Hilton Head, South Carolina Travel Guide
Hilton Head Summary
- Lots of natural beauty, with hardly any “ugly” development (buildings are set back from the road, no flashy signs, etc.)
- Full of great restaurants -- fantastic seafood, as well as some other spots with traditional Southern cuisine
- Family-friendly atmosphere, with many fun activities for the little ones, such as dolphin tours, banana boat rides, and all-age concerts
- Famous golf destination with over 30 championship courses, including the renowned Harbour Town Golf Links
- Hot spot for sports enthusiasts, with many opportunities to play tennis, volleyball, and polo
- More than 50 miles of bicycle paths
- 45-minute drive from Savannah (to the south) and 2-hour drive from Charleston (to the north)
- Plenty of water sports options, especially saltwater fishing and ocean kayaking
- Excellent spot for wildlife viewing: home to Audubon-Newhall and Sea Pines Forest Preserves
- Divese marine life, including Loggerhead sea turtles and bottlenose dolphins
- Not an active nightlife scene, which may be a pro for some
- Doesn’t have the white, sandy beaches of Caribbean shores
- No major airport
What It's Like
This coastal island city, located off of South Carolina's southeastern corner, has historically attracted an upscale crowd. Today, it's a destination for the middle class as well, and has become a hot spot for families with young children. As a result, visitors will find ritzy, world-class hotels, affordable condo rentals, and kid-friendly resort options (Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, anyone?) all on the same island.
Hilton Head is known as one of the best spots to vacation on the East Coast, but don't mistake its panache for pretentiousness. This resort town is laid-back, boasting calm public beaches and low-key seafood eateries.
Most of Hilton Head’s attractions are outdoors. Its championship golf courses have long been its claim to fame, but tennis and horseback riding are also big draws. Boating is a core part of the island's history and lifestyle, and almost any type of boat is available for charter, from yachts to sailboats to fishing boats. Boaters have a great chance of spotting dolphins (sightings on dolphin tours are almost guaranteed), and everyone should make a point to see the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse. Local forest preserves offer plenty of wildlife to observe, including snowy egret, otters, wild boars, and, if you’re up for it, even alligators.
Where To Stay
Hilton Head is sectioned off into multiple “plantations” -- exclusive, gated communities which visitors can't enter without being “announced”. "Off Plantation" areas exist as well, and you'll find accommodations both within and outside of the gates. The island's beaches are located primarily on the eastern shore, and consequently, so are most of the hotels. (Most of the marinas and docks can be found on the western shore.) Visitors also may choose to stay near Palmetto Bay Road, home to most of the island’s restaurants, or a favorite golf course -- phenomenal golf courses can be found across the island.