1,000th Ultimate Outsider treated to St. Phillips Island Tour

As we boated out across the ocean on a dense foggy morning near Hunting Island State Park, I got to meet two of South Carolina’s most outdoorsy people. When Bill and Laura started their Ultimate Outsider journey nearly three years ago, there is no way they could’ve known that they would become South Carolina State Parks’ 999th and 1,000th Ultimate Outsiders. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, you’re not alone (I didn’t either!).

Four years ago, the South Carolina State Park Service announced a program that would change the way people visit parks in the state of South Carolina. The Ultimate Outsider program is essentially a game-like way of visiting the state’s 47 state parks. Here’s how it works: 1) Pick up the Official Guide to South Carolina State Parks, 2) every time you visit a state park, get that park’s unique stamp in the book by a park ranger, 3) once you’ve completed visiting all 47 state parks, have a park ranger at your last state park sign off on your book and BOOM! You are now a South Carolina State Park Ultimate Outsider. You’ll receive an Ultimate Outsider t-shirt and join the most exclusive t-shirt club in South Carolina! Of course, the real benefit of the program isn’t the shirt, but the journey itself.

Bill and Laura loved their journey to becoming Ultimate Outsiders. Some days they would simply drive through a park and collect their stamp, but often they would stay longer than intended. Some of their favorite parks included Table Rock, Oconee and Jones Gap. According to Bill and Laura, the sheer variety of parks made the journey itself worthwhile. From the sandy shores of Myrtle Beach State Park to the soaring mountain views of Table Rock, each park they visited was uniquely beautiful and interesting. They learned all sorts of interesting things about history, wildlife and conservation over their three-year trek.

As a thank you for completing the program and being the 1000th Ultimate Outsiders, the Director of South Carolina State Parks, Paul McCormack, along with a few park rangers and other staff, boated us the five miles from Hunting Island State Park to the newly purchased state park property – St. Phillips Island. The park service purchased the island in December 2017 from media mogul Ted Turner and has only recently begun doing tours of the island. It is impossible to get there without being taken by boat exclusively by a park ranger and the tours sell out fast, so unless you are watching their announcements carefully, you won’t get a spot. 

Bill, Laura and I were completely overwhelmed with the beauty of St. Phillips, and what a way to cap off a three-year journey of state parks than to be on a 4,600-acre island, alone. Our park ranger guide, Megan, showed us numerous alligators and birds, unique plant life and even dolphins swimming in the bay! 

We strolled along an expansive beach with no buildings in sight, trudged through the maritime forest and even watched dolphins swim and seagulls dive for fish on the pier.

It was the adventure of a lifetime. Next month, Ultimate Outsiders Bill and Laura head out West to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but their heart for adventure, they said, was born in South Carolina state parks.

If you are interested in becoming an Ultimate Outsider, go to any South Carolina state park, pick up a park guide or click here to order, get it stamped at each park you visit and get outside! How many will you be able to visit?

Matt Van Swol