Immerse Yourself In History At Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

things to do in saint helena island south carolina
Contributing Writer
| 4 min read

Saint Helena’s serenity belies its troubling past. Many slaves, together with Native Americans, were brought here to plant and harvest various crops, which included rice, cotton, and a variety of spices. The combination of the various peoples in Saint Helena led to the emergence of the Gullah culture.

Today, many of the residents in Saint Helena are direct descendants of the slaves who were brought there from Sierra Leone, and the Gullah culture they have kept alive remains one of the many draws of the island.

1. Explore the nooks and crannies of Fort Fremont Historical Park and Beach

Fort Fremont seaward face
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tveddy used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Named after Major General John Charles Fremont, Fort Fremont is home to Spanish American War Era fortifications. In fact, the fort itself was built in 1898 to defend Port Royal Naval Station, which is located at the nearby Parris Island. It contains the ruins of batteries that were built to help protect the area during this era, although the fort itself did not end up seeing war.

Most of the fort has already been overgrown with vegetation, and is slowly being taken over by a maritime forest. The grounds also cover a coastal area and a woodland forest, so visitors stand to see different features while here.

Fort Fremont Historical Park & Beach

Address: 1126 State Road S-7-45 Lands End Road, Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

Website: Fort Fremont Historical Park & Beach

Visited this place?

2. Learn more about African-American history at the Penn Center

Penn Center, Beaufort, SC
Source: Photo by user Timothy Brown used under CC BY 2.0

Penn Center, formerly known as Penn School, is one of the first schools in the Americas built for the schooling of freed slaves. It was founded in 1862, after the Union Army forces were able to capture the island, causing the plantation owners to flee, which effectively freed the slaves. The military subsequently gave the land to the freed slaves, and the school was constructed under the leadership of Laura Matilda Towne, an abolitionist.

Even as Penn Center continues to serve as an educational facility for both children and adults, it now also doubles as a cultural center, wherein it houses several documentations on African-American history and culture. It is worth noting that Martin Luther King Jr. drafted his “I Have a Dream” speech in a cottage in the campus.

Penn Center

Address: 16 Penn Center Circle West, Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

Contact: +1 8438382432

Website: Penn Center

Visited this place?

3. Explore the history of Saint Helena Island at York W. Bailey Museum

The York W. Bailey Museum (ca. 1912) at Penn Center (St. Helena Island, SC). Because #ThisPlaceMatters.

Posted by US 17 Coastal Highway on Monday, 18 January 2016

Named after a Penn Center student who went on to study and practice medicine, the museum, which is found within the grounds of the educational facility, showcases photos and documents of the history of Penn Center, and Saint Helena Island in general.

York W. Bailey Museum

Address: 16 Penn Center Circle West, Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

Price: 5 USD for adults; 4 USD for senior citizens; and 2 USD for youths

Contact: +1 8438382432

Visited this place?

4. Chapel of Ease

St. Helena Parish Chapel Of Ease Ruins ~ Beaufort County, SC
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Chris Crookston used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Anglican Chapel was constructed in the 1740s for parishioners living on the island, many of whom were rice and cotton planters, who for some reason couldn’t travel to the church at Beaufort. The original building was destroyed in a forest fire in 1886. Today, the ruins of the church, along with its adjacent cemetery, remains widely visited by guests, particularly those who fancy themselves as ghost seekers, following stories that the ruined shell of the church is haunted.

Chapel of Ease

Address: Lands End Road, Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

Visited this place?

5. Appreciate the artwork at Red Piano Too Gallery

The Water's Edge; Traditional Ring Shout. Original Available at The Red Piano Too Art Gallery, St Helena Island, SC

Posted by The Art of Diane Britton Dunham on Sunday, 4 December 2016

Red Piano Too Gallery is the home of the artwork of over 150 artists, virtually making it a museum that showcases local artwork, including those depicting Gullah culture. It also sells books and other materials regarding the history and culture of the island. The building itself where the gallery is located is also teeming with history. The original structure was originally built to house the co-operative of farmers to sell their agricultural products.

