Lying along the southern coast of South Carolina, Hilton Head is a beautiful barrier island that has lots of great things for you to see and do. Renowned for its idyllic beaches, wealth of world-class golf courses and incredible local wildlife, it is an increasingly popular place to both live and visit. It’s definitely well worth checking out if you have the chance.
Only connected to the mainland in 1956, the scenic and serene island was remarkably the first eco-planned tourist destination in the States. As such, all its resorts and restaurants, shops and tourist attractions blend in beautifully with the lush sub-tropical nature, parks and preserves that lie around them. With dozens of brilliant golf courses to try and innumerable outdoor activities and sightseeing excursions, the list of things to do in Hilton Head is plentiful and promises a relaxing and rewarding holiday.
12. Mitchelville Beach
A very peaceful and picturesque place, Mitchelville Beach lies nestled away along the north-eastern shore of the island. Thanks to its secluded setting, its gorgeous golden sands rarely if ever get busy despite the spectacular scenery that lies all around it.
Also known as Fish Haul Beach Park, its expansive swathes of sand curve gently along the coast with trees, bushes and shrubs bordering the beach the whole way along. While it is a treat to visit at any time of day, at low tide scenic salt marshes and tidal pools emerge from beneath the waves.
Aside from simply basking in its natural beauty and sunbathing or swimming in the sea, visitors can enjoy a lovely picnic with playgrounds, playing fields and restrooms lying just a short walk inland.
11. Daufuskie Island
Set just to the southwest of Hilton Head, you can find the even quieter and less crowded Daufuskie Island which makes for a great day trip destination or relaxing weekend away. Only accessible by ferry, it boasts everything from interesting historic sights and cultural attractions to brilliant beaches and fun outdoor activities.
Surrounded by the shimmering waters of the Calibogue Sound, Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean, it lies just off of the southern coast of South Carolina. Although it is only home to a couple of hundred residents, the isle has a rich history and heritage to delve into with antebellum mansions and Gullah houses lying alongside Civil War sites, historic lighthouses and a centuries-old church.
It also has some excellent art galleries, quirky shops and superb restaurants for you to stop by while hiking, biking and kayaking can be enjoyed at its beautiful beaches and waterways. With stunning Spanish moss clad oaks dotted almost everywhere you go, Daufuskie Island is certainly well worth checking out if you have the chance.
10. Go Golfing
As Hilton Head is regularly ranked among the best places to golf in the country, no visit can ever be complete without enjoying a round or two at one of its exquisite golf courses. In total, nearly two dozen now dot the island with all of them boasting not only immaculately manicured courses and greens but stupendous scenery, nature and views too.
Even if you haven’t picked up a club before, it is still well worth heading to one of the public or private clubs as they cater to players of all levels and abilities. Among the most popular are Hilton Town Golf Links for its iconic eighteenth hole and Atlantic Dunes for its epic views over the ocean while Palmetto Dunes is also renowned for its delightful design.
In addition, the island also hosts some of the world’s top golf events with everyone from PGA Tour players to beginners, casual golfers and enthusiasts descending on its gorgeous greens each year for the amazing playing experience they offer up.
9. Harbour Town
Situated towards the southwestern end of the isle, Harbour Town is home to lots of high-end shops and restaurants with unique art galleries and chic cafes dotted about. Surrounded by the enormous and exclusive Sea Pines Resort, it is a great place to shop, dine and go out with fun watersports and sightseeing excursions also on offer.
Lining Harbour Town’s picturesque waterfront you’ll find everything from fancy fashion boutiques and home decor stores to jewellery shops and art studios. Bobbing about the reflective waters of its marina you can spy countless sleek yachts and speedboats while the iconic red and white striped Harbour Town Lighthouse – the island’s standout symbol and sight – presides over everything.
Aside from shopping and stopping for a bite to eat, you can enjoy kayaking, jet skiing and sailing or arrange dolphin watching tours and sightseeing excursions with world-class golf and tennis also to be had nearby.
8. Folly Field Beach
If instead of shopping and golf it is sun, sea and sand that you are after, then Folly Field Beach is the perfect place to go. Located along Hilton Head’s north-eastern coastline, it has vast swathes of sun-kissed sands for you to lounge on with excellent amenities and outdoor activities also on offer.
Known as a ‘local’s beach’, it rarely gets crowded with its wide and flat sands stretching endlessly away into the distance. Besides sunbathing, strolling about and swimming in the sea, guests can also enjoy exploring the pretty park and tidal pools that border the beach.
In addition, it lies near numerous shops and restaurants with restrooms, outdoor showers and picnic areas located at the entrance to the beach and deck chairs and umbrellas available for rent.
7. Go Kayaking
As Hilton Head is surrounded by both the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean, a wonderful way to see the island is to go kayaking with sublime scenery, nature, wildlife and views wherever you go. While numerous companies run excursions, you can also always just rent your own kayak and paddle about the isle’s scenic and serene waters by yourself.
