Parris Island is a former census-designated place (CDP), currently a portion of Port Royal in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States. The population was 4,841 at the 2000 census. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, Parris Island is included within the Beaufort Urban Cluster and the larger Hilton Head Island–Beaufort Micropolitan Statistical Area. The area was annexed by the town of Port Royal on October 11, 2002.
Parris Island was first discovered by Europeans in 1562, when members of a French expedition led by Jean Ribaut temporarily settled on the island--the first semi-permanent European settlement in what are considered now as the United States. Four years later, a town named Santa Elena was founded here by Spanish Conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés after troops sent by the Spanish monarch slaughtered French colonists and their Amerindian allies in 1565. It was the capital of La Florida from 1566 to 1587, during which time Spanish explorers sailed from Santa Elena to explore the Tennessee valley and Chesapeake Bay.