Off the coast of South Carolina, about an hour north of Savanah, Georgia is Hilton Head, an island that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean that is filled with history, great food and golf! The island is not named after Paris Hilton, but after explorer William Hilton sailing under the banner of King Charles II of England. Liking the place, he named it after himself, quite a humble guy.
To get there today you fly into Savanah and drive north. Leave time for a visit to Savanah though because this southern city charms just like Charleston, with grace and beauty and a vibrant waterfront. Its history is also very rich. Driving to your main destination of Hilton Head, you pass through a quaint town called Bluffton, worth a stroll through its Old Town with its old Live Oaks and Spanish Moss, it is the quintessential old south.
Hilton Head is populated with few hotels and is big on condo rentals. The summer months bring loads of families staying at these large condos and people come from all over, not just the south. Hilton Head has an abundance of wildlife both in the water and in the air. Pelicans constantly diving into the ocean looking for food, reputedly go blind after diving for so many years. Eagles, cormorants, osprey, all manner of seagulls, terns, herons, egrets, they got them all. And in the water, you will frequently find dolphins swimming by, sting rays, loggerhead turtles and bait fish trying to escape them. On two occasions, we were pulled out of the water due to shark sightings.
If you are a foodie, then Hilton Head is for you. It is really hard to get a bad meal there. And if you like southern food, boy are you in for a treat: grits, fried chicken, cornbread, fried green tomatoes. But the seafood is extremely fresh, and every variety can be found: Italian, Mexican, Chinese, you name it they got it. And music? Usually the music at a resort is run-of-the-mill stuff, guys who use loop-pedals, a lot of reverb, and a bunch of Jimmy Buffett songs. Not here. The bands and even solo artists are excellent, and the diversity of music covers not just modern country but a lot of up to date hip stuff too. I know because they covered Graytripper songs!
But the real winners of a trip to Hilton Head are golfers. This small island boasts more golf courses than any golfer would ever want. The Sea Pines hosts the PGA tournament. A golfer could easily play five different courses in as many days if they so desired.
Interestingly, no buildings are very tall as there is an ordinance that limits the height of buildings to no taller than the tallest tree. And the trees are magnificent, especially the umbrella pines. And the tides are amazing, second only to the bay of Fundy in Canada, they rise and fall over eight feet every day. The water warms to over 80 degrees and is very shallow far out. Regarded as a barrier island, it is the second largest only to Long Island, which is not really a barrier island but a terminal moraine.
Development came to the island through Scotsman, Charles Fraser, who developed Sea Pines. Fraser, an avid environmentalist, was instrumental in saving a very old, large live oak and is actually buried near it in Harbor Town next to the Lighthouse.
The island is also known for its role after the Civil War, when freed slaves were granted their own land and developed and governed their own community, later known as Mitchelville.
The flight is only about an hour and forty minutes, but you feel like you are in another world in this sub-tropical setting. Well worth a visit. Best time to visit is September or October.