Bull Island and Boneyard Beach

One of the greatest parts of moving somewhere shiny and new is having a whole new list of places to explore.  The local flora and fauna are different, as are the local phenomena!  Michigan had some fabulous snow and ice formations that were great for exploring, and I was reminded of that last weekend when we explored the eerie but beautiful Boneyard Beach on Bull Island.

boneyard beachI have roughly a thousand photos that I want to add to this post so expect it to be photo-heavy, but I promise it is worth every one.

Bull Island is a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina – it is the perfect day trip from Charleston.  It is part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, and its preservation has made it a wonderful place for viewing local wildlife.  In fact, it has the densest population of alligators north of the Everglades.

bull island alligatorThe island itself is about seven miles long and hosts approximately 14 miles of trails and roads.  We took a ferry out to the island, and before we’d even gotten to the first intersection of roads we’d nearly ran into a alligator (literally – the woman ahead of us warned us after she accidentally hit it with her bicycle) and had a snake cross the path in front of us.
bull island alligator
bull island snakeThere is an ecotour guide on the ferry (which takes about 30 minutes to get to the island) and he had explained that a safe distance from a gator is about two feet.  He’d also said that despite the snakes and alligators, the biggest dangers of Bull Island are dehydration and sunburn.
IMG_1929aWe headed straight for the beach, having set our agenda for the day.
bull island sand dollarThe ferry left at 9am, and we had the option of taking a ferry back either at noon or at 4pm.  There was no question – 4pm ferry for us!  In fact, we didn’t even make it past Boneyard Beach until after 1pm.  We had some anniversary celebrating to do.
IMG_2185aWhen we finally changed out of our anniversary outfits and back to hiking gear, we were starving.  Pack a lunch, and pack a lot of water.  Hint: four water bottles was not enough for us. 
bull island horseshoe crabsI’ve tried to find a cool story behind Boneyard Beach, but it’s pretty straight-forward.  Uprooted trees, bleached by the sun, weathered by salty air.
bull island boneyard beachAfter we left the beach, we had some hard-core hiking.  Once away from the sea breeze, things got hot and sticky.  The bugs were out en masse, and they were brutal.  Right by the old fort, we saw a cluster of lazy alligators.
alligators sunningAs we made it closer to the ferry landing, we decided we had enough energy to tackle one of the trails with a “guarantee” for seeing gators.  Actually, the guide had said that if we didn’t want to run into any alligators, we should stay on the boat.  On the ride back, two people claimed they didn’t see any gators and the guide refused to believe it.  I had to agree – with a thousand alligators living on Bull Island, they are pretty hard to miss.  For the record, we did not see ANY alligators on “Alligator Alley,” one of the paths on the island.
IMG_1935aBy the time the ferry left at four, we were dead tired.  Sunburnt, dehydrated, and out of shape – our eight miles of hiking had us both hobbling.  All we could talk about was where we would get water when we got back to the car.  It was bad enough that some kind strangers offered us their extra water bottles.  However, we had a fantastic day and I would highly recommend a visit to Bull Island.  My only complaint is that ferry tickets were pretty pricy at $40 a pop, but if you have access to a private boat or kayaks there is a public dock on the island.  The ferry company also has an occasional sunrise tour for any photographers who want to capture Boneyard Beach at dawn.
IMG_2390aWe were so exhausted that we bought a tub of ice cream on the way home and then completely forgot to eat any of it.  All in all, a good day, and a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary. 

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