Everyone loves dolphins, but there’s nothing quite as spectacular as interacting with these playful, intelligent, and magnificent mammals in their natural habitat. On Hilton Head Island you won’t find any dolphins in captivity or controversial dolphin shows – our warm South Carolina coastal waters are a natural haven for wild Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins, some migrating through in summer, and others choosing to stay year-round in the ocean and waterways surrounding Hilton Head Island. Very intelligent indeed!
Our guide to dolphin watching on Hilton Head Island highlights when, where, and how best to experience our migratory and resident Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins in the wild.
DOLPHIN SEASON ON HILTON HEAD
Dolphin season on Hilton Head Island is year-round! While most dolphin pods migrate seasonally, the mild year round water temperatures on the South Carolina coastline are highly attractive to Atlantic Bottlehead Dolphins. The Lowcountry coastline is home to an estimated population of 600 resident dolphins with approximately 170 full time resident dolphins thriving on Hilton Head Island. In the summer months, the dolphin population almost doubles with migratory dolphins seeking warmer waters close to shore and hunting for food in the salt marsh estuaries.
WHERE TO SPOT DOLPHINS ON HILTON HEAD
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins are a familiar site on Hilton Head Island and can be easily spotted frolicking and feeding in the Atlantic Ocean, rivers, creeks and tidal marshes. Visitors to Hilton Head regularly encounter our resident dolphin pods playing in Broad Creek, following the shrimp boats on Calibogue Sound, or strand feeding on the muddy banks of the shallow backwater creeks. The South Carolina coastline is one of the few places in the world where you can witness the unique activity of dolphin strand feeding.
DOLPHIN WATCHING TOURS & EXPERIENCES ON HILTON HEAD ISLAND
Dolphin tours are the best way to encounter bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat and explore the hidden creeks and coves otherwise unreachable! A dolphin watching tour is sure to be the highlight of your Hilton Head Island vacation, and there are endless options to choose from.
Hilton Head’s dolphin watching tours range from intimate kayak tours right in the water to narrated group tours on a double decker boat. Any water activity on Hilton Head presents an opportunity to encounter our friendly dolphins and diverse local wildlife – the experience is up to you!
Outside Hilton Head offer unique guided experiences for all dolphin lovers with options for group tours or customized private outdoor adventures with a naturalist. Choose to dolphin watch by kayak, SUP, pontoon, catamaran, or luxury sail boat by sunset. You can even go tubing with dolphins! If you prefer to explore the coastal waterways unguided, Outside Hilton Head has a wide selection of boat, kayak, and SUP rentals.
Unlike many of the big boat tours on Hilton Head, Dolphin Discoveries offers an intimate dolphin watching experience limited to 6 guests only, with no set loop on the water and dolphin sightings GUARANTEED! There are great options to choose from including sunset dolphin cruises, fireworks and dolphin nature tours, and kayaking dolphin experiences to encounter the local pods up close and personal.
The famous Donuts Dolphin Cruise with Dolphin Seafari is always a favorite with families visiting Hilton Head. The 30-foot covered pontoon boat sits close to the water for ultimate dolphin viewing, with private tours available to escape the crowds. Traveling without kids? The Sunset Dolphin Cruise aboard Dolphin Seafari is voted the best dolphin tour on the island, with private tours available for smaller groups.
Captain Mark has been cruising dolphin lovers down Broad Creek and along the Calibogue Sound for 40 years! Captain Mark’s dolphin cruises cover the coastal wildlife, nature and history of Hilton Head Island and take you past some of the top attractions and secret dolphin viewing spots on the island. For pet parents looking for a dog-friendly Hilton Head dolphin tour, this is it!
The Coastal Discovery Museum offers group tours and private experiences to encounter dolphins in their natural habitat on both Hilton Head and the remote waters of Daufuskie Island. The Coastal Discovery Museum also presents an opportunity to make a difference during your stay on Hilton Head and Adopt a Dolphin! Your support will help raise funds towards saving dolphins and continuing conservation efforts on the island to protect the local pods.
FUN FACTS ABOUT ATLANTIC BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS
Dolphins are named after their elongated snout.
They eat small fish, squid and crustaceans and swallow their food whole.
They grow up to 13 feet long and up to 1,300 pounds.
They use sound to communicate, navigate and hunt and can make up to 1,000 clicking noises per second.
They do not have vocal chords, all sounds come through the dolphin’s blowhole.
They shed their outermost layer of skin almost every two hours.
Their dorsal fin is as unique as a human fingerprint
They can remain submerged and hold their breath for up to 15 minutes.
They dive as deep as 800 feet below the surface.
They launch themselves as high as 20 feet out of the water.
They can reach speeds of up to 18 miles per hour.
They can hold their breath for up to 7 minutes.
Dolphins need to be awake to breathe. They have two brain lobes that act independently, one side sleeps while the other stays awake to breathe.
They feel emotions such as fear, grief and joy.
They LOVE humans but they are wild animals and should always be treated with respect!
Dolphins are a federally protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act – it is illegal to feed, touch or harass dolphins!
Stay with Sunset Rentals and you can watch the dolphins from home! Our collection of 225 Hilton Head Island vacation homes and villas are situated in the top resort areas of Hilton Head Island and include luxury rentals on the Calibogue Sound, Broad Creek and Atlantic Ocean with fantastic vantage points for dolphin viewing from your front porch. Start planning your Hilton Head dolphin encounters today with our on island team at Sunset Rentals.
Port Royal is Hilton Head Island’s only completely private oceanfront residential community. Located at the tip of the Island, with approximately 1 mile of pristine beachfront landscapes, Port Royal Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean. Residents and vacationers alike can walk along the quietest beach on Hilton Head Island right from home in Port Royal.
There’s something for everyone in Port Royal, whether you prefer golfing at one of its three championship golf courses, playing a match on one of the tennis courts, fishing in one of its lagoons, exploring the Arboretum, discovering the many historical sites, or finding all 19 beach walk paths. Port Royal is bound to be your new favorite spot on Hilton Head Island, with less hustle and bustle and more room for adventure!
Port Royal beach access tends to be less crowded than other parts of the island, leaving you with more space to stretch out in the sand.
2. Convenient Location
Port Royal is located close to William Hilton Parkway, giving guests easy access to attractions, shops, grocery stores, and restaurants all across the island!
3. Pool Access
All of our Port Royal properties at Sunset Rentals have community pool access for guests to enjoy.
4. Spacious Properties
Port Royal condos provide large, open floor plans so guests have plenty of room to sit back, relax, and enjoy their ultimate vacation.
5. Skip the Wait at the Gate
Since Port Royal is a private community, guests won’t have to endure the long line at the guard gate to get in and out of the community! Car passes will be provided, and guests will be able to easily access the property without the long wait!
Stay with Sunset Rentals!
Sunset Rentals offers some of the finest rentals in Port Royal, ranging from quaint, quiet townhomes overlooking the lagoon to spacious townhomes, ideal for large group gatherings or annual family vacations.
All of our Port Royal rentals offer the comforts of home with access to a community pool, scenic bike and jogging trails, and a short walk to the uncrowded beaches.
ThePort Royal Plantation on Hilton Head is a smaller resort area on the northeastern curve of the island, known as the heel of Hilton Head Island. If you’re seeking quieter seclusion away from the crowds, yet still staying close to the top attractions and activities on Hilton Head Island, the Port Royal Plantation is the Hilton Head destination for you!
Southern Living’s “The South’s Best 2022 Awards” recently ranked Hilton Head Island #1 in “The South’s Best Beach Towns 2022”. With southern charm and hospitality, award-winning golf and tennis, tranquil nature walks and bike paths, and miles of unspoiled, sandy beaches at your doorstep – Port Royal is a top destination to spend yourvacation on Hilton Head Island.
1. UNTOUCHED NATURAL BEAUTY
From lush Lowcountry landscapes to stunning Atlantic seascapes, natural beauty abounds in Port Royal Plantation. Guests have access to miles of scenic trails weaving through old moss-laden oak trees, saltwater estuaries and freshwater lagoons for fishing and crabbing, and wild,secluded beaches along the historic Port Royal Sound and Atlantic Ocean.
The top activities in thePort Royal Resort Area include fishing, crabbing, bike riding(bring your own or rent locally), exploring thehistoric siteson a golf cart, and simply living the coastal lifestyle on Port Royal’s beautiful stretch of beaches.
