- On 6/16/20
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- On 6/12/20
Hilton Head Island is not just one of the most recent getaway locations in the US - it was only connected to the mainland by bridge in 1956 - it's also one of the fastest growing. In fact, in addition to seeing its population nearly double in the previous years, largely due to an increase of seasonal homeowners, this special destination on the southernmost pointer of South Carolina's Atlantic coast is now experienced by some 2.5 million tourists each year.
The huge draw? In addition to the many fun things to do here for families, its top traveler destinations, and its terrific hotels and resorts, Hilton Head Island - generally simply described as Hilton Head, or HHI to those in the know - is a heaven-on-earth for beach enthusiasts and outside lovers.
All told, HHI boasts over 12 miles of beautiful beaches, all of them broad with attractive dunes providing a natural barrier to the fun activities found inland. Contribute to this its lots of acres of safeguarded wildlife and nature preserves; water experiences, like dolphin cruises and fishing charters; paved bike tracks; and superlative golf; and there's a lot of terrific factors to stick around and explore this gorgeous Low Country paradise. Discover the best locations to go to on the island with our list of the leading destinations and things to do on Hilton Head Island.
The BeachHowever much enjoyable there is elsewhere on Hilton Head Island, it's to the beaches you'll want to go first. Beach access points are all over, generally consisting of (normally) totally free public parking and a wood boardwalk or sandy path leading through the dunes to the water. That very first look of the Atlantic is always a reward, followed by the reality you do not need to go far in any direction to escape crowds that may have set up chairs or beach blankets.
If walking the beach is more your thing, knock yourself out; HHI boasts over 12 miles of beautiful sand to check out on foot or by bike (yes, beach cycling is encouraged, easy, and fun). While sunrise is a great time to stroll, make sure to head house as soon as sunset shows up; the island has a stringent policy preventing lights on its beaches due to their essential habitats for nesting sea turtles.
For those traveling with kids who want to swim, you might wish to select a beach place that provides life guards (at least during the prime beach season). These consist of Coligny, Islander, Driessen, and Folly Field Beaches. The other leading beaches to check out consist of Burkes Beach (excellent for cycling), Fish Haul Creek Beach (one of the quieter areas), and the beautiful tree-lined Mitchelville Beach (the quietest and best for couples).
Coligny Beach Park and Coligny PlazaThe busiest of Hilton Head Island's top beaches is adjacent to charming Coligny Beach Park. It's the nearest the island has to a common seaside scene - neighboring Coligny Plaza boasts numerous stores and dining facilities - it's tastefully done.
Whether you show up on foot, by bike, by car (parking can be tight), or on among the convenient trolley buses that connect the nearest parking lot to the water, you go into the beach through a pleasant park area, which offers amenities such as modification spaces and outside showers, along with restrooms. There are also a number of terrific seating locations, including shady gazebos with rockers, along with durable swing chairs. And yes, there's even Wi-Fi here.
Beach access is made easy for those with mobility concerns thanks to matting, which leads straight to the ocean, and beach chairs can be rented.
Coligny Plaza itself is likewise enjoyable to check out. In addition to the normal memento present stores and eateries, there are a variety of unusual offerings worth having a look at that sell high-end styles and devices, and less-traditional foodstuffs. A favorite amongst the 30 or more stores and dining establishments found here is the terrific Sweet Carolina Cupcakes (make sure to buy some to take home with you, too). Coligny Plaza is also house to a movie theater, and during the busier months free live music can be taken pleasure in outdoors.
Harbour Town LighthouseUndoubtedly Hilton Head's a lot of identifiable landmark, the Harbour Town Lighthouse is a must-visit. Found in the heart of Harbour Town in the ritzy Sea Pines Resort district at the Island's south end, this iconic red and white striped lighthouse serves not just as a navigation help to boat traffic utilizing the Harbour Town Marina and the Intracoastal Waterway, it's also a top-notch museum.
