Looking for a warm climate and even warmer hospitality?
Look no farther than Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Our stay on Hilton Head Island was a great getaway from the frozen north.
A short bicycle or golf cart ride away are beaches full of shore birds, dolphins (we watched one come nearly ashore in pursuit of a fish), and other sea critters.
North of Hilton Head Island is a great historic little town, Beaufort, and its nearby lighthouse and state park. South of Hilton Head Island is Savannah and all its Southern grace. Both are about 40-45 minutes away from the island and worth a day trip to each.
On Hilton Head Island itself you’ll find plenty of shopping (including outlets), an awesome jazz club called the Jazz Corner, and more golf courses than a pro could handle in a week.
Gator dogs? Really.
There are a couple of spots you really can’t miss on the food tour.
One of them is the Jazz Corner. Make a dinner reservation well in advance as they tend to fill up fast. The live jazz was fantastic, and the meal superb. If you like jazz, big band or live music, you can’t go wrong with the Jazz Corner.
Then, close to Beaufort, in the nearby town of Port Royale, you’ll find Smokin’ Planks. Try their fantastic BBQ and homemade alligator dogs (seriously, these lime-infused sausages were a huge hit with my father—he’s still raving about them).
Are you into shopping?
The quaint shops of Beaufort are fun to peruse. They have antique stores, craft stores and ice cream (for those of you who prefer to eat a scoop while your significant other shops for gifts.)
Take a trip to Savannah and find a spot to part by the waterfront. Here you’ll find an open-air craft market along the boardwalk in addition to plenty of stores in historic buildings. We particularly enjoyed the nut shop that has free samples of goodies ranging from ragin’ cajun cashews to sweet maple pecans. Don’t miss the Savannah Bee Co. if you’re sweet on honey—there are free samples here, too.
Prefer to shop the bargain aisles? There are plenty of shops on Hilton Head, including two Tanger Outlets just on the outskirts of town. Here you’ll find everything from housewares to shoes to children’s clothing. At good prices.
Golfing, beaches and plenty of history
We’re not into golfing (there’s plenty of it here, if that’s your thing), but we love mini-golf and tried Blackbeard’s course at Pirate’s Cove. It’s a great course, plenty challenging, and the owner is super nice.
We stopped by the “fake” lighthouse at Hilton Head’s Seaside/Harbortown area and checked out the plantation ruins, which are neat (Note: There is a $5 per vehicle fee to enter that part of the island, but once you’re in, explore as much as you like.)
The public beaches are fantastic on the island.
There are plenty of seashells and lots of opportunities to surf, boogie board or otherwise soak in the sun. Definitely plan to take quarters to pay for beach parking so you don’t have to worry after your car while you’re walking the beach.
If you go on a day trip to Savannah, cross the suspension bridge then park to take a hop-on, hop-off historic trolley tour (the orange and green trolleys are rated best).
Get there in the early morning so you can take full advantage of the hop-on-hop-off element. You’ll want to stop at some of the landmark fountains and stroll through fantastic gas-lamp streets full of stately grand homes of yesteryear.
Find your way around
Bring beach chairs, sunscreen, and a GPS on this vacation getaway.
It’s tough to find some of the places on the island because they hide them behind lots of trees (this is the opposite of Myrtle Beach in that regard) and, because of zoning, their signs are small and lighting is limited.
You’ll need a GPS to find restaurants, attractions and shops in Hilton Head. But think of it as an adventure, and remember: Low light pollution means incredible night skies. Get out there and enjoy one while walking the beach.