Everything to know about Waites Island
A Hidden Gem of Natural Beauty
When visiting a coastal city, you must go to the beach at some point, but what if there was a way you could escape the crowds? Maybe go to a remote location that not many people know about. Waites Island is one of the last undeveloped barrier islands in South Carolina. This means it’s a beach parallel to the coast separated by a bay and the best part is there’s no construction or building on it, just pure wildlife.
Waites Island was founded centuries ago by a man named none other than William Waites. Before William’s finding, the local Native American Tribe, Waccamaw, presided over the land. Then, years later in the early 1900s, Horace Tilghman Sr. took over the land. Horace had a daughter named Anne Tilghman Boyce who was born in 1919 in Columbia, S.C., and later went to study at Yale for nursing. After obtaining her master's degree she served in public health services during WWII and later went on to teach nursing classes at universities, one of which included Coastal Carolina. Since her father had the property of Waites Island and she wanted to keep it under preservation, a portion of the island was given to Coastal Carolina University to conduct research, monitor the land, and educate about the local sanctuary. It is now called the Anne Tilghman Boyce Coastal Reserve (ATBCR).
Although the island is partially under control by CCU, it is still open to the public. If you decide to visit by kayak, you may discover a lot of marsh and ocean marine life including blue herons, egrets, ghost crabs, ducks, and if you’re lucky, a bottlenose dolphin. Since the island is undeveloped and there are a minimal number of lights, it’s also the perfect place for sea turtles to nest on their journeys, primarily loggerheads. So who knows, you might even be able to see a nest depending on the time of year you visit.
The island is right after Cherry Grove Beach and is the last South Carolina land mass before entering North Carolina. The only way to access the island is by kayak or horseback if you want to avoid the water. Motorized vehicles are prohibited since the land is protected and engines can cause a disruption to the ecosystem. Multiple kayak tour companies go out at different times of day, including the morning or at sunset depending on your preference. The horseback riding starts on the back side of the island at Inlet Point Plantation Stables, where you can opt to do a group ride or book a private tour.
While on the island you can sit back and relax for a few hours, hunt for local seashells and sand dollars, or search for the long-lost boat that pops up from under the sand now and then. Waites Island will be an experience like none other, so be sure to have it on your to-do list.