Hilton Head Island (more commonly referred to as Hilton Head) in South Carolina is known for its beaches and activities. Similar to Fire Island in New York, Hilton Head is a barrier island. It is located off the coast of South Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean 20 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia, and 95 miles southwest of Charleston.

Once a seasonal home to native Americans, the island was discovered by Capt. William Hilton in 1663. It has a rich history associated with Native Americans, African Americans, and the Civil War. These days, it is known for being one of the best resort towns in the United States. It also has over 20 private and public golf courses. There is no shortage of things to do at Hilton Head!

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Sights To See

The quiet town of Hilton Head Island boasts 12 miles of Atlantic coastal beach and is one of the best beach resort towns in the country. It has no shortage of parks, recreation areas, and historical landmarks. Hilton Head Island is very vigilant about its environmental protection and preservation initiatives. Most of the developments are eco-friendly and are built around nature. Looking around the various sites, visitors might notice that many old trees and structures remain.

  • Coastal Discovery Museum is a 68-acre property with rails, gardens, and beautiful old oak trees. One of the notable attractions is a 500-year-old southern red cedar tree.
  • Sea Pine Forest Preserve is a protected area with elevated boardwalks, wagon rides, horseback riding, fishing, and guided boat tours. This place is perfect for those who want to get to know the local wildlife in its natural habitat.
  • Audubon Newhall Preserve is located at the southern end of Hilton Head. It's a 50-acre area that has easy walking and hiking trails.
  • Harbour Town is a picturesque neighborhood in Hilton Head. It’s known for its lighthouse with red and white stripes. Visitors can go up the lighthouse to see a view of the harbor.

Historic Landmarks

  • Stoney-Baynard Ruins at Sea Pines
  • Heyward House Museum and Welcome Center
  • Church of the Cross (1857)

Nearby Islands

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a 4000-acre site with 14 miles of hiking and biking trails, ponds, marshes, and forests near Hilton Head Island. It is a great location for bird watching because it has about 250 species of birds.

Daufuskie Island is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. It is the home of the Gullah people – African American people and is extremely remote. It can only be accessed via very limited car use.

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The Great Outdoors

Beach season at Hilton Head is from April 1 to September 30. During this time, lifeguards are present in certain areas. There are strict regulations to protect the natural beauty of these beaches. Just like the beaches, the parks are open to the public. They are the perfect place to take pictures and relax in between walks.

Here are some places to check out:

Beaches

  • Alder Beach Access*
  • Burkes Beach
  • Coligny Beach Park*
  • Driessen Beach Park*
  • Fish Haul Park
  • Folly Field Beach Park*
  • Islanders Beach Park
  • Mitchelville Beach Park

*has lifeguards during beach season

Parks

  • Community Park
  • Chaplin Community Park
  • Jarvis Creek Park
  • Shelter Cove Community Park
  • Betsy Jukofsky Xeriscape Garden

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Activities On Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is known for its network of bike paths. Visitors can explore the island on two wheels and enjoy the scenery as most bike paths are safe. Visitors can bike right on the beach when the tide is low and the sand is solid.

Below are other popular activities:

  • Golf
  • Fishing
  • Boating excursions

Bonus Summer Activity: Live music

Sea Turtle Protection Project – led by a local team of experts, the nesting locations of turtles will be monitored and inventoried. If necessary, the nesting may be relocated sites for safety reasons.

Climate

Hilton Head Island has humid summers and mild winters with abundant rainfall in-between seasons. The climate is classified as humid subtropical.

There is no need to bring winter coats if you’re visiting during the winter months. Pack a light jacket in case it gets colder in the evening.

Wildlife

The local wildlife of Hilton Head is quite varied because it is a barrier island. It has saltwater animals like loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, spot tail sea bass, spotted sea trout, cobia, tarpon, and even some sharks.

Elsewhere on the island, there are marshlands and lagoons where alligators might be hiding! The wetlands are home to various species of birds like egrets, pelicans, and bald eagles. If you’re lucky, you might encounter the Great Blue Heron.

Access

Hilton Head Island can be accessed via air and land travel. It has an international airport (Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport). American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines regularly fly out to Hilton Head.

Some estimated air travel times from major cities:

  • From New York: 2 hours and 10 minutes
  • From Ohio: 2 hours
  • From Toronto: 2 hours and 14 minutes

Via land travel:

  • 4.5-hour drive from Atlanta
  • 4-hour drive from Charlotte

Getting Around The Island

Aside from biking, free public transportation is available for residents and visitors:

The Breeze Public Trolley

  • Schedule: Sunday to Thursday 1 pm to 10 pm, Friday to Saturday 1 pm to 12 am

Coligny Beach Parking Shuttle

  • Schedule: Weekends/Holidays 10 am to 4:30 pm

Where To Stay

  • Simple Rewards Inn: $108.11/night
  • Palmera Inn and Suites: $160/night
  • Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort: $260/night
  • Best Western Ocean Breeze Inn: $110/night
  • Hampton Inn Hilton Head: $137/night

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