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6 Not-So-Scary Ways to See Alligators in SC

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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South Carolina’s coastal ponds are a favorite habitat for alligators.

They’re not the most attractive animals on the planet with their prehistoric, lizard-like bodies and toothy grins. But alligators, it seems, have a following of fans to rival Hollywood stars. 

Next to dolphins, these menacing predators are the most popular wildlife attraction on the South Carolina coast. Everyone wants to see them—preferably from a safe distance.

While often found lazily sunning themselves along ponds and lakes in the Lowcountry and Coastal Plain, alligators in the wild are best observed from afar. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a closer look and learn more about these oversized reptiles.

Here are six not-so-scary ways to see an American alligator in South Carolina:

 

Edisto Island Serpentarium 

Edisto Island Serpentarium provides visitors the opportunity to see alligators in a safe setting.

Home to hundreds of slithering, scaly reptiles, this unique attraction features lots of gators on display in outdoor observatories designed to resemble their natural habitats.

 

Alligator Tour

H2O Sports on Hilton Head Island offers boat tours of one of the ponds frequented by alligators in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.

Old Santee Canal Park

Along with gators in the wild, you may find a baby gator on display in Old Santee Canal Park’s Interpretive Center.

You’re sure to view a gator or two from the 4 miles of boardwalks that meander through the backwaters of Biggin Creek and its surrounding swamp in this 195-acre park. Or rent a canoe and venture deep into the cypress swamp on a 3-mile paddle trail. Either way, be sure to check out the Interpretive Center where you’ll learn about alligators and maybe even see a young one on display.

 

South Carolina Aquarium

The South Carolina Aquarium offers a young visitor the chance to touch a baby alligator.

More than 5,000 animals make their home in the Charleston aquarium, among them, the American alligator. You’ll find several fine specimens in the museum’s Coastal Plain exhibit, a re-creation of the swamp at twilight.

 

Huntington Beach State Park

Visitors have the opportunity to view alligators in their natural setting at Huntington Beach State Park. Photo courtesy of Phil Lanoue.

For those of you who can’t get enough of gators, this Murrells Inlet park has just the program for you. Take a one-hour walk with a guide to learn fascinating facts about these cold-blooded creatures. You also can see them in their natural environment, feeding, sunning or cruising through the water in Mullet Pond. Bring your binoculars to get a closer look.

 

Alligator Adventure

At Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach, you can watch alligators being fed by the trained staff.

This one is for the die-hard gator enthusiast. The North Myrtle Beach attraction offers visitors the opportunity to see countless alligators, including juveniles and an albino gator, in an array of outdoor exhibit spaces, as well as exciting live feedings from mid-April through mid-October. In the cooler months of the year when the reptiles don’t eat, trainers will show audiences how they handle alligators and invite guests to touch a live animal and have their picture taken with one. 

 

Alligator Encounters in the Wild

Should you encounter an alligator in the wild, keep your distance.

If you happen to encounter an alligator outdoors, here are some things you should know to keep safe:

  • It is illegal to feed alligators in South Carolina. It teaches them to associate people with food, which can cause them to lose their natural fear of humans. If you see someone feed an alligator, contact the SC Department of Natural Resources at (800) 922-5431.
  • Avoid swimming or playing in areas known to harbor alligators, especially between dusk and dawn when they are more active.
  • Do not let your dog or child swim or walk near ponds and lakes where alligators live. They can be mistaken for alligators' natural prey.
  • Never approach an alligator. While they normally will not run after people, they can move in quick bursts over short distances. If an alligator hisses, it’s a warning that you are too close.
Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.