The lighthouse was erected in 1970 and stands 90 feet high. A see will lead you past a number of interesting displays as you climb up the structure's interior upwards toward the viewing platform. Highlights include screens of historical images and artifacts related to the island's history (it has been occupied some 10,000 years) and a special exhibit showcasing the role of the Coast Guard over the decades.
The views from the top of the lighthouse are incredible. From here, you can see over a large part of the island, as well as close-by Daufuskie Island, and even to Tybee Island in the neighboring state of Georgia. There are also 2 gift shops on-site. Afterwards, head over to the nearby Stoney-Baynard Plantation historic website to explore the remains of among the former plantations that as soon as dotted the island.
Address: 149 Lighthouse Road, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Harbour TownHarbour Town itself is likewise well worth exploring. Considered the business hub of the high-end (and substantial) Sea Pines Resort, it's a fantastic location to shop. Shopping highlights consist of a number of fine store stores offering chic clothing, house design, and home furnishings, along with a fantastic choice of crafts, presents, jewelry, and art. There are also plenty of terrific dining options, including casual fare at the Harbour Town Bakery & Café, which serves terrific baked items, sandwiches, espresso coffees, and teas.
Harbour Town is likewise a center of sporting activity. Much of the action focuses around the marina, where you can get a cruising adventure aboard a famous racing luxury yacht, hop aboard a dolphin enjoying cruise, send the kids on a pirate ship experience on the Black Dagger, lease a Jet Ski, or embark on a kayak eco tour.
Golf enthusiasts are also well-catered to at the popular Harbour Town Golf Links, widely known for its iconic 18th hole (simply go for Harbour Town Lighthouse). There's likewise a tennis club with world-class courts, in addition to a large experience play area for the kids. (Editor's Note: while parking is complimentary, there's a little admission to pay when entering this ritzy resort and residential area, even if entering by bike or on foot).
Address: 149 Lighthouse Road, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Coastal Discovery Museum & Sea Pines Forest PreserveA must-visit while on Hilton Head Island - especially for nature enthusiasts of all ages - is the Coastal Discovery Museum. This popular educational center is set on 68 acres of land, a few of it abutting the coast, and makes for a fun half-day expedition. You'll take pleasure in learning about such native tree types as the magnificent live oak, so-named as they never completely lose their foliage, as well as a nearly 500-year-old Southern Red Cedar.
There's plenty of wildlife, too, including numerous types of birds and butterflies. Best of all, much of the property can be explored merely by following its network of well-marked nature tracks, consisting of three fun marsh boardwalks along the tidal Jarvis Creek.
Other significant functions are the Bird's- Eye View Theater, an outdoor theater staging regular occasions and shows, and a reproduction shell ring made from local shellfish in a style understood to have actually been utilized for over 4,000 years. The Coastal Discovery Museum is likewise the site of a popular weekly farmers market, plus a large annual art program.
Worth a see is Sea Pines Forest Preserve, situated in the Sea Pines Resort area. Emphasizes of this essential nature reserve, established in 1970, include a network of walking tracks and wetland boardwalks, an ancient initial shell ring, and lots of wildlife (consisting of alligators). Other enjoyable things to do here consist of wagon trips, horseback riding, assisted boat trips, and fishing.
Address: 70 Honey Horn Drive, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Daufuskie IslandSandwiched in between Hilton Head Island and the northern coastline of Georgia, the much smaller Daufuskie Island - population 400 (plus or minus artist John Mellancamp, depending on the season) - is well worth taking the time to check out. Getting here is definitely fun and includes a 45-minute ferryboat ride along the Intracoastal Waterway. Routine set up ferryboat services are provided by Daufuskie Island Ferry, while private operators offer a variety of services, consisting of water taxis, throughout the busy season. Whichever you take, a dolphin sighting is all but ensured.
If you're not taking a bike with you, make sure to make arrangements ahead of time for a golf cart to await your arrival. Much better still, take part in an arranged tour by companies like Tour Daufuskie; not only will they organize transport, they'll whisk around the highlights and, if needed, will rent you a golf cart to explore some more.