2. AMAZING BEACHES & BEACH CREDIT!
The Port Royal Plantation is home to some of the best and quietest beaches on Hilton Head Island. Islander Beach Park is one of the best beaches on Hilton Head Island with a shady park for beach BBQs and picnics, a large playground for the kids, wide stretches of sandy beaches and calm Atlantic waters for swimming. Other nearby options for a beach day include Folly Field Beach, Driessen Beach, and Burkes Beach – swim, surf, sunbathe and enjoyocean adventures in Port Royal Plantation on Hilton Head Island.
For a different beach experience,Fish Haul Beach Park is a hidden gem overlooking the Port Royal Sound. While it’s not the best beach for swimming on Hilton Head, you can walk the pristine shoreline to historic Mitchelville Beach Park, birdwatch from the observation deck, hike the enchanting beach trails, and beachcomb for unique shells. Fish Haul Beach Park features four unique habitats – maritime forests, marshlands and creeks, ancient sand dunes and the tranquil Port Royal tidal flats.
3. TEE OFF ONE OF THE TOP EXOTIC GOLF COURSES IN THE WORLD
The Heritage Golf Collection on Hilton Head Island features 81 holes of championship golf at theShipyard Golf Club, the Oyster Reef Golf Club, and two world-class courses at thePort Royal Golf & Racquet Club. Nestled along the Atlantic Coastline, the Port Royal Golf Club is ranked one of the “Top 75 US Golf Resorts” by Golf Digest and one of the “Top 10 Exotic Golf Courses in the World”.
For warming up and to improve your game, thePort Royal Golf & Racquet Club features a world-class practice facility with a driving range, putting green, and short game practice area with PGA professional instruction throughout the year. The Port Royal Club is also home to Hilton Head Island’s first FootGolf Course – golf with a soccer ball and great fun for the whole family!
The Barony Course is one of the firstgolf courses on HiltonHead Island, designed by George W. Cobb in the early 1960s and set in lush Lowcountry landscapes. Robbers Row Course was later designed by George W. Cobb and William C. Byrd in 1967, one of the most exotic golf courses in the world set on former Civil War grounds, rich in history and natural beauty with live oaks, magnolias and luxury homes lining the fairways. Golfers can enjoy after golf happy hour and the tastes of the Lowcountry at Robbers Row Grill in the southern mansion-style Port Royal Clubhouse.
4. CHAMPIONSHIP TENNIS CENTER
The Port Royal Golf & Racquet Clubis also ranked one of the Top 25 Tennis Resorts in the World! The Port Royal Racquet Club offers top-notch tennis instruction and award-winning tennis on eight new Har-Tru clay courts in a scenic setting on Hilton Head Island. Pickleball is a Hilton Head Island tradition and if you’re not yet a player, the Port Royal Racquet Club is the perfect place to get up to speed with America’s fastest growing sport!
5. HISTORICAL SITES & ATTRACTIONS
The historical Port Royal Sound and Port Royal Plantation is the original landing site of Captain William Hilton on the island in 1663. The Battle of Port Royal began in 1861 and the town of Mitchelville was established in 1862, the first self-governed town of freed slaves in America. You’ll findhistorical sites and markers across the Port Royal Plantation at Fort Walker Park, Steam Gun Beach, Fort Sherman, Fish Haul and Fort Mitchel, and along the fairways of theRobbers Row Golf Course.
Experience the rich history of Port Royal on awalking tour of historic Mitchelville Freedom Park, a Gullah Heritage Tour of the historic Gullah neighborhoods, or a living history tour of the Zion Chapel of Ease and Baynard Mausoleum, the resting place of four Revolutionary War Heroes and the oldest structure on Hilton Head Island. The Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horns offers guided and self-guided tours of the historic sites on Hilton Head Island.
The Port Royal Plantation is only a short drive from the charming Lowcountry town of Bluffton, SC. Take a walking tour of the historic Spanish-moss draped homes and buildings in Old Town Bluffton nestled among the stately oaks along the May River.
6. PORT ROYAL ARBORETUM
Visitors to thePort Royal resort area have access to the Port Royal Arboretum, a quaint arboretum nestled near Fort Sherman, between Fort Walker Drive and the Robbers Row Golf Course. The arboretum features paved walkways, nature paths through ferns, cypresses and palmettos, scenic overlooks, an azalea garden, and is full of wildlife and native Lowcountry plants.
7. AWAY FROM THE CROWDS
Port Royal Plantation is a quieter Hilton Head Island community, away from the crowds yet only a short drive (or energetic bike ride!) away from the attractions, restaurants, shopping and activities in neighboring HiltonHead Island resort areas. If you’re seeking a quieter vacation on Hilton Head, look no further than Port Royal Plantation.
8. NEARBY DINING & SHOPPING
Port Royal Plantation is close toHilton Head’s best diningand shopping, yet you have amazing options close to home too! Guests have an option of outdoor patios with poolside and oceanfront dining at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa and Marriott Barony Beach Club, Lowcountry cuisine at the Robbers Row Grill, and you’re only a short drive to Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks and Skull Creek Boathouse for waterfront dining on Skull Creek.
9. CLOSE TO HILTON HEAD’S TOP RESORT AREAS & ATTRACTIONS
Restaurants, Entertainment, and Shopping at Harbour Town
Miles of Bike, Jogging, and Walking Trails
Sea Pines Trolley Available
10. PORT ROYAL PLANTATION VILLA COMMUNITIES
Port Royal Village has quietgolf villa communities nestled along the fairways of the Barony Golf Course, boasting tranquil Lowcountry lagoon and golf views, and seasonal pools (perfect for an after-golf or after-beach dip!), and walking distance to oceanfront dining at the Port Royal resort hotels.
The Links in Port Royal Village are spacious, luxury Lowcountry style golf villas, located on the Port Royal Barony Golf Course, a short walk from the Marriott Barony, Westin Hotel, and Islanders Beach Park. Our selection of Port Royal Links Villas boast views of the Barony fairways, access to a seasonal community pool, and select villas include a golf cart for your vacation in Port Royal.
TheDevonshire and Beckenham Villa complexes are nestled nearby on the banks of a tranquil lagoon overlooking the 9th hole of the Barony Golf Course. These quiet Port Royal communities share a sparkling seasonal pool on the fairways, a BBQ area and picnic sites on the lagoon, and are a short walk to miles of Atlantic Coast beaches on Hilton Head Island.
Sunset Rentals proudly boast one of Hilton Head Island’s largest selection of privatevacation homes and villas in the top resort areas of Hilton Head Island, and complete with all the amenities for a luxury vacation in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Start planning your Hilton Head Island vacation today with our team of vacation specialists at Sunset Rentals.
Hilton Head Island is a destination known for its stunning beaches, diverse ecosystems, and unique habitats abounding in wildlife. Whether it’s witnessing the marvel of baby sea turtle hatchlings, getting up close and personal with our beloved marine mammals, encountering alligators, or discovering Hilton Head’s best birding spots with your binocs, you’ll soon discover a deep appreciation for our island’s natural wonders.
Witnessing wildlife in its natural habitat is a magical and memorable experience but it’s vital to engage in responsible wildlife watching to maintain a healthy balance between humans and the island’s delicate wildlife habitats. For the safety of our local wildlife (and yours!), here are 7 tips for responsible wildlife watching on Hilton Head Island.
1. Drive Slow
When exploring Hilton Head Island by car, it’s important to drive at a slow and cautious pace, follow the speed limits, and keep a careful watch for wildlife on the roads. During dawn and dusk, wildlife are far more active on the roads and tend to travel in groups, if you see one crossing the street, the chances are more will follow.
2. Leash Up Your Furry Friends
The locals on Hilton Head Island love our pets as much as we love our wildlife, but please respect the rules in place to protect and preserve our wildlife habitats. To ensure the safety of our local wildlife and your furry friends, please keep pets on a leash at all times, do not allow them to swim or roam near alligator habitats, keep a mindful eye around sea turtle nesting grounds, and never leave them unattended. At night, keep your pet indoors for safety and bring pet food and water dishes inside to deter nighttime visitors.
3. Observe Wildlife from a Safe Distance
Be sure to add binoculars and a camera to your Hilton Head packing list! As exciting and tempting as it may seem to get up close and personal with wildlife, our local wildlife should never be approached. Respect their space, avoid close interactions, do not provoke, and always observe wildlife quietly from a safe and respectful distance – this is critical for their wellbeing, and yours!
