Sea Pines Resort
The saying, “Good things come in small packages,”could’ve been coined for Hilton Head Island. Only 12 miles long by five miles wide, it has more than 60 miles of biking trails, 15,000 bikes for rent, 24 golf courses, 350 tennis courts, and 250 restaurants.
For a laid-back getaway, you can lounge on or stroll the island’s stretch of white-sand beach. Get out on the water for a dolphin-watching tour, a sunset cruise, and a waterskiing or parasailing excursion.
Be sure to sample some authentic South Carolina Lowcountry cuisine, with its emphasis on fresh seafood and palate-tingling spices. And learn about the colorful local Gullah culture, which has deep roots in West and Central Africa.
Drive Time: 11 hours, 30 minutes
The Inn & Club at Harbour Town
Where to Stay
Situated on 5,000 oceanfront acres, the Sea Pines Resort offers a range of accommodations, from spacious guestrooms to private vacation villas that can comfortably sleep up to 12. There’s also the two-bedroom Fairway Suite in the boutique-like Inn & Club at Harbour Town.
Sea Pines guests have access to the resort’s massive free-form pool. At the beach, the resort provides comfy lounge chairs, tables and umbrellas. Water activities—available to both guests and nonguests—range from the relaxing to the exciting.
Tennis buffs can exercise their skills with two free hours a day on one of the 21 clay courts. Among the other highlights: three championship golf courses designed by either Pete Dye or Davis Love III. Each has recently undergone a major redesign or had new features added.
Rooms $259-$389, one- or two-bedroom villas $105-$420, Fairway Suite $378-$778. 32 Greenwood Drive, (843) 785-3333.
Authentic cuisine from A Lowcountry Backyard
Where to Eat
Sea Pines boasts seven distinctive dining options, with offerings that range from the area’s famed South Carolina Lowcountry cuisine to burgers and brews. At Coast Oceanfront Dining, straightforward preparations and fresh, local ingredients are the attractions. If you’re a fan of seafood, start with the large platter of chilled oysters, crab claws, shrimp and snow-crab legs. Delectable signature dishes include Sapelo Island Crab Stew and lobster-and-shrimp pasta with hand-cut pappardelle. After dinner, get a cocktail and relax at the beach bar.
$19-$39. 87 N. Sea Pines Drive, (843) 842-1888.
Don’t let the strip-mall location of the Jazz Corner fool you. It’s a gem of an intimate venue that serves up exceptional live music and excellent food. A favorite of the islanders, this spot typically sells out, so be sure to make reservations early. Try the Lowcountry seafood linguini.
$20-$29. The Village at Wexford, 1000 William Hilton Parkway, Suite C1, (843) 842-8620.
Local recipes get the sophisticated treatment at A Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant. Rightly renowned for its shrimp and grits with smoked sausage and applewood-smoked-bacon cream sauce, this indoor-outdoor eatery also comes up with interesting twists on traditional ingredients and techniques. Top off your evening with some Southern homestyle banana pudding.
$14-$24. 32 Palmetto Bay Road, (843) 785-9273.
Head to One Hot Mama’s for a melt-in-your-mouth rib sampler, slathered with not only Mama’s signature sauce but also hot Asian and chocolate sauces—yep, chocolate. The Texas beef brisket and smoked fried chicken are also winners.
$15-$25. Reilley’s Plaza, 7A-1 Greenwood Drive, (843) 682-6262.
Palmetto Bay Sunrise Cafe serves breakfast all day, including specialties like shrimp hash topped with two eggs and hollandaise sauce, banana-rum pancakes, and a strata layered with egg, sausage, onion, cheese and chili sauce.
$4-$11. 86 Helmsman Way, (843) 686-3232.
Lawton Stables at Sea Pines Resort
What to Do
The best way to get around on Hilton Head Island is by bike. In addition to the miles of trails, you can ride on the hard-packed beach at low tide. If you’d like to explore with a group, bike clubs like Kickin’ Asphalt lead weekly outings.
At the Sea Pines Resort Bicycle Shop, guests get a four-hour rental for $14 ($16 for non-resort guests).
Pods of bottlenose beauties play right alongside your boat on a one-hour daytime or 90-minute sunset Dolphin Tour with H2O Sports. $32-$45. Or get a close-up look at American gators in their native freshwater habitat during a one-hour wine-and-cheese Alligator Tour at sunset. $45. Take in the expansive view while floating in a parasail hundreds of feet above the Calibogue Sound. $69. Or slice through the calm waters of Bull Creek on water skis or a wakeboard behind a two-hour private charter. $375.
H2O Sports, Harbour Town Yacht Basin, 149 Lighthouse Road, (843) 671-4386.
The Coastal Discovery Museum’s Discovery House showcases extensive displays of local flora, fauna, history and Gullah culture. Stroll the 68-acre Honey Horn Plantation, with its salt-marsh boardwalks, historic buildings, camellia garden and more.
$5/person donation suggested; guided butterfly-enclosure tour $5-$10. 70 Honey Horn Drive, (843) 689-6767.
Go on a guided birding tour of Pinckney Island ($12), or explore the Coastal Discovery Museum grounds on a narrated Segway tour ($69-$89).
Savor the scenery of the pristine Sea Pines Forest Preserve on horseback during an hour-long trail ride with Lawton Stables. $60-$65.
190 Greenwood Drive, (843) 671-2586.
You might just reel in a shark—but more likely a black sea bass—on a five-hour fishing trip with Drifter Excursions. $68/person.
South Beach Marina, 232 S. Sea Pines Drive, (843) 363-2900.
Take the ferry 15 miles across the sound to Daufuskie Island, where you can rent a golf cart and drive the sandy rural roads to visit local artists. Don’t miss the metal creations at Chase Allen’s Iron Fish Gallery or the pottery by Lancy and Emily Burn. Sample handcrafted spirits at Daufuskie Island Rum Company, and chow down on a deviled delight at Daufuskie Crab Company. Learn about Gullah culture at various sites, and join a tour with native Gullah authority Sallie Ann Robinson. Or try a four-hour guided kayak or paddleboard tour. Prices vary.
If you’re taking a self-guided tour, make your first stop the Billie Burn Museum. There, you’ll find maps indicating sites of interest.
44 Old Haig Point Road, (406) 270-6586.
Get a bird’s-eye view of the spectacular scenery as you soar up to 75 feet above the ground through the treetops at ZipLine Hilton Head. Or challenge another rider to take the dual-cable racing zip ride. $89.
33 Broad Creek Marina Way, (843) 682-6000.
For over four decades, the 90-foot Harbour Town Lighthouse and Museum has been a major Hilton Head attraction. $4.75.
Harbour Town Yacht Basin, 149 Lighthouse Road, (866) 305-9814.
The gallery at the Art League of Hilton Head showcases more than a hundred crafts, representing artists from around the country. Free.
Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, 14 Shelter Cove Lane, (843) 681-5060.