Simply five miles from idea to pointer (and half that in width), Daufuskie, too, is known for its beaches, boasting some three miles of sand all told. It's likewise a cultural destination - the entire island is on the United States National Registry - with a number of its homeowners earning a living as artists, authors, artists, or chefs (or in some cases a mix of these abilities).
Make certain to include a check out to the historical Mary Fields School, famous as the place where author Pat Conroy when taught, and a terrific location for a coffee or to look for conventional indigo-dyed clothing. The First Union African Baptist Church is another need to visit, and offers a remarkable insight into the lives of those offered into slavery through the different "sheds" that functioned as their place of worship. There are likewise 2 lighthouses on the island, among which - at infamous Bloody Point - was built in 1883, while that at Haig Point (now a high-end real estate development) was built in 1873.
Bike Trails and Beach BikingIn a world overrun by automobiles, a holiday to Hilton Head Island is a refreshing change. Not just does its 12-mile stretch of Atlantic-facing beaches encourage you to get out and stroll, however this extremely forward-looking vacation destination is home to among the most substantial bike path networks in the US. It's the ideal opportunity to park and forget about the cars and truck for the duration of a stay, rather deciding for pedal power. You can bring your own, or lease one from your hotel, resort, or any among the many bike rental locations that have actually sprung up.
Pretty much everywhere you turn there are bike courses, either lining the roadways leading into and around the island, or triggering into the trees or towards the beach, making it simple to escape the blockage, sound, and fumes of routine traffic, and instead explore at your leisure. And given its flat topography, it's very simple to pedal here.
HHI is among just 21 locations in the US to be granted the League of American Bicyclists' Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community Award. Bicycle traffic flows quietly along some 117 miles of pathways shown walkers (" On your left!" is a frequently heard welcoming bikers call out to pedestrians), plus another 6 miles committed entirely to bikes. Plus, of course, there's an additional 12 miles for beach biking, a wonderful experience that has you riding leisurely along the hard-packed sand surface area at low tide on bikes with unique wider-than-normal tires.
While it's typically simple to make up your route as you go, bike path maps are everywhere to find, whether in stores and dining establishments, hotels and resorts, or at hassle-free pathway kiosks or bike rental places.
While not strictly speaking on the island, the town of Bluffton is thought about by locals and visitors alike to be a part of Hilton Head. Start your go to in the Old Town, a wonderful location with great dining establishments (including the superb fine-dining facility, The Bluffton Room), elegant boutique shops, and a pleasant public square.
It was near here that the seeds of the secession and the Civil War were planted, when members of the Bluffton Movement in 1844 protested against high federal taxes. This history, and much more besides, can be examined at the outstanding Heyward House Museum, built in 1841 and now home to the town's visitor center (assisted tours are offered).
Other fun things to do in Bluffton consist of visiting the Church of the Cross, dating from 1857, and participating in cultural occasions such as the popular Bluffton Village Festival each May and the Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival in the Fall.
Pinckney Island National Wildlife RefugeThe vast Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge was developed in 1975 and covers a location of more than 4,000 acres. Sandwiched between Hilton Head Island and the mainland, it shares the very same bridges and highway network that connect the two larger landmasses. It was established by the Pinckney family, who built a plantation here in the mid-18th century and resided on the island for over 200 years. It's considered among the most crucial archaeological sites in South Carolina for its more than 115 historic websites, some revealing proof of human habitation over 10,000 years ago.
It's a wildlife spotters' paradise and is house to various types of waterfowl and shorebirds, consisting of white ibis, egrets, and herons, in addition to bald eagles. Likely to be found are deer, alligators, and armadillos. Guided nature trips are readily available on an electric shuttle, or by bike (advance booking needed).
It's also a terrific place for hiking and cycling lovers and boasts over 10 miles of well-marked routes. Of interest to Civil War enthusiasts are the headstones of black soldiers, possibly previous Pinckney Island servants, who served with Union forces.
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