Marine Life Encounters: On the waterways surrounding Hilton Head, marine life encounters are a given. Be mindful and maintain a safe distance when boating and paddling the waterways to avoid collisions or injuries, allow them to swim freely and undisturbed, and stay at least 140 feet away from dolphins at all times. The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, it is illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.
Alligator Encounters: Hilton Head is home to a healthy population of American Alligators, one of the Lowcountry’s most iconic native species. Always assume every body of water may contain an alligator, swimming or wading in ponds and lagoons is prohibited, fish only from the docks and piers, and keep a close eye on kids and pets near any water on Hilton Head. If you’re planning to book at tee time on Hilton Head’s iconic golf courses, you may even encounter alligators strolling between lagoons. Local rules and regulations require you to stay at least 60 feet (4 cars in length) away from alligators.
Sea Turtle Encounters: Hilton Head Island is a nesting ground for several species of sea turtles, including greens, leatherbacks, and the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. During the sea turtle season (May to October), our ancient residents and their hatchlings are strictly protected by local and federal regulations with severe penalties for handling or interfering with sea turtles, nesting sites, and baby hatchlings.
4. Don’t Feed Wildlife
While it may seem harmless, please resist the urge to feed our local wildlife. Feeding wildlife makes them associate humans with food, can disrupt their natural behaviors and diets, and can turn the animal aggressive leading to potentially dangerous situations. Visitors to Hilton Head are often tempted to feed our friendly local dolphin pods without realizing that under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, feeding or harassing dolphins is illegal, resulting in fines that can reach up to $100,000.
5. Always Follow the Signs
Always be on the lookout for posted signs and guidelines to avoid disturbing the natural habitats on Hilton Head Island. Whether it’s a marked-off sea turtle nesting area on the beach, an alligator alert on the fairways, or interpretive signage along the 60+ miles of Hilton Head Island pathways, these rules are in place to protect our fragile ecosystems, free-roaming wildlife, and curious visitors tempted to get too close and personal with our local wildlife.
6. Lights out!
Artificial lighting disorientates sea turtles and their hatchlings from the natural light of the moon. If you’re staying in an oceanfront rental, from 1 May to 31 October all light fixtures visible from the beach are required to be switched off between 10 PM and 6 AM. This includes interior blinds and drapes, all outdoor lighting, and any flashlight photography. Always report any sea turtle sightings or stranded sea turtles to the SC Department of Natural Resources Hotline at (800) 922-5431.
7. Leave Only Footprints
Our presence in nature should never leave a lasting impression! To minimize the impact on our diverse barrier island ecosystems and maintain the island’s pristine environment, please leave no trace, only footprints! Dispose of all trash properly to prevent harm to wildlife, always leave the beach clean, remove sandcastles and fill in holes for traveling sea turtles, and do not leave any umbrellas, chairs, or accessories on the beach overnight. Book a stay with a participating Sunset Rentals property to quality for complimentary bike & beach gear from Vayk Gear. Learn how it works HERE!
Wildlife on Hilton Head Island Beaches
The wildlife on Hilton Head is found without effort on our miles of wildbeaches. Our suggestion – walk or bike ride the shoreline from where the Calibogue Sound meets the Atlantic at South Beach to the remote shoreline of Fish Haul Creek and Mitchelville Beach near Port Royal Sound.
You’ll find wildlife encounters all along the shoreline –South Beach on Hilton Head Island is a prime spot for shore birds, and dolphins making their way to the Calibogue Sound, Fish Haul Creek and Mitchelville Beach overlooking Port Royal Sound are Hilton Head’s most natural beaches with maritime forests, boardwalks for wildlife viewing, historical sites and tidal flats teeming with shorebirds and crabs (best found at low tide!).
There’s no need to head off the beaten path for wildlife encounters on Hilton Head! From luxury oceanfront villas to fairway retreats and lush lagoon hideaways, you’ll find the perfect vantage point to observe the island’s diverse wildlife from the comfort of home in our collection of 240+ Hilton Head vacation rentals – the most trusted vacation rentals on Hilton Head Island.
Questions? Call our team at (843) 785-6767 today!
Stay with Sunset Rentals
Stay near Hilton Head’s top wildlife attractions withSunset Rentals – the chances are you won’t have to leave home to experience some of the best wildlife viewing on Hilton Head.
Hilton Head Island was named the #1 Island in the U.S. and Canada in Travel+Leisure 2021 World’s Best Awards for the 5th consecutive year! The award-winning Palmetto Dunes is one of the most well-known and popular resort areas of Hilton Head, nestled mid-island on 2,000 acres of lush oceanfront landscapes with world-class amenities, 3-miles of pristine Atlantic coastline, luxury oceanfront accommodation, and bike paths leading to the top attractions and iconic landmarks on Hilton Head Island.
Palmetto Dunes central location in the heart of the island makes it the ultimate Hilton Head vacation destination for families looking to stay close to the action (and the beach!). Whether you’re a nature lover, beach-goer, adventure seeker or sportsman, this highly-desirable Hilton Head plantation offers solace, excitement and island experiences for all types of travelers.
1. PALMETTO DUNES BEACH ACCESS
Palmetto Dunes is a beach lovers paradise with 3 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches all within a short walk or bike ride from your Palmetto Dunes vacation rental. Spend your vacation in an oceanfront home or villa in Palmetto Dunes with private beach boardwalks or ride your bike or the seasonal Dune Buggy to the Disney Beach House or Dunes House with bike racks, restroom facilities, and an oceanfront bar and restaurant for a quintessential island-style beach day.
Take a bike ride or stroll along the shoreline, rent a surfboard to play in the waves, build sandcastles or simply soak up the warm sun and Lowcountry charm of Palmetto Dunes.
2. PALMETTO DUNES 11-MILE LAGOON SYSTEM
Rent a kayak or canoe and escape into nature on the Palmetto Dunes Lagoon System. The inland waterways weave for 11-miles through the plantation with an abundance of wildlife, over 40 species of birds, rewarding fishing spots and boat launches to get on the water. Hilton Head Outfitters are located near the General Store and are your one-stop shop for outdoor activities and rentals, and Sunset Rentals selection of lagoon-front villas offer the ultimate retreat for a nature escape in Palmetto Dunes.
Play a challenging and scenic round on three world-class golf championship golf courses: the top-ranked Robert Trent Jones course with ocean views, the challenging George Fazio Golf Course with new state-of-the-art greens, and the Arthur Hills Course, one of South Carolina’s most unique and scenic golf layouts in lush, Lowcountry landscapes on the south shores of Palmetto Dunes Resort Area.
The Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy has outstanding private golf instruction and group clinics with programs for all levels and the three Palmetto Dunes championship courses all feature welcoming clubhouses with on-site golf shops, Srixon golf club rentals (and shipping services!), and relaxed dining experience for a memorable golf vacation on Hilton Head, the Golf Island!
4. TENNIS & RACQUET CLUBS IN PALMETTO DUNES
Hilton Head is one of the top tennis destinations in the US! The Palmetto Dunes Tennis & Pickleball Center ranks among the best tennis resorts and was recently named the “Pickleball Resort of the Year” by Racquet Sports Magazine.
The award-winning sports center features 19 clay tennis courts (four lighted for night play), 24 dedicated pickleball courts (all lighted for night play), professional instruction for tennis and pickleball, and seasonal clinics for all ages. Palmetto Dunes promises the best pickleball and tennis vacation you’ve ever had!
5. WATER ACTIVITIES AT SHELTER COVE HARBOUR & MARINA
Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina lies on Broad Creek at the entrance to Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort – a premier waterfront destination for shopping, dining and endless activitieson the Lowcountry waterways. The colorful marina is lined with rentals of every kind from high-speed power boats, jet skis and catamarans to fishing pontoons and luxury sailboats.
Whatever level of adventure sparks your wanderlust, you’ll find it at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina. Captain your own boat or choose from a selection of saltmarsh paddle tours, dolphin discoveries, fishing charters, eco-tours, party boats, pirate adventures or picture perfect sunset cruises in the awe-inspiring Lowcountry waterways, marshlands and creeks.
6. SHOPPING & RESTAURANTS IN PALMETTO DUNES (and nearby!)
The waterfront promenade along the Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina has a selection of shops, galleries, outdoor patios with live music and marina views, and award-winning restaurants with the best seafood on Hilton Head Island! The nearby Shelter Cove Town Center is an open-air Mediterranean style village that lures shoppers, foodies and families with a selection of over 30 shops and restaurants, a rooftop bar for nightlife on Hilton Head, and a community park overlooking Broad Creek, host to year-round events and Hilton Head’s famous HarbourFest.
