Beaches, outdoor recreation, history and top-notch accommodations lure groups to Hilton Head Island, a resort hideaway in South Carolina’s Lowcountry
A friend shared, “Hilton Head Island isn’t on the way to anywhere. You must want to go there.”
My immediate thought: I could give you six good reasons to visit. Here they are:
Reason No. 1: Hilton Head Island has a serene, semi-tropical, lush feeling. It doesn’t take a visitor long to put the hustle and bustle of their world behind them and ease into a state of relaxation. Supporting the island’s natural beauty, signage restrictions have kept glaring outdoor advertising out. Businesses blend their location seamlessly into the island’s landscape.
Reason No. 2: More than 12 miles of white sandy beaches are right at the doorsteps of oceanfront resort accommodations. It only takes one spectacular sunrise or sunset to realize you’re in a special place. Whether it’s relaxing under a beach umbrella, walking as the ocean waves nip at your heels or a challenging beach volleyball match, there’s always some fun to be had on the beach.
Reason No. 3: There’s a resurgence happening on Hilton Head Island. More than $200 million in resort and community renovations and new construction are underway. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island in Shipyard Plantation has completed $30 million in renovations, including the addition of the Arum Spa. Located on the island’s south end, it is close to shopping, restaurants and nightlife at Coligny Plaza and Park Plaza.
- Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort in Palmetto Dunes Resort launched a $12-million renovation project. Enhancements are seen in the resort’s 325 guest rooms and suites, lobby, front entrance, pool and courtyards.
- The $30-million renovation at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa in Port Royal Plantation includes recently completed guest rooms, grounds improvements, exterior decking and resort pool enhancements, and WestinWorkout®.
- Harbour Town Golf Links Clubhouse with a new world-class 19,000-square-foot clubhouse will be completed for the 2015 RBC Heritage PGA Tour Tournament. Along with an indoor and outdoor restaurant and bar, a gallery will showcase the Heritage’s tradition, history and past champions.
- Sitting on the unspoiled banks of the May River in charming Bluffton, South Carolina, The Inn at Palmetto Bluff is investing more than $100 million in expansion. The development includes the construction of a 150-room, five star hotel, spa and fitness center and additional dining opportunities.
- Located in Palmetto Dunes, the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa has a $12-million renovation project underway. The resort’s lobby area and 513 oceanfront/oceanview guest rooms and suites all will experience a facelift.
- The Beach House has completed updates on all 202 rooms. The Sea Pines Beach Club opened a new facility in summer 2014, maintaining the relaxed atmosphere while providing new amenities. Both guest rooms and the breakfast area received a makeover at the Hampton Inn Hilton Head.
Regardless of your group’s needs and budget, there are accommodations and event venues that fit the bill.
Reason No. 4: Abundant outdoor options keep even active travelers busy. With names like Stan Smith and Van Der Meer, Hilton Head Island tennis is legendary. From individual lessons to group clinics, tennis players are in paradise. With more than 20 golf courses, many located within the island’s resorts, a golf package is easily arranged for a group of 20 or just a few individuals on your tour. Rental clubs are available at almost every course.
More than 60 miles of multi-use trails perfectly connect bike riders with much of the island. In the 1970s when development began, the community had an environmental sensitivity. Bicycle pathways were a central part of the infrastructure and today those paths wind through a natural setting. There’s even a 12-mile stretch on hard-packed beach sand. No need to bring your bikes. There are plenty of rentals available at reasonable prices.
For the young and young at heart, there are two new additions to the outdoor scene. ZipLine Hilton Head features eight zip lines in a truly eco-adventure. The two-hour tour’s finale is a breathtaking ride overlooking the marsh. Aerial Adventure Hilton Head is comprised of 50 “in the-tree challenges” on six different ability courses. You’re harnessed and helmeted and proceed through the chosen course at your own pace. Both attractions are located at the Broad Creek Marina.
If you want to be in the water, check in with H2O Sports. Parasailing might give you a great view, but waterski/tubing and banana boating will get you wet. It’s up to you how wet you get with stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking.
For the less adventuresome there’s a one-hour guided tour through Sea Pines Forest Reserve freshwater lakes. It’s an educational boat ride that explores the area’s plant and animal life, including the American alligator. Still other options are a dolphin/nature tour or beachcombing trip.
The largest of the southern coastal barrier islands, Hilton Head is a birding utopia. Maritime forests, marshes, wetlands and sandbars host more than 220 species. Bring your camera!
Reason No. 5: Hilton Head Island has history to share. The best place to begin that story is at the Coastal Discovery Museum. On the 68 acres of the Honey Horn property, visitors explore the island’s cultural heritage through historical and natural history exhibits. Off-site activities are an important part of the museum’s mission with a full schedule of options available throughout the year.
The Native Islander history and Gullah culture are intertwined. In 1862 Mitchelville was established for the island’s African-American freemen and refugees from other barrier islands. While enslaved they maintained much of their African cultures and developed their own language, Gullah. The traditions continue to this day.
Reason No. 6: Savannah, Bluffton and Beaufort are right where you need them. Each of Hilton Head Island’s Lowcountry neighbors is a perfect destination for a day trip from the island. Tasteful treasures and fascinating history can be discovered in Savannah, Georgia, only 45 minutes away. The historic riverfront community of Old Town Bluffton is an eclectic blend of arts and culture in unique boutiques and galleries. Beaufort, South Carolina is a must stop for history, architecture and movie enthusiasts. You can park the coach and board the Spirit of Harbour Town for day trip cruises to Savannah or Beaufort.
Regardless of your group’s make-up or interest level, Hilton Head Island is a choice destination. Reunions, guy or girlfriend getaways, faith-based groups, student/youth and senior group travel will each find a full itinerary waiting for them. Get your planning started at hiltonheadisland.org; 800-523-3373.