping, and slithering Edisto Island Serpentarium (adults $12.95, children 6-12 $9.95, 3 and under free)

Have great family vacation in Beaufort, SC!