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Ted Turner's SC beach house open to rent in spring 2020

A wide veranda opens billionaire Ted Turner's beach house to the salt tang and seascape of the Atlantic Ocean.

Wanna stay a night? You'll soon be able to.

South Carolina State Parks is finishing rehab work and expects to offer the site for rental starting in early spring 2020, said Duane Parrish, director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The house is the centerpiece of the former family compound on St. Phillips Island, across Port Royal Sound from Hilton Head Island.

The four-bedroom, four-bath, wood-paneled Turner beach house won't be cheap. Parrish said the fees are currently getting worked out. The cost will be more expensive than Hunting Island State Park but less expensive than a stay at a Kiawah Island resort.

To give a few points of comparison, a limited number of day trip tours to St. Phillips were sold in the fall for $100 per person, and a two-bedroom rondette cabin over the water on Lake Marion at Santee State Park cost $125 per non-weekend night in May.

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In November, S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism gave the first tours of St. Phillips Island, once billionaire Ted Turner's beach getaway. 

"Where else can you rent your own private island on the coast of South Carolina? This is a special place," Parrish said.

There are, of course, some logistics to work out too.

St. Phillips Island (copy)

St. Phillips is a 4,682-acre interior sea island in the process of being washed into a barrier island as the seas push in. It's a series of dunes that are thousands of years old, rolling like waves interspersed with canal-like inlets from a half-mile cusp of ocean beach.

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Viewed from the air, it looks like a series of long ribs.

There's no bridge, electricity or water line to it. Restrooms are portalets. Travel on the island is across sand trails through jungle-like growth, and the house is a 4-mile trek from the boat landing. Parks staff plan to run a tram. 

Robert Edward "Teddy" Turner, one of Turner's five children, described the place as primitive.

“It’s prehistoric. It really is,” the younger Turner told The Post and Courier earlier. “In the summer, it’s infested with horseflies, deer flies like you’ve never seen. We used to run from the house to the beach. You wouldn’t walk around in the woods much during the summertime, but what’s a rattlesnake between friends?”

St. Phillips includes all facets of nature — deer, alligators, gray and black fox squirrels, tabby (concrete oyster shell ruins), in among pines and hardwood blanketed with resurrection ferns.

In the woods are some of the largest trees to be found on the South Carolina coast, including a magnolia with a girth that two adults and a child would need to stretch arms to touch hands around.

The state bought the site in 2018 for a bargain $4.9 million after it originally went on the market for $24 million. Officials hope to make it revenue-sustaining, and maybe revenue-generating.

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A giant magnolia tree on St. Phillips Island, a barrier island bought from Ted Turner by the S.C. Department of Park, Recreation and Tourism on Friday, March 23, 2018. Grace Beahm Alford/ Staff

They want to run it as a journey, camping and rental destination, a remote 5-mile boat ride from Hunting Island State Park, and plan to offer guided day trips in the spring and fall.

"The habitat is intact and speaks to the climax stage of the maritime forest," said Chris Crolley, of Coastal Expeditions, who has worked with the department developing trips. "The forest and trails are just stunning. It's a beautiful barrier island."

Reach Bo Petersen at @bopete on Twitter or 843-937-5744.

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