Hurricane Matthew in October of 2016 tore away trees and docks but not
Hilton Head Island’s spirit or its beauty. Visiting the island you will
see hundreds of trees down, but still a very healthy canopy of
palmettos, oaks, sea pines and beautiful sand beaches. Surprisingly,
Hilton Head Island is still quite densely forested for a barrier island.
On our recent visit we were welcomed graciously - post hurricane. Here
are a few of our favorite things on-island:
Top Things to Do in Hilton Head
Hilton Head has 300 miles of paved bike paths, 90% are already open post-hurricane. You can even ride bikes on the 12 miles of hard packed sand beach along the sole of the shoe. HHI is shaped like a tennis shoe, appropriately as tennis is a top pastime, with the sneaker toe pointing down to the west and Georgia.
Hilton Head is legendary for its golf. Here the Heritage Classic Golf Tournament occurs in May on the Harbour Town PGA course just prior to the Masters. Heritage Golf Course has its iconic lighthouse looming near the 18th green and a beautiful new club house. There are 17 other gorgeous green golf clubs including Oyster Reef, Golden Bear, Atlantic Dunes, Port Royal, Palmetto Dunes and Plantation.
Hilton Head is a very sporty tennis community, considered the top 8 of the world’s best tennis destinations. Courts are everywhere on island and tennis lessons are offered at most resorts, like Sea Pines and Port Royal, and retirement communities.
Hilton Head’s South Beach is the antithesis of Miami’s South Beach. This long under-developed stretch of sand, some powdery some packed, on the south eastern shore of the island is lined with just a few spectacular mansions, but its mostly wide open sand and dunes. Hilton Head's beachfront continues 12 miles up island along the Atlantic. You can ride your bike on the beach, or walk for miles, wade in the warm water, or just lounge in a beach chair and watch dolphins just off shore swim in the surf.
Get out on a boat tour, a shrimp and crabbing expedition, or a dolphin tour. Our shrimp boat tour with Vagabonds Cruises from Harbour Town. I felt like Forrest Gump as Captain Spike and crew cast out shrimp nets in the bay. As we trawled the calm warm waters, I pondered the many ways we’d cook our haul – popcorn shrimp, BBQ shrimp, shrimp cocktail. Like Forrest, I was overly optimistic, we caught three shrimpy shrimp, but the unexpected bounty was the pod of dolphins we encountered. Over 500 dolphins reside in Calibogue Sound off Hilton Head Island.
Happy Hour on HHI
HHI may be an acronym for Happy Hour Island. So many waterfront bars and restaurants offer early bird dining and drink specials. Skull Creek Café and The Salty Dog are two favorites. HHI is in the Low Country for its obvious sea level and lack of hills. We nicknamed it Slow Country as the majority of HHI residents are retired, drive slowly, drink and eat early, and are in no particular rush. Even the roads on Hilton Head meander and swerve, with the exception of the faster Cross Island Parkway.
Don’t Bluff at Bridge
Given Hilton Head’s majority of retirees, Bridge is a serious pastime. You can pick up a game at many a strip mall open bridge club. Or if that’s not your speed, take the bridge to Bluffton – this authentic seaside town is so cool. Take in the art, the local crafts, then grab a brew and some fried shrimp or crab at the Old Town Dispensary.
Sea Food and Eat It!
Hilton Head has superb seafood, served southern style. Crab cakes, she crab soup, oysters, shrimp served with grits or in gumbo – the ocean’s abundance should fill your plate.
All That Jazz
Go to the Jazz Corner for outstanding live jazz. jazz Corner's unassuming location in a strip mall offers surprisingly top shelf entertainers each evening.
Other Southern Belles - Charleston & Savannah
Hilton Head is just 20 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia, and 95 miles southwest of historic charming Charleston to round out your vacation with a little southern history, haunt, and edication.
Hilton Head Island is named after Captain William Hilton, who in 1663 identified this headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, which he named "Hilton's Head" after himself - pompous perhaps, but the man had taste. Today, 70% of HHI is gated with well-planned communities, so its recommended to stay within a resort like Sea Pines or Port Royal so you can access the best beaches and activities.
Be sure to visit charming Charleston South Carolina and sister city Savannah Georgia during your trip to Hilton Head Island.