Palmetto Dunes is centrally located mid-island on Hilton Head Island so you’re only a short bike ride from outstanding beachfront shops and restaurants at Coligny Plaza and waterfront delights at Harbour Town in Sea Pines Resort.
7. EASY TO GET AROUND PALMETTO DUNES
Palmetto Dunes has a 5-mile network of well-maintained paved bike trails throughout the plantation and connecting to the other resort areas of Hilton Head Island. Load up the bike ride or speak with a Sunset Rentals vacation specialist about our state-of-the-art bike rentals and complimentary Vayk Gear rentals at select Palmetto Dunes vacation homes and villas. There is no fee to bike the trails in Palmetto Dunes.
The Palmetto Dunes Buggy is a seasonal free shuttle service that serves the beaches, golf clubs and tennis facilities in the Palmetto Dunes resort area, as well as Shelter Cove Marina & Town Center. The buggy runs from 8am to 9pm daily from April through September with an on-call service to take you where you need to go within the plantation!
Palmetto Dunes Private Beach & Golf Vacation Home Rentals
There are many perks to staying in a private home on vacation – Gather the whole crew under one roof, enjoy space and privacy away from the crowds, large gourmet kitchens, spacious master suites, full laundry rooms for convenience (it doesn’t end on vacation!), intimate waterfront docks on the lagoon, private beach boardwalks, heated pools and spas just for you, and the list goes on!
Our selection of luxury vacation homes in the Palmetto Dunes resort area are located throughout the plantation – beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean, on the world-class Robert Trent Jones Golf Course and waterfront on Palmetto Dunes 11-mile lagoon system – with luxury amenities to suit even the most distinguished guests.
Hilton Head Island is a destination for all seasons! Our beautiful barrier island is nestled on the southern tip of the South Carolina coastline with a balmy sub-tropical climate, an average of 215 sunny days a year, and mild temps to enjoy our pristine beaches, serene waterways, untouched nature preserves and award-winning golf and tennis facilities year round. Every season brings new experiences, unique adventures, seasonal events and laid-back Lowcountry living on Hilton Head.
Winter: December, January & February
Average Temperatures: 40-70o F
The winter season is the quietest time of year for tourists on Hilton Head Island and makes for an idyllic low season beach vacation, romantic winter getaway or warm weather snowbird escape. January is the coldest month of the year with highs in the mid-60s and lows down to 40oF, but rarely dipping below.
The water is too icy for swimming but it’s the perfect season for sightseeing Hilton Head, easy golf tee times, sunrise beach strolls, sunset cruises, fishing charters for exceptional sports fishing, horse riding and wildlife spotting in Sea Pines Forest Preserve, and hanging out at Hilton Head’s winter festivals.
Average Temperatures: March 60-70o F | April 60-70o F | May 70-80o F
A glimpse of spring weather has arrived, the flowers are blooming, and the weather is fine! Spring is a wonderful time of year to get a taste of summer of Hilton Head Island without the crowds, and with temperatures warming up for the beach, shoulder season rental rates, and vacation discounts.
You’ll need a coat for morning beach walks or patio dining on the waterfront, but the temps are warm during the day and shorts and tees are all you need to hike or bike the trails, tee off on a championship golf course or visit the top sights on Hilton Head Island. Be sure to pack your swimwear (and sunscreen) for beach picnics or a chilly dip in the Atlantic Ocean.
In the summer months the temperatures reach the high-80s and often the 90s (with water temps in the mid-80s) so be prepared for hot, sunny days and wonderful tropical thunderstorms that bring refreshing and quick summer showers, a welcome reprieve from the heat and humidity!
For the ultimate summer vacation and island style living on Hilton Head, stay with Sunset Rentals. Our vacation homes and villas are located in the top resort areas of Hilton Head near world-class golf and tennis, shopping & dining, live entertainment and Hilton Head’s HarbourFest, a family-friendly celebration and weekly fireworks all summer long at Shelter Cove.
Fall: September, October & November
Average Temperatures: September 70-80o F | October 60-70o F | November 50-60o F
After schools go back, the crowds start to thin and cooler temperatures cruise in – but the warm, sunny beach days continue well into October with highs occasionally in the 80s. We’re back to shoulder season on Hilton Head – seasonal water activities have closed, summer traffic has disappeared, the beaches are quieter, and it’s the best season to get a great deal on your dream vacation home!
October and November have the lowest rainfall and are the best months for getting outdoors on Hilton Head Island. Book a tee time or hit the tennis courts at our world-class facilities, hike or bike the trails with prime birdwatching, beachcomb and build sandcastles along the shoreline, or brave the cooler waters for a tranquil SUP sunset.
If you’re planning a Hilton Head vacation with your pooch, the pet-friendly beaches are open all day during low season from October to February (unlike the summer months) and there are plenty of pet-friendly rentals, restaurants and activitieson Hilton Head.
October marks the start of seafood season and our favorite Lowcountry tradition, Oyster Roasts! Harvest and host your own oyster roast to shuck & slurp with friends and family at home or plan your vacation around the family-friendly Hilton Head Oyster Festival at Shelter Cove in November, a celebration of Lowcountry tradition, local music and the freshest, flavorful oysters you’ll ever feast on! End the fall season at the Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance in November, a 3-day classic car experience with over 500 classic cars, motorcycles, boats and aircraft on display.
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.
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!
The distinctive Lowcountry scenery and tranquil waterways on Hilton Head Island provide the perfect canvas for some of the most breathtaking sunsets you’ll ever witness. As the sun dips slowly below the horizon, fiery palettes of reds, oranges, pinks, and purples paint the skies casting a warm glow over Hilton Head’s white sandy shoreline, untouched preserves, and waterfront marinas abuzz with tours, activities, and sunset dining experiences that top the charts! No filters required!
Whatever beach sunset vibe you’re after, you’ll find it here on Hilton Head Island. From hip, happening happy hours on the sand and landmark waterfront restaurants on the creeks to secluded paddling adventures alongside pods of dolphins, here’s our guide to the best sunset spots on Hilton Head Island, and epic sunset experiences to make it extra special!
The beaches on Hilton Head Island are consistently ranked among the most picturesque in the world, but are extra special with the candy-colored glow of sunset resting on the calm waters. Slip off your flip-flops for a sunset stroll or beach bike ride along the shoreline, or stop by Coligny Plaza for picnic goods from Piggly Wiggly or a Lowcountry cheese or charcuterie board to go from Rollers for a sunset picnic on the sand.
Local Tip: Stay with Sunset Rentals and receive complimentary Vayk gear including beach chairs & umbrellas and top quality bike gear for the whole family!
Phone: (843) 785-5126 Hours: Daily 11 AM to 10 PM Seasonal Live Music: See the lineup HERE! Reservations: First come, first serve
If beach volleyball and barefoot cocktails on the sand are more your vibe, the Hilton Head Island Tiki Hut on Coligny Beach is an island icon that offers up an insta-worthy sunset with beachside bites, hand-crafted frozen cocktails, a chilled atmosphere, and an epic line up of live music and jam sessions in all four seasons.
Local Tip: For fewer crowds, take a short walk along the shoreline to sample “the best frozen drink you’re ever going to get” at Pool Bar Jim’s. Jim’s frozen creations include original recipes like the Daufuskie Freeze, Margaritas, and Mojitos served with old-fashioned southern hospitality with a tropical touch!
Phone: (843) 842-1888 Hours: Daily 11:30 AM to 9 PM (Beach Bar 10 PM) Seasonal Live Music: 4 PM to 7 PM Reservations: Reservations recommended for dinner
Situated in the Sea Pines Resort area of Hilton Head, the Beach Club boasts an oceanfront patio for sunset dining, a rooftop lounge and bar for upscale cocktails, and a wrap-around beach bar with walk-up service for beachgoers. You can literally have your Hilton Head sunset on the rocks, shaken, or stirred, while being serenaded by live music in season.
Local Tip: Parking is limited! You can hop on the Sea Pines Trolley or stay local! Our Turtle Lane Townhomes are steps from the Sea Pines Beach Club with two swimming pools (one seasonally heated!), private beach access, and stunning sunsets on your doorstep. You must be a guest in Sea Pines to enjoy the Beach Club.
