Hilton Head is and island in the Lowcountry, just off the shore of South Carolina. The entire Eastern side is met by the Atlantic Ocean, creating 12 miles of wide open, peaceful beaches. The rest of the island is covered in beautiful oak trees draped in Spanish Mosh, stunning Southern beach homes and world-famous, championship golf courses. What you won’t find on the island are neon signs, billboards, casinos or nightclubs, making it a great place to get away for some high quality rest and relaxation.
OMNI HILTON HEAD OCEANFRONT RESORT
23 Ocean Lane, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Located in the Palmetto Dunes resort community, the Omni is another luxury resort on the island, though it feels more like a boutique property. It sits right on the beach and features 3 pools (one for adults only), an upscale restaurant and bar, a cafe, a beach bar and a spa, plus plenty of cozy places to post up in a rocking chair and relax. You’ll also find outdoor fire pits, life-sized chess and checker boards, corn hole and more on the grounds. The property is beautifully done and makes the perfect place for anyone looking for luxury accommodations and amenities.
THE INN & CLUB AT HARBOUR TOWN
32 Greenwood Dr., Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Located within The Sea Pines Resort community, The Inn & Club at Harbour Town has been rated the island’s #1 luxury hotel. Sitting right off the famous Harbour Town Golf Links course and the Harbour Town shops and restaurants, the hotel’s location offers plenty to do and is a favorite of golf lovers and their families. The inside looks more like a fancy golf course club house than a hotel, with beautiful hardwood floors, plush furnishings and plenty of inviting gathering areas. The hotel provides complimentary use of bikes, service to the Sea Pines Beach Club with use of chairs, towels and a cooler stocked with bottled waters, plus access to food and beverage service on the beach. Guests also get preferred and discounted tee times at Harbour Town Golf Links, Heron Point by Pete Dye and new Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III.
There are plenty of homes and condos on the island that are available for rent. The Palmetto Dunes Resort and Sea Pines Resort communities both feature beautiful homes and condos on the beach or just a short distance away, and both have dining options, tennis, golf and more within the community. Click here to view and connect with vacation rental companies on the island.
16 Queens Folly Road, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Alexander’s (pictured above) is a delicious, upscale but casual seafood restaurant located on the waterfront in Palmetto Dunes. Start with pre-dinner cocktails in the wine bar (obviously) before you head to your table, all of which have views of the beautiful lagoon (but request a table right next to the window when making reservations if you want one of the best seats in the house). I recommend the oysters Alexander and the crab-stuffed flounder.
CHARLIE’S L’ETOILE VERTE
8 New Orleans Rd., Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Owner Charlie Golson was living in Paris and frequented a neighborhood café, L’etoile Verte, during his time there. When he moved to Hilton Head in the early 80’s, he was inspired to open his own version, and the family owned and operated Charlie’s was born. Pass through the pergola and underneath the twinkling string lights to enter the cottage-like building where you’ll enjoy French cuisine in a cozy and charming atmosphere. The menu changes daily based on the freshest ingredients available… bon appétit!
14b Executive Park Rd., Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Head to Chow Daddy’s for a delicious, casual lunch, dinner or happy hour. The inside is a fun but upscale bar atmosphere, but the outside is the highlight. Go for happy hour, sit outside and play ping pong while enjoying cocktails and appetizers. It’s also great for lunch, a casual dinner, and the multiple TVs make it the perfect spot to catch a game.
THE DUNES HOUSE
14 Dune House Ln., Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
The Dunes House is an outdoor beach bar and grill sitting right on top of the sand in Palmetto Dunes and is the perfect casual spot for a lunch break when you’re on the beach. I literally eat their fish tacos every single day for lunch while I’m there… order them and a cold beer and tell me it doesn’t hit the spot after several hours in the sun.
HUDSON’S ON THE DOCKS
1 Hudson Rd., Hilton Head Island, SC 29926
Hudson’s is hands down one of the best spots on the island for casual, fresh seafood fare and an amazing outdoor atmosphere with breathtaking views of the sun setting over the water. While there is inside seating available, you’ll want to head out to the dock for drinks around the bar, then grab one of the full-service outdoor tables and dine on the dock al fresco. The seafood is literally so fresh that you might just see a shrimp boat pull up with that day’s catch. This is definitely a spot you do not want to miss on your visit to the island… and be sure to get there before sunset.
MICHAEL ANTHONY’S CUSINA ITALIANA
37 New Orleans Rd., Ste. L, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
If you’re craving Italian while on the island, Michael Anthony’s will not disappoint. It’s owned by the Fazzini’s, a husband and wife, originally from Philadelphia, who missed the quaint trattoria-like eateries that filled their old neighborhoods in Philly. So, they solved the problem by opening one of their own in Hilton Head, serving delicious pastas and Italian dishes with a standout wine list.
