5 Things You'll Love About Hilton Head Island, SC
5 Things You’ll Love About Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is easy to spot on a map of South Carolina, just look for the region about an hour East of Savannah, Georgia that's shaped like a fine gentleman’s shoe. The whole island is pristine and inviting, with manicured rolling golf courts, 12 miles of beaches and wooden street signs that add homey detail to the area. Even the streets themselves are affectionate, with dipped-in-honey names that sound like they’re straight out of a children’s storybook, like Moonshell Road and Sparkleberry Lane. This is a resort town designed with families in mind, but its unmistakable laid-back, dreamy vibe is a great place for couples to run off and reconnect.
Below are 5 things you’ll love about Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
1. The Hospitality
I was excited to Airbnb in this area, and my whole experience with it set the tone for the entire weekend. I booked this relatively last minute, less than a week before, and I’ll admit I was nervous when Airbnb notified me that there were only 2% of the listings left for the dates I wanted to stay – never mind it was Easter weekend in a part of South Carolina that draws 2.5 million people a year and is known specifically for its family-friendly atmosphere. But I couldn’t believe what I found.
My quiet respite for the long weekend was a trendy condo with an ocean view, with modern décor and plenty of space for two. And once I stepped foot inside, I had more surprises waiting! Bvlgari toiletries like mini shampoos and shower soaps were neatly arranged on top of fresh towels in the bedroom, terry cloth robes hung invitingly in the linen closet and in the fridge: a welcome package of bottled water and a box of Harry & David treats like chocolates, cookies and caramel popcorn. The complex also has on-site bike-rentals, a bar with nightly live music and billiard and even a couple restaurants. I’d highly recommend staying at this condo, and if it's booked, don't worry! The host actually has several ocean-view listings in there.
I’ve stayed in many Airbnb’s before, but the attention to detail and above-and-beyond effort to make guests feel extra special is what hospitality is all about, and [the owner] Stephanie nailed it. Her kindness seemed to echo everyone else I interacted with all weekend, from the bartenders, wait staff and fellow out-of-towners on the island were friendly and had no qualms about giving a stranger directions or recommendations for where to grab a coffee.
2. The Coast
I’m not talking about Hilton Head’s location on the golden sands of the East Coast (don’t worry, I’ll get to that in a bit). I’m talking about the restaurant called Coast. It’s arguably one of the best places to eat AND enjoy a view. It’s on the South end of the island and has a menu that features specialty upscale seafood with a charming southern-comfort-food spin like lobster and shrimp pasta, tuna tartare tacos, platters of raw oysters, snow crab legs and hush puppies, and one of my favorites, Sapelo Island Crab Stew with lump crap, bell peppers and potatoes.
The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, but if you want something even more intimate, ask for a seat in the upstairs lounge. It almost gives the impression of a spread-out speakeasy that offers the exact same dining experience you’d get downstairs but with bigger, comfier chairs to sprawl out to enjoy your meal and a handcrafted cocktail.
3. The Beaches
If it’s sand and saltwater you seek, this island has you surrounded by it. In fact, your biggest worry might just be picking your favorite spot. Depending on the time of year they can get busy, especially approaching memorial weekend. But don’t worry, getting away from the crowds is more than possible if you’re up for some adventuring.
Some of the most popular beaches include Folly Field Beach and Coligny Beach. Families will definitely enjoy Islanders Beach, thanks to its park with a playground, picnic pavilions and even restrooms. Fish Haul Creek is as unique as it is quiet; it’s a historic site, with a few landmarks denoting civil war history and an observatory that feels like a remote pier in the wetlands. Keep walking down the secluded wooden paths and you’ll come across a shelled beach with sandbars and plenty of space to sunbathe.
4. Main Street Village
Most cities and towns have a main street that you’d typically find in the heart or right on the outskirts of downtown, lined with shops, cafes and a promenade. What I discovered about Hilton Head’s main street is how it follows its own definition of what that should look like. It’s homey, just a handful of blocks peppered with mom-and-pop shops and restaurants like Munchies, an eclectic ice cream and dessert bar, and the Main Street Café & Pub which has one of those cheeky backstories printed on the front of the menu that make you feel like you’re buddies with the owners and have been dining at this establishment for years before even trying the food.
Speaking of which, it’s on the upscale end of casual pub fare, for example you’ll find things like roasted red pepper aioli as sandwich condiments and even a “famous seafood chowder” which very much lives up to its name. But the best draw? Their happy hour is worth the visit alone, with $3.59 margaritas and more!
I’ve noticed in general this is pretty common in the South, so those who grew up in nearby states might mistake these genuine interactions for common manners. Not so – in places like New York, people just don’t have time for you. If you don’t put your head down and keep up with the pace, your bound to ruin someone’s whole morning, send their blood pressure soaring or both. And don’t even think about smiling at anyone on the subway, you’ll either get written off as crazy or you’ll stick out like a sore thumb as a tourist and make yourself a glaring target for muggers. But in this part of the country, things get dialed way back. And it’s a genuine reminder to pause for a minute and appreciate your surroundings.
5. Shelter Cove Towne Center
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill outdoor mall – yes, you’ll find 290,000 square feet of decent retail stores and restaurants including a cute French bakery, a rooftop bar overlooking the water and Poseidon, a place that specializes in seafood, steak and oysters. But its perimeter is lined with a picturesque park that’s great for walking off big meals and taking in the panorama. The walking paths feature stunning water views, playgrounds for little ones and even picnic spots if you’d like to skip the crowds at the restaurant. It also seems like there’s never a dull moment, with family-friendly festivals and events happening right on the lawn yearround like movie nights in the park, live music and even bocce ball tournaments.
Hilton Head Island should be on your list of vacation destinations
Overall, this is a great place to check out if you’re looking for a getaway that’s more than just a beach town. There was plenty to do to fill up a long weekend, but anyone, both couples and families could easily spend an entire week vacationing here and never get bored.