Hilton Head Island, South Carolina is a getaway for every type of trip, whether it’s a gentlemen’s golf trip, a romantic weekend away or a trip with the kids. The area features warm temperatures well into the fall and plenty of relaxation, fine dining, and spa treatments. You can also spend time exploring nearby areas, including the small town of Bluffton and taking the ferry to the nature preserve on Daufuskie Island, home to a rum distillery and the Gullah Geechee communities. Hilton Head is known for its golf events like the RBC Heritage tournament as well as Gullah music, arts, and performance events.
The island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and a handful of rivers, accessible by Highway 278 that runs the length of the island. the Cross Island Parkway is a toll road that takes you to the western end without as many traffic lights. You can fly into Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and take a car to the island in around 45 minutes. The island is only 12 miles long and 5 miles wide but is made up of over 200 restaurants and 200 shops.
What to Do
There aren’t standard tourist attractions on Hilton Head Island except for the Lighthouse, which you must pay $6 to visit, and the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, where you can go on nature walks.
Most of the activities on the island are family or fitness oriented. Bike rentals are a popular choice offered by most resorts. They allow you to ride on the beach or down the paths that extend the entire length of the island. It’s a popular way to get around, including to dinner and the grocery store. There’s also a number of public parks worth visiting, including Fish Haul Creek Park and Island Recreation Center.
Many beach access points are limited to hotel guests, but there are public beaches at Forest Beach, Coligny Beach Park, Burkes Beach, Driessen Beach Park and Folly Field Beach. Despite the lax public drinking laws in nearby Savannah, you cannot consume alcohol on the beach in Hilton Head.
The Coastal Discovery Museum is a favorite for visitors, where you’ll learn about the culture and ecosystems of the Lowcountry. The facility has gardens, boardwalks, and historic buildings to explore. Miniature golf is another favorite for families. Adventure Cove, Pirate’s Island~Hilton Head SC and Legendary Golf are the three putt-putt establishments on the island.
Adults can play golf or tennis at some of the 350 tennis courts and 24 golf courses. Many resorts include access to their private facilities in rates or can alternatively recommend a place to play. You can also rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards.
Where to Eat
Hilton Head Island is chock-full of great places to eat for such a small island. Most restaurants focus on Lowcountry, coastal Southern cuisine with an emphasis on seafood, but you can also find Japanese, Thai and Mexican restaurants. Many restaurants are also on the mainland towards Bluffton but are less than 30 minutes from the island.
Lucky Rooster Kitchen & Bar– This cozy spot fuses both upscale dining, with menu items like foie gras and veal sweetbreads, and Southern favorites like their decadent shrimp and grits that change seasonally. Enjoy their signature cocktails and Moscow Mules in traditional copper mugs. 841 William Hilton Parkway, (843) 681-3474
NEO HHI– This gastropub was recommended to me by a local and I wasn’t disappointed. The Bluffton restaurant serves Southern favorites and craft beer. I had the fried catfish po boy with fries and a River Dog IPA. They pull from local farmers, whose farms you can see written on the wall. 326 Moss Creek Village, (843) 837-5111
Hudson’s Seafood House On The Docks– Hudson’s is a local institution, but I must have ordered the wrong thing or come on the wrong night, as I wasn’t that impressed. But those who love it will mention the dockside location, which is the best place on the island to see the sunset. On the menu is large portions of fried seafood and oysters. 1 Hudson Road, (843) 681-2772
Where to Stay
There are dozens of resorts lining Highway 278 as soon as you enter Hilton Head Island, including Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort where I stayed, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort just to name a few. More budget friendly options include the Red Roof Inn Hilton Head Island and Hampton Inn Hilton Head.
Renting condominiums is another option if you’re traveling with a group and plan on cooking some meals in. You can find them from HomeAway, Wyndham Vacation Rentals, and AirBnB. There is accommodation for virtually every budget on the island.
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