Hilton Head Island is the #1 island in the continental US and America’s favorite island, far from an under the radar or off the beaten path destination. Hilton Head Island is one of the most popular vacation destinations in South Carolina,- yet there are plenty of off the beaten path adventures that await!
Spending a vacation on Hilton Head Island delivers the best of both worlds for travelers – 12-miles of sandy beaches, award-winning sports, activities galore at Harbour Town, Shelter Cove and Coligny Plaza, and quiet off the beaten path adventures away from the touristy spots of Hilton Head.
Unwind with a Quiet Beach Day
It is possible to have a quiet beach day without the crowds on Hilton Head Island. The north end of the island does not attract as many tourists and offers a quieter beach life. Mitchelville Beach Park is the most secluded, natural beach on Hilton Head for sunbathing or a quiet beach stroll – but is not lifeguarded, or great for ocean swimming.
One of the island’s best kept secrets is Burke’s Beach, located mid-island near Chaplin Community Park and accessed on a short walk (or bike ride) around the protected dunes. There are no major resorts or restaurants nearby so pack a picnic and enjoy miles of sandy shoreline, shallow lifeguarded water for the kids, crabbing adventures, and a fenced in dog park for your furry four-legged family member.
Coligny Beach is where you’ll find the crowds but, if you head slightly south, Alder Lane Beach Park is one of the most peaceful beaches on the island and is both pet-friendly and lifeguarded for a quiet family beach day. Wherever you choose to spend a beach day on Hilton Head, bottlenose dolphin sightings and nesting sea turtles (May-Oct) are common sightings.
Get Out on the Water
Getting out on the water is what Hilton Head Island is all about! Hilton Head is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway with Broad Creek winding through the center of the island. Aside from fellow paddlers, the waterways are secluded with hidden coves and creeks abounding with dolphins and wildlife, and constantly changing with the tides. Book a guided kayaking, stand up paddleboarding or boating adventure with Outside Hilton Head, or consider a full moon tour to completely escape the crowds. Gear rentals are readily available to paddle the waterways alone.
A private Hilton Head fishing charter will take you far away from the crowds into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Hilton Head Island is a top destination for all kinds of fishing with inshore, offshore, lagoon and sharking fishing tours in the high seas and on the Intracoastal Waterway.
HorseBACK Ride in Sea Pines Forest Preserve
Sea Pines Forest Preserve is a lush 605-acre wildlife habitat with tranquil nature trails, boardwalks and bridges, fishing docks, and endless outdoor exploration. Escape the crowds (and the heat) on a horseback ride along the shaded trails in Sea Pines Forest Preserve with Lawton Stables, or alternatively opt for a boat tour, eco-adventure or fun hay wagon ride with the kids.
Picnic at Audubon Nature Preserve
Pack a picnic (and the binoculars) and head to Audubon Nature Preserve near Sea Pines. This small, 50-acre protected nature reserve is pure paradise with a small network of trails and boardwalks winding through five unique ecosystems, birds, butterflies and wildlife, and a tranquil pond perfect for a picnic. The Audubon Nature Preserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset and also offers guided tours with a naturalist.
Bike the Trails
Hilton Head Island is one of the most bike-friendly destinations in the US with over 60 miles of interconnected bike paths and trails across the island to either loop round the island with fellow cyclists or venture off and explore the island at your own pace. Sunset Rentals partners with Vayk Gear to provide compliment bike and beach gear credit at select Sunset Rentals properties, making it easy to bike the island trails, for free!
Visit Pinckney Island National Wildlife Preserve
Visiting Pinckney Island National Wildlife Preserve takes you right off the beaten path into 4,000 acres of pristine wilderness for hiking, biking, fishing, birding and wildlife viewing. Once an island lookout during the Civil War, this historic wildlife refuge features 14 miles of hiking and biking trails, salt marshes and ponds for fishing, and historical markers outlining the history of Hilton Head during the Civil War. The preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday 9AM to 5PM.
Explore the Coastal Discovery Museum
The Coastal Discovery Museum is rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage and is truly one of the most beautiful places to visit on Hilton Head Island. Guided tours and activities are available (with options to escape the crowds) but the 68-acre grounds are also perfect to quietly explore alone with centuries old buildings, interpretive trails, giant oaks and lagoons, and wildlife encounters around every corner.
Tour the Gullah-Geechee Neighborhoods
Soak up the history and heritage of Hilton Head Island on a Gullah Heritage Trail tour through the original Gullah-Geechee Neighborhoods of Hilton Head. Led by local Gullah descendants, this tour trails away from the island’s top tourist attractions through the historic and cultural sites in Mitchelville Freedom Park, the Gullah Museum, and the local Gullah neighborhoods on the island.
Plan a Day Trip to Daufuskie Island
You don’t get more off the beaten path than Daufuskie Island, a small and serene barrier island nestled between Hilton Head and mainland Savannah and accessible only by boat, ferry, or kayak! Take a private tour of Daufuskie Island without the tourists or rent a bike or golf cart to adventure along the trails and dirt roads alone. Find your sandy space on 3-miles of secluded shoreline, book a horseback ride on the beach with Daufuskie Trail Rides, visit historic lighthouses, and dine on Daufuskie Deviled Crab and Lowcountry cuisine overlooking the marina. Daufuskie Island is one for the bucket-list!
Stay Off the Beaten Path with Sunset Rentals
Escape the hustle and bustle of Hilton Head Island and stay off the beaten path with Sunset Rentals. With one of the largest collections of vacation rentals on Hilton Head, you can choose to stay oceanfront near Coligny Plaza or enjoy the peace and tranquility of your own private pool home in the islands top resort areas – surrounded by only luxurious comforts, the sounds of nature, peaceful views and a tropical island ambiance.