Phone: (843) 671-2233 Hours: Daily 8 AM to 10 PM Happy Hour: 4 PM to 6 PM Reservations: First come, first serve
The legendary Salty Dog Café is one of the most visited restaurants on the island! Whether it’s the waterfront location in the New England-inspired village, the succulent seafood and award-winning crab legs, or Salty Dog’s stunning Lowcountry sunsets over Braddock Creek that spark your interest, it’s a must-do dining experience with a must-see Hilton Head Island sunset!
Phone: (843) 593-9104 Hours: Daily 11 AM to 6 PM Seasonal Live Music: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday Reservations: First come, first serve
The Dunes House is the best sunset spot in the Palmetto Dunes resort area. Dunes House is a laid-back beach bar and oceanfront restaurant with an outdoor kitchen serving casual cuisine and cool cocktails, seasonal live music, and spectacular ocean views to watch the sunset on Hilton Head.
Local Tip: Dunes House is open only to guests staying in the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort area! It’s no coincidence you’re here at Sunset Rentals! Click HERE to find your sunset rental in Palmetto Dunes and you can walk from home or hop on the Dunes Buggy!
Local Tip: Visitors staying outside the Sea Pines Resort area are required to pay a $9 cash gate fee to enter. Guests of Sea Pines can ride the free Sea Pines Trolley with 4 routes around the resort area.
Phone: (866) 305-9814 Hours: Daily 10 AM to sundown Admission: $5.75 per adult, children 5 and under free
The red and white striped Harbour Town Lighthouse is an iconic Hilton Head landmark with breathtaking views over Calibogue Sound and Daufuskie Island. Climb 114 steps through the museum to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic 360-degree views of the sun casting silhouettes over the water, Lowcountry marshes, and Harbour Town Yacht Basin.
Local Tip: Planning a special event on Hilton Head? The Harbour Town Lighthouse is available for private events and special celebrations for up to 40 guests and you’ll find a stylish place to stay in Sea Pines with Sunset Rentals!
H20 Sports at Harbour Town Yacht Basin offers a wide variety of activities, water sports rentals, and sunset tours on Calibogue Sound and Broad Creek. Choose from a 1.5 hour sunset dolphin tour, a 2-hour sunset sail aboard the 38’ SUMO trimaran (the fastest boat on Hilton Head), or reserve a wave runner or boat rental to sail into the sunset at your own pace.
Local Tip: Reserve a table at Quarterdeck next door to H20 Sports (open till 9 PM daily) to return for fresh-caught seafood and specialty sunset cocktails on the Harbour Town waterfront.
Phone: (843) 363-2722 Hours: Daily 11 AM to 9 PM Happy Hour: Daily 4 PM to 6 PM Reservations: Reservations recommended
Located at the famed Liberty Oak in Harbour Town, the Crazy Crab is a Hilton Head hotspot for sunset dining with amazing happy hour specials to settle in for golden hour. There are red rockers right outside the door to relax after dinner, watch the boats, and catch an iconic Greg Russell concert under the Liberty Oak in spring or summer.
Local Tip: For easy access to Harbour Town and breathtaking sunset views from home, look no further than our Schooner Court Villa, a luxurious 4-bedroom townhome with unparalleled Harbour Town Marina views!
For a more solitary sunset, escape to Sea Pines Forest Preserve, a 650-acre protected nature preserve with pet-friendly trails winding through four unique habitats including ancient maritime forests, freshwater wetlands, fishing ponds, and meadows of wildflowers teeming with wildlife and natural wonder.
Local Tip: Make a day of it and book a horseback ride through Sea Pines Forest Preserve with Lawton Stables or a guided alligator & wildlife boat tour of the lakes with H20 Sports.
Phone: (843) 341-4600 Hours: 7 PM to 10 PM Admission: Free Date: Every Friday Night from June through August
Pack a picnic for Sunset Celebration on the waterfront at Shelter Cove Community Park with live music and laid-back family entertainment on the banks of Broad Creek. The summer concert series is free, pet-friendly, and perfect for a sunset picnic in the park. Stop by Kroger for picnic basket goodies or pick up to-go from one of Towne Centre’s local eateries.
Local Tip: You can watch the sunset from home at Anchorage Villas, only steps from Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina with private lagoons and a large heated private pool – perfect for poolside sunsets away from the crowds.
Situated at the base of the Cross Island Expressway Bridge, Palmetto Bay Marina is one of Hilton Head’s original fishing marinas with beautiful west-facing views of Broad Creek and Spanish Wells. From sport fishing charters, pirate cruises, and Lowcountry watersports (including the latest craze of Creek Cats) to shopping and dining, you can spend the whole day playing at Palmetto Bay Marina before sailing into the sunset.
Local Tip: End your sunset experience at the Carolina Crab Company, Black Marlin Bayside Grill, or waterfront Hurricane Bar, all famous for their fantastic happy hours, Lowcountry seafood, laid-back vibes, and unbeatable sunset views!
Phone: (843) 363-8335 Admission: Free Date: April & May
If live music is high on your list of things to do on Hilton Head, hop off your creek cat or dolphin cruise and enjoy sunset dining and live music in the marina hosted by the Black Marlin Bayside Grill & Hurricane Bar. The live music schedule changes frequently so click HERE to add more local live music dates to your Hilton Head itinerary!
Local Tip: If you’re an early riser and love a good sunrise, the Palmetto Bay Sunrise Café opens at 6 AM (Wed-Sun) and serves up the best shrimp and grits on the island.
Shelter Cove HarbourFest 2023 Fireworks Schedule: Tuesdays: June 6, 13, 20 & 27 Tuesdays: July 4, 11, 18 & 25 Tuesdays: August 1, 8, 15 & 22
Broad Creek Marina is across the bridge with east-facing views of the island. Broad Creek Marina offers activities, tours, and charters for every adventure level including ziplining, parasailing, and sunset dolphin cruises by boat, aboard the sailboat Cheers, or by kayak. The 2-hour Kayak Sunset Tour of Broad Creek includes the added bonus of the HarbourFest Fireworks in the summer season.
Local Tip: For the ultimate family adventure, combine your sunset experience with an epic aerial tour at Adventure Hilton Head, also located at Broad Creek Marina.
Kick back for a killer sunset, the real deal on Lowcountry cuisine, seasonal live music, and loads of family fun at Fishcamp on Broad Creek or next door at Up the Creek Pub & Grill. Both restaurants boast breathtaking views with a laid-back island ambiance, lawn games, live music, waterfront firepits, and daily happy hours to indulge a little.
Local Tip: If your family includes a furbaby, both Fishcamp & Up the Creek welcome well-behaved, leashed pets on their waterfront patios. Click HERE to find a place to stay for your pup too!
Phone: (843) 681-3663 Hours: Daily 11 AM to 10 PM Happy Hour: 4 PM to 6 PM Reservations: First come, first serve
Situated on the northern end of the island, Skull Creek is one of the most scenic sunset destinations in South Carolina! Sunset views stretch over the island’s western marshes and the untouched landscapes of Pinckney Island, views interrupted only by pods of dolphins and fishing boats cruising the creek. Sunset diners have a choice of three award-winning waterfront restaurants serving up seafood straight from the docks, southern BBQ, frozen cocktails and craft beers, seasonal live music, and sweeping sunset views that’ll leave you captivated.
Phone: (843) 784-2468 Hours: Sunrise to Sunset Admission: Free
Nestled between the mainland and Hilton Head Island, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 4,000 acres of wild Lowcountry landscapes with maritime forests, salt marshes, and tidal creeks teeming with alligators, bobcats, butterflies, and beautiful birdlife. It’s a top spot for Lowcountry nature photography with over 14 miles of hiking and biking trails to find a secluded setting to capture a sunset.
Local Tip: If you have your own kayak, launch on Skull Creek from the Rowing and Sailing Center on Squire Pope Road for a sunset paddle around Pinckney Island.
Soaring above Hilton Head in a helicopter adds to the magic of your sunset experience. The coastline stretches before you as a canvas of golden hues glows from the sand dunes to the skies. From quick flips along the Atlantic coastline to ultimate adventures sightseeing the top attractions on Hilton Head from the skies, Hilton Head Helicopter Tours offer it all – private charters too!
Local Tip: If you’re planning a large group getaway or family reunion on Hilton Head, they have three beautiful helicopters to easily accommodate the whole crew.
