A Guide to Hilton Head Island Beaches and Nature Preserves

Spend any season in our slice of paradise and you’ll understand why Hilton Head is the “Top Island in the Continental US” and continually voted one of the best vacation destinations in the world! Cross the bridge from Bluffton, step back in time in iconic Lowcountry landscapes, and experience luxury island style living among the unspoiled wildlife refuges, nature preserves and award-winning tropical beaches on Hilton Head Island.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND NATURE PRESERVES


Hilton Head’s wildlife refuges, natural preserves and historical parks feature in our Top Sights to See on Hilton Head Island. Raised wetland boardwalks and trails for hiking, biking and horse riding weave through coastal habitats with ancient dunes, wildlife and wildflowers, beautiful birdlife, and rentals, activities and guided tours for all ages to escape in an untouched natural setting, equally as alluring as our beautiful beaches.  

  • Sea Pines Forest Preserve
  • Audubon Newhall Preserve
  • Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • Coastal Discovery Museum
  • Mitchelville Freedom Park

THE BEACHES OF HILTON HEAD ISLAND


Hilton Head Island boasts 12 miles of unspoiled, sandy beaches along the Atlantic Ocean on the South Carolina coastline. Pinch yourself, you’re not dreaming! Our beaches are consistently voted among the best beaches in the USA and the world and are easily accessible by scenic bike rides, old-school trolleys and oceanfront rentals throughout the unique resort areas of the island. 

Hilton Head Island offers a unique beach vacation for every type of traveler. Whether you’re seeking a secluded stretch of sand, wildlife cruises and eco-tours, thrilling aquatic adventures, or a fun island vibe with sundowners and live music on the sand, you can experience it all on Hilton Head! Here’s our guide to beaches in the top resort areas of Hilton Head Island.

FOREST BEACH AREA

The Forest Beach Area is the “Hilton Head Hot Spot” located on the south end of Hilton Head between Shipyard and Sea Pines, and anchored by Coligny Plaza for shopping, dining and live entertainment to break up your day on the beach. 

Coligny Beach Park: The award-winning Coligny Beach Park is the most popular beach on Hilton Head and is centrally located an easy bike or trolley ride away from your vacation home. There’s excellent amenities, entertainment for the kids, summer rentals for beach and ocean activities, and the legendary Tiki Hut on the sand to end your day island style.

Alder Lane Beach: Alder Lane Beach is slightly away from the crowds, a mile south of Coligny Plaza on South Forest Beach Drive. The beach is less crowded with summer lifeguards for families, restrooms, outdoor showers and handicap matting for easy beach access.

SHIPYARD BEACH CLUB

The Shipyard Plantation is the smallest plantation on Hilton Head nestled oceanfront between Sea Pines Resort and Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. While you’re only a short walk or bike ride from Coligny Beach and the Dunes House in Palmetto, guests of Shipyard have exclusive access to five-star amenities, an oceanfront deck, and a wide stretch of sandy beach at the oceanfront Shipyard Beach Club.  

SEA PINES BEACH CLUB

The Sea Pines Resort Area dominates the southern end of Hilton Head Island with 5 miles of sandy beaches along the Atlantic coastline, and private beach access to Sea Pines guests only. Ride your bikes to the boardwalks, hop on the Sea Pines Trolley to the Beach Club or stay oceanfront with a private boardwalk to a secluded stretch of beach. The Beach Club is a true island retreat with an oceanfront beach bar and restaurant, world-class amenities, and picture perfect white sands dotted with blue umbrellas and beach-goers soaking up the sun.

PALMETTO DUNES BEACH

The Palmetto Dunes Resort Area boasts 3-miles of pristine oceanfront beauty with wide sandy beaches, gentle ocean waters and super easy public beach access along Mooring Buoy, Ocean Lane and Dunes House. Ride your bikes, hop on the free Dunes Buggy or arrive early to find a parking spot at the oceanfront Dunes House, the perfect place to end your beach day with cool cocktails, fish tacos and ocean views in the laid-back beach bar and restaurant.  

MID-ISLAND BEACHES

As you head north from Palmetto Dunes, the beaches are quieter, and you’ll find hidden gems perfect for swimming, surfing, bodyboarding, beach picnics, and a scenic, fun-filled family day at the beach. 

Burkes Beach: For a pet-friendly beach day on Hilton Head, make your way to Burkes Beach. Burkes Beach is located next to Chaplin Community Park with parking, biking trails, sports courts, a playground, a dog park and trails to a wide, sandy, lifeguarded beach. 

Driessen Beach: Driessen Beach is another mid-island gem next to Burkes Beach at the end of Bradley Beach Road. A wooden boardwalk leads through a natural forest to a covered picnic pavilion, outdoor showers and restrooms, a water station and a beautiful stretch of shoreline with seasonal lifeguards for the kids to play safely in the ocean. 

Folly Field Beach: If you’re looking for the local hangout, you’ll find them away from the crowds at Folly Field Beach on Starfish Drive. Folly Field Beach has all the amenities of Coligny for a beach day and is the best place to learn to surf on Hilton Head! Go on, rent a board and ride the waves!

PORT ROYAL PLANTATION BEACHES

Staying in Port Royal gives you access to 19 beach walk paths on the historic Port Royal Sound and the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean. Islanders Beach Park is just north of Folly Field Beach and is one of the best family-friendly beaches on Hilton Head with a shady park and pavilion for picnics, a large playground, and a boardwalk to a wide, uncrowded beach. For shells, shorebirds and complete seclusion head to Fish Haul Beach Park overlooking the Port Royal Sound. This off-the-beaten path gem boasts untouched natural beauty with a boardwalk and observation deck for birdwatching, enchanting nature trails and a secluded shoreline (not recommended for swimming!).


Book Your Next Hilton Head Island Vacation with Sunset Rentals!

Sunset Rentals have been welcoming vacationers to Hilton Head Island since 1993, some have made it their home and many return year after year. We offer complimentary beach gear packages in select rentals, and we know where to stay & play on Hilton Head Island!

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