In addition to the Atlantic and Intracoastal Waterway, there are countless creeks, rivers and lagoons to explore as well as many marshlands and the enormous Calibogue Sound. Aside from taking in all the delightfully diverse scenery, there is also lots of local wildlife to spot with pelicans and eagles, dolphins and manatees all regularly sighted.
With so much to see and so many amazing spots to explore, kayaking about the island’s surrounding waters really does make for an unforgettable experience.
6. Sea Pines Forest Preserve
A fascinating place to explore, Sea Pines Forest Preserve is home to both atmospheric swamps and ancient forests with scenic and secluded lakes dotted here and there. Set amidst the expansive resort of the same name, it has a huge array of outstanding outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy.
Protected as a part of a preserve since 1970, its sprawling confines now encompass maritime forests and flower-filled meadows with beautiful boardwalks meandering their away about them. Besides hiking and horseback riding along its tantalizing trails, visitors can stop off for a picnic, enjoy a spot of fishing or take a boat tour about its idyllic waterways.
On top of all this, the preserve also contains the Sea Pines Shell Ring which was impressively built by Native Americans almost 4,000 years ago. Very well-preserved, it makes for a striking sight with informative displays teaching you all about the ancient archaeological site.
5. Shelter Cove
Located in the center of the island, the small community of Shelter Cove lies alongside both Broad Creek and two lovely lagoons. Very popular with locals and tourists alike, it has a whole host of excellent shops and restaurants for you to check out with lots of entertainment options, sightseeing tours and watersports also being on offer.
What started out in the late eighties as a somewhat uninspiring mall has since spawned into one of Hilton Head’s most exciting and enticing destinations. This is because it now not only boasts dozens of superb shops, outdoor cafes and restaurants but a wonderful waterfront setting with a pretty plaza and parks lying alongside its boat-dotted marina.
From here you can also go kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing or arrange fishing trips, dolphin watching tours and sightseeing cruises. With some great nightlife and fun festivals and events also on offer, Shelter Cove is certainly not to be missed out on.
4. Coastal Discovery Museum
If you want to learn more about the island’s extraordinary history, culture and nature then make sure to visit the splendid Coastal Discovery Museum. Set at the end of Jarvis Creek amidst spellbinding scenery and nature, it has lots of interesting exhibits and hands-on activities for you to enjoy.
Opened in 1985, the museum offers a fascinating insight into South Carolina’s Lowcountry, looking at everything from the heritage and culture of the region’s Native Americans and Gullahs to subjects such as colonization and the Civil War. Dotted about its expansive site are various historic buildings for you to visit as well as lush leafy gardens, amazing old live oaks and a butterfly house.
Besides strolling about its grounds and learning about the island’s past, you can also see alligators, snakes and lizards, peruse ancient archaeological findings and take terrific dolphin watching tours. In addition, the museum hosts innumerable talks, tours and workshops over the course of the year.
3. Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Sandwiched between Hilton Head and the mainland you can find the stunning landscapes, scenery and nature of Pinckney Island which is now protected as a National Wildlife Refuge. A very popular and picturesque place to visit, it is home to several archaeological sites and lots of local wildlife.
Formerly a plantation, its sprawling and scenic reaches encompass everything from maritime forests and salt marshes to freshwater ponds, fertile fields and a couple of more isolated isles. Meandering their way here and there are over 10 miles of trails for visitors to hike or bike along with fishing, photography and wildlife viewing all being popular pastimes.
In addition to keeping an eye out for alligators, armadillos, deer and eagles, you can also check out some of its 115 historic sites which were left behind by Native Americans, European explorers and soldiers during the Civil War.
2. Bike Trails
As Hilton Head only stretches just under twenty kilometers in length, it is entirely possible to spend your holiday simply cycling from one part of the island to the other. Thanks to its vast network of well-maintained and well-connected bike paths, cycling is not only a great way to see its sights and enjoy some exercise but get around quickly and efficiently too.
In total, the island now has a 60 miles of terrific bike trails for you to explore with over 180 miles of shared paths on top of that too. Thanks to this extensive network, both locals and tourists simply cycle to wherever they have to get to with shops, restaurants and hotels all able to provide you with up-to-date bike path maps.
As the island is very flat, cycling is both a pleasant and picturesque way to get about with beautiful beaches, secluded coves and of course great golf courses only ever lying a short ride away.
1. Coligny Beach
Undoubtedly the most popular place to enjoy some sun, sea and sand on the island is Coligny Beach which lies along the southern side of Hilton Head. Located just a short stroll from the shops and restaurants of Coligny Plaza, it boasts countless amenities and outdoor activities as well as fabulous views out over the ocean.
Due to its scenic splendor and vast swathes of sun-kissed sands, the idyllic beach attracts hordes of locals and tourists alike. While it can get quite busy, there is more than enough sand to go around with plenty of outdoor showers, restrooms and picnic areas on offer and deck chairs and umbrellas being available for rent.
In addition to strolling along the beach, lounging on its sands and swimming in the sea, you can also swing on its swings, splash about in its water fountain and shop or dine at the numerous eateries and souvenir shops that lie nearby.