When the Sea Pines Resort founder Charles Fraser built the Harbour Town Lighthouse in 1970, the skeptical public nicknamed it ‘Fraser’s Folly.’ With no significant maritime traffic and no rocky shoals, why build a lighthouse?
Fraser’s folly soon became Fraser’s foresight. His red-and-white-striped lighthouse soon became a Hilton Head landmark. Today, the Lighthouse is the international symbol of Hilton Head Island.
The Lighthouse is located at the Harbour Town Yacht Basin. Climbing to the top of the lighthouse is one of the most popular visitor activities. You climb through a museum that displays a valuable collection of 19th Century and Civil War-era photographs and artifacts. Pause on large landings to read about the Island’s legends and history starting with the Yemassee Indians, through the Island’s Civil War era, the construction of the lighthouse, the Island’s development, and the Daufuskie Landing with traces of the Island’s storied past.
This year the Lighthouse became an official Coast Guard Museum and features a 16-foot hand-built scale model of the cutter “Eagle,” a historic 295-foot seagoing classroom for Coast Guard cadets.
At the top is the world’s only store at the top of a lighthouse, the Shoppe at the Top, with access an outdoor wrap-around balcony that has a panoramic view of Calibogue Sound and Harbour Town. This is a great spot for ‘photo ops’ and sunset viewing, and a popular venue for engagements (averaging one a day), weddings, and receptions.
On the ground floor is the Maritime Gift Galley, a unique nautical shop and bookstore where you can browse antique treasures and buy prints of Jeff Keefer’s photography. And don’t miss the Lighthouse’s old-time photo booth for a fun souvenir of your visit to Hilton Head.
The lighthouse is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to sundown. There is a small entry fee, but children age five and under are free.
The Bloody Point Lighthouse on Daufuskie Island looks nothing like a typical lighthouse; it looks like a regular Lowcountry house. Built in 1883, the lighthouse is one of the most significant points of interest on Daufuskie. Until recently, the house was privately owned and off limits to visitors, but is now open to the public for tours. It houses a museum and a gift shop.
You can also visit the companion “wick house” that was used to store oil and wicks for the lighthouse. It is now known as the Silver Dew Winery. The owner of the lighthouse and winery has recently planted grape vines, indigo, rice, and Sea Island cotton on the property as way to demonstrate the living history of Daufuskie Island.
Other lighthouses in the Lowcountry that you can climb include the Tybee Island Lighthouse and History Museum, east of Savannah, and the Hunting Island Lighthouse on Hunting Island State Park, east of Beaufort.
There are two other lighthouses in the Hilton Head area, but they are closed to the general public: the 1881 Range Rear Lighthouse, also known as the Leamington Lighthouse, located in the Leamington section of Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head; and the Haig Point Lighthouse on Daufuskie Island, built in 1873 and located within the Haig Point private community.
For more information, contact:
Daufuskie Difference (843-342-8687)
Harbour Town Lighthouse Museum (843-671-2318)
Maritime Gift Galley (843-671-2318)
The Shoppe at the Top (843-671-2310)