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.

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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!

“March to the Sea” meets Fort Jackson, Georgia’s oldest brick fort (must see historic sites near Savannah and Hilton Head)

As you delight yourself strolling the romantic streets of Savannah, the “Paris of the South” go visit Fort Jackson, Georgia oldest still standing brick fort. Pay tribute to our country’s Revolutionary and Civil War heroes such as James Jackson (the fort is named after him) whose last words were: “If you cut my heart out, you will find Georgia engraved on it”.

Old Fort Jackson entrance

Old Fort Jackson entrance


In 1807 President Jefferson authorized the development of a national defense system of fortifications. One such construction was the wharf lot at Five Fathom Hole on the Savannah River that will become Fort James Jackson.

The museum is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Days). Admission is $4.25 for adults, $3.75 for students, seniors, military, and AAA members. Children 6 and under get in FREE.

Interesting historic facts:

• James Jackson, “The Prince of Duelists”, was the first person to hold all major political offices in a state: U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative and Governor.

• Fort Jackson started as a brick fortification over an old earthen battery, called “Mud Fort”. First active duty by local militia and Federal troupes took place in the War of 1812. The moat, drawbridge, barracks, privies and powder magazine were added in the 1840 – 1850s

• Capt. William McRee Supervising engineer was just 21 years old when he started construction of Fort Jackson.

1800s soldiers uniforms

1800s soldiers uniforms

In a letter to McRee General Thomas Pinckney wrote: “You will proceed with all possible dispatch to complete the fortifications of Fort Jackson…P.S. I have just received official notification of the declaration of war which had taken place on June 18 and took nearly six days for the news to reach Savannah.”

• During Civil War, Fort Jackson served as the Confederacy headquarters for the Savannah River defenses which also included underwater “torpedoes” mines and the ironclads C.S.S Atlanta, Savannah and Georgia (this can still be seen floating in the river).

•The entrance to the museum and the gift shop are in the former Tybee Depot, built in 1888 to mark the beginning of the train line between Savannah and Tybee Island. It had to be hauled by truck then moved down Savannah River by barge to its present location at Fort Jackson.

Tybee Depot

Tybee Depot

• Fort Jackson is currently the only historic fort in the United States delivering cannon salutes to passing military vessels.

Family attractions near Fort Jackson (and the custom Google Map)

Tybee Island Lighthouse (tallest and oldest in Georgia) ($6 admission includes access to Tybee Island Museum)

• Fort Pulaski, site of the most memorable Civil War bombardments ($3 admission)

Be a proud American at historic Sea Islands forts!

Fun packed family day trip at Sea Pines, a magical world to enjoy the Harbour Town lighthouse, alligators, horseback riding, kayaking and even ghosts!

Visit the 90 feet tall candy striped Harbour Town Lighthouse open daily from 10 AM to sundown. Admission is $3 (kids under 5 years of age get in for FREE) but you can get free passes from the Harbour Town concierge desk. If interested to see more of the legendary Sea Islands lighthouses read this post.

The Marina is the place for adrenaline water activities: parasailing, jet skiing, even shark fishing. Or you can hop on one of the dolphin watch cruises: Vagabond and Spirit of the Harbour.
Harbour Town Marina parasailing

The main kid attraction is the playground behind the Harbour Town Marina. Best of all is FREE (don’t you love when that happens? 🙂 ). Children go crazy about the tire swing and will rub elbows to climb the odd shaped oak tree next to the bicycles rack. Let them do it. It burns energy and you get a cute photo once they’re up.
Sea Pines playground

Say Hello! to Sea Pines’ “Odd Couple”, the baby alligator and turtle at the Nature Center located across from the playground. If you ask nicely the lady inside the Center may let you pet the snakes! Admission is FREE yet be prepared to spend a few bucks on the souvenirs.

Sea Pines resort Nature Center
Here you can also sign up for Eco-Tours around the island. Reservations required you can call (843)-842-1979.

• The one hour Alligator Boat Tours run every hour 8 – 11 AM and 5 – 8 PM Mon through Fri, 9, 10 AM and 5 and 6 PM in the weekends. Cost is $21 for adults and $17 for children (12 and under). $2 discount for Sea Pines Resort guests.
• Two-hours guided kayak tours through salt marshes on single or double kayaks. Cost is $30 for adults and $20 for children (5-12 years). $2 discount for Sea Pines Resort guests.
• Guided kayak fishing expedition, $220.
• You can rent kayaks ($20/hour for double, $10/hour for single) and go on your own.
Harbour Town Marina kayaking

You can enjoy some yummy cookies and lunch at the Bakery Cafe next to the Center. This is a historic building: an 1880 Leamington House Lightkeeper Cottage brought to Palmetto Dunes during WII to monitor German submarines activities.

Treat your kids to a horseback and pony rides or a fun petting zoo at the Lawton Stables. One hour western style horse back rides through Sea Pines Forest Reserve are offered daily at 9:30, 11:30, 2 and 4 PM for $60 per person. Must be 8 years or older. Call (843) 671-2586 for reservations.
Horseback riding at Sea Pines Resort

There are several places to eat at the Harbour Town Marina. By far the most popular and very family friendly is the Crazy Crab. Steamed shellfish, Sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads are ~$8.95. Fish plate ~$12.50 (includes French fires and coleslaw). Seafood pot $15.95. Boiled crab legs at market price. Crazy Crab also serves late lunch (mostly fried stuff) from 3 to 4 PM.
Crazy Crab restaurant at the Harbour Town Marina

Enjoy a self-guided walk through the Stoney-Baynard Ruins. The mansion house, built in 1790s, had a colorful history: lost at a poker game only to have its owner’s William Baynard die from yellow fever, then burned down during Civil War. Currently the ruins are believed to be haunted by William Baynard’s ghost!

