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South Carolina Beaches: Hilton Head Island Beach Getaway

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If you are looking for a South Carolina beach getaway, consider Hilton Head Island Beach.  It is one of South Carolina’s best beaches offering wide beaches, golf, great restaurants, and fun for the whole family.  In 2017 Hilton Head Island was voted was voted the #1 Island in the Continental U.S. and #2 in the world by the readers of Travel+Leisure magazine. You can’t get a much more glowing recommendation than that!

In addition to being the best Island in the U.S., South Carolina beaches were also awarded the South’s best beaches by Southern Living in 2018.  It’s no wonder our Hilton Head Island is one of our family’s favorite beach getaways. 

We have been taking romantic birthday weekends and last minute family beach getaways to Hilton Head Island beach for more than ten years.   

South Carolina Beaches on Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, first and foremost means BEACH! So, we know that’s where you want to stay!  All the beaches on Hilton Head Island are beautiful, but we certainly have one that we consider to be the best beach in Hilton Head Island. 

Hilton Head Island Beaches

Port Royal- This is the northern section of Hilton Head Island and home of two of our favorite resorts, the Westin Hilton Head Island and Marriott’s Barony Beach Club resort.  The beach here is wide and pristine and the surrounding walkways and bike trails are beautiful and lush. You won’t be disappointed if you choose the Port Royal section of Hilton Head Island. Check here to compare rates. 

Palmetto Dunes- This beach area is accessed through the Palmetto Dunes Resort Plantation located in the center of the island. The beach can be utilized by guests staying in the plantations houses or beach resorts. Palmetto Dunes is by far one of our favorite section to visit on Hilton Head Island.  Here you will find Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa as well as the Omni Hilton Head Ocean Resort.  There are also plenty of condo rentals available. Check here to compare rates. 

It’s really a close tie for us between the beach at Port Royal and the beach at Palmetto Dunes as to which is the best beach in Hilton Head Island. You will have to check them both out and let us know what you think.

Sea Pines and Harbor Town- Another popular option on Hilton Head Island is to book with the Sea Pines Resort.  If golfing or boating are on your list for Hilton Head then staying in the Sea Pines Resort may be just what you need. Harbor Town Marina located within Sea Pines is home to the Hilton Head iconic red and white striped lighthouse, plenty of specialty shops, and restaurants.  We often enjoy an evening of dinner and strolling the marina gazing at all the beautiful sail boats and yachts in the harbor.  Sea Pines is not directly located on the beach, but beach access is available. Check here to compare prices.

Boats on water at Shelter Cove Marina

Other Popular Beach Parks- There are several public beach parks as well on Hilton Head island. Here are just a few you may want to check out or ride your bike to explore.

  • Coligny Beach Park
  • Driessen Beach Park
  • Fish Haul Beach Park
  • Folly Field Beach Park
  • Burkes Beach
  • Islanders Beach Park
  • Shipyard Beach Access

Hilton Head Island accommodations consists of a combination of major resorts, Hotel chains, Condos, and Golf and Beach front homes.  

Here are a few of our favorite accommodations on Hilton Head Island. 

Westin Hilton Head Island: This is our go to favorite hotel on Hilton Head Island and is the hotel that swayed us to become very loyal Starwood Members (SPG Preferred) even before Marriott purchased the chain and enlarged our hotel portfolio. Compare Current Rates 

Marriott Barony Bay:  This is such a great resort.  Our family stayed here in February and really enjoyed the space to spread out, the grounds, pools, and amenities.  Book Direct To Save

Sonesta Resort Hilton Head is located in the Shipley Ferry Plantation on Hilton Head Island. This isn’t our preferred area of HHI, but it is still quite charming.  There are plenty of restaurants nearby and the resort amenities are plentiful.  Read our full review of the Sonesta here.     Check Current Rates

Want to see even more options? Take a look at these great resorts on Expedia

What To Pack For Hilton Head Island

What you pack for Hilton Head Island will, in large part, be determined by what time of year you are visiting. For every trip, we always like to go minimalist. Check out our 5 Ways To Simplify Trip Preparations and get your free minimalist packing list.  Here are a few things to toss in the backpack for Hilton Head.

