Hilton Head Island travel guide

Hilton Head Island Tourism | Hilton Head Island Guide

You're Going to Love Hilton Head Island

The friendly island of Hilton Head is known for its fabulous sandy beaches and world-class golf courses. Its relaxing, laid-back atmosphere is perfect for any vacation.

A boot-shaped island that lies just off the South Carolina coast, its spectacular scenery and natural features make Hilton Head a must for nature lovers as well as beach fans.

It's a versatile destination that appeals to all tastes. Whether you're in search of high-energy water sports or high-class shops and stores, Hilton Head has it all.

Hilton Head hosts numerous events and festivals each year. See the weekly fireworks at Shelter Cove or catch an art exhibition; there are lots of reasons to visit this Atlantic paradise.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Hilton Head Island

1. It's a Yachting Capital

Visit the exclusive marinas of Harbour Town to admire dazzling million dollar yachts or marvel at the beachfront mansions. Alternatively, book a charter and head out to sea; you're almost certain to spot bottlenose dolphins, and you may even see one of the elusive white sharks!

2. A Foodie's Paradise

Dozens of fine restaurants have transformed Hilton Head into a dream vacation destination for gourmets. You'll find everything from fresh seafood to classic Italian cuisine on this sunny island.

3. Pristine Sandy Beaches

An impressive 12 miles of sandy coastline includes areas that are ideal for children as well as beaches that appeal to water sports fans. Popular spots include the Disney Resort Beach area and South Beach.

4. Unique Light and Scenery

Hilton Head is favored by artists and photographers for its unique light and amazing panoramic views. Grab your sketch pad or camera and create your own magnificent seascape.

5. World-Class Golf

Play like the professionals at Harbour Town Golf Links where the world-famous Heritage tournament takes place each spring. Alternatively, try the Arthur Hills course or book a tee time at the 18-hole George Fazio Golf course, Hilton Head's only 70 par course.

What to do in Hilton Head Island

1. Coligny Beach: The Beach Plus

The large sandy beach is just one of the attractions of Coligny Beach Park. It is one of eight public beach access points in Hilton Head, with free parking and bicycle racks. Beach chairs, umbrellas, and other seasonal items are available to rent, with well-kept amenities that include public shower stations, changing rooms, restrooms and WiFi service throughout the park. You can lie in the sun, play volleyball or even attend a yoga class on the beach. There are landscaped gardens with pathways for a walk or hike, shops to explore and restaurants across the street for lunch on the beach. The official beach season is April 1st to September 30th, with reduced hours during the rest of the year. The park is wheelchair accessible.

2. Coastal Discovery Museum: Discover the Lowcountry

The Coastal Discovery Museum is an interactive natural and cultural history learning center that covers 68 acres along the coast at Honey Horn. There are trails to hike through the grounds, where you'll find salt marshes, gardens and educational exhibits to explore. Daily tours and talks offer an expert's insight into the area's environment and cultural history delivered in an entertaining mode. There are opportunities to get up close to the native wildlife including a butterfly enclosure and bird tours. Historic properties include the Horse Barn that is currently housing a Marsh Tacky horse, a native breed designated to the South Carolina State Heritage Horse.

3. Harbour Town Lighthouse: Landmark Beacon

The Harbour Town Lighthouse Museum has become an icon of Hilton Head with its distinctive red-and-white-striped exterior. It overlooks Calibogue Sound from a height of 90 feet. Visitors climb up through the lighthouse, exploring informative exhibits and displays that look at the area's culture and history at each level along the way. The region's history is explained in pictures and collections that talk about the indigenous people and its evolution through history including information about the golf tournaments that have made the area famous.

4. Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge: Natural Beauty

Covering 4,053 acres in Beaufort County, the Refuge actually incorporates four islands with the goal of preserving the natural habitat and the many animals, fish, and birds that live there. Pinckney Island is the only one of the four that is open to the public, offering 1,200 acres of trails. About two-thirds of the island consists of salt marshes and tidal creeks as well as forested areas, brush and a few freshwater ponds. These environments house a wide variety of birds including the white ibis, herons and egrets. There are white-tailed deer and American alligators to look out for as well as a butterfly garden to enjoy. Guided tours, including accessible tours, are available.

