While Hilton Head Island’s 12-mile stretch of shimmering sand beckons travelers from all over the world, a vacation there can be so much more than just a day at the beach.
Originally the site of two dozen cotton plantations and once accessible only by boat, Hilton Head teems with celebrated golf courses, nearly 60 miles of bike paths and plenty of opportunities for retail therapy, offering something for every type of traveler.
Create Family Memories
Everyone from tiny beachcombers to adventurous teens will find plenty to do under the Lowcountry sun.
A top pick for little ones is Coligny Beach Park, offering calm waters, plentiful public restrooms and an expansive splash pad area. Older kids will also find numerous opportunities for surfing, parasailing and paddleboarding at lively Palmetto Beach.
At Sea Pines Forest Preserve, the mysterious Sea Pines Shell Ring will appeal to burgeoning archaeologists and historians. Created by Native American mound builders nearly 4,000 years ago, the 150-foot ring is roughly two feet tall, and is comprised of hundreds of thousands of oyster, clam and mussel shells.
Get on the Water
You or someone in your family may have come to Hilton Head for the golf, but you shouldn’t leave without trying an activity on or near the water. A fishing charter, sailing, surfing, paddleboarding — it’s all an option.
Nature lovers should head northwest to Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge for one of three routes through lush marsh and under ancient live oaks or explore the 50 unspoiled acres at the Audubon Newhall Preserve.
Indulge a Little (Or a Lot)
Shopaholics, foodies and fashionistas, rejoice — Hilton Head has you covered.
At Coligny Plaza Shopping Center, you will find some five dozen shops and eateries ranging from gluten-free bakeries to quirky T-shirt retailers. Pick up some new beachy threads, then escape the sun at Coligny Theatre, with daily screenings of independent and foreign films.
For upscale clothing, lifestyle boutiques and shops offering one-of-a-kind mementos, conveniently nearby Marriott’s Harbour Point and Sunset Pointe at Shelter Cove, head to Shelter Cove Towne Center. Even more shopping and dining can be found at Village at Wexford, which features everything from a pet bakery and olive oil tasting bar to a jazz club and an authentic British pub.
Travel Back in Time
Hilton Head’s first successful crop of Sea Island cotton was grown in 1790, and the island was soon populated with slaves and overseers. When Union troops occupied nearby Port Royal during the Civil War, many abandoned their plantations to move inland. As a result, in 1862, General Ormsby M. Mitchel, entrusted with the care of the former slaves, issued an order establishing a self-governed village for the freedmen. Over 1,500 residents built homes, schools and churches in the now historic Mitchelville village.
The descendants of these former West Africans became known as the Gullah, and their distinctive culture, traditions and cuisine influence the area to this day. The Gullah Museum of Hilton Head, set in a traditional home built in 1930, is dedicated to sharing and preserving that rich, valuable history.
Have a Moment of Zen
After sunrise yoga, head to Namaste Spa at Marriott’s Barony Beach Club for some R&R. Lay back and indulge in a signature body wrap or hot stone massage, or get your glow on with a calming facial.
Continue the vibe of quiet contemplation at secluded Mitchelville Beach Park on the far north side of the island. Filled with placid inlets and gently blowing Spartina grasses, it’s the perfect spot for a sunset meditation.
From pristine nature and spa experiences to shell rings and shopping, Hilton Head Island lets you customize your vacation to match your interests.