Hilton Head Island In The Spring

We often visit Hilton Head Island beaches in the Spring so the winds can be high, however, the temperatures can also be as high as 80° in February.   It is best to check the current weather before heading to any South Carolina beach in the Spring and plan accordingly. 

Indoor Pool Marriott Baronay Bay

While it is rarely warm enough to swim in the ocean during the spring, we enjoy swimming in heated outdoor pools and indoor pools so packing a swimsuit is usually a great idea.  Hilton Head Island offers so much more than just the beach, however, so don’t let the weather deter you from a beach getaway to HHI in the Spring. 

Visiting Pinckney National Wildlife Refuge

Some of our favorite activities at Hilton Head Island in the spring:

Hilton Head Island Bike Rental

Hilton Head Island boasts over 60 miles of public pathways and trails for cyclists.  Biking on Hilton Head Island is our absolute favorite activity (besides eating the great food, of course). Because Hilton Head is so friendly to bicyclists, it’s super easy to rent a bicycle for the duration of your visit.

Our favorite location is The Bike Doctor.  Their rates are always fantastic when we are in town, and their service is even better.  We simply call them on the phone, tell them where we are staying, give them our credit card, and that’s it. They deliver  the bikes to our hotel, leave the receipt at the front desk, and come back in three days to pick up the bikes. They often give you a little extra time on  your checkout day as well. 

The bikes come equipped with a lock and a basket so you can do a little shopping and eating while riding around the island.

Two kids on bikes at Hilton Head Island

We recently enjoyed a South Carolina beach getaway to Hilton Head with our kids for a three day weekend.  After many years of not being able to bike with our kids because someone was too small, we were thrilled to be able to get tandem bikes for our younger kids and a bike for our older son.  

We had a great time biking around Hilton Head Island.  While it’s bitter sweet to see our kids get older, the joys of experiencing outdoor adventures with them makes up for the loss of those baby moments. 

Hilton Head Island With Kids

Speaking of getting older and learning to ride bikes, here are some articles to help you find the best cruiser bike for yourself and how to choose the best kids bike.


Best Food In Hilton Head

Some of the best food in the low country is found on Hilton Head Island!  Next to my favorite dining in Charleston, SC, I have not eaten better food than I have on Hilton Head Island even in Disney World. (Disney fans don’t throw things, please.)

Skull Creek Boat House

As soon as our bikes arrive at our hotel, we often hop aboard our bikes and head straight to our favorite restaurant  to eat the best seafood in Hilton Head at The Skullcreek Boathouse  

Sometimes you may hear people refer to it as just “The Boathouse” because it is located directly behind HH Boathouse  a large boat storage house located on Squire Pope road in Hilton Head. It’s fun to see all these massive boats in storage as you walk to Skull Creek from your car. 

If you are a fan of ceviche or sushi, there is no fresher and better tasting on the island in our opinion.   If traditional seafood is more your style, they have a bit of everything. The quality is top notch.  

Be warned, however, this is no secret place.  It’s a hopping location and if you don’t want a long wait, go early, like before 5 pm. If you can’t make it that early, pick a bar seat and enjoy.  It seems to be a little known fact that the Sushi bar serves the full menu and hubby and I have been seated right away there while others waited thirty minutes or more for a table.  Besides you can enjoy good food and entertainment while looking at Lobster and Octopus. What more could a girl want?

The Watusi

For breakfast in Hilton Head, we recommend The Watusi Cafe.  We also recommend to sit at the bar for breakfast.  This place is hopping as well, but the bar is the most entertaining and usually available. 

Sign outside Watusi Cafe HHI SC

We were able to chat it up one morning with the manager who shared with us the story behind the name, Watusi.  Her sister owns the restaurant, and when they were children they used to dance and sing along on vacation at the beach or wherever and they would often remark that they were “Doing the Watusi”. They weren’t actually doing the “Watusi” but that phrase became associated with fun and family time for their family so the restaurant name is a family inside story.  Also, after naming it, many people started calling it the “What U See” Cafe, so their tagline on the sign reads, “Watusi: It Is What It Is” Haha!!  

