Boneyard Beach Beauties

Ready for a challenging day trip that’s 180 miles one way by land before heading out to sea? Visit Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge offshore from Awendaw, S.C. Trailer your boat or make plans to ferry over to Bulls Island for a truly wild and awe-inspiring adventure.

Bulls Island is big. At 5,000 acres, it’s the largest barrier island in the refuge. Take your camera. You’ll want to photograph Boneyard Beach where toppled trees litter the beach for a 3-mile stretch at the island’s northeast end. The Atlantic’s tides undercut the trees’ roots and down they go. Trees with sun-bleached limbs white as marble lie about. The sea-ravaged maritime forest leaves you breathless.

Another strong draw is wildlife. Beautiful creatures ennoble the refuge. Orange-billed oystercatchers and white egrets stand out against green spartina. Bird watching is good year-round. Birds are busy come summer raising young on the beaches and in the maritime forest. Deer, alligators, raccoons and black fox squirrels live here, but the island’s bird life is famous worldwide. More than 293 species of birds have been recorded on the refuge with most being found on or near Bulls Island. The cup of life overflows here.

History has laid its hand on the island. Sewee Indians lived here before settlers arrived. Pirates, it is said, hid out in Bulls Bay and the creeks behind Bulls Island. From these hideouts they attacked ships along the coast. The remains of an “old fort” are believed to have been a lookout tower built in the early 1700s. During the Revolutionary War, British warships used the island to replenish supplies. Confederate blockade-runners hid in creeks here. The island is history rich, for sure.

At Bulls Island you can surf, fish, watch wildlife, picnic, hike and bike. And when you get back to the mainland, visit the Sewee Visitor & Environmental Center at 5821 Highway 17 North in Awendaw. Jointly operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service, the Sewee Center will teach you about the ecosystems of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and the Francis Marion National Forest. And be sure to see the center’s endangered red wolves.

If You Go …

• Take I-26 East to exit 212 and go east on I-526 for 12 miles. Exit onto US 17 North; go northeast on US 17 for 10.8 miles. Turn right onto Sewee Road; go northeast 3.4 miles, then turn right onto Bulls Island Road. Follow this road to Garris Landing. Depart by boat from Garris Landing. Bulls Island lies 3 miles off the mainland. The island has a public dock where you can take personal watercraft during daylight hours. You’ll find restrooms, a covered shelter and picnic area.

• Coastal Expeditions, the refuge concessionaire, operates a ferry that provides regularly scheduled trips March 1 – Nov. 30, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday only. Adults $40. Children 12 and under $20. Reservations not required but recommended. Call Coastal Expeditions, 843.881.4582, or visit www.coastalexpeditions.com.

• Learn more about the refuge at http://www.fws.gov/caperomain/bullsisland.html

• Sewee Center operates Tuesday – Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 843.928.3368

Learn more about Tom Poland, a southern writer at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas at [email protected]