5. Arts Center of Coastal Carolina: Award Winning Performance Venue

This award-winning venue hosts a variety of performances throughout the year, including an annual theater season, special events and visual arts in the gallery. The theater season includes five shows each year running from October to July, and it has included regional premieres and a variety of performances from drama to musical theater.

1. Coligny Beach: The Beach Plus

The large sandy beach is just one of the attractions of Coligny Beach Park. It is one of eight public beach access points in Hilton Head, with free parking and bicycle racks. Beach chairs, umbrellas, and other seasonal items are available to rent, with well-kept amenities that include public shower stations, changing rooms, restrooms and WiFi service throughout the park. You can lie in the sun, play volleyball or even attend a yoga class on the beach. There are landscaped gardens with pathways for a walk or hike, shops to explore and restaurants across the street for lunch on the beach. The official beach season is April 1st to September 30th, with reduced hours during the rest of the year. The park is wheelchair accessible.

2. Coastal Discovery Museum: Discover the Lowcountry

The Coastal Discovery Museum is an interactive natural and cultural history learning center that covers 68 acres along the coast at Honey Horn. There are trails to hike through the grounds, where you'll find salt marshes, gardens and educational exhibits to explore. Daily tours and talks offer an expert's insight into the area's environment and cultural history delivered in an entertaining mode. There are opportunities to get up close to the native wildlife including a butterfly enclosure and bird tours. Historic properties include the Horse Barn that is currently housing a Marsh Tacky horse, a native breed designated to the South Carolina State Heritage Horse.

3. Harbour Town Lighthouse: Landmark Beacon

The Harbour Town Lighthouse Museum has become an icon of Hilton Head with its distinctive red-and-white-striped exterior. It overlooks Calibogue Sound from a height of 90 feet. Visitors climb up through the lighthouse, exploring informative exhibits and displays that look at the area's culture and history at each level along the way. The region's history is explained in pictures and collections that talk about the indigenous people and its evolution through history including information about the golf tournaments that have made the area famous.

4. Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge: Natural Beauty

Covering 4,053 acres in Beaufort County, the Refuge actually incorporates four islands with the goal of preserving the natural habitat and the many animals, fish, and birds that live there. Pinckney Island is the only one of the four that is open to the public, offering 1,200 acres of trails. About two-thirds of the island consists of salt marshes and tidal creeks as well as forested areas, brush and a few freshwater ponds. These environments house a wide variety of birds including the white ibis, herons and egrets. There are white-tailed deer and American alligators to look out for as well as a butterfly garden to enjoy. Guided tours, including accessible tours, are available.

5. Arts Center of Coastal Carolina: Award Winning Performance Venue

This award-winning venue hosts a variety of performances throughout the year, including an annual theater season, special events and visual arts in the gallery. The theater season includes five shows each year running from October to July, and it has included regional premieres and a variety of performances from drama to musical theater.

Where to Eat in Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head restaurants serve everything from subs to gourmet cuisine to tempt even the most discerning palate. Your vacation isn't complete until you've eaten at the Salty Dog Cafe. The original café serves sandwiches, seafood and snacks from its impressive waterfront base at South Beach. The Wreck of the Salty Dog or Jake's Salty Dog Pizza are fun alternatives; be sure to visit the Salty Dog Ice-Cream Shop in summer.

The Crazy Crab is another Hilton Head institution; this friendly restaurant has been dishing up fresh seafood for over 30 years. Head to Harbour Town to check the place out for yourself or, if you're bringing the dog on vacation, try its pet-friendly second restaurant at Jarvis Creek

When to visit Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island in January
Estimated hotel price
C$ 161
1 night at 3-star hotel
Hilton Head Island in January
Estimated hotel price
C$ 161
1 night at 3-star hotel

Plan your visit according to your interests and preferences. The Hilton Head summer season stretches from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and beach lovers will enjoy high temperatures and daily sunshine. Anglers should also visit during summer when the best conditions are assured. For golfers, September to May is the best time to visit Hilton Head. You'll benefit from a reduction in demand for tee times, and you can catch the Heritage tournament in April. Low season is also an ideal time for a romantic break.

