If you think about your traditional pirate stories from the 16th, 17th or 18th Centuries, your mind may be stuck somewhere near the Tropic of Cancer, somewhere near the Caribbean (thank you, Disney). However, if you stop to consider that most pirates came from northern countries in Scandinavia or other Western European countries, you might realize that these ships would have passed all along the East Coast of the United States on their voyages. Not much is said about these pirates, because our country was still in infancy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t stories…
The pirates found off the coast of the Carolinas were part of a black market formed to combat the British tariff enactment on goods imported and exported from the American colonies. Pirates would overtake ships coming in and out of ports such as Charlestown and take their goods to sell cheaper at other ports. The British crown, however, offered clemency to those who chose to give up their privateering ways, which they all did. However, the life they were offered, settling in the colonies, did not sit well, and many went back to pirating in the Atlantic. Some of those Carolina pirates, like a man named Edward Teach (otherwise known as Blackbeard), became very well-known.
Blackbeard is not the only famous pirate from the area. Take the legend of Gorez Goz, a particularly violent pirate from Spain. Stories are told about how Goz chased a native girl from the Lowcountry and became stuck in the branches of a tree. As the legend goes, Goz’s beard continued to grow on the tree, even after his death, and that’s where Spanish moss first began. Some Carolina towns actually welcomed pirates who came to port, telling their tales, but it wasn’t long before the British government hunted down the pirates and sent them to the gallows. Pirates, including the female pirates like Anne Bonny and Mary Read, were sentenced to death when they did not accept their clemency.
You aren’t going to be able to find actual pirates off the shores of Hilton Head these days (thank goodness!) But you can find tours and reenactments. Two of the more popular pirate tours that you’ll find in Hilton Head are the Pirates of Hilton Head and Shannon Tanner’s Most Excellent Pirate Adventure. Both experiences cater to kids and feature treasure hunts, dress up, and even pirate battles. Be sure to book your experience before you go!