No bulls here, but plenty of other wildlife


Bulls Island is a unique landscape off the coast of South Carolina, home to diverse wildlife and ecosystems, outdoor adventures, and more.

Bulls Island is one of the most remote areas in South Carolina and anyone curious enough to visit this place will be greeted by the wonders of the wilderness. Beautiful is an understatement to describe the place: it is a refuge for animals and for travelers who want some free time.

This barrier island is part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Given the area’s abundant wildlife, travelers who enjoy nature excursions will be delighted, whether they’re aboard a boat or hiking the island. Home to many wildlife species, this natural wonder offers surprises to enthusiasts and solitude to the restless.

Plan a visit to Bulls Island

The island is accessible only via a ferry that departs from Garris Landing in Awendaw. From the port, expect a 30-minute ride that doubles as an ecotour. Here is some information to prepare for a visit.

  • The summer schedule runs from March 1 to November. The boat is operational from Tuesday to Saturday and leaves at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Round trips are every 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
  • The winter timetable is from December 1 to February 8. Boat trips are every Saturday only. Departure time is 10:00 a.m. while return is 3:30 p.m.
  • Adult tickets are $40 and $20 for ages 3-12.
  • Reservation is a must, especially for those who will enjoy the tours. Guests are also encouraged to arrive early.

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Things to do on Bull Island

The drive to the island is a visit in itself, like a taste of what is to come. On Bulls Island, there’s a wide (and wild) selection of activities to try, all filled with fun times with Mother Nature.

Paddle paradise

A paddle trip through the crystal clear waters of the refuge will allow travelers to experience the wonders that isolation brings. Pairing this with a hike will make for a memorable day trip. Land or sea, this $115 tour is worth every penny.

  • There will be a kayak trip where birds and raptors can be seen. Fortunately if a dolphin plays the game.
  • Disembarking at the northern end of the island, travelers will begin their trek through Boneyard Beach, a forested area slowly reclaimed by the sea.
  • In the heart of the island, a guided tour will inspire tourists about the ecosystem and history of the place, while spotting colorful birds.
  • After a day of paddling and hiking, travelers can relax aboard a boat cruise that returns them to Garris Landing, drinking in all the sights of the refuge before saying goodbye.

Nautical Bonanza

Thanks to the salt marsh, the refuge is the ideal place for boat trips. By wading through the waters, travelers have the chance to reconnect with nature. And maybe say hello to some pelicans. Arrived on the beach, the adventure awaits you.

  • The 30-minute tour costs $40 for adults and $20 for children. The tour serves as transportation to the island.
  • From Garris Landing, the crew will share information about the wilderness and the refuge as the boat cruises along the creeks.
  • On board, there is an exhibit of an alligator skull and turtle ribs for guests to examine.

Stay at sunrise

Exploring the island before sunrise is an unparalleled experience. Valued at $60, the three-hour trip will allow travelers to enjoy the sleepy surprises of the refuge. What a good morning.

  • The sunrise is best seen from Boneyard Beach at low tide.
  • The trip welcomes photographers who want to take magical photos of the rising sun, calming waves and picturesque beach.
  • Bird watchers can also take notes when migratory birds, storks, plovers and other winged friends begin their day.
  • Pack some bags, too, because beach-goers are sure to find marine treasures like whelks, sand dollars, olives, and other seashells.

Island Surprises

How about a multi-day trip to the island? For $545, Adventurers can do just that. There is enough time to assimilate everything.

  • The weekend warriors will be led by guides who will take them to the pristine spots of the island.
  • Along with spotting egrets, herons, and waterfowl, travelers can also track deer and bobcats.
  • Tourists will also cross the ever-changing Boneyard Beach and stroll along the ponds where alligators thrive.
  • Along with ecological learnings, visitors will also have their share of history lessons about the Native Americans who frequented the place many years ago.

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Things to see

Bulls Island is a treasure trove of nature’s delights, so travelers should keep their eyes peeled. From critters to wild plants, the island keeps on giving.

Natural sites

The natural habitats of the refuge are home to many species and are ideal resting places for tired eyes. Not just Instagrammable, the island’s ecosystem is majestic.

  • The salt marsh and wetlands are teeming with plants, fish and other wildlife, serving as a food pond for animals and places of recreation for visitors.
  • The forest area is home to towering trees and is the perfect place to spot wildlife. Hikers will enjoy the trip, thanks to the shade and greens.
  • The barrier island beach is the first to welcome guests, serving as the launching pad for a wild saga.

The fauna and the flora

Here are some of the species that can be seen in the refuge, which is considered the longest stretch of protected coastline on the East Coast.

  • Apart from migratory birds, there are 293 recorded species of birds including waders, shorebirds, seabirds, raptors and other waterfowl.
  • Over 30 species of reptiles and amphibians can be seen roaming this sanctuary. Say hello to loggerhead sea turtles.
  • There are over 30 mammal species recorded here, and the island once served as a breeding ground for red wolves.
  • Spartina thrives on the island, along with flowering plants, succulents, saltgrass, saltwort, and the list goes on.

Bulls Island is where the wild things are, and a visit to this magical place will satisfy playful kids, curious learners, nature lovers, families and friends who want a great time outdoors. The island and the refuge are the spokespersons of Mother Nature: come all, come all, the water is good.

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