Great golfing, beautiful beaches, and genuine southern hospitality easily combine on Fripp Island, the most seaward of South Carolina's Sea Islands, and a gorgeous barrier island destination that is a relaxing oceanfront haven for its loyal vacationers.
A private, gated retreat that's managed by its extensive Homeowners' Association, Fripp Island is considered by many longtime South Carolina vacationers as a top-rated spot for romantic weddings, intimate getaways, or just overall entertaining and rejuvenating family friendly vacations
Fripp Island is located on the southeastern tip of the state, almost directly in between the major southern coastal hubs of Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC. The expansive St. Helena Island is located to the west of the isle, which is separated from the rest of the western islands and the mainland by the wide and marshy Story River.
Located 21 miles from the city of Beaufort, the island is just close enough to major services and amenities, but secluded enough that it feels like its own private world, and in a way, it is. The island is primarily a private a vacation resort, with clusters of vacation rental homes, condos, and villas that are bordered by miles of undeveloped terrain. Acclaimed for both its vacation resort amenities and conservation efforts, the island has a small year-round population of about 900 residents or so that swells in the summertime to up to 5,000 on-island guests.
Fripp Island wasn't always so popular with the vacationing set, and was a primarily a private hunting range for most of its American lifespan. The island, which changed names over the centuries, is originally named after Captain Johannes Fripp, a British sailor who was in charge of protecting the Carolina colony from Spanish attacks. The island is also rumored to have been one of the original hide-outs of Blackbeard the Pirate. Local yarn spinners swear that the notorious pirate even stashed away some of his treasure on the isle - a legend which regularly causes a handful of eager beach-goers to break out the metal detectors and go hunting along the shoreline.
Buried pirate booty aside, the island remained almost deserted until a bridge was built in the mid-20th century, connecting neighboring Hunting Island with US Highway 21, and developers began to pay attention. In 1964, a 2067' foot long bridge was built leading to the island, the Fripp Inlet Bridge, and in 1965, Fripp's other neighbor, St. Helena Island, began to pump water into the region. Within a decade of these early improvements, the island had a golf course, the Ocean Point Golf Links, a Racquet Club with tennis courts, a local marina, and a healthy handful of homes and condominiums.
For the next 40 years or so, development would continue at a relatively gradual pace, with strict restrictions on the number of commercial businesses allowed, as well as the size and location of the homes and villas that were regularly added to the landscape. The end result is a pristine resort that's not too cluttered, not too commercialized, and takes full advantage of the gorgeous water and marsh views in every direction.
Today, even though the island is technically a privately owned resort, the small beach town feels inherently like a genuine community. Fripp Island has its own fire department manned by about 35 local volunteers, several small parks and walking paths, and a community center, the Fripp Island Community Centre, which serves as the venue of choice for local meetings and gatherings. There's also an all-faiths chapel that holds regular services, in addition to a handful of stores where vacationers and locals alike can pick up the essentials.
The island feels remarkably quiet, and the local transportation options are a big part of the reason why. While vehicles are certainly allowed on the island, the preferred mode of transportation along the 6 square mile barrier isle are golf carts, although bicycles are also popular among residents and vacationers alike. In fact, there are a number of bike paths to make the trek easier, although due to the island's small size, taking a bike trip to the resort pool or the local store is never an arduous adventure.
There are two golf courses on Fripp Island, which are arguably the biggest attractions off the beach. The Ocean Point Golf Links is a classic seaside-designed golf course and is the island's original course, while the slightly newer-in-1994 Ocean Creek Golf Course, designed by Davis Love III, features a series of four distinct dune lines that climb as high as 15' feet. Both courses are close to the water, and present outstanding views of the scenery, including the wide oceanfront beaches, while challenging golfers of all skill levels.
The island also features 3.5 miles of uncrowded beaches, tennis courts, plenty of kayaking opportunities, and a seaside water park which features a kiddie pool with a giant frog fountain and alligator slides.
The island has recently added a new food court with a healthy handful of exceptional local restaurants, although visitors can always head to one of the island's original eateries, the Bonito Boathouse. The moderately sized restaurant, (but large for Fripp Island), specializes in post-beach grub, including burgers, sandwiches, and plenty of fresh seafood to go around. Because the restaurant is the only stand-alone restaurant in the region, summer visitors can expect lines on popular date nights and during prime dinnertime hours.
For accommodations, visitors can opt to stay to stay at the main Fripp Island Resort, which features a wide outdoor swimming pool in addition to a host of other amenities and services, or at one of the many vacation rentals in the region. Ranging from 1 bedroom villas to 7 bedroom sandcastles with private pools, hot tubs, and exceptional beach access, vacationers of all sizes, tastes and styles will surely find a home or a unit that fits their vacationing preferences.
Fripp Island feels every inch the private beach getaway, and with miles of seclusion and beaches that are coupled with luxurious and convenient amenities, visitors will quickly feel right at home after landing. A slow-paced vacation destination with plenty of white sand beaches and towering Palmetto trees, Fripp Island is a fabulous retreat for couples and families who want to enjoy the beach scene is a pristine, and perfectly entertaining, resort atmosphere.