Whether you’re watching the sun dip behind the creeks, setting the ocean waters aglow, or casting colors over Hilton Head’s famous fairways, you can pick your sunset views in our collection of 230+ Sunset Rentals on Hilton Head Island – many with complimentary credit for all the gear you need for a beach picnic, bike ride, or sunset paddle adventure on the Intracoastal waterways.
At Sunset Rentals, we don’t just provide you with a luxury Lowcountry retreat to call home, our homes set the stage for a front-row seat to Mother Nature’s nightly masterpiece.
Local Tip: Start chasing South Carolina sunsets today with our team at Sunset Rentals!
Sea Pines Resort is Hilton Head’s original and largest plantation, a coastal paradise on the southern tip of Hilton Head Island, an award-winning vacation destination and America’s Favorite Island.
Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Calibogue Sound, Sea Pines Resort is a top Hilton Head resort destination for families and one of Hilton Head’s most desirable communities. Sea Pines boasts historic charm, natural splendor, prime access to 5 miles of pristine sandy beaches, lush Lowcountry waterways, tranquil wetlands, and nature preserves teeming with wildlife.
Sea Pines Resort is home to Hilton Head’s top attractions, the best shopping and dining on the island, world-class golf courses and tennis facilities, two marinas for watersports, nature trails for hiking and horseriding, and 20-miles of connected paved trails for biking around the resort.
Sea Pines Resort has the largest stretch of oceanfront on Hilton Head Island with 5 miles of beaches, easy and convenient beach access throughout the resort, boardwalks from oceanfront rentals and prime beach access with parking at the Sea Pines Beach Club. If you’re staying in Sea Pines, you can bike or walk to the beach, hop on the Sea Pines Trolley, or head out early for a parking spot at the Beach Club.
The world-class Sea Pines Beach Club is an oceanfront retreat exclusively for guests and residents of Sea Pine Resort with a pristine stretch of beach with lifeguards and luxury amenities for the whole family. The Sea Pines Beach Club features a surf shop for all your beach gear, the Surfside Market for beach snacks, and Craft Cove for seasonal activities for the kids. While the kids play and explore their creative side, indulge in signature seafood dishes and frozen cocktails at Coast or the Ocean Lounge for the best oceanfront dining on Hilton Head.
Harbour Town is a Hilton Head landmark and one of the most popular attractions on the island with over 20 unique stores, waterfront dining, eco-adventures, and activities for all ages. Harbour Town is the best place on Hilton Head to shop, eat, play and stay!
Harbour Town Lighthouse & Museum: The candy cane striped Harbour Town Lighthouse is an iconic landmark and one of the top things to do on Hilton Head. Climb the stairs to the top of the lighthouse with historical artifacts and exhibits highlighting the history of Sea Pines and Hilton Head Island, pick up souvenirs at the lighthouse shop, and soak up the scenery with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, Calibogue Sound, Harbour Town and beyond (children under 5 climb free!).
Shopping in Harbour Town:Harbour Town is a top shopping destination on Hilton Head with a Mediterranean style outdoor shopping plaza for a unique shopping experience along the waterfront. There are more than 20 stores surrounding the colorful yacht basin with everything from adventure outfitters and surf shops to upscale boutiques, galleries, and gift shops for coastal treasures. The Harbour Town General Store stocks all your vacation essentials for local shopping in Sea Pines.
South Beach Marina Village is a quaint New England inspired village on Braddock Cove, at the southernmost tip of Hilton Head. South Beach Marina Village is quieter than Harbour Town with wet and dry boat slip rentals, bike rentals to cruise the marina, dockside restaurants and a variety of water activities, rentals, and nature tours of the Calibogue Sound.
Shopping in South Beach: South Beach Marina Village has a small selection of shops with fashion boutiques, gifts and souvenirs unique to Hilton Head, a tackle shop for all your fishing gear, crabbing supplies and charter tours, and a general store with Hilton Head swag and all your vacation necessities.
The Sea Pines Resort Area has a rich golfing history and is synonymous with world-class golf! Sea Pines Resorts award-winning golf courses are consistently ranked among the best golf courses in the US (and the world!) with a long list of golf awards and accolades, challenging play for beginners and PGA champions, and tranquil golf villas on the fairways for the ultimate Hilton Head golf vacation in Sea Pines.
Harbour Town Golf Links: The internationally renowned Harbour Town Golf Links is Hilton Head’s most famous course and a favorite with past and present PGA champions. Harbour Town Golf Links is home to South Carolina’s only PGA tour event, the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament, a Hilton Head legacy and tradition bringing over 135,000 visitors to Sea Pines each April.
Hilton Head is one of the top tennis destinations in the US with a tropical climate for year-round play, over 300 courts, award-winning tennis facilities, coaching clinics with certified professional instructors and fun summer camps for kids. There are two world-class tennis facilities in Sea Pines.
Sea Pines Racquet Club: The award-winning Sea Pines Racquet Club in Harbour Town is one of the top tennis facilities in Hilton Head and one the best in the US. The Sea Pines Racquet Club is under the direction of former US Open and Wimbledon Champion, Stan Smith and is home to the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy, earning Tennis Magazine’s #1 Ranking for Tennis Programs.
South Beach Racquet Club: The South Beach Racquet Club is next to the South Beach Marina at the southern tip of Sea Pines Resort. The club is low-key and intimate featuring a full-service pro shop, well-maintained clay courts, Har-Tru pickleball courts, summer camps for kids and top-notch instruction for every level.
SEA PINES FOREST PRESERVE
The Sea Pines Forest Preserve is a natural treasure on HHI with more than 600 acres of protected wildlife habitat, tranquil nature trails through the forest, pristine lakes and lagoons, elevated wetland boardwalks, observation decks for wildlife viewing, and the historic ruins of the mysterious 4,000 year old Native American Indian Shell Ring. The Sea Pines Forest Preserve has a boat launch and fishing docks, guided eco-adventures, alligator tours and fishing expeditions, wagon rides for the kids and western style horseback rides through the preserve.
Lawton Stables is a family-owned farm and equestrian center in Sea Pines Resort, a must for your vacation on Hilton Head. Beginners and experienced riders can explore the trails through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve (ages 8 and up) or delight the kids with a Shetland pony ride and a visit to the hands-on petting zoo with goats, pigs, miniature donkeys, chickens, and alpacas.
STONEY-BAYNARD PLANTATION RUINS
The Stoney-Baynard Plantation Ruins are an important part of Hilton Head history located in the Sea Pines Resort Area. The former antebellum plantation was built in the 18th century and the remains of the mansion and slave quarters burned in the Civil War are today listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The ruins are easily reached on a short hike with interpretive signs to learn the history of the ruins, tranquil views of the Calibogue Sound and a flurry of ghost stories from fellow hikers.
GETTING AROUND SEA PINES RESORT AREA
Getting around Sea Pines Resort Area is easy! The complimentary Sea Pines Trolley offers three different routes within Sea Pines Resort with seasonal service from April to September and trolley stops at Sea Pines top attractions. The Blue Route runs between Harbour Town and The Sea Pines Beach Club, the Red Route runs to and from Harbour Town and the Green Route transports you down to South Beach.
0.2 miles to South Beach Marina Village Wake up to a spectacular sunrise over the Atlantic at Beachside Tennis, an oceanfront complex on the southern tip of Sea Pines. These stylish and spacious Sea Pines villas offer Atlantic Ocean and Calibogue Sound views, a community pool, and easy access to South Beach Marina Village and South Beach Racquet Club. A prime location in Sea Pines just steps from the ocean, sand, and sun.
0.3 miles to South Beach Marina Village Bluff Villas are located on the marina side of the peninsula between the Calibogue Sound and Braddock Cove, a short walk to beach access at South Beach. Guests have access to the South Beach Marina Pool and the South Beach Racquet Club.
0.6 miles to South Beach Marina Village Lands End Villas are located close to South Beach Marina Village, where Braddock Cove meets the Calibogue Sound and Intracoastal Waterway. These secluded villas offer classic Lowcountry living with some of the best views on Hilton Head, a community pool, and dolphin viewing from home!
0.3 miles to South Beach Marina Village South Beach Villas are located near Beachside Tennis Villas, just steps from the Atlantic Ocean and a short walk to South Beach Marina Village, Guests enjoy unparalleled views of the Atlantic, Calibogue Sound and Daufuskie Island with access to the South Beach Marina community pool.
1.5 miles to Harbour Town Marina Our pet-friendly Calibogue Cay villa rentals are located close to Harbour Town with tranquil marsh views, beach access along the bike paths or a quick ride on the Sea Pines Trolley, a seasonal community pool, tennis courts and some of the best sunset views on Hilton Head.
