Hike the links, cycle the trails, or explore a forest reserve
Hilton-Head Island was the country’s first resort community designed to preserve the ecology of its site. Its developer, Charles Elbert Fraser, designed the resort in the 1950s, and he viewed the island’s lush oak and pine canopy, miles of beaches, and coastal animal habitats as natural assets. and not as obstacles to be bulldozed. Today, even as one of the country’s most popular destinations for golfers and beach goers, the 20 km-long island is home to three nature reserves; restaurants and storefronts seem to hide behind the canopy of trees; and strict city ordinances ban skyscrapers and street lights that could obstruct visitors’ views of the beach by day or spoil their stargazing at night.
Discover the recently renovated Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, with three outdoor pools, four restaurants and a terrace bar overlooking the Atlantic. Parents can drop children off at the Westin Family Kids Club and escape to the spa for a massage. The Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort is another kid-friendly option, with tennis and pickleball courts, an elevated pool, and suites with kitchenettes. For a more intimate vacation, try The Inn and Club in Harbor Town. This boutique hotel overlooks the first tee of the famous Harbor Town Golf Links, one of America’s most famous courses. A stay here includes access to the Sea Pines Beach Club’s private beach and food and beverage service under one of its iconic orange umbrellas.
Head toward Restaurant + Bar Nunzio for authentic Italian cuisine. The chef grew up in the Puglia region of Italy and focuses on homemade pasta and seafood. At Skull Creek wharf is a family-friendly place with waterfront views and addicting bacon puppies and lobster devil eggs. To eat inexpensively, try Sea hut, who admits it’s “not fancy, just good!” Order at checkout and get anything fried, blackened, or grilled. (There is usually a queue, but it moves quickly.) New to East Island Lulu kitchen, an intimate meeting place with excellent cocktails and southern cuisine with a twist. Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar is another local favorite, thanks to its long cocktail list and a selection of wines divided into categories such as “Still tasty after all these years” and “White wine from your parents”.
Rent a kayak, paddle board or jet ski across H2O Sports and get out on the water, or sign up for a guided tour and look for dolphins from a catamaran. If you’d rather stay on land, explore the island’s 60 miles of biking trails or visit one of Hilton Head’s over 23 championship golf courses. History buffs can visit the Certified National Register Ruins of Stoney-Baynard, the remains of a late 18th-century house that was seized and used as the Union headquarters during the Civil War before being burned down shortly thereafter. See the 600 acres Marine pine nature reserve on horseback via Lawton Stables or by boat during a nature excursion to Sea Pines Resort.
Looking for more outdoor adventure? Book a guided boat tour at The seaside resort of marine pines, a 5,000 acre gated community at the southern tip of the island. Navigate the freshwater lakes of the Marine pine forest reserve and get a close-up view of the island’s wildlife. The alligator and wildlife boat tour is a 1 hour family walk where you will learn about the island’s plant and animal life. For an excursion reserved for adults, reserve a place on the Alligator Wine and Cheese Boat Tour and look for alligators at happy hour. If reptiles make your blood run cold, explore His Calibogue and the rivers that surround Daufuskie Island by boat during a dolphin tour.