Recreation Areas around Hilton Head Island

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

Modern day Gray's Reef comprises one of the largest nearshore sandstone reefs in the southeastern United States. Named in recognition of Milton B. Gray, a biological collector and curator at the University of Georgia Marine Institute, who studied the area during the 1960s, it's located 32 kilometers (17.5 nautical miles) off Sapelo Island, Georgia. Sanctuary boundaries protect 17 square miles of open ocean. Sandstone outcroppings and ledges up to ten feet in height separate the sandy, flat-bottomed troughs in a reef that combines temperate and tropical qualities. The rocky platform, some 60 to 70 feet below the Atlantic Ocean's surface, is wreathed in a carpet of attached organisms and is known locally as a "live bottom habitat." This flourishing ecosystem provides not only vertical relief, but also a solid base for the abundant invertebrates to attach to and grow upon. Grouper, black sea bass, mackerel, and angelfish and a host of other fish are attracted by the reef. Following close behind the schools of fish are the many sport fishing and diving enthusiasts who have made Gray's Reef one of the most popular recreation areas along the Georgia coast. Many visitors to Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary enjoy the diving opportunities there.

Sea star and urchin hanging out in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

Driving Directions

20 miles east of Sapelo Island, Georgia

ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve

ACE Basin is one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast. It's named for the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers, which meander past cypress swamps, historic plantation homes, old rice fields and abundant tidal marshes to meet at South Carolina's biologically rich St. Helena Sound. The ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve protects the natural beauty, abundant wildlife and unique cultural heritage of the area. In addition, the reserve preserves habitat for many endangered or threatened species, such as shortnose sturgeon, wood storks, loggerhead sea turtles and bald eagles.

ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve

Driving Directions

Headquartered 45 minutes south of Charleston, S.C., the reserve encompasses parts of Colleton, Charleston, Beaufort and Hampton counties.

Fort Pulaski National Monument

For much of the 19th century, masonry fortifications were the United States� main defense against overseas enemies. However, during the Civil War, new technology proved its superiority to these forts. The Union army used rifled cannon and compelled the Confederate garrison inside Fort Pulaski to surrender. The siege was a landmark experiment in the history of military science and invention

The Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Driving Directions

From Interstate I-95, take Exit 99 onto Interstate I-16 East (James L Gillis Memorial Hwy) for 7 miles. Take Exit 164A onto Interstate I-516 East toward US-80 East. Take Exit 3 (US-17 S/US-80 E) toward US-80 East. Turn left onto Ocean Highway, Ogeechee Rd (US-17 N, US-80 East). Bear right onto West Victory Drive (US-80 East). Continue on US-80 East for 13 miles. GPS Coordinates for Fort Pulaski National Monument: N32� 01.680 W080� 53.525