The Sea Pines Forest Preserve on Hilton Head – A Family’s Dream Come True
Sea Pines Forest Preserve visitors who come for a picnic, a hike, or a horseback ride, certainly know what a special place it is. What they may not know is how this beautiful outdoor recreational area and wildlife preserve came into existence from the vision of one family. The evolution of the Sea Pines Forest Preserve has several interesting chapters. The original residents from 4000 years ago were Nomadic Indians who chose to settle on Hilton Head Island mainly for the availability of natural resources that were needed for survival. Surprisingly, remnants of their life on the island still remain to this day. During their residency, the Nomadic Indians constructed a “shell ring” for their ceremonies, festivals, and celebrations. Amazingly, that same shell ring still exists in the Preserve and has become a very popular site for visitors. In the 1700’s, this same land was used for the farming of rice, cotton, and indigo dye by the English settlers. By the 1950’s, the land was being used for timber harvesting and hunting.
In 1949, a group of business men from The Hilton Head Company purchased 20,000 acres of forest in southern South Carolina at an unbelievable rate of $60 per acre. Joseph Fraser was one of the four partners involved in the deal. Mr. Fraser was also the owner of both the Fraser Lumber Company and Fraser Supply Company. Joseph Sr. sent his son, Joseph Jr. to estimate the timber potential and set up a logging camp on the undeveloped Hilton Head land. Charles, his younger brother, worked there in the summer of 1950, as a logger between the time he graduated college and when he was to enter Yale Law School. At that time, the area had roughly 500 residents, but Charles saw the ultimate potential for the Island with its untouched beaches, pine forests, and oak tree filled land. He then secured a 20 year note and legal control of the property from his father. During his time at Yale, Charles made a point of creating a plan for the property on Hilton Head Island. After graduating he spent some time practicing law, but in 1956, he purchased his father’s holding in The Hilton Head Company. With his older brother, Joseph Jr. as a partner, they began to develop the area into what is now knows as the Sea Pines Plantation. This would come to encompass not only residential communities, but golf courses, hotels, as well as the Harbour Town Lighthouse.
Sea Pines Forest Preserve
In 1959, Charles Fraser and his family founded the Sea Pines Forest Preserve on 572 acres. By 1970, the Preserve had expanded to a total of 605 acres and was legally sanctioned as a wildlife habitat and recreational area. Then came the addition of bridges, boardwalks with observation decks, and fishing docks. As the development continued, they even added the bridle paths and wetlands. Not only did Charles Fraser have the insight to envision how the island could become a popular Hilton Head vacation destination, he also understood the importance of protecting the land and wildlife from destruction. From 1968 to 1980, they added several ponds as well as 4 man-made, fish stocked lakes named Lake Joe, Lake Thomas, Lake Mary, and Lake Chapin. In 1994, ownership of a majority of the acreage was turned over to the property owners of Sea Pines, so it would be a permanently protected nature and wildlife area. Over time, the Preserve has become known for its extensive birdlife and fisheries. In 1998, The Audubon Society awarded the Sea Pines Forest Preserve the notable distinction of an “Important Bird Area”.
Fast forward to today, the Sea Pines Forest Preserve is maintained and operated by The Sea Pines Forest Preservation Foundation, a non-profit organization. A portion of the Preserve’s revenue generated from the fishing and group outing permits is given to the Foundation. There are several guided tours available including, Hilton Head Alligator tours, wildlife boat tours, trail rides, wagon tours, and walking tours. The Preserve is still best known for its family-friendly hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and great fishing spots. In fact, Trip Advisor contributors awarded the Preserve a 4.5 star rating and it was presented with the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence.
Not far from The Sea Pines Forest Reserve, and right next door to the Harbour Town Lighthouse, you will find H2O Sports. H2O Sports is perfect for exploring even more of Hilton Head Island’s thrilling water activities and adventures.
Ready to see what real fun is all about? Visit our website at H2oSports.com or give us a call at (877) 290-4386 for more information on how to get your adventure started.