Interesting Facts about Sea Pines Resort and Forest Preserve

• 50 years ago, an oceanfront lot in Sea Pines could be purchased for $7,500. Today this will go for 3-4 millions!
• In 1959 the Fraser family set aside 572 acres for the Sea Pines Preserve. First trails were built in the early 1970s, followed by four lakes – Joe, Thomas, Mary and Chapin – the largest open freshwater ponds on the island.

Beautiful Anhinga inside the Forest Preserve

Beautiful Anhinga inside the Forest Preserve

You can get a fishing permit at no charge from the CSA Security Office located at 175 Greenwood Drive. Swimming is not allowed.

• The Verizon Heritage is the South Carolina’s only PGA Tour event

The Indian Shell Ring inside the Sea Pines Forest Preserve is the site of a 4,000 years old nomadic Indians village.

Here you can see an elliptical mound of shells and materials used around their huts.

• Over 200 species of birds have been spotted in the Preserve and the area has been recognized as an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society.

Check out this bike trail map with most of the attractions inside Sea Pines Resort:

More fun things to do at Sea Pines and Hilton Head

Here are more ideas of affordable things to do with kids while on vacation in beautiful Hilton Head, “the Gem of the Lowcountry”:

• Go to the Public Library. It’s FREE and kids will have a blast reading with you.

• Be a pilot, a movie director, a ship captain or a painter at The Sandbox Interactive Children’s Museum ($6)

• Visit Fort Pulaski near Savannah to see live cannons and musket firing, learn about Immortal 600 tragedy and the Waving Girl legend, and become a Junior Ranger ($3).

• Learn about the Hilton Head island history, the rich Gullah culture and sign up for some fun family programs at the Coastal Discovery Museum (free museum admission; guided tours, cruises and beach walks are $5-$30)

• Visit Beaufort an art, architecture and movie-making heaven and historic Port Royal home of the first settlement in the New World.

Soak in the sun, play, learn and always have fun at the serene Hilton Head island beaches!

Fort Pulaski awesome cannon firing and its fascinating history (memorable weekend things to do around Savannah and Hilton Head)

On April 11, 1862 Union troops struck with fury. 30 hours and 1,142 shells later the “indestructible” Fort Pulaski surrendered. The damage was so deep it will take 1,000 Union troops 6 weeks to repair it.

Facts and Trivia

The breached wall and broken Confederate cannon at Fort Pulaski

The breached wall and broken Confederate cannon at Fort Pulaski


• In 1837 with its 8 foot thick brick walls the fort was considered invincible. No cannon could inflict significant damage from more than a mile away (the closest spot where you could fire at it). New technology proved them wrong.
• The battle at Fort Pulaski marked a new warfare milestone: the end of masonry style fortifications.
• Germans volunteers of the 46 N.Y, Regiment manned the parrot riffles shooting from the batteries along Tybee and McQueens islands. Following the war the guns were taken to Cockspur Island. In mid-1960s the guns were recovered and brought to Fort Pulaski.
• The Demilune was added in 1872 to protect the fort entrance. During the Civil War the area was flat covered with gun platforms, a mess room, storage area and a guard house.
• When the Confederates seized Fort Pulaski from the US forces (in anticipation of Civil War hostilities) only 2 persons where guarding it.

Learn more about the Fort Pulaski history like the Immortal 600, the Waving Girl, and John Wesley (Founder of Methodist Church) and the awesome kids activities you can enjoy there.

Critical steps to fire the Confederates cannons
There were 5 to 9 men on the cannon fire crew, one of the earliest examples of team-work. Each person performed a specific task yet all men were cross-trained on all operations. If needed just 2 persons can safely fire the cannon.

1. Sponge the barrel and clean any leftovers (this was most important safety procedure)
2. Cover the air hole with the thumb to prevent air going inside the barrel – stumping
3. Put the projectile inside the barrel. The old cannon used by Confederates had a ball-like shell that didn’t fit tightly inside the barrel. It wiggled when it came out thus being less accurate and damaging.
4. Point the gun (during those time you didn’t “aim” another hint about the target firing guessing game) then put your arms up to signal the gun is pointed.
5. Insert the friction primer (piece of wire) to seal in the gunpowder. The primer and the projectile were poor quality and main culprit for the lame results defending the fort.
6. Fire! It was very loud. There were no ear plugs and most of the crewmen couldn’t cover their ears….you can image over time most of them were deaf.

New shells still stuck in the wall hundreds of years later!

New shells still stuck in the wall hundreds of years later!


Firing the new cannons (Parrot Riffles) required identical steps. It took a little longer because the cannon and all instruments were much bigger and heavier. The new aerodynamic projectile was longer and fitted perfectly inside the barrel. The shots were extremely powerful and very accurate even from over a mile away.

Fort Pulaski Admission and Cannon Firing Schedule
There is only $3 fee to get inside the park (children under 15 get in for free). The firing demos are held in the weekend as following:
• Sunday: noon, 1:30 and 3:30 PM
• Saturday: 11, noon, 2 and 3:30 PM

Bring your family to Fort Pulaski for an inspirational family experience!