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See the Cape Romain NWR lighthouses – up close

By Steve Palisin
spalisin@thesunnews.com

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  • Take the S.C. lighthouse tour

    When: Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge Lighthouse Island tours are June 10, Aug. 26 and Nov. 11.

    Where: After a slide show at Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center, 5821 U.S. 17, Awendaw, participants drive about 10 miles north to McClellanville for departure on Coastal Expeditions Island Cat ferry for the one-hour crossing to the island. Departure times to and from the island vary, depending on the tides.

    Confirm times by calling 843-928-3368 or visiting www.fws.gov/caperomain.

    Cost: $45 by credit card in advance, or by cash, charge or check to Coastal Expeditions at the boat dock on the day of the trip. Reservations are required.

    What you need to know: Because the islands are in a National Wilderness Area, without any formal docking area, participants must wade ashore in water ankle- to knee-deep and continue on an uneven dirt path to the lighthouses. Bring drinking water, snacks, insect repellent and an extra layer for the weather; wear shoes that can get wet.

    Details: 843-928-3368; www.fws.gov/caperomain.

    Details on other Coastal Expeditions trips in the Lowcountry: 843-884-7684; www.coastalexpeditions.com.



The Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge will light up a tour to two historic lighthouses on June 10.

Officials at the refuge, midway between Georgetown, S.C., and Charleston, start the tour with a presentation on the history of the lighthouses, 9 a.m. at the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center in Awendaw, about 35 miles south of Georgetown. Then, participants will drive about 10 miles north to McClellanville, S.C., and board the Coastal Expeditions Island Cat ferry at 10:30 p.m. for the crossing to Lighthouse Island. The ferry will depart the island at 2:30 p.m. for the return to McClellanville.

Patricia Lynch, visitor services manager for the refuge, said the island sits 7 miles from McClellanville, and after a “beautiful, beautiful ride” to this designated National Wilderness Area, guests wade a short distance from the boat, then step onto land in the shadows of the lighthouses.

“It’s just an adventure,” she said, “with lots of wildlife such as bottlenose dolphins and birds. It’s just a great trip to tour all around the island.”

In the taller of the lights, built in 1857, guests can go inside its first level, Lynch said. But no one can climb the tower because its stair treads need replacing.

“We hope in the near future that will change,” Lynch said. “We’re hoping that interested individuals will support our restoration effort to where we can stabilize those steps.”

The smaller, red lighthouse, without a top, dates to 1827.

Lynch said they’re like a marker, whether for commercial fishermen or recreational boaters.

Other voyages will sail on Aug. 26 and Nov. 11.

Weatherly Meadors, a naturalist with Coastal Expeditions, said Tommy Graham, a McClellanville native, gets each trip off to a great start with a slide show about the lighthouses, then hops on the ferry to lead a guided tour on the island.

Meadors said the boat ride takes about an hour, based on weather and tides, and that the history and nostalgia never lose their luster on these half-day trips, which bring special opportunities to see wildlife not only on the isle, but going to and from it.

“It’s really a nice way to do it,” she said, “and a unique way.”

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