0.8 Miles to Harbour Town Marina Heritage Villas are located on the award-winning Harbour Town Golf Links, just a short bike ride away from shopping, dining, and endless activities at Sea Pines Harbour Town. This Sea Pines villa complex has a sparkling community pool and tennis courts set in landscaped gardens for guest use.
0.3 Miles to Harbour Town Marina Stay in the heart of Harbour Town at Ketch Court on Lighthouse Lane, a short walk to the Harbour Town Lighthouse, shopping, dining, and the best family activities on Hilton Head Island. The Ketch Court Villa Complex does not have a community pool, however guests have access to the South Beach Marina pool and are a short bike or trolley ride to the beach.
0.9 Miles to Harbour Town Marina Lighthouse Tennis Villas are located next to the Shops at Sea Pines Center, between Harbour Town and the Sea Pines Beach Club. The complex features tropical surroundings, a resort-size swimming pool, private tennis courts and is a short bike ride to Harbour Town and the beach at Sea Pines.
Steps to Harbour Town Marina The Mariners Way complex is in a prime location in Harbour Town, steps from the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse, Harbour Town Playground and the bustling marina with shopping, dining, and the best water activities on Hilton Head. Guests have access to the Harbour Town Pool.
0.6 Miles to Harbour Town Marina Sea Pines Racquet Club villas are located on the Heron Point Golf Close in the Harbour Town area of Sea Pines. The Racquet Club complex features a seasonal swimming pool, Har-Tru tennis courts and a Sea Pines Trolley stop for easy access to the beach.
Plantation Club Villas are located near the Sea Pines Plantation Golf Club, on the fairways of the award-winning Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III and Heron Point by Pete Dye. The Plantation Club Villa complex offer a prime location for golfing in Sea Pines resort area with two on-site seasonal swimming pools, a children’s pool and a short walk or bike ride to the beach.
Hilton Head is a bucket-list destination for summer adventures, ranked #1 in Travel+Leisure World’s Best Awards, and one of the top-booked summer vacation destinations for 2021.
America’s Favorite Island is a Lowcountry barrier island at the southern tip of South Carolina between the two grand dames of the south, Charleston and Savannah, GA. Hilton Head Island is a charming and unique destination with a rich culture, serene landscapes, immersive adventures and experiences, succulent seafood, and a slow paced lifestyle to disconnect, recharge and switch to summer time on the sea islands.
Spend lazy days soaking up the sun on 12 miles of unspoiled sandy beaches or discover the best of Hilton Head with pristine championship golf courses, world-famous tennis & racquet clubs, miles nature trails for hiking and biking, preserves for wildlife viewing and birdwatching, and serene waterways for kayaking. Whether you’re in search of a quiet island escape or action packed summer vacation, we invite you to explore the island like a local with our inspiration for your summer vacation on Hilton Head Island.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND BEACHES
Hilton Head Island boasts 12-miles of pristine beaches consistently rated among the top beaches in the US and the world! Hilton Head boasts warm, calm waters and flat sandbanks for summer dips in the ocean, natural tide pools for little hands to explore, an expansive and well-maintained shoreline lined with coastal treasures, and endless opportunities to get on the water.
Hilton Head Plantation Beach Access
Sea Pines Beach Club: Guests of Sea Pines Plantations have access to 5 miles of unspoiled sandy beaches at the Sea Pines Beach Club. To avoid high season parking, hop on the free Sea Pines Trolley and enjoy a day on the lifeguarded beach with kids’ entertainment, picnic tables, oceanfront dining and a casual beach bar.
Palmetto Dunes Beach: The Palmetto Dunes Plantation has 3 miles of pristine sandy beaches with public beach access at the Dunes House. Parking is limited so take advantage of the Dunes Beach Buggy to soak up the sun’s rays, play in the ocean and sip frozen cocktails at the oceanfront bar.
Private Beach Access: Hilton Head’s favorite vacation rentals are located oceanfront on the island with private boardwalks to miles of beautiful Atlantic beaches.
Public Beach Access Points on Hilton Head Island
Alder Lane: Alder Lane is on the south end of the island in the Forest Beach area of Hilton Head. This beach access is away from the crowds and caters to all abilities with handicap matting, restrooms, outdoor showers, summer lifeguards and low-key beach walks along the shoreline.
Coligny Beach Park: Traveling up the coastline, the next public beach access is Coligny Beach Park, the island’s most popular beach and the heartbeat of Hilton Head. It’s an easy bike ride from the resort areas of Hilton Head with free parking, excellent amenities, loads of food options and summer rentals for water activities. There’s great entertainment for the kids and a hot line-up of live music at the legendary Tiki Hut on the sand.
Burkes Beach: For quieter beach days, pet-friendly Burkes Beach lies north of Palmetto Dunes Plantation with basketball and tennis courts, a playground, dog park, tranquil seaside trails to some of the best waves on Hilton Head Island for surfing and bodyboarding, and seasonal lifeguards.
Driessen Beach: Driessen Beach is next to Burkes Beach and is one of Hilton Head’s larger beach parks. A peaceful boardwalk leads to a sandy beach with picnic tables, a playground, sand showers, vending machines, seasonal beach rentals and lifeguards.
Folly Field Beach: Folly Field Beach is Hilton Head’s “local beach”, a favorite with families visiting Hilton Head and a top spot to learn to surf. Beach amenities include restrooms and outdoor showers, water fountains, metered parking, umbrella and chair rentals, and seasonal lifeguards.
Islanders Beach Park: Pack a picnic and spend the day away from the crowds at Islanders Beach Park, just north of Folly Field Beach. There’s a playground for the kids, picnic tables, drinks machines and restrooms, but you’ll need to bike to the beach as parking is for annual pass holders only.
Fish Haul Beach Park: Fish Haul Beach Park is one of the most natural and remote beaches on Hilton Head Island overlooking the Port Royal Sound. If you’re seeking an off the beaten path beach on Hilton Head, teeming with wildlife, beautiful shells on the tide line and some of the most beautiful birdlife on Hilton Head, spend a day in nature at Fish Haul.
Whether you’re exploring the serene waterways of the Calibogue Sound or the vast Atlantic Ocean, this is your chance to experience a personal encounter with an abundance of captivating and majestic marine life including loggerhead sea turtles, manatees, sea otters and Hilton Head’s most famous residents, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin. There are six marinas and harbors on Hilton Head Island making it easy to enjoy a memorable day of aquatic adventures with on the water activities for all ages and energy levels.
Kayaking:There are over 25 miles of undeveloped marshes and remote areas surrounding Hilton Head to escape the crowds, kayak or SUP the serene waterways and back creeks of the Lowcountry, and reconnect with nature.
Boat Rentals: For a little more speed, local outfitters across the island offer Hilton Head boat rentals by the hour, or by the day. Sail the sea islands on a catamaran or yacht, waterski or tube the calm waters of Broad Creek, or ride a waverunner or jet-ski through the Calibogue Sound.
Boat Tours & Cruises: Hilton Head Island boasts an extensive selection of cruises and guided boat tours ranging from sightseeing cruises, dolphin tours, parasailing, banana boat and skiff tours around Hilton Head, to expeditions to the sea islands and guided tours of historic Savannah.
Fishing Charters:Keep your feet on dry land and cast your line from the shore, the fishing piers or the tranquil, stocked lagoons on Hilton Head Island, or embark on a fishing charter in the backwaters of the estuaries or the deep seas of the Atlantic Ocean.
If you’re fishing solo, a South Carolina saltwater fishing license is required for all anglers 16 and over and there’s plenty of bait and tackle shops to stock up on your fishing gear. But, the best way to reel in a trophy catch is on a Hilton Head Island fishing charter with an experienced and local fishing guide, and insider tips to Hilton Head’s top fishing spots (and the secret unknowns!)
BIKING & HIKING TRAILS
The best way to explore Hilton Head (and avoid the traffic and high season parking) is on foot or by bike! Hilton Head Island is one of the most bike-friendly destinations in the US, rated a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the American League of Bicyclists.
Hilton Head Island is only twelve miles long and five miles wide and boasts an island wide network of flat, shady, and interlaced trails with over 60-miles of trails, 30 bike rental shops and over 15,000 bikes available to rent on the island. Printed maps are available across the island, at the Town Hall or online.
