The sea islands are barrier islands, extending along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.
The sea islands’ history and style reflect each island. From the sandy beaches of Edisto Island, SC to the beauty of St Simons Island, GA, the South Atlantic coast boasts a variety of islands that appeal to the dreamer in each of us.
The Atlantic Ocean not only defines each of the sea islands, it unites them in an eternal symphony, creating a rarified music where the waves meet the shore. Each sea island has a distinctive personality and seems to be dusted with a special magic. Some are developed, with internationally-acclaimed resorts and luxurious amenities; others remain desolate, with seabirds nesting among stands of native cypress, tupelo and oak trees. The remarkable diversity among the Carolina and Georgia sea islands helps to create a unique geographic and cultural environment in the waters of the Atlantic.
Thousands of years ago, the sea islands were part of the mainland.
In fact, most of the coastal sea islands were formed during the Ice Age, when the polar caps began to melt and sea level around the globe slowly rose, flooding low lying areas along the Southeast coast to create modern-day sounds and leaving patches of higher ground exposed as a chain of offshore barrier islands.
With 198 miles exposed to the Atlantic Ocean and more than 500,000 acres of coastal marshes, South Carolina is a liquid paradise with deep ties to the sea. Sixteen barrier islands guard the Carolina shore like sentinels of old, protecting the mainland from hurricanes and severe storms.
Before the Civil War, many of the ones in Carolina featured enormous rice and cotton plantations.
This led to much of the islands’ antebellum wealth. Sea Island cotton, in particular, commanded extremely high prices on the market and was widely recognized as the finest American cotton.
They undergo constant changes over time. Islands change shape as the wind, sun and sea conspire to redefine them over hundreds and thousands of years.
Hunting Island, SC, for example, has been fighting the sea for several centuries now.
One of South Carolina’s loveliest state parks, Hunting Island, is quite literally, being reclaimed by the sea. Its lush palm and oak forests are being consumed by the ever-encroaching waves. Even the best efforts of the U.S. Marines to halt the erosion by moving massive sand dunes appear to be in vain.
Nevertheless, each sea island tells a unique story of colonial, revolutionary and Civil War history.
They also reflect the complex relationship between civilization and wilderness. The magic of the sea islands, lies in the rich diversity of each ever-changing land mass.