Grab your gear, it’s time for a road trip

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roadtripnature01We’re topping off the gas tank for a road trip to six of the best outdoor vacation destinations in the United States, all an easy drive from the Lowcountry.

We begin our journey in south Georgia, where Sea Island’s new Broadfield Sporting Club & Lodge has added hunting to its roster of world-class outdoor activities.

The Forbes five-star resort off the southeastern coast of Georgia has added a 5,800-acre property as a sporting club destination that includes amenities such as a rifle and pistol range, freshwater fishing, extensive hunting grounds and a multitude of game including quail, deer, wild turkey and doves.

The property’s main attraction is its abundant hunting grounds, perfect for plantation-style quail hunting with guides and dogs and action-packed continental pheasant shoots.

Jon Kent, director of outdoor pursuits at Broadfield, said the club offers a one-of-a-kind falconry program with some of the nation’s top falconers. “You’re just not going to see anything like this anywhere else in the world,” he said.

Kent said the falconry hunting package includes a threepart hunt utilizing specially trained Harris’s hawks to catch squirrels, goshawks to flush and hunt quail, and peregrine falcon to hunt pheasant.

“The bird handler will release the bird, which will climb and begin to circle, then we release the dogs to flush the game and the hunting begins. At that point, you just sit back and watch,” Kent said.

“The grand finale is the peregrine falcon, which dives at more than 200 miles per hour,” ENVIRONMENT he said. “It sounds like a jet coming down out of the sky.”

roadtripnature02SAVANNAH NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
A 29,175 acre National Wildlife Refuge established to provide a nature and forest preserve for aesthetic and conservation purposes.

”After your hunt, we follow it up with as good a farm-to-table luncheon that you’ve ever had,” Kent said.

Closer to home, there are wildlife-dependent recreational activities offered year-round at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, including wildlife viewing, photography, hiking, bicycling, fishing and hunting.

The 29,000-acre property is an important link in the chain of wildlife refuges along the Atlantic Flyway, attracting thousands of migratory birds annually. The refuge also provides nesting habitat for wood ducks, purple gallinules, bald eagles and swallow-tailed kites, among others.

Waterfowl are most abundant from November through February, while alligators and other reptiles are frequently seen from March through October. Bird watching opportunities are good all year, but are best from October through April when temperatures are mild and many species of waterfowl and other wintering birds are present.

Just a 90-minute drive due west of Bluffton on U.S. 278 is Groton Plantation in Allendale, S.C. The plantation covers nearly 25,000 acres and was established as a hunting retreat in 1906 by Robert Dudley Winthrop of New York.

Part of the land is rented to tenant farmers, but much is kept as a hunting and vacation preserve. The estate has been in the family since the turn of the century.

roadtripnature03HUNTING ISLAND STATE PARK
A 5,000-acre secluded semitropical barrier island located 15 miles east of Beaufort.

The Winthrops are one of America’s founding families and 11th generation descendants of the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Rob Winthrop donated home movie footage to the University of Georgia that document Winthrop’s parents, family and friends during the early to mid-20th century and include footage of Groton Plantation during various hunts.

Another short drive up the coast in Beaufort is Hunting Island State Park, where naturalists and residents alike gather for camping excursions and other adventures.

Hunting Island features a campground, which has spaces for RVs and tent campers, as well as a primitive campsite for established groups and very easy access to the beach.

The pristine sandy beach attracts more than 1 million visitors each year, and its natural setting and the warm Atlantic Ocean make a perfect getaway.

The Hunting Island historic lighthouse is the only lighthouse in the state open to the public. From the top platform, one can get a breathtaking view of the ocean, beach and the marshland.

Fishing is popular in the lagoon, surf and the fishing pier, which reaches 1,120 feet into the Fripp Inlet. Located at the pier entrance is the nature center, which features exhibits of the local wildlife and marine life.

roadtripnature04BRUSHY MOUNTAIN BERRY FARM
A 40-acre berry farm nestled along the Western slope of the Brushy Mountain range, a spur of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

If water sports are what you’re after, then a visit to Santee State Park north of Charleston is not to be missed.

The lake system provides 15,000 acres of federally managed land and water at the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, and an additional 18,250 acres are managed as Wildlife Management Areas by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The area offers 450 miles of shoreline and is home to Lake Marion, South Carolina’s largest lake, and Lake Moultri, the state’s third largest.

Nature can take full credit for the region’s intrinsic beauty, but man also deserves credit for the efforts to protect and preserve the lakes’ environment and maintain these areas as natural habitats.

In the mountains of North Carolina, there is a farm on a hill where blueberries grow. The Brushy Mountain Berry Farm is a youpick treasure trove of farm-fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and seasonal produce.

Plump, juicy and sweet, with vibrant color ranging from deep purple-blue to blueblack and highlighted by a silvery sheen called a bloom, blueberries are one of nature’s greatest treasures.

The farm is located just off Route 16 in the northwest corner of the state and is home to Austin and Cody Brodfuhrer, brothers and best friends who share a passion for sustainable farming.

“Cody and I share a passion for environmental sustainability and for as long as I can remember we shared the dream of owning a farm,” Austin Brodfuhrer said.

A small store on the property features products from local merchants, including a blueberry facial scrub, jams, jellies, seasonal produce and assorted canned goods.

Visitors are treated to a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which run from the southwest to the northeast and dominate the western and northern horizons.