Hilton Head Island is famous for its beaches, golf courses and low country hospitality. One of the allures of Hilton Head is the vast array of options available to visitors to the island. From fantastic resorts, wildlife preserves to upscale shopping and everything in between, Hilton Head will keep you relaxed and busy. Over 2.5 million people visit Hilton Head each year and these are 10 things to do will help kick off your family vacation planning.
Hilton Head is located in the southern part of South Carolina, between Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC. It’s an easy drive from anywhere on the east coast; however, you will want to leave early for a weekend trip since things get busy.
If you are flying in, the closest airport is Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) which offers many direct flights from major cities such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas and more.
If you are coming from the west coast, a great option is to fly into Charleston for a few days and then make the two-hour drive to Hilton Head Island.
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1. Explore the Island’s Many Bike Paths
Hilton Head is a very bike-friendly island. You can rent bikes from several locations throughout the city or bring your own and explore some of the many paths available to you.
There are over 60 miles of bike trails, and it is one of the best things to do in Hilton Head. I spent many days biking to and from the beach, along the inter-coastal waterway, to the pool, and my kids loved looking for alligators on our bike rides.
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2. Sea Pines Forest Preserve
The Sea Pines Forest Preserve is a must-see if you are visiting Hilton Head. The entrance is located just inside the Sea Pines Resort. There is a fee per car to enter, depending on how long you plan to visit.
Once inside, there are miles of trails to explore through boardwalks, bridges, and marshes once inside. You can take guided fishing tours, horseback rides and fishing excursions. Stop for a picnic lunch on Fish Island or get up close and personal with alligators on the Sea Pines Forest Preserve Alligator Tour!
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3. Play a Round of Golf
Hilton Head is home to the famous Harbour Town Links featured in several movies and TV shows. The course was designed by Pete Dye, who also created some of the most challenging courses on the PGA Tour.
Other world-class golf courses include Shipyard Golf Links and Palmetto Dunes, but there are over 20 golf courses to choose from on the island. Most of the golf courses are located within a few minutes drive from each other, and you can’t go wrong with any of them!
There are three great miniature golf courses on Hilton Head for those traveling with kids: Pirate’s Island, Legendary Golf and Adventure cove.
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4. Hit the Beach
Hilton Head has some of the best beaches in South Carolina, and it is one of the top things to do on Hilton Head Island. There are 12 miles of public beaches to choose from on Hilton Head.
The most popular beach is Coligny Beach, which offers a wide variety of things, including restaurants, shopping and bike rentals, and lots of parking. There is a lifeguard on duty during the summer months, and there are beach chairs and umbrella rentals which we took full advantage of.
Other beaches on Hilton Head include Burkes Beach, which is dog-friendly, Folly Field Beach is a local’s favorite, Driessen Beach Park and Singleton Beach. It’s a great destination if you love the sea.
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5. Explore Beaufort
Only a 20 minute drive, Beaufort offers historical tours, antebellum homes and some great restaurants.
Beaufort is the second oldest city in South Carolina. There are also several art galleries in the area that feature local artists. The best part is that Beaufort is a lot less crowded than Hilton Head, and it makes for a lovely day trip from Hilton Head Island.
6. Pinckney Wildlife Refuge
If you love nature, then a trip to the Pinckney Wildlife Refuge is one of the most interesting things to do on Hilton Head. The refuge includes four islands and 4,000 acres and Pinckney covers over 1200 acres, including salt marshes, hardwood swamps, and tidal creeks.
There are many different self-guided tours through several habitats, including coastal marsh, salt marsh and tidal creek. There are over 200 species of birds including that make their homes in the refuge during certain times of the year.
There are many different trails to choose from but make sure you come prepared with a good pair of walking shoes and water.
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7. Harbour Town
Harbour Town is also home to the famous Hilton Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse was completed in 1970, and it offers some great views from the top. There are 114 steps to get to the top, with many historical photos hanging on the walls.
The panoramic views from the top of the lighthouse make it worth the effort. The low country is on full display from the top!
Harbour Town is located at the south end of Hilton Head Island, and it offers shopping, dining and boat tours. Take a stroll along the marina and look out across the water to Haig Point. No visit to Hilton Head Island is complete without a visit to Harbour Town.
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8. Daufuskie Island
Daufuskie Island is a short boat ride from Hilton Head Island, and it offers a unique experience. There are no cars on the island, so you will have to explore by golf cart, bike or foot.
The people of Daufuskie Island still maintain their Gullah culture, which can be seen in the homes and in the way they live. The history on the island is fascinating, and you will be able to see things that most people never get a chance to experience.
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9. Go Fishing
A simple but oh so fun thing to do on Hilton Head Island is to go fishing off a dock. There are so many docks scattered throughout the island that it is easy to find one close to you.
You can try to catch everything from catfish to flounder while fishing off a dock, and it is a lot of fun. You can use your own fishing gear, or you can rent some from one of the many local shops. There are many fishing charters located throughout Hilton Head Island if you prefer to get out on the water and do some serious fishing.
If you are looking for a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, fishing off a dock is a great option. Just keep your eyes out for alligators! We always enjoy stopping by a pier to fish on Hilton Head Island.
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10. Go Kayaking
There really is no better way to see Hilton Head Island than from the water. The Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway surrounds Hilton Head which offers plenty of opportunities to explore by kayak.
There are many kayak rental companies on the island that offer tours or you can simply rent the kayak and be on your way to explore the island yourself.