Red Piano Too Gallery

Address: 870 Sea Island Parkway, Saint Helena, South Carolina

Opening Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 10 am – 5 pm; Sundays, 1 pm – 4:30 pm

Contact: +1 8438382241

Website: Red Piano Too Gallery

Visited this place?

6. Go horseback riding at Camelot Farms Equestrian Center

Love these two girls... Fun at Camelot!

Posted by Camelot Farms Equestrian Center on Sunday, 21 May 2017

Camelot Farms Equestrian Center is a must-visit for horse lovers vacationing in South Carolina, whether they are already proficient riders or want to learn how to do so. The horse farm offers trail rides along the coast or across the plantation. Visitors can also find lodging here, whether at the guest house or by camping.

Camelot Farms Equestrian Center

Address: 101 Tom and Mike Lane, Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

Contact: +1 8438383938

Website: Camelot Farms Equestrian Center

Visited this place?

7. Spend your leisure time at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park

Downtown Beaufort
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Cdamgen used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park is the most well-known park of Beaufort, South Carolina. Originally built in the 1970s, the park gives visitors a clear view of the Beaufort River, and even all the way to three islands: Lady’s Island, Port Royal Island, and Parris Island. Aside from strolling along the riverside, guests can also go fishing or picnicking in the area. Children can play at the playground. Visitors may also catch a musical performance while there, as this is frequently used as a venue for such activities.

Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park

Address: 700 Bay Street, Beaufort, South Carolina

Visited this place?

8. Explore the different facets of Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island 1
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Cdamgen used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Hunting Island State Park is three destinations in one: a beach, a lagoon, and the wilderness. On one side of the island is a sandy beach that faces the Atlantic Ocean, where people can go swimming, camping, or trekking to the Hunting Island lighthouse, which is the only lighthouse in South Carolina that is accessible to the public. Climbing there will allow visitors to get an overarching view of the island. Visitors can also explore the various marine life in the area.

Avid fisherfolk will be able to fish at the lagoon. Meanwhile, those who prefer dryer adventures can go hiking on the nature trails, where they get the chance to meet a variety of wildlife endemic to the island.

Hunting Island State Park

Address: 2555 Sea Island PKWY, Hunting Island, South Carolina

Price: 5 USD for adults; 3.25 USD for senior citizens; and 3 USD for children 6 to 15 years old. Children 5 years old and below can enter for free

Opening Hours: 6 am – 6 pm daily

Contact: +1 8438382011

Website: Hunting Island State Park

Visited this place?

9. Parris Island Museum

Parris Island Museum Exhibit 002
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user U.S. Marine Corps used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Parris Island Museum takes visitors on a walk to explore the history of the United States Marine Corps and Port Royal. It houses several artifacts from various periods in the past, highlighting the importance of Port Royal during the Spanish-American War.

Parris Island Museum

Address: Parris Island, South Carolina

Price: Admission is free

Opening Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 10 am – 4 pm; Sundays, 12 pm – 4 pm. Closed during New Year, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas

Contact: +1 8432282166

Website: Parris Island Museum

Visited this place?

An abundance of history

When people hear the word “island,” they often think of beach. While Saint Helena does have its own beaches, it is more known for its historic sites, particularly those related to African-American and Gullah cultures and the Spanish-American War. Dive into history by exploring Saint Helena Island.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our Privacy Policy for more information on how we use your data

Melanie is a freelance travel writer. She considers freelancing for Trip 101 to be a combination of two of the things she loves: writing and traveling. She has gone sightseeing with family,...Read more

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore Saint Helena Island
Looking for accommodation?
Good things are meant to be shared!
Back to top
Visited any of these places? Click this button to activate our "Add a Tip" feature to share your experience.
things to do in clinton south carolina

10 Best Things To Do In Clinton, South Carolina