I’m known in my family as “Julie McCoy the Cruise Director.” I’m always looking for something fun and maybe a little unusual for our family trips. Our latest trip to Bull Island SC did not disappoint! Bull Island is a barrier island within the beautiful 62,000 acre Cape Romain National Wildlife refuge (a class 1 wilderness area).
The only way to get to the island is by boat, and we took the Coastal Expeditions ferry to get there. We boarded the ferry at 9 am and enjoyed a 30-minute ride through the pristine coastal estuary. As we cruised along, our captain provided us with lots of interesting details regarding the plants and wildlife we were seeing. We now know the difference between a whelk and a conch, thanks to our crew. We can also identify a lightning whelk. We got a great look at some oystercatchers. Once we got to the island, we unloaded our bikes (no cars are allowed on the island) and began our adventure!
Now, I’m guessing that conditions change on the island during the year, but I’m going to write about conditions in August, the month we visited, after a relatively rainy spring. A visit to Bull Island in August is not for the fainthearted. You’ll need to bring several items with you to ensure a pleasant day: bug repellent for your time in the interior of the island, LOTS of water, stronger bug repellent, sunscreen, “definitely not natural ingredients” bug repellent, a nice lunch to enjoy on the boneyard beach, bug repellent you can use in the Amazon, your camera for the stunning scenery, and 1 extra can of bug repellent. Thus, if you can’t take a few bug bites, you shouldn’t visit Bull Island in August.
That said, if you’re the intrepid type, your toughness will DEFINITELY pay off.
After our ferry ride to the island, we biked from the dock side of the island to the beach. Grassy bike paths are wide and well-maintained with only a few areas too sandy for biking. Along the way, we were treated to a view of an alligator in the water along the trail! Once we hit the beach, it was as if we owned our own private island. My family and I walked for several hours, enjoying the sea breeze, playing in the water, and finding dozens of sea stars, whelks, and sand dollars. At the north end of the beach, we discovered a beautiful “boneyard” of trees stranded in the surf – the perfect spot for a little lunch! After lunch, three members of the family continued to walk on the beach, while my son and I decided to see if we could find more alligators in the interior of the island. We enjoyed biking the wide trails (moving at a brisk pace to try to outrun the mosquitos) and saw a stunning buck as it bounded by us.
At the end of the day, we returned to the ferry with many stories of all we had experienced on Bull Island. After our day on this beautiful barrier island, every other beach seemed incredibly crowded! The crew of the ferry happily answered any questions we had about the things we’d seen on the island and continued to teach us new facts about horseshoe crabs, oysters, spartina, and even pluff mud!
If you’re looking for a chance to see what the South Carolina coast looked like before the changes that humans bring, be sure to visit Bull Island!