Hilton Head Island Travel Guide

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Hilton Head Island Travel Guide

Hilton Head Island Local History

Native Americans, English, Spanish, and French colonists, pirates, African-Americans, and soldiers have all left their footprints on the sands of South Carolina's Treasured Coast. Evidence of early Hilton Head residents dates back to 1450 B.C. with The Indian Shell Ring in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. In 1663, Sir William Hilton lent his name to the island while searching for the entrance to Port Royal. His glowing report of the ideal farming conditions promoted British colonization and the island was claimed for the British Crown.

Hilton Head soon thrived as landowners established plantations of sugar cane, indigo and cotton. In 1861 Hilton Head Island was overrun by Union army troops and many of the residents fled. After the civil war the boll weevil destroyed the cotton crop and Hilton Head was all but abandoned. A few remaining blacks, former slaves and their descendants, stayed and survived by farming and fishing. These residents, isolated from the mainland, developed their own language and culture based on their African heritage. Today these people and their language are known as 'Gullah' and they are widely regarded as 'native' islanders. In the 1940s Hilton Head was rediscovered as a hunting ground for wealthy sportsmen, who later saw the commercial potential in the tall pine trees that covered the island.

With the lumbering industry growing, electricity was brought to the island, in 1950. In 1956 a bridge was built connecting the island to the mainland. At that same time, a visionary young developer, son of a family who owned most of the land on the southern end of the island, conceived a resort community that would blend with the natural beauty and ecology of the island. Charles Fraser's resulting Sea Pines Plantation resort has become a model for resorts world wide that focus on the preservation of nature and the blending of structures with the environment. Since then, development has continued in other areas of Hilton Head, but always under strict architectural guidelines. Buildings are painted in earth tones, heavy landscaping is required, signage is subdued, and Hilton Head remains elegant.

Hilton Head Island Attractions

Hilton Head Island Shopping

Chocolate Canopy - Palmetto Bay Rd, Crossroads Shopping Center, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 842 4567. Delicious treats of dark and milk chocolate as well as glazed fruit, truffles and sugar-free candy. One of the unique baskets is perfect for a gift for that someone special. "A day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine." Hours: Monday to Friday 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm..

Eggs 'n Tricities - 71 Calhoun St, Bluffton, SC Tel (843) 757 3446. This gift shop is awash with vibrant colors and filled with funky folk art and whimsical gifts. This delightful store is located in an old refurbished gas station. It is well worth the trip even if you don't buy anything. Hours: Monday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm..

Crystal Gallery - Mathews Court, Suite D, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 342 2002. This is one of the island's most exciting new galleries. Here you'll find a collection of exquisite crystals, original art, artistic crystal jewelry, handmade dolls, pottery, sculpture, aromatherapy candles, and indoor fountains in every style and size.

Hilton Head Island Activities

Adventure Cove Family Fun Center - Hwy 278 & Folly Field Rd, Mile Marker 6, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 842 9990. The perfect venue for family fun in the evenings or on rainy days. The centre has lot of activities to keep everyone happy. Miniature golf, arcade, lighted driving range and golf school, batting cages, virtual roller coaster, bumper cars, laser tag and 3-D motion theatre are some of the favourites on offer. There is a Subway and Express Pizza on site so you won't go hungry..

Horse Riding - Riding through beautiful maritime forests and nature preserves is reason enough to visit Hilton Head. This is something the whole family can enjoy together. The Lawton Fields Stables, 190 Greenwood Dr, Sea Pines Tel (843) 671 2586, offers rides for both adults and kids (kids ride ponies) through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. The cost is $30 per person for a ride that lasts a little longer than an hour. Reservations are necessary..

