From Pirate Ships to Golf Carts: Fripp Island Past + Present

Of Beaufort’s many sea islands, Fripp Island is a jewel on the Lowcountry coast with its beautiful beach, amazing homes and immense variety of wildlife teeming all over the place.

Fripp Island is a jewel on the Lowcountry coast and has a history all of its own. Photo courtesy Whit Suber

Fripp Island also has a history of its own to tell. From stories of pirates, buried treasure and more, the legend is told quite well by the folks at Fripp Island Real Estate in a recent blog posting based on the island’s lore. Remember…this is only legend, and is most likely far from true, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?

In the days of yore, this majestic 3,000-acre island was a popular oasis for world explorers and a quiet retreat for treasure hunting pirates who sailed the seas preying on ships of all nations. Because of its reputation for being a pirate hideaway, stories about Blackbeard and his buried treasure on the island still persist.

History did not record a name for Fripp Island until the 17th Century when the island was deeded to Captain Johannes Fripp, a swashbuckling privateer, who like other letter-of-marquee men and pirates of that time, sailed the Seven Seas in search of gold and treasures. Captain Fripp was a big powerful man whose reputation as a skillful sea warrior marked him as a fearful foe. For reasons unknown, Captain Fripp never gained the notoriety of Blackbeard and other scurrilous pirates of the time being a privateer of sorts made it possible for Captain Fripp to take sides with any nations paying the highest price for his services.

England needed all the help she could get at the time, so King Charles of England made Captain Fripp an offer he couldn’t refuse. It proved to be a good arrangement for both England and Captain Fripp.

Fripp was given the responsibility of defending the British encampment located in nearby Beaufort against marauding Spanish and French, a task accomplished successfully. With the French and Spanish unable to penetrate the English stronghold in Beaufort, the English had time to further reinforce the coastal defenses of Beaufort.

On behalf of England, King Charles officially deeded this island to Captain Johannes Fripp.

Fripp boasts three miles of beautiful beach and is the easternmost point of the sea islands. Photo courtesy Janie Lackman/Fripp Island Sea Turtle Patrol

The island became known as Fripp’s Island. Captain Fripp settled there, married a woman by the name of Martha Scott and had a family. The Fripps became one of the wealthy southern families prior to the Civil War. Unfortunately, most of the records of the Fripp family were destroyed when the courthouse burned during the Civil War and several descendants and namesakes of Captain Fripp still live in the Beaufort area today.

Development of Fripp Island began in 1961. Before then, the island served as a favorite hunting and fishing spot.

In 1963, the half-mile access bridge was built to connect Fripp and Hunting Islands, and ultimately to Beaufort some 19 miles to the west. By 1971, Ocean Point Golf Links had opened and the first homes had appeared.

The Fripp Company, Inc., purchased the island’s undeveloped land and amenities in 1991. During the next decade, more than 20 million dollars in capital improvements were completed. In January of 2001, the Fripp Island Company, LLC purchased the amenities and some undeveloped land, and Fripp Island Resort was born.

Today, Fripp Island is a popular vacation destination for thousands of people each year with three miles of beautiful beach, restaurants, golf courses, tennis courts, pools and stores. A certified National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat and also voted Best Beach Community in the South; the island certainly continues to earn the description as a treasure on the Lowcountry coast.

Buried loot, or not.

*Story courtesy Fripp Island Real Estate. Visit here for more info about Fripp Island.

Visit here for more Fripp Island lore.

Today, Fripp Island is a popular vacation destination for thousands of people each year. ESPB photo