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Hilton Head beach holidays
Just north of Savannah, Georgia, and a bit south of Charleston, South Carolina, Hilton Head Island is a convenient beach destination that feels worlds away. Hilton Head boasts about 20 kilometres of pristine Atlantic beachfront, but this is not your average beach holiday. The island is steeped in history, has a thriving arts scene, and hosts a variety of events and festivals throughout the year.
Not to mention, you can feel good about a visit to Hilton Head Island because the community has been a pioneer of environmentally friendly development in the United States. In 1956, The Sea Pines Resort became America’s first eco-friendly resort and since then Hilton Head has continued to develop sustainably. In 2010, Hilton Head became the first town in South Carolina to join Audubon International’s Sustainable Communities Programme, which helps communities grow their economies without harming the environment.
Coligny Beach Park is a great option for families, especially since being redesigned a few years ago. There are fountains to play in, tide pools to explore, and the water is still shallow 30 feet from the shore, which should ease parents’ minds. Non-parents and parents in need of a break can check out the Holiday Inn’s Tiki Hut for a frozen drink to get them in the island mood. Or, if you’re looking for a quieter beach, Driessen Beach Park is less centrally located and draws a smaller crowd. After a day at this beach, the nearby Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa provides visitors with a similarly quiet, relaxing environment. Or, if you prefer a hotel with its own private beach, the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort might be the place for you.
When you’ve had enough of sunning yourself on the beach, it’s time to get out on the water. Hilton Head Island offers plenty of opportunities for sailing, fishing, water skiing, and even parasailing! The most popular water activities, however, are probably kayaking and going on a dolphin watch cruise. Bottlenose dolphin sightings are common and a variety of companies offer cruises on boats of all sizes.
Other outdoor adventures
Bike trails criss-cross the island, but there’s no need to bring your own because plenty of places rent bicycles at fair rates. Hilton Head Outfitters, in the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, is a favourite for bike rentals as well as kayaks, canoes, and fishing boat charters. There are also plenty of trails dedicated to walking and hiking including some located on elevated boardwalks through the marshy Sea Pines Forest Reserve. Other sporty and outdoorsy options include horseback riding, beach volleyball, and tennis. The Palmetto Dunes Tennis Centre runs excellent sports camps and clinics if you’d like to learn a new skill or up your game while on holiday.
Let’s not forget golf!
It’s no secret that Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise. Harbour Town Golf Links may be one of the most expensive courses in the area, but Harbour Town hosts the Heritage Tournament every April, so if you want to play where the pros do, this is the place to do it. Other great options include the Arthur Hills Golf Course, which showcases the natural beauty of the South Carolina Low Country, and the Robert Trent Jones Course, which is known as one of the best in the region. Anyone who doesn’t feel up to playing 18 holes should head to Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf for a round of miniature golf.
After a long day of exercise and outdoorsy fun, you’re going to need something delicious to chow down on. The Jazz Corner is a Hilton Head favourite with quality food and a romantic atmosphere plus live music every Friday and Saturday night. This restaurant is a little bit pricey and you’ll need a reservation at least a week in advance, but it’s worth the trouble. Wine lovers should look no further than WiseGuys, a tapas restaurant known for its knowledgeable wait staff. The cocktails are also excellent and the food is creative and fresh. If you’re looking for some Southern comfort food, however, head to A Lowcountry Backyard for shrimp and grits, BBQ meatloaf, or fried green tomatoes. Of course, Annie O’s Southern Eats also provides delicious Southern home cooking and will be easy on visitors trying to stick to a budget. Watusi is the place to go for a light lunch, frozen yogurt, or even just a cup of coffee.
Arts and events
Hilton Head Island provides visitors with plenty of opportunities to witness the performing arts and soak up the local culture. The Arts Centre of Coastal Carolina stages Broadway-caliber performances while the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra is always a treat for your ears. While Hilton Head is best known as a summer destination, some of its most interesting festivals happen during the colder months of the year. Most notably, the Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration, which showcases native island culture every February. The Gullah people are descendants of ex-slaves who moved to Hilton Head after it fell to Union troops during the Civil War. They have a distinct culture, which the Gullah Celebration explores through traditional foods, folktales, and crafts – such as sweet grass basket weaving. It’s a way for Hilton Head Island to promote cultural tourism and support economic opportunities for the Gullah people.
Further reading: We head up the South Carolina coast and discover the best beach holidays in Myrtle Beach.