Venture off the beaten path and explore maritime forests and hidden parts of the island, cruise the 22-mile loop around the island, or take a coastal bike ride or beach stroll along the shoreline. Here’s our favorite trails to hike and bike on Hilton Head.
Sea Pines Forest Preserve: Hike and bike the trails of Sea Pines Forest Preserve, an expansive 605 acre protected wildlife habitat with wetland boardwalks through the forest, lakes, fishing docks, historic ruins and beautiful natural landscapes with native flowers and an abundance of wildlife. If you’re not vacationing in Sea Pines, there’s a small fee to access the Sea Pines Plantation.
Palmetto Dunes Plantation:Palmetto Dunes Plantation has 5 miles of tranquil shaded trails and 3 miles of sandy beaches for easy cruising. There’s a bike path leading to the beach and a bike path to Shelter Cover under the 278 to ride and shop. There is no fee to bike in Palmetto Dunes.
Audubon Newhall Preserve: The Audubon Newhall Preserve is a paradise for birdwatchers and nature lovers with a small network of trails and boardwalks through the 50-acre nature preserve, a tranquil pond, and the opportunity to encounter South Carolina’s best birdlife, including a Great Blue Heron. Guided walks are available.
Mitchelville Freedom Park: Take a stroll through Mitchelville Freedom Park, a historic park with remnants of the town where freedom began for Hilton Head in 1862. Peaceful trails lead through the park to the rocky shoreline of Fish Haul Creek Park, a prime birdwatching destination on HHI.
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge: Pinckney Island is a 4,000 acres wildlife refuge at the entrance to Hilton Head Island with 14 miles of hiking and biking trails through forest lands, serene salt marshes, tidal creeks, freshwater ponds and natural Lowcountry beauty. Pack your binoculars for some of the best birdwatching and wildlife viewing on Hilton Head.
Sunset Rentals has a fleet of affordable, state-of-the-art rentals, including classic, tandem, child, and three-wheeler bikes available to guests. Reservations required well in advance for summer.
Hilton Head Island is a top golf and tennis destination so be sure to book your tee times and courts well in advance. Here’s our guide to the top tennis facilities and golf courses in the resort areas of Hilton Head.
The award-winning Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center ranks among the top tennis facilities in the world with tennis and pickleball courts, night play and fun clinics through the summer.
Port Royal Plantation: The Port Royal Golf & Racquet Club has two courses, the Barony Course, and Robber’s Row Course, footgolf for the kids, and an 8-court racquet club. These scenic facilities are set on Civil War grounds on the marsh side of the island with beautiful live oaks and magnolias, water features and historical markers to discover the rich history of Hilton Head.
Shipyard Plantation: The Shipyard Golf Club was rated one of the finest layouts on the Champions Tour and offers 27-holes of family-friendly golf on three scenic courses, the Clipper, Galleon and Brigantine. The award-winning holes are surrounded by towering oaks and pines and tranquil lagoons.
The Van der Meer Tennis Center at Shipyard is another of Hilton Head’s award-winning tennis facilities with indoor and outdoor courts, daily clinics, and summer tennis camps.
Lawton Stables is the top destination for horseback rides on Hilton Head Island and a unique way to discover the Lowcountry. The farm and equestrian center in the Sea Pines Plantation offers western-style trail rides through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, Shetland pony rides and a petting zoo for the little ones. For a once in a lifetime experience, take the ferry to Daufuskie Island for an exclusive beach ride along the Atlantic shoreline.
FAMILY FUN ON HILTON HEAD ISLAND
The ultimate family summer vacation awaits on Hilton Head Island, one of the world’s most family-friendly vacation destinations. Hilton Head is a magical destination for kids of all ages with family-focused adventures, interactive children museums, live entertainment, miniature golf, indoor playgrounds, rainy-day activities, and awesome day camps fully-loaded with outdoor adventures and new experiences. Here’s our inside scoop on the best things to do with kids and teens on Hilton Head.
Shelter Cove: The annual HarbourFest at Shelter Cove is a delight for all ages and a must-do Hilton Head summer celebration. Enjoy the best local food, arts and crafts, live entertainment from clowns, pirates and local musicians, bouncy castles, and a spectacular display of fireworks over Broad Creek every Tuesday, a Hilton Head tradition.
Coligny Plaza: The Coligny Center Stage at Coligny Plaza hosts a fun line-up of summer entertainment with magic extravaganzas, family-friendly dance parties, trivia nights and activities every day of the week. Kids love to explore Adventure Playground and the interactive Sandbox Children’s Museum at Lowcountry Celebration, and you’re steps away from one of the best beaches in America.
Coastal Discovery Museum: The Coastal Discovery Museum is a fun and educational way for the kids to spend the day on Hilton Head. Visit the butterfly gardens, take a nature tour, learn the art of basket weaving, discover the history of the sea islands, or engage in interactive play at the indoor Kids Zone.
Zipline Hilton Head:Experience Hilton Head’s top adventure destination with a choice of 7 ziplines soaring above the marshes and tree canopies of Broad Creek, a high ropes challenge course, and a brand new outdoor GoKart track with double karts to take little ones for a cruise.
Hilton Head Skatepark: The Hilton Head Skatepark at the Bristol Sports Arena is a great way for bigger kids to let off some steam with ramps, rails and a kid’s street course and playground for younger kids.
The Art Café: Paint your own pottery at The Art Café, a colorful pottery studio and café near the Coligny Plaza. There’s a big selection of pottery pieces to choose from, indoor seating for a rainy day, and outdoor patio seating for painting, dining, and special events through the summer.
Outside Hilton Head: Outside Hilton Head is the top activity provider on the island with day camps and outdoor activities for kids, teens, and families. Activities range from family fishing charters, beachcombing cruises and dolphin tours, to learn to surf camps and bike tours of Hilton Head Island.
ARTS, CULTURE & HISTORIC SITES
Art Center of Coastal Carolina:The Art Center of Coastal Carolina is the heart of Hilton Head’s performing arts scene with award-winning theatrical shows, ballet performances, musical dramas, cultural festivals, and a fun lineup of summer events on HHI for the whole family.
Coastal Discovery Museum: Step back in time at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn, home to the Santa Elena Center, nine historic buildings dating back to 1859, a 500-year old Southern Red Cedar, fascinating history and cultural exhibits, and authentic Gullah Heritage Trail Tours.
Stoney-Baynard Ruins:The Baynard Plantation was built by Revolutionary War hero Captain Jack Stoney in the early 18th century, used as headquarters for Union troops during the Civil War, and later burned to the ground. Take a short hike through Sea Pines to view the remains of the grand antebellum home and slave quarters, rumored to be one of the most haunted spots on Hilton Head Island.
Sea Pines Indian Shell Ring: The Sea Pines Indian Shell Ring lies in the heart of Sea Pines Forest Preserve and dates back over 4,000 years. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the historic shell ring measures 150 feet in diameter and is known to be the oldest known archeological site on Hilton Head Island.
HEALTH, WELLNESS & LUXURY SPA DAYS
The travel journey alone boosts your mental health, but the bliss and natural beauty of Hilton Head takes your health and wellness journey a step further. Treat yourself to a little me time at a luxury Hilton Head spa, or skip the traffic and indulge in a massage treatment in the comfort of your dream Hilton Head vacation home.
SHOPPING IN HILTON HEAD
Retail therapy is another great way to boost mental health and shopping on Hilton Head Island is an adventure of its own! Summer is the perfect season to stroll the open-air plazas and shop the local farmers markets for the finest seafood, fresh fruit and veg, homemade specialties and picnic baskets to enjoy in nature.
EATING OUT ON HILTON HEAD ISLAND
Restaurants: Whether you’re in search of the best shrimp and grits on Hilton Head Island, a casual eatery for the kids or an evening of fine dining on the waterfront, Hilton Head has a diverse selection of delicious dining options to explore. For Hilton Head’s finest sunset views, feast on Lowcountry cuisine at Skull Creek Boathouse, raw oysters at Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks, or dine waterfront at Harbour Town as the sun sets over Calibogue Sound.
Sunset Rentals are the most trusted rental business and vacation specialists on Hilton Head Island with one of the area’s largest collections of Hilton Head vacation homes and villas in the top resort areas of Hilton Head Island. Experience an unforgettable summer vacation on Hilton Head with rentals to suit every family’s size, style and budget, resort-style amenities, homey comforts, luxurious outdoor living in the Lowcountry and first-class service every step of your vacation journey.