Is St. Helena Island Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On March 9, 2024
St. Helena Island, United States
Safety Index:
78
* Based on Research & Crime Data

St. Helena Island, located in Beaufort County, South Carolina, lies within the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.

Historically, it served as a significant center for Gullah Geechee culture, with roots tracing back to enslaved Africans who worked on plantations.

The island’s culture is deeply rooted in West African traditions, evident in its language, cuisine, and craft skills.

Today, visitors can explore historic sites such as the Penn Center, one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves, and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Center.

Thanks to its cultural preservation, St. Helena Island offers a more authentic and immersive cultural experience than other nearby islands.

Additionally, the island’s slower pace and untouched natural beauty make it an ideal retreat for those seeking a peaceful and enriching getaway.

Make no mistake; however, it’s beautiful with Spanish moss trees and waterways, but it’s a primitive experience surrounded by nature, which means bugs, snakes, and alligators in this section of the state.

You also get the bonus of being close to Beaufort and the outer islands, including Hunting Island State Park, with a beach and lighthouse.

Don’t miss the chance to see Boneyard Beach here, especially at sunrise.

The drowned forest isolated from the mainland is truly a unique experience.

With its rich history, vibrant culture, and tranquil surroundings, St. Helena Island stands out as a compelling destination in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Warnings & Dangers in St. Helena Island

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk here, but there are definitely some things you need to know before choosing this as your destination in the Lowcountry. This is more remote and rural, making a great escape from the crowds.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Taxis, rideshares, and rental cars are your best options to get around, but that rental car will be your best bet. The Visit Beaufort website has a list of transportation options, but you're going to find limited options on this island.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

The risk here is low, with an average of three pickpockets or purse snatchings happening each year, looking back at five years of crime data. However, all personal safety steps apply as this is a big tourist destination, and you shouldn't let your guard down.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

You must treat this one as a medium risk with the risk of storms and flooding, plus the enhanced risk of hurricanes between June and November. If you don't have mobile service where you're staying, get a NOAA weather radio powered by batteries.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

This is a low risk, with the robbery rate being 70% lower than the national average. That's on top of the 57% decline over the past decade. Even among the robberies that happen, 63% are in private homes.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is another low risk since it's a coastal island of a small town. The biggest threats to St Helena Island are climate change and sea level rise, on top of hurricane dangers.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office has a list of common scams on its website, plus a phone number to call if you want to talk with a deputy about those risks. You shouldn't have an issue with scams here, but always verify you're renting from a legitimate renter.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Women experience the same risks and rewards as anyone else visiting here. It will be helpful to understand the culture and customs of the Lowcountry before visiting so you don't breach etiquette.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

I research this topic all the time, and I love that the water utility here has the 2023 Water Quality Report out three months ahead of the required date. I don't see that often! The report shows full compliance and no violations. However, the bigger concern would be if you visit during or after a flood, when tap water sources can be contaminated. You'll get public safety alerts should that happen.

Safest Places to Visit in St. Helena Island

Learn about the city and St. Helena Island on the Beaufortsc.org website.

There’s a whole section dedicated to this island.

Nearby islands you’ll want to research include Hunting Island, Fripp Island, Pritchards Island, and Lady’s Island.

One must-visit site is the Penn Center, one of the nation’s earliest schools for freed African Americans.

Today, it offers exhibits and educational programs.

This should be your first stop to understand the culture of the people you’ll meet.

It’s part of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which has 17 stops along the coast of South Carolina and goes from North Carolina to Florida.

The Brick Baptist Church is a historical landmark as the first church on the island.

Services are still held here, and you are welcome to attend, provided you respect their religious beliefs.

The St. Helena Island’s Chapel of Ease stands in ruins, eroding slightly more each passing year since the 1860s.

The vibe here is serene, but some have reported hearing or seeing ghosts at this sacred site.

It’s surrounded by Spanish moss dripping from trees and makes a great place for reflection.

However, if you’re creeped out by ghost stories, maybe skip this one.

Fort Fremont is another must-see on a trip to St. Helena Island.

This historic military installation dates back to the late 19th century and was built to defend the United States coastline during the Spanish-American War.

Guided tours are available, and you can’t beat the views of the coastal Lowcountry.

You are also welcome to enjoy the beach here.

Also, if you plan to go to Hunting Island State Park or Fripp Island, you’ll have to drive through St. Helena Island to get there.

Now you have some potential stops to add to your itinerary!

Places to Avoid in St. Helena Island

With low crime rates and so much to see and do, the best advice I can give is to stay off of private property.

That goes as much for the beach of private resorts as it does for a deep marsh home.

Newcomers to the Lowcountry should study Southern culture in addition to the heritage of the Gullah Geechee.

This region still thrives with both cultures, and you want to respect traditions and the way of life.

You’ll meet people with a variety of Southern accents and Creole languages.

I speak English as a first language, and it took me a bit to adjust to my Southern friends, who ended up teaching me a lot about this country and a place I didn’t spend a lot of time in before I was an adult.

Even seemingly little things, like taking your hat off when you’re inside or showing great respect for people and nature, are a way of life here.

Also, if you don’t want to drink sweet tea, don’t order tea.

You’ll get funny looks in the South if you want unsweetened tea.

Also, when ordering a soda, everything is Coke – then they ask, “What kind of Coke?” and you can say, “Pepsi,7 Up, etc.”

Speak of food and drinks – bring them with you from Beaufort before you get to your destination on the island.

This place is remote and rural, with no grocery stores or convenience stores around the corner.

Oh, and if you see the Convenience Center on the map of St. Helena Island, that’s a trash and waste disposal area, not a place for drinks and snacks.

