Fripp Island or also known as just Fripp is a 6.546 sq mi (16.954 km²) barrier island located along the Atlantic coast of the lowcountry part of South Carolina. It is about 21 miles from Beaufort, 96 miles south of Charleston, and 65 miles north of Savannah, Georgia. Some of the neighboring islands include Hunting Island, Pritchards Island, and St. Helena Island. The island mostly serves as a residential vacation resort, but several hundred people live there year-round. It is also the most seaward of the South Carolina Sea Islands. Fripp is renowned for its resort amenities and natural conservation.
Although it has had several names over its history, the island is presently named after Captain Johannes Fripp, a British sailor charged with protecting the Carolina colony from Spanish attacks. Local folklore and dedicated history have long suspected Fripp to be the location where the pirate Blackbeard had stowed away some of his treasures and bounty.
Due to its distant nature, the island was utilized primarily as a private hunting range for most of its history. In the mid-20th century, completion of bridges connecting Beaufort with nearby Hunting Island State Park, investors looked to develop a residential resort community on Fripp. Upon securing bonds and establishing a public service district, a bridge was built in 1961 that connected Fripp with Hunting Island, U.S. Highway 21, and nearby Beaufort and began to stimulate residential development. Within 10 years, the island had built the Ocean Point Golf Links, a Racquet Club for tennis, a marina, and a variety of homes and condominium units that would serve as the benchmark for development for the next thirty years.
In 1994, the island underwent its final major development phase on its southwestern end. Ocean Creek golf course designed by Davis Love III was built, as well as a new amenities center. Additional housing styles were offered and the marina was expanded. Though the island will not undergo any future expansion, nearly one-third of the lots on the island remain undeveloped.
Geologically speaking, Fripp Island is considered to be a barrier island. The island is the most seaward of the Sea Islands and forms a de facto cape. Located halfway between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia along the coast, it is locally positioned between Hunting Island State Park to the north and Pritchards Island to the southwest. A wide marsh and estuarine system separates these islands from the larger St. Helena’s Island to the northwest. The upland acreage of the island is approximately 3,000 acres (12 km2). Fripp has approximately three miles of beachfront along the Atlantic, though some parts of beach are fully submerged at high tide.
Fripp Island is located approximately 20 miles (30 km) from Beaufort and is connected with the city via U.S. 21. Savannah is approximately a 75 minute drive by car while Charleston is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes away. Bermuda lies 900 miles (1,450 km) due east of Fripp.
According to the 2000 census, Fripp Island has a year-round primary population of 887 residents. The realistic figure is likely higher than reported because many homeowners consider Fripp Island property as second homes and may spend weeks or months on the island, but do not consider it their primary residence. In summer months the island’s population can rise to about 5,000 due to an increase in visitors.
Fripp Island is a private, gated community, run by the Homeowners’ Association since the mid-1980s. It is not a municipality or a census designated place, though it maintains island operations via a public service district and property owners association. In addition to providing a security force and fire/rescue squad, the island also maintains its own bridges, roads, paths, parks, and beach access routes. Meetings and gatherings are typically held at the Fripp Island Community Centre. An all-faiths chapel is also located nearby.
Most of the island’s trees are loblolly pine, though there are some hardwood live oak and magnolia stands located throughout the island. Spanish moss is a prevalent feature as well.