If you want to experience island life without leaving the state, drive about four hours from Myrtle Beach south to Hilton Head Island, one of the last destinations in South Carolina before the Georgian border.
We did this for spring break in April 2022, just before the onset of summer’s scorching sun and warmer ocean temperatures, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the 12 miles of island beach every day.
Hilton Head is an interesting mix of tourists and local transplants, with a blend of both laid-back Lowcountry vibe and chic lifestyle. In fact, approximately 70% of the island, which includes tourist areas, is located inside gated communities, and during our visit, Hilton Head hosted the exclusive RBC Heritage PGA Tour golf tournament.
Unlike Myrtle Beach, the city enforces the Land Management Ordinance, which restricts development and controls the style of buildings to complement the natural beauty of the surrounding trees. Even one of the few public beach accesses on the island for city residents has approved multimillion-dollar land purchase bonds to control commercial growth.
There’s a reason Hilton Head was named one of the Top 10 Family Beaches in the United States, the #1 Island in the Continental United States, and the #2 Island in the World by Travel + Leisure Magazine. in 2021, and the best island in the United States by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine.
Here are some of the ways we discovered this award-winning island during our getaway.
SEE & DO
Hilton Head is synonymous with biking, so pack your family’s bikes or rent one of these cute bikes with the hanging basket on the front from one of the many rental shops available. The island has been recognized as a gold-level cycling community by the League of American Cyclists, meaning it is one of the top 25 cycling communities in the United States. of protected public roads, to be exact, so you can bike anywhere for dining, shopping, and more. My legs were hurting when we left Hilton Head! And don’t forget the beach at low tide which offers an extremely wide and compact sandy causeway with an ocean breeze and views along the way.
You can never go wrong with a day spent at the beach. This is where we spent our lazy days in Hilton Head, sunbathing, boogie boarding, spike balling and building castles. The beach was nice and clean here, and about a pleasant mile walk on wooden causeway from our oceanfront hotel.
One sight we didn’t get to see on our trip because Sea Pines Resort was teeming with golfers in town at the time of the RBC Heritage Tournament was the Harbor Town Lighthouse. The 50+ year old red and white striped lighthouse that overlooks Yacht Basin is available for tours. Climb the 110 steps to the top of this 93-foot-tall lighthouse, then explore the museum below. You can also venture into Harbor Town itself, which is full of unique shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafes that surround the marina.
If you want to get away from the sun and shop inland, there are two Tanger Outlet options on Hilton Head. We chose the cluster of shops which also housed The Salty Dog Café which was the perfect place for lunch. If you want to cross the bridge into the charming nearby town of Bluffton, you’ll find antique shops and an eclectic mix of boutiques.
Although we bought groceries to cook a few meals for our family of five in the condo, we managed to visit a few (among the many) cool restaurants in Hilton Head that I recommend:
Giuseppe’s Pizza & Pasta House
Yes, it’s a pizza place, but it’s an amazing pizza place that’s been around for over 30 years, so you know they’re doing something right! The award-winning restaurant makes its sauce fresh from California tomatoes, its pizza dough is prepared daily, its pasta is the freshest, and it uses only the finest quality Italian cheeses. We went with the Meatball & Ricotta Deluxe Pie, topped with their famous meatballs, sliced and topped with mozzarella, provolone, whole milk ricotta and parmesan cheese. They also offer a handful of cauliflower crust pizzas, salads, traditional pasta dishes, award-winning wings, specialty double burgers, and more. Giuseppe’s offers a laid-back coastal vibe, indoors and outdoors, located in Shelter Cove, a mixed-use community similar to The Market Common in Myrtle Beach, with shops, outdoor dining, parks, a marina and entertainment center to explore after dinner. .
Fishcamp on Broad Creek
This historic waterfront restaurant serves up fresh seafood in a refreshing ambience that was the original Simmons Fishing Camp cabin that dates back to 1955. We feasted on creekside views while dining in outdoors, plus these recommended menu items: Daufuskie Blue Crab Cake served with roasted red pepper remoulade and crispy potatoes; the Peel ‘n Eat Shrimp Boil with sausage, potatoes and corn; blackened Carolina catfish served with okra hoe cake; the parmesan-crusted grouper drizzled with a lemon cream sauce and accompanied by whipped potatoes with green onions and vegetables; and South Fried Flounder.
Co Co on the beach
This is a beachfront tiki bar on the sand at the end of our walkway from our resort to the beach, but is accessible to anyone on foot or by bike on the beachfront. Beach volleyball, bar, and open-air restaurant aren’t fancy, but no one expects Co Co to be. The deck is lined with colorful, airbrushed tables and stools and the menu selections are the epitome of casual. But the food is good, with entrees like chicken or beef empanadas, Co Co homemade chips or spicy pickles, and a handful of burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. Try the Shrimp Po Boy, filled with beer battered shrimp, lettuce, tomatoes and Boom Boom sauce, then wash it down with one of Co Co’s infamous hurricanes which you can choose from by hurricane category 1 to 5, depending on your fear factor.
I booked an Airbnb at Hilton Head Resort called Rustic Anchor which was a dream. The two bedroom condo accommodated everyone in their own bed, between our queen and the boys bunk beds. Finishes, hardwood floors and appliances have been refined and updated throughout the living/dining room and full kitchen; amenities were covered, with the owner providing a set of beach toys and a beach cart to take the mile to the beach (and one less thing to pack). Resort amenities kept my active sons busy including a beautiful outdoor pool in the courtyard just below our second floor condo, an indoor pool surrounded by an indoor lane, an indoor hot tub, six lighted tennis courts and a gym. And, if you’ve packed your clubs, the Palmetto Dunes Golf Course is located right next door.
You can customize your own Hilton Head Island getaway, of course, to suit your family’s needs and desires. For more information visit hiltonheadisland.org