Hilton Head Bicycle Company - Off Sea Pines Circle at 11B Archer Dr Tel (843) 686 6888. Here you can hire baskets, child carriers, locks, and headgear and the inventory includes cruisers, BMXs, mountain bikes and tandems. The cost is $12 per day, but only $18 for 3 days. Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

Hilton Head Island Parks & Gardens

The Audubon-Newhall Preserve - Palmetto Bay Road, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 689 2989). This 50-acre preserve on the south end of the island is has marked trails which you can follow while observing wildlife in its native habitat. Guided tours are available when plants are blooming. Except for public toilets, there are no amenities. The preserve is open from sunrise to sunset and admission is free.

Sea Pines Forest Preserve - Sea Pines Plantation, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 671 6486. This 605-acre public wilderness has marked walking trails. Nearly all the birds and animals known to live on Hilton Head can be seen here. There are alligators, but there are also less fearsome creatures, such as egrets, herons, osprey, and white-tailed deer. All trails lead to public picnic areas in the center of the forest. The preserve is open from sunrise to sunset year-round, except during the Heritage Golf Classic in early April. Maps and toilets are available.

Wild Life Watching - Hilton Head has preserved more of its wildlife than almost any other resort destination on the East Coast. You will be able to observe the Hilton Head Island's alligators which represent no danger if you stay at a respectful distance. Many of the large water birds that regularly grace the pages of nature magazines are natives of the island. The island's Audubon Society reports around 200 species of birds every year in its annual bird count, and more than 350 species have been sighted on the island during the past decade. A big part of the native story includes deer, bobcat, otter, mink, and a few wild boars. The bobcats are difficult to see, lurking in the deepest recesses of the forest preserves and in the undeveloped parts of the island.

The deer, however, are easier to encounter. One of the best places to watch these timid creatures is Sea Pines Plantation, on the southern end of the island. With foresight, the planners of this plantation set aside areas for deer habitat back in the 1950s, when the island master plan was conceived. The loggerhead turtle, an endangered species, nests extensively along Hilton Head's 12 miles of wide, sandy beaches. Because the turtles choose the darkest hours of the night to crawl ashore and bury eggs in the soft sand, few visitors meet these 200-pound giants. Ever-present is the bottle-nosed dolphin. Hilton Head Plantation and Port Royal Plantation adjacent to Port Royal Sound are good places to meet up with the playful dolphins, as are Palmetto Dunes, Forest Beach, and all other oceanfront locations. Several excursion boats offer tours that provide an opportunity for fellowship with dolphins.

Hilton Head Island Beaches

Hilton Head's beaches are ranked among the most beautiful in the world. The sands are extremely firm, providing a sound surface for biking, hiking, jogging, and beach games. In summer you can watch the endangered loggerhead turtles lumber ashore at night to bury their eggs. All beaches on Hilton Head are public.

The land bordering the beaches, however, is private property. Most beaches are safe, although there is sometimes an undertow at the northern end of the island. Lifeguards are posted only at major beaches, and concessions are available to rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and water-sports equipment.

There are four public entrances to Hilton Head's beaches. The main parking and changing areas are on Folly Field Road, off U.S. 278 (the main highway), and at Coligny Circle, close to the Holiday Inn. Other entrances (signposted) from U.S. 278 lead to Singleton and Bradley beaches. The most frequently used beaches are North and South Forest Beach, adjacent to Coligny Circle.

The adjacent Beach Park has toilets and a changing area, as well as showers, vending machines, and phones. It's a family favorite. On the north side, Folly Field Beach is also a favourite. Toilets, changing facilities, and parking are available.

Hilton Head Island Restaurants and Bars

Hilton Head Island Restaurants

Kingfisher - 8 Harbour Rd, Shelter Cove Harbor, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 785 4442. This restaurant is a favorite for fresh, local seafood prepared to perfection. The Kingfisher also offers Angus steaks, prime rib, chicken and pasta. The atmosphere is casual and the nautical theme and great water views enhance the overall ambience. Dine indoors or out on one of the three open-air patios. Live entertainment and dancing, including everything from jazz to salsa is offered seven nights a week. A visit to the Kingfisher promises to be a truly enjoyable evening out on the town. Hours daily 5 pm to close. The average cost of a main course is $16.95.

Charlie's L'Etoile Verte - 8 New Orleans Rd, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 785 9277. Charlie Golson, a local, is the proprietor of this innovative French cafe. The ambience is intimate and sophisticated. The friendly and attentive staff serve up delectable dishes. The extensive wine list a winner of the prestigious Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Open for lunch Tuesday to Saturday 11.30 am to 2 pm; and for dinner Tuesday to Saturday 6 pm to 9 pm. An average main course will cost you $22.00.

Pizza Chef Gourmet Pizza - Coligny Plaza, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 842 7500. This is the perfect dining establishment for the whole family. With over thirty-five toppings to choose from, this pizza is hands-down the best pizza on the Island. Pizza Chef uses the freshest ingredients and also offers a scrumptious homemade garlic bread. Hours: Monday to Saturday 5 pm to 9 pm. An average main course will cost you $12.95.

Market Street Cafe - North Forest Beach Dr, Coligny Plaza, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 686 4976. This cafe has been featured in Travel & Leisure magazine and boasts a wide selection of Greek and Italian specialties including mousaka, pastitsio, spanakopita, traditional Italian pizzas and much more. For dessert, try their homemade baklava or cheesecake. Outside dining is available when the weather permits. Hours: daily 11 am to 8.30 pm. The cost of an average main course is $12.00.

Hilton Head Island Bars & Clubs

Monkey Business - 25 Park Plaza, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 686 3545. This is where you want to go if you are in the mood to party! Monkey Business is Hilton Head's premier dance club. National acts such as Drivin' n Cryin' and Edwin McCain perform here. The fun atmosphere is complemented with colourful metal streamers and a disco ball dangling from the ceiling. Hours: Tuesday to Sun 8 pm to 2 am.

Salty Dog Cafe - 232 South Sea Pines Dr 27, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 671 2233. The Salty Dog is an island institution which you just have to visit, even if it is only to buy a T-shirt. With its laid-back, fun atmosphere, it is the perfect spot to hang out on a lazy summer afternoon. Food and drinks are served inside or outside on the deck. Open March through November 11 am to Midnight 7 days a week. Lunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm and dinner from 5 pm to 10 pm.

The Jazz Corner - The Village at Wexford, C-1, Hilton Head Island, SC Tel (843) 842 8620. In a sophisticated setting that is both elegant and intimate, the Jazz Corner presents a range of regional and national jazz acts focusing on the smooth sounds of the 50s and 60s. A full dinner menu is served from 6 pm to 10 pm. The club is open from 6 pm to 2 am.

Hilton Head Island children's activities

Adventure Cove Family Fun Center - Hwy 278 & Folly Field Rd, Mile Marker 6, Hilton Head, SC Tel (843) 842 9990. The perfect venue for family fun in the evenings or on rainy days. The centre has lot of activities to keep everyone happy. Miniature golf, arcade, lighted driving range and golf school, batting cages, virtual roller coaster, bumper cars, laser tag and 3-D motion theatre are some of the favourites on offer. There is a Subway and Express Pizza on site so you won't go hungry..

Horse Riding - Riding through beautiful maritime forests and nature preserves is reason enough to visit Hilton Head. This is something the whole family can enjoy together. The Lawton Fields Stables, 190 Greenwood Dr, Sea Pines Tel (843) 671 2586, offers rides for both adults and kids (kids ride ponies) through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. The cost is $30 per person for a ride that lasts a little longer than an hour. Reservations are necessary..

Hilton Head Bicycle Company - Off Sea Pines Circle at 11B Archer Dr Tel (843) 686 6888. Here you can hire baskets, child carriers, locks, and headgear and the inventory includes cruisers, BMXs, mountain bikes and tandems. The cost is $12 per day, but only $18 for 3 days. Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

Useful Hilton Head Island Links

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