Safety Tips for Traveling to St. Helena Island

  1. Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office provides law enforcement for this region. You can follow them on Facebook @BeaufortCountySheriffsOfficeSC, but they are on Instagram (@beaufortcountysc_sheriff) and X (@bcsopio).
  2. To ask more specific safety questions about the island, call the sheriff’s office at (843) 255-3200 or email them at BCSOWebsite@bcgov.net. In America, this kind of information is accessible to the public. You just have to ask your specific questions so they can provide the right data.
  3. Download the Everbridge App to get emergency alerts about storms, traffic, safety, and public health hazards. The app is free, and you can unsubscribe easily when you leave. In this rural area, it’s even more important to get alerts since many people won’t surround you.
  4. The hurricane season runs from June through November, with a peak between August and October. Take every storm watch or warning seriously. As someone who has lived through several hurricanes, I strongly recommend getting out of town at the first hint of an approaching storm. However, you’ll find evacuation routes, safety shelters, and a hurricane guide on the Beaufort County Emergency Management website.
  5. In addition, be prepared to leave at any hint of flooding. With rising sea levels and so much water filtering through this island, you could end up trapped or submerged in water after heavy rains. Remember, there are alligators in that water, too.
  6. South Carolina offers separate fishing licenses for saltwater or freshwater. Anyone who plans to go fishing needs to have one of these, even if you’re using a charter boat.
  7. Something might stink on St Helena Island, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Pluff Mud is a specific type of dark, sticky clay mud in the marshes that puts off a rotten egg odor. To the people who live here, it smells like home. You’ll get used to it (as much as possible) in a day or two. It’s especially pungent at low tide.
  8. Download the Beaufort County Connect App to connect directly with every county department. Maybe you need to know what to do about an alligator in your rental yard or want to see the traffic cameras before you head out for a day at the beach—this app covers any needs of a resident or visitor in Beaufort County.
  9. If you suspect a crime has happened, get information about a crime, or want to report a crime that isn’t urgent (like loud music), call Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry at 843-554-1111. You can remain anonymous. There is a separate hotline for drug activity. That’s 843-255-3719.
  10. As the saying goes, “When thunder roars, go indoors.” We have been taught that from an early age where I’m from, and it still holds true. That means when you hear thunder, you’re close enough to get hit by lightning and should go inside. You stay there until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

So... How Safe Is St. Helena Island Really?

St. Helena Island’s crime data comes from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, which means we’ll only be able to see the bigger picture across the county, not just on the island.

Regardless of any crime data, this is a tourist region.

The community, local leaders, and law enforcement all have a vested interest in keeping the community as safe as possible.

To that end, most of the Lowcountry and islands will have the same general overtone.

In addition, Beaufort County’s violent crime rate is 20% lower than the national average and more than 36% lower than the state average.

As of 2022, just 11% of violent crimes happened against strangers.

It’s also a good reminder to avoid getting involved in someone else’s conflict, even if you are trying to help.

Always call the police instead.

Even thefts are 12% below the national average, with about three pickpockets or purse snatchings occurring each year.

Robberies are exponentially lower than the national average.

Aside from basic personal safety steps, you also need to pay attention to the weather for tropical weather, floods, or severe thunderstorms.

Plus, alligators are in this area, and while an attack is unlikely, you can take basic steps to avoid being near them and taking that risk.

The bugs here can cause an annoying experience, but they also might carry diseases that can plague you for years to come.

Take extra steps to avoid getting bitten by bugs and clean/treat all bites ASAP.

Personally, this area is a little too humid for me unless it’s a winter trip, but if you don’t mind the sweating, you’ll enjoy the laid-back vibe of this Lowcountry destination.

How Does St. Helena Island Compare?

CitySafety Index
St. Helena Island78
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
St. Louis58
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

Getting into the United States from outside the country requires a valid passport and either a visa or visa waiver. Only certain people can qualify for that waiver. To see if you do, start at the U.S. State Department website and use the Visa Wizard module.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar will be the only currency you can use here. Normally, I'd suggest you use credit cards as much as possible, but on St. Helena Island and nearby islands, there will be fish shacks and some parks that only take cash. The nearby airports have ATMs to exchange currency, but your home bank will offer the lowest rates.

Weather

Weather

This Lowcountry coastal area is going to be hot and humid in the summer, almost to the point of feeling like you're walking wrapped in a wet blanket. Wear cool, light-colored clothing. Bugs are abundant in this area, too. Bug spray and even Avon's Skin-So-Soft can help keep them at bay, but long pants and long-sleeved shirts will help, too - as long as they are made of thin fabrics so you don't get too hot. This is also a rainy, mild area in the winter.

Airports

Airports

Savannah's airport is about an hour away, and Charleston's airport is 90 minutes in the other direction. The largest airport in the region is Jacksonville International Airport, but that's nearly three hours south.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance is a great idea for this area, which is prone to severe or tropical weather. You want to ensure you're covered for accidents, health emergencies, canceled flights, and stolen personal items.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

St. Helena Island Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 10° C
Feb 12° C
Mar 15° C
Apr 19° C
May 23° C
Jun 26° C
Jul 28° C
Aug 28° C
Sep 25° C
Oct 20° C
Nov 16° C
Dec 11° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
151721252831333229252116
Low
°C
56913182123232115106
High
°F
596370778288919084777061
Low
°F
414348556470737370595043

South Carolina - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Aiken57
Beaufort67
Charleston70
Clemson76
Columbia68
Folly Beach68
Fort Mill78
Gaffney68
Greenville81
Hilton Head Island79
Isle of Palms81
Manning47
Mauldin77
Mount Pleasant78
Myrtle Beach65
North Augusta70
Orangeburg62
Pawleys Island82
Rock Hill63
Spartanburg48
St. Helena Island78
Sullivan’s Island80
Summerville78
Travelers Rest77
Walterboro68
West Columbia65

Where to Next?

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