“We came here six years ago,” began Ula Li, “We liked it so much, we had to come back. It’s just as beautiful as we remembered it.” Li and her husband are sitting on a bench overlooking the Audubon Newhall Preservepond. They are admiring a sunning alligator. “Plus, in Delaware we don’t have alligators.”
Jeff Greenshields, a master naturalist and caretaker of the Audubon Newhall Preserve, smiles. “We get that a lot,” said Greenshields.
Greenshields is leading me along the loop around the pond. I can’t help but think he is aptly named because he truly is a champion of Mother Nature. He can identify any species—plant or animal—and then provide an amusing anecdote about how it either contributed to the Lowcountry’s rich history or how it could become your new best friend.
“This is a wax myrtle,” explained Greenshields, stopping just before the lightly fragrant tree. “I point out this tree because the wax myrtle is such a historical plant. It has been used in the Lowcountry in signature dishes like gumbo and is an excellent insecticide. One pro golfer used it instead of Deet while playing in the Heritage.”
Part of the beauty of the Audubon Newhall Preserve is the fact that anyone, of any fitness level or knowledge of the area’s flora and fauna, can enjoy a scenic stroll.
“This trail is not very arduous,” said Greenshields. “It’s for nature lovers. That’s why the park is so well labeled—so people can easily identify things.”
According to the trail guide, “The Audubon Newhall Preserve was established in 1965 as the Island Wildlife Preserve, when Caroline “Beany” Newhall, recognizing the need to conserve woodlands, persuaded Charles Fraser of the Sea Pines Company to deed 50 acres of land for the preserve.”
Good thing she did. This place is awesome. You can tour it independently, or join in on one of the free group tours every Thursdays at 10am September-November and March-May.
As we are leaving we see Li again. “Your paths are so nice, if we ever finally move here we want to volunteer!”
QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE AUDUBON NEWHALL PRESERVE
- Trail Difficulty: Easy
- Plants: A diverse variety of trees, plants and animals
- Water: A rare pocosin (the Indian word for bog) and a scenic pond encircled by a path
- Dogs: Allowed
- Length: 2 miles
- Fees: Free (but feel free to add to the donation box)
- Directions: From the north end of Hilton Head Island on US 278, drive over the Cross Island Parkway onto Palmetto Bay Rd.—the Audubon Newhall Preserve is on the right after the traffic light past Pt. Comfort Rd. From the south end of Hilton Head Island, drive west to the traffic circle and turn right (north) onto Palmetto Bay Rd.—the Audubon Newhall Preserve sign is on the left before the last traffic light before the bridge.
- Hours: Daylight hours
- Camping: None
- Restrooms: None
- Information: Hilton Head Island Audubon Society, P.O. Box 6185, Hilton Head Island, S.C., 29938-6185, Telephone: (843) 842-9246.