VOLUNTEER HELPS CARE FOR PINCKNEY ISLAND, THE REFUGE THAT RAISED HER

A quarter of a million people visit Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge every year. But Alice Boyd remembers a time when visitors to Pinckney Island — the largest of five islands in the 4,053-acre refuge, and the only one open to the public — could be counted in the dozens, the island was accessible only by boat and she and her brother were the only children for miles around.

Once hunted for their blubber, North Atlantic right whales are now among the rarest mammals in the world. Only about 500 of the species exist, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, making them one of the most endangered marine mammals.

Right whales can weigh up to 70 tons and grow up to 60 feet. Commercial whalers christened them “right whales” because they are the “right” whale to hunt: they move slowly, are easy to chase, and carry copious amounts of blubber.

When President Donald Trump’s administration announced in January its five-year plan to open up opportunities for gas and oil drilling in 90 percent of federal waters — including the stretch of ocean off the Lowcountry’s coastline — the uproar on land was swift and strong.

A month later, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to make the state’s opposition to the plan known and to ask that South Carolina be exempted. His sentiment echoed those expressed by U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford and Jim Clyburn, as well as many in the Palmetto State like Hilton Head Island Mayor David Bennett.

THE PURCHASE OF ST. PHILLIPS ISLAND DOUBLES SIZE OF HUNTING ISLAND STATE PARK

A private island a short boat ride away from Hunting Island State Park is the latest addition to South Carolina’s park system. And Lowcountry residents will be able to start exploring it soon.

At the end of December, media mogul Ted Turner sold his private barrier island, St. Phillips, to South Carolina for $5 million.

GET INSPIRED FOR A LOWCOUNTRY WEDDING TO REMEMBER

BY ROBYN PASSANTE / PHOTO BY HAPPY BLOOM PHOTOGRAPHY

No two weddings are alike, because no two couples are alike. But one thing ties them all together: love. Traditions evolve and trends change, but weddings will always elicit the same emotions, whether you’re the groom or a guest. And any event filled with love, joy and hope deserves to be breathlessly anticipated and exceptionally well-planned.

A GETAWAY FOR TWO OFFERS THE CHANCE FOR ROMANCE

Looking for the perfect spot for a romantic getaway with your sweetheart?

If you only have time for one night away, trade one island for another with a visit to Amelia Island in Florida, where you can ride horses and enjoy campfires right on the beach. If you’ve got time for a long weekend, set off for North Carolina and a cozy stay in a mountain town like Boone.

LOCALS SHARE THEIR NIGHTMARES AND ROMANCES

Dating. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Most people believe that their soul mate is out there — somewhere. But as anyone who’s been on his or her fair share of bad dates knows, you’ve got to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince or princess.

We asked a few locals for their first date stories: the good, the bad and the ugly. The responses were amazing. Sometimes heart-warming, often terrifying, these tales illustrate the possibilities and pitfalls.

DATING APPS WIDEN THE POOL OF POTENTIAL PARTNERS

The first time I used a dating app, I had just moved to New York City and was waiting for my girlfriend to join me in a few months. One lonely night in an Upper Manhattan apartment, I gave into temptation and downloaded Tinder. It felt as wrong as it was addictive. There were some close calls but nothing ever came of it in real life — or “IRL,” in internet speak.

UNIQUE PROGRAM LETS VISITORS EXPERIENCE GULLAH LIFE WHILE RESTORING HISTORIC HOMES

Nestled on a dirt road under a canopy of oak trees on Daufuskie Island sits a bright blue cottage with a small porch. Built by a Gullah freedwoman around 1865, the Frances Jones House was home to several generations of island residents over the years. But the humid, hot climate took its toll and the dwelling began to fall into disrepair. In an effort to save the property, the Daufuskie Endangered Places Program, run by the nonprofit group Preservation South Carolina, came up with a unique solution to pay for repair and give visitors a firsthand look at Gullah life. The group started the project committed to making sure native islanders could hold on to their land.