Watusi Cafe Atmosphere Hilton Head Island
Sign over the bar at the Watusi Cafe HHI SC
Avocado Omelets at The Watusi

It’s stories like this that keep my heart in love with travel and, most especially, with the little mom and pop restaurants and businesses that make up this country.  Don’t worry, I’m not running for political office.  I just really love getting to hear stories like that.

The Charbar Hilton Head

A newer restaurant we have discovered, but have added to our list of “must do restaurants in Hilton Head” is The Charbar.  

If burgers, brews, and bands are your thing, then definitely take the time to check out The Charbar.  We had an amazing burger and enjoyed some live music.  It’s very low key and casual so it’s a great place to go as a couple or with the kids. 

Burger and Onion Rings plated
Albums on the wall at the Charbar Hilton Head Island, SC
Man and guitar at Charbar HIlton Head Island, SC

Shelter Cove Dining

In the Shelter Cove area the dining options are numerous.  We enjoy dining bot at the Shelter Cove Harbor and Marina as well as in the newer Shelter Cove Shopping district.  Here are just a few of our favorites. 

Boats on water at Shelter Cove Marina

For a romantic dinner on the marina try Ela’s on the Water They have a large wine selection and the food was superb.

Shelter Cove Marina Ela's On The Water
Ela's On The Water Hilton Head Island, SC Calamari
Hilton Head Island Ela's on the Water

If  you are looking for a quick breakfast pastry while strolling the marina try out The Hilton Head Social Bakery

Hilton Head Island Social Bakery Shelter Cove Marina
Pastries at HHI Social Bakery

In the newer shopping district we also enjoyed shrimp tacos at Poseidon’s.

Shelter cove Shopping district Poseidon Shrimp Tacos

Our Other Favorite Food In Hilton Head

The dining options on Hilton Head Island are endless, but here are just a few more of our favorites.

Hilton Head Ice Cream Shop.  Easy to remember.  I am an allergy mom so I always ask about their processes and I was  excited to learn that they take great effort to not cross contaminate their very delicious hand made ice cream flavors including washing equipment and keeping dedicated scoops for peanut and tree nut allergic patrons. This place was so cute! I can’t wait to take my kids there. Lego designs, a fish aquarium, very kid friendly murals, and eclectic collections of cookie jars and toys.

Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks is also another family favorite for it’s great water views and allergy friendly policies.  The service is always top notch and they always ensure my kids can safely eat their delicious seafood. 

Seagrass Grill is our final recommendation for another great romantic option. It’s very intimate and the steaks and seafood are both fresh and tasty.

Family at Hudsons

Whether you are looking for a family beach getaway to a South Carolina beach or a romantic weekend retreat, Hilton Head Island is perfect.  We enjoy spring beach getaways to Hilton Head Island for the wide beautiful beaches, the fun activities like biking and shopping, and especially all the fabulous lowcountry food on Hilton Head.  

Looking for other great cities to visit while in South Carolina and nearby region? Check out these articles. 

Finally, if you love history, don’t miss a stop over in nearby Savannah, GA while you are in the area. 

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Wanderlust Kids
Amanda Bowers owner and author at VeraVise WOW Travel


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5 thoughts on “South Carolina Beaches: Hilton Head Island Beach Getaway

  1. This area of South Carolina sounds like a great place for a family getaway. There certainly seems to be lots to see, do and eat there .Thanks for linking up to #wanderlustkids

  2. I havent been to Hilton Head in such a long time, like almost 20 years! I think this is a great shoulder season destination – one we should consider for fall or spring travel! I like to golf, and there are so many courses there!

  3. Thanks Mary! It’s been about a month since we were there, but my mouth still waters too! If Skull Creek Boathouse were in my local community, I’d be in so much trouble!!

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