King Neptune Sundial – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina - Atlas Obscura

King Neptune Sundial

On Hilton Head Island this bronze King of the Sea rules all things briny—and lets you know if you’re late for lunch. 


Hilton Head Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, is in what’s called the Lowcountry. It’s got beaches, hotels, resorts, and lots and lots of golf. It’s also got a 12-foot bronze statue of Neptune, who claims to be not only the Roman God of the Seas, but the world’s largest figurative sundial.

Standing guard at the entrance to Shelter Cove Harbour, Neptune is situated on top of a 26-foot diameter base that doubles as the timepiece. It’s definitely not the largest sundial in the world (at 12 feet, Neptune is tall, but not nearly as tall as the 88-foot sundial in Jaipur, India), but no other figurative sundial—Roman god or otherwise—has taken his crown.   

Neptune and his trusty trident have been telling South Carolinians what time it is since 1983, when local artist and sculptor Wayne Edwards cast the god in bronze. In order to make sure he was an accurate time-keeper, the trident had to be secured to “true south” (or “solar south” as it’s also known) by lining it up using Polaris (the North Star) and the constellation Ursa Major (that’s the Big Dipper). The result is the perfect angle to cast a timely shadow, as long as the Carolina sun is shining.

It’s not widely known, but Neptune was also the god of earthquakes, horses and hurricanes. It’s not clear if he was also the god of golf.

Know Before You Go

The sundial is at the entrance to Shelter Cove Harbour on Hiton Head Island, at the corner of King Neptune Drive and Harbourside Lane.

Hilton Head Island is accessible by causeway over Hwy. 278, off I-95 exit 8. Traveling east off the interstate to the sundial, it's about 27 miles.

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