OMBRA CUCINA RUSTICA
1000 William Hilton Pkwy, G #2, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Ombra is another amazingly delicious Italian restaurant on the island and is one that I love to go back to every time I visit. I always start with the Panzanella alla Toscana for antipasti and then dive into the delectable Fusilli alla Puttanesca pasta dish. The ambiance is upscale-rustic and relaxed, with exposed brick and a casual, inviting bar. And don’t miss the wine list!
8 Archer Rd., Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Make reservations and request a table in the bar at Redfish (much cozier than the dining room in my opinion). The restaurant is upscale but not stuffy, featuring a small art gallery as well as walls and walls of wine bottles that you can shop and buy for retail to enjoy with your meal or take home. The burger is award winning and their seafood is fresh and delicious. They also have an entire gluten-free menu for those with dietary restrictions.
THE SAGE ROOM
81 Pope Avenue, Ste, 13 Heritage Plaza, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
You’ll enjoy incredible food in a relaxed atmosphere at The Sage Room. The menu has something for everyone (but I recommend the scallops!). The kitchen is located in the center of the restaurant and you can request to be seated at “the Chef’s table,” a 10-seat portion of the bar where you can watch all the magic happen.
SANTA FE CAFE
807 William Hilton Pkwy #700, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
If you enjoy Southwestern cuisine, you have to take a break from traditional seafood dining and enjoy a meal in the fun atmosphere at Sanfa Fe. Start upstairs on the rooftop cantina to enjoy a margarita and some guac before heading to your table for dinner. It’s a favorite of locals and visitors alike!
If you’re looking to enjoy a cold beverage while sitting on the beach (*no shoes required*), head to one of the island’s beach bars. The Dunes House (mentioned above) is located in Palmetto Dunes, and serves up delicious food (the fish tacos!), cocktails and beers right off the sand with a great view of the ocean. Coco’s on the Beach is located at the end of the boardwalk on Hilton Head Resort (marker 94A), and offers food, drinks (a 10-page drink menu) and beach volleyball. The Tiki Hut, located on Coligny Beach (can’t miss it), sits right on the sand and has live music everyday during the summer, making it a perfect spot to spend a casual day or evening on the beach.
SKULL CREEK BOATHOUSE
397 Squire Pope Rd., Hilton Head Island, SC 29926
Skull Creek Boathouse has a spacious outdoor bar area with plenty of room to hang out right on the bay. Go for sunset and post up in an adirondack chair to enjoy a summer cocktail and live music. There’s always lots of entertainment going on here, which also makes it a great place for kids.
While Hilton Head isn’t exactly a mecca for shopping, there are some good boutique shops scattered across the island. If you’re looking for women’s apparel or need to pick up a pair of shoes, head to The Porcupine, which carries brands like DVF, Equipment, L’Agence, Tory Burch and more. In the same shopping center is an adorable children’s shop, Island Child, if you’re shopping for a little one. There are also shops at Harbour Town in Sea Pines, which is a great place to walk around and enjoy the sights of the marina and the lighthouse.
Bikes are pretty much the preferred mode of transportation on the island. You’ll see people riding their bikes everywhere throughout the day and night. I highly suggest renting one for the duration of your stay! There are rental places scattered everywhere so click here to find the one nearest you.
What’s great about the beaches at Hilton Head is that there’s plenty of space to spread out and most portions of the beach (unless you’re next to one of the few larger resort hotels) are not crowded. This makes it the perfect beach for a picnic. Throw a blanket, a bottle of rosé and some cheese and crackers in your beach bag and take your picnic down to the beach in the early evening before dinner.
TAKE A DAY TRIP TO BEAUFORT OR SAVANNAH
Beaufort, SC and Savannah, GA are both just a short drive (a little over 30 miles) from Hilton Head and are worth the trip if you want to explore some areas outside of the island. Beaufort, just about 34 miles from HHI, is made up of beautiful mansions and a charming historic district. The town has been featured in Southern Living and Fodor’s as one of America’s best small towns. Savannah, 31 miles from HHI, is also rich in history, gorgeous architecture and quintessential southern charm.
If you’re hoping to catch lots of sun, beach time and warm (or hot!) temps, your best time to visit Hilton Head would be in the late spring, summer or early fall. The summer is obviously prime tourist season, so expect more of a crowd. Fall can be a nice time unless hurricane season decides to ruin your vacation, but Spring is delightful as the temperatures start to rise and the island blooms with color.
Hilton Head is a fairly easy drive if you’re coming from anywhere in the Southeastern U.S., but if you’re planning to fly, there are two airports in the area. The Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (about 45 miles from Hilton Head), and the Hilton Head Island Airport, which services private flights and non-stop U.S. Airways Express flights from Charlotte, North Carolina.
HOW TO GET AROUND
During the day, bikes make a great mode of transportation around the island. (More on bike rentals above.) At night, play it safe and get an Uber which services Hilton Head and surrounding areas.
Be sure to pack an insect repellent. The marshy areas of the Lowcountry draw lots of mosquitos. And as always, pack lots of sunscreen!