Hunting Island just got a lot bigger by association.
The state closed on a $4.9 million deal Friday to buy nearby St. Phillips Island from billionaire Ted Turner. The 4,680-acre barrier island in northern Beaufort County would become part of the state park system and work in conjunction with Hunting Island.
“It would be what we call a premium experience in state parks,” Duane Parrish, who heads the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said Thursday.
State officials will spend the next several months assessing the island’s uses, furnishing the buildings and performing maintenance. The public could see the island by the second half of next year.
Small group tours, overnight stays and small corporate outings or weddings are some of the initial ideas for the island, Parrish said. Boats could leave from the area of the Hunting Island pier and nature center, though some permitting will be needed.
Revenue from the new island could help support Hunting Island, which draws about a million visitors each year. The Turner family had used the private island as its retreat since 1979.
A state news release referred to the deal as “one of the most important conservation transactions in state history.”
“My family and I are thrilled that our beloved St. Phillips Island is now in the hands of the state of South Carolina,” Turner said in a state news release. “After sharing many fond memories together on the island, my family and I now look forward to others being able to experience and appreciate the unique beauty and tranquility that St. Phillips has provided us for so many years.”