A summer vacation on Hilton Head Island offers the best of both worlds – serenity and quiet seclusion away from the crowds and action-packed activities and adventures on land, along the Calibogue Sound, and in the warm Atlantic waters, that beckon you to dive right in!
Hilton Head is “The South’s Best Beach Town” and is consistently ranked the “#1 Island in the US” in the World’s Best Awards. While Hilton Head’s 12-miles of unspoiled, natural beaches and Lowcountry landscapes are the top summer attractions, an abundance of unique experiences await on our small slice of paradise.
Hilton Head Island was one of the top-booked summer destinations in 2021 so don’t leave your vacation planning to the last minute! Here’s our team’s favorite tours and experiences to add to your summer vacation itinerary on Hilton Head Island.
Dolphin Discovery Tours
Hilton Head Island is rated one of the 10 Best Dolphin Sighting Destinations in North America. The waters surrounding Hilton Head are home to a year-round population of over 170 inquisitive and friendly Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins cruising the sounds, creeks, Atlantic waters, and strand feeding along the muddy banks.
Experience our favorite locals up close and in the wild on a Dolphin Tour of Hilton Head Island, with chance encounters of manatees, otters, and sea turtles along the way. You’ll find dolphin encounters for every occasion on Hilton Head Island – pirate cruises for the kids, regular cruise boats departing the marinas, or small boats with freedom to follow the pods and engage in intimate encounters with Hilton Head’s dolphin pods in their natural habitat.
Kayak & Paddle Tours of the Waterways
Navigate the hidden creeks and pristine waterways and head off the beaten path on a kayak or SUP tour of Hilton Head. Hilton Head Island boasts 25 miles of back creeks, tidal salt marshes, and serene waterways teeming with wildlife, marine life, and beautiful shore birds. Surrounded only by the sounds of nature, Lowcountry serenity, and your travel tribe, nothing quite matches a Hilton Head eco-adventure along Calibogue Sound.
Get out in nature on a guided eco-tour with Outside Hilton Head, Hilton Head’s outdoor experts. With unique experiences ranging from guided tours with a naturalist and family SUP classes, to full moon kayak tours and fireworks paddles at Shelter Cove, there’s a tour for every traveler.
Boat Tours & Fishing Charters
If paddling your own boat is not your style, hop on a boat tour of Hilton Head Island and let someone else take the helm. Outside Hilton Head offers a wide variety of boat tours, cruises, fishing charters, and family water skiing adventures from Shelter Cove Marina, or head to Harbour Town in Sea Pines Resort Area.
There are more unique boat tours operating from the Harbour Town Marina. Learn to sail the America’s Cup Stars & Stripes, trawl for shrimp aboard the Tammy Jane, take a sightseeing tour on the Vagabond, or take a luxury cruise on the Spirit of Harbour Town to experience the beauty of the Lowcountry in style.
With miles of Lowcountry coastal habitats and 300+ species of birds, Hilton Head Island is a prime destination for birding enthusiasts. Top birding destinations on Hilton Head include the Audubon Newhall Preserve, Sea Pines Forest Preserve, Fish Haul Beach Park, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn.
Birders have miles of trails to explore alone but Hilton Head Island’s birdlife is best experienced under the guide of a local, knowledgeable birdwatcher! The Coastal Discovery Museum offers walking tours of Pinckney Island at the northern tip of Hilton Head. The 4,000 acre preserve lies along the Atlantic Flyway with three unique birding habitats (salt marshes, maritime forests and freshwater lagoons), and an abundance of birdlife including duck, egret, pelicans, ibis, and the iconic Great Blue Heron.
Hilton Head Bike Tours
Get ready to pedal! Hilton Head Island is a gold level bicycle friendly community with designated bike lanes, more than 60 miles of public trails, and 12-miles of hard-packed beaches to explore by bike. You can literally bike everywhere on Hilton Head Island and Sunset Rentals make it easy to get on the trails with an exclusive bike and beach gear credit program with Vayk Gear and complimentary rentals on select Sunset Rentals.
The Hilton Head Pedego Tour is always a hit with visitors to Hilton Head. Departing from Shelter Cove Plaza, the 2-hour tour cruises the Hilton Head bike trails highlighting the top attractions, history and culture of Hilton Head Island. Join a group tour or book a private bike tour just for the family!
Touring Sea Pines Preserve on Horseback
From the saddle of a Pedego to a western saddle! The 605-acre Sea Pines Forest Preserve is one of the most scenic settings on Hilton Head Island with secluded forests of Palmettos and moss-draped Oaks, lakes and fishing docks, wetland boardwalks, and historic ruins dating back over 4,000 years.
Visitors to Hilton Head can tour this protected wildlife habitat on horseback with Lawton Stables, a local equestrian center and top attraction on Hilton Head Island. Saddle up for a western style trail ride through the preserve (minimum age 8-years) or if you’re visiting Hilton Head Island with kids, the Shetland pony rides and petting zoo are always a hit with the kids.
Nature Tours at The Coastal Discovery Museum
The Coastal Discovery Museum at historic Honey Horn is not only a bird watcher’s paradise, it is a top Hilton Head destination for nature lovers with a museum in an original Hilton Head plantation house, historical landmarks, an interactive Kids Zone, and endless tours, nature programs, and on-site and off-site eco-activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Guided tours include the marsh critters and creatures of the Lowcountry, the Marsh Tacky horses of Honey Horn, and tours of the historic plantation grounds and butterfly gardens. Coastal Discovery Museum tours extend beyond the Honey Horn plantation with off-site turtle tours, beach discovery tours, boat tours, and guided history tours of Hilton Head Island.
Guided History Tours of Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island lies in the Gullah Geechee Corridor, a National Heritage Area recognizing the authentic West African culture, traditions and customs of the South Carolina sea islands. The Gullah culture survived centuries of slavery and today visitors to Hilton Head can embark on a historic adventure with Gullah guides, born and raised on Hilton Head Island.
The Gullah Heritage Trail Tours at the Coastal Discovery Museum is an immersive experience of the Gullah communities on Hilton Head Island, the Gullah language, traditional foods, music, and more. Tour highlights include Gullah family compounds, plantation ruins and First Freedom Village, where freedom began in 1862 for Hilton Head. The Coastal Discovery Museum also offers tours of the Forts of Port Royal, occupied by the union forces during the civil war.
Tours of Daufuskie Island
Touring Daufuskie Island is a bucket-list day trip from Hilton Head Island. Daufuskie Island is a small (five by two miles) and remote island nestled between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, and only accessible by boat or ferry.
Daufuskie Island abounds in natural beauty and boasts a rich history dating back to the early 1700s. Today, the Gullah heritage still thrives, and visitors can hop on a ferry to explore the uncrowded beaches, scenic bike paths and Lowcountry landscapes by foot, bike, or golf cart.
Pirates of Hilton Head
Ahoy Matey! For the young pirates, lads and lassies in tow, nothing beats a swashbuckling adventure on Hilton Head Island’s only custom pirate ship, the Black Dagger. Climb aboard the Black Dagger at Harbour Town in Sea Pines, sail the coastline, fight off Stinky Pete for treasure, and celebrate the defeat of the island’s stinkiest pirate with singing, dancing and a share of the buried pirate booty! If you’re planning a family vacation to Hilton Head Island, it’s a must-do attraction and nautical adventure of note.
Summer Bubblegum Cruise
If you’re a regular vacationer to Hilton Head Island, you’ll know all about Gregg Russell’s famous, family friendly summer concerts under the Liberty Oak Tree at Harbour Town. Every evening through the summer, Greg entertains families with sing-alongs and games under the oak tree – but by day, he has adventures of a different kind. For over 25 years, the Summer Bubble Gum Cruise has been a Hilton Head Island favorite!
Embark on a 90-minute cruise with the kids aboard the Vagabond (every Friday) for an interactive and educational experience with dolphin spotting, singing and games, haunted lighthouses and ghost stories, and a treasure hunt at Harbour Town.
Aerial Tours of Hilton Head
A birds eye view of Hilton Head Island is unbeatable. The Zipline Canopy Tour at Adventure Hilton Head offers the highest views of the island from Broad Creek. The tour includes 7 ziplines, a swinging sky bridge, a spiral staircase in the trees, and a 900-foot long finale on a dual racing zipline. Take it a step further on the high ropes challenge course with 6 high ropes courses and 4 levels of difficulty from beginner greens to double black diamond challenges.
For the ultimate aerial tour of Hilton Head Island, take a climb in altitude along the South Carolina coastline on a Hilton Head helicopter tour. These tours offer unmatched views of the top Hilton Head attractions all the way to the remote shoreline of Daufuskie Island.