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How to Get to Hilton Head Island

Plane

Seasonal flights from Washington and daily flights from Charlotte land at Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH) which is within easy reach of the island's resorts and hotels. Savannah International Airport (SAV) is a good alternative if you're traveling from other parts of the US or from overseas. Direct access to Interstate 95 from the airport makes it simple to reach Hilton Head.

Car

You'll find it incredibly easy to drive to Hilton Head. US Route 278 is the only road on and off the island, and it connects with 1-95 at Exit 8 forty minutes west of the island. The road also intersects with Route 170 between 1-95 and the island for those driving from Savannah and Beaufort.

Airports near Hilton Head Island

Airlines serving Hilton Head Island

Lufthansa
Good (1,378 reviews)
United Airlines
Good (2,466 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (3,904 reviews)
KLM
Good (292 reviews)
Air France
Good (298 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,074 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,656 reviews)
British Airways
Good (939 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (932 reviews)
Iberia
Good (667 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (641 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (663 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (196 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (370 reviews)
Brussels Airlines
Good (74 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (203 reviews)
Finnair
Good (450 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Good (155 reviews)
Alaska Airlines
Excellent (1,942 reviews)
ITA Airways
Good (36 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Hilton Head Island

Choose a family hotel in Hilton Head or book a stay at an impressive luxury resort like the Inn & Club at Harbour Town, part of the 5,000 acres Sea Pines Resort. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff is a good upmarket alternative that features a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, while the Comfort Inn, Forest Beach Road, is an affordable option. Many visitors rent an apartment for a comfortable home away from home stay.

Popular neighbourhoods in Hilton Head Island

Harbour Town – Known for luxury homes, superb marinas, fine resorts and restaurants and the famous candy-striped lighthouse.

Hilton Head – Lies to the north of the island and covers the largest area. Remarkable beaches like Dolphin Beach, plus unique stores, bars and restaurants.

Sea Pines – This vibrant community on the southern tip of the island is home to the iconic Salty Dog Cafe and some of Hilton Head's best accommodation.

Shelter Cove – Adjacent to Palmetto Dunes at the heart of Hilton Head Island. Catch weekly musical fireworks at the world's biggest deep-water marina.

Port Royal – The westward part of the island is defined by glorious sandy beaches that face the Atlantic Ocean. Try Folly Field Beach, Singleton Beach or Bradley Beach.

Where to stay in popular areas of Hilton Head Island

Most booked hotels in Hilton Head Island

Montage Palmetto Bluff
Excellent (9.2, Excellent reviews)
C$ 898+
Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort
Excellent (8.5, Excellent reviews)
C$ 529+
The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa
Excellent (8.4, Excellent reviews)
C$ 384+
Hampton Inn & Suites Bluffton-Sun City
Excellent (8.4, Excellent reviews)
C$ 210+
Hilton Garden Inn Hilton Head
Excellent (8.3, Excellent reviews)
C$ 216+
Sonesta Resort - Hilton Head Island
Excellent (8, Excellent reviews)
C$ 404+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Hilton Head Island

Public Transportation

There is no dedicated transport system on Hilton Head although you can book local shuttle services or taxis. Many visitors opt for car rental.

Car

Whether you're bringing the family car or renting a vehicle, you'll find that driving is the perfect way to get around. US 278 becomes the William Hilton Parkway once you reach the island. The road splits into US 278 Business which runs down the east of the island and US 278 which veers off to the Cross Island Parkway. As most businesses are located on the US 278 Business section, it's faster to take the Cross Island Parkway to Sea Pines Plantation or Coligny Beach at the south of the island. Both roads terminate at the Sea Pines Circle.

Bicycle

Hilton Head is small enough to traverse by bike, and over 50 miles of paved routes or packed sand means that it's even easy for children. Most main roads have an adjacent bicycle path. Bear in mind that cars always have the right of way so cyclists must wait till the road is clear at crossings. Some golf courses allow cyclists to use their golf cart path in the early morning or the evening when the course is closed for play.

The Cost of Living in Hilton Head Island

Groceries and Other Necessities

Although Hilton Head covers an area of just 69.2 square miles, there are several chain supermarkets including Publix, BI-LO, and Whole Foods Market. Try to avoid shopping on Saturday when stores are much busier.

Cheap meal
C$ 15.40
A pair of jeans
C$ 64.17
Cappuccino
C$ 5.36
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