12 South Carolina Wildlife Encounters Vacationers Will Love

When you embark on an Isle of Palms beach vacation, you’re not just in for sun and surf. You’re in the heart of the captivating Lowcountry, a region teeming with an incredible array of South Carolina wildlife. As you explore the stunning coastal landscapes, you’ll encounter a world of fascinating creatures, from the tiniest sandpipers to the majestic dolphins playing in the surf. Here’s a closer look at the extraordinary wildlife you can expect to encounter during your Lowcountry beach getaway.

Unforgettable South Carolina Wildlife

1. Shorebirds

The South Carolina coast is a haven for a variety of shorebirds. Watch for elegant egrets, quick-footed sanderlings, and the distinctive silhouette of pelicans gliding just above the waves. Of course, don’t forget about the several species of gulls that would love to help themselves to one of your snacks!

2. Sea Turtles

South Carolina’s beaches play host to loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, green and leatherback sea turtles, which come ashore to lay their eggs during the nesting season (May through October). Witnessing a turtle nest or hatchling release is a rare and unforgettable experience. Sea turtles, however, are protected. Maintain an appropriate and safe distance from all marked turtle nests. Be sure to fill in holes, knock down sand castles, and pick up trash to help protect our precious sea turtles.

bottlenose dolphin, south carolina wildlife

3. Dolphins

The playful Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are frequent visitors to the South Carolina coast. You can often spot them from the shoreline or, for a closer encounter, consider a dolphin-watching tour.

4. Alligators

While primarily associated with freshwater habitats, alligators are adaptable and can be found in brackish coastal areas, including some of South Carolina’s estuaries. Be sure to keep a safe distance from all alligators.

5. Hermit Crabs

Search along the shore, and you’ll likely come across the charming hermit crab, a small crustacean that inhabits discarded seashells.

6. Marsh Birds

Lowcountry wildlife thrives in our wetland habitats. Marshes are home to many birds like marsh hens, red-winged blackbirds, and even several species of ducks. These wetlands provide crucial habitat for both resident and migratory species.

7. Manatees

The gentle manatee, or sea cow, can sometimes be spotted in the warmer months in South Carolina’s coastal waters. Please keep your eyes peeled for their distinctive snouts breaking the surface. Visitors and locals are encouraged to boat safely and report manatee sightings.

8. Seashell

Don’t forget about the small wonders of the coast. Collect beautiful seashells, including Lettered Olives, Jingle Shells, and even Whelks. Our South Carolina seashells were once home to tiny creatures. Please be sure to collect only uninhabited shells!

9. Birds of Prey

South Carolina’s coast is a prime location to spot raptors like bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons. They can often be seen circling over the shoreline, hunting for their next meal.

10. Marsh Rabbits

These small, round rabbits with cinnamon-brown fur are often found in the marshes and coastal areas of the Lowcountry. They’re known for their excellent swimming abilities.

11. Horseshoe Crabs

During the spring and early summer, you might witness the fascinating spectacle of horseshoe crabs coming ashore to spawn. These ancient creatures have changed very little over hundreds of millions of years.

ghost crab, south carolina wildlife

12. Ghost Crabs

Ghost crabs are small, sand-colored crabs that come out at night. They’re fun to spot with a flashlight during evening beach walks. It is a Lowcountry wildlife encounter that your family will love!


Visiting the Lowcountry offers an opportunity to connect with the rich tapestry of coastal South Carolina wildlife. Whether you’re an avid bird-watcher, a marine life enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the wonders of nature, the Lowcountry provides an unforgettable experience. Remember to observe wildlife from a respectful distance and prioritize their well-being and the conservation of their habitats. Your Isle of Palms beach vacation promises relaxation and a deeper connection with the extraordinary world of coastal wildlife.

Many of these wildlife encounters can happen right outside your Isle of Palms vacation rental! What are you waiting for? Start planning your next IOP getaway with our FREE vacation guide. Get great information and insider tips for easy planning.

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