If you are on the east coast and have never visited Hilton Head Island it’s a must do family vacation. Hilton Head is different from many beach towns. If you are looking for amusement parks, water parks, go cart tracks and a Ripley’s Museum this isn’t the place for you. What you will find on Hilton Head Island is good times, beautiful scenery, and an abundance of wildlife.
There are many resorts, condos and private homes available for rental, but I recommend staying in a section of the island known as Sea Pines. Sea Pines is located at the foot of the island and is the most reclusive. If you aren’t staying in Sea Pines, it is $6 a car to drive through it and to be honest that is where you’ll find most of the must-do’s.
Sea Pines is the place to be if you enjoy family bike rides. There are hundreds bike paths that are nice and flat. If you can’t bring your bikes, don’t fret there are bike rental companies in abundance.
We opted to rent a condo right next to the South Beach Marina in Sea Pines with private beach access. The private South Beach areas is located on an in-let and there is a lot of fishing going on there so you will see stingrays and small sharks being caught. But South Beach beach is great for play and seeing wildlife like hermit crabs, horse shoe crabs, stingray, sharks, and baby dolphins jumping in the surf. My kids loved spending their mornings fishing and catching small fish in their nets.
The South Beach Marina is a whole complex set up for all day entertainment centered around the famous Salty Dog Café. The Salty Dog provides access to ice cream (I highly recommend The Salty Dog Swirl), the bar, lunch, there are also activities for the kids, three Salty Dog restaurants, Jake’s Pizza, numerous shops, and live entertainment. There is even a South Beach Marina pool that you can buy passes to. It’s all right there!
Also in Sea Pines is Harbour Town, a unique area of shops, good seafood restaurants, an outdoor bar, and entertainment by the legendary Gregg Russell. Or, just grab one of the many rocking chairs along the pier and watch the yachts coming in and out of the harbor. You can climb to the top of the still in-use light house and most importantly, visit the awesome Harbour Town Playground. You will have to drag your kids off this playground, in fact, you might have to bribe them with an ice cream to get them out of there.
Both Harbour Town and The South Beach Marina offer many water activities such as parasailing, dolphin cruises, sailing and kayak rentals. Harbour Town also has a really nice pool. As previously mentioned the private beach is great for exploring, but we chose to go to the public beach for swimming. There are several locations around Hilton Head where you can park and enjoy the swimming beach, but if you are staying in Sea Pines, check out the new Sea Pines Beach Club. You must be staying in Sea Pines to use the free parking at this beach. There is a nice restaurant in the club and a snack bar, lifeguards, boogie board rentals, chair and umbrella rentals, clean restrooms, and a luxurious swimming beach.
Also located in Sea Pines is Lawton Stables. There is a small petting zoo and a lot of horses. I paid $10 for my daughter to take a 5 minute pony ride, over priced for 5 minutes, but it made her happy. But the one hour horseback-riding looks like a great deal. We have never gone because we tend to go to Hilton Head during the high temperature months and personally don’t want to ride a sweaty horse when it’s 100 degrees outside. But if you can get an early morning ride or if you visit in the spring or fall I think it would be an awesome family activity.
There is also a lot to do outside of Sea Pines. One of our favorite Hilton Head restaurants, located just outside the Sea Pines plantation gate, is a Caribbean restaurant called Marley’s. They take reservations which is a plus on the busy island. Other restaurants that are popular with families are The Crazy Crab, Hudson’s, and The Boat House. We found that when eating dinner during peak season it’s best to go by 5 pm to avoid long weight times. One restaurant that I really wanted to go to, but didn’t, is One Hot Mama’s It’s definitely on my list for our next visit.
Also in Hilton Head you can visit Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, go zip lining, and play footgolf (which is a combination of golf and soccer). Relatively new is Aerial Adventure Hilton Head, a playground in the sky of 50 in-the-trees challenge activities on 6 different ability courses.
There is so much to see and do on Hilton Head Island and surrounding areas such as Bluffton, Beaufort, and Savannah. Hilton Head is the ultimate family-friendly beach vacation and if you’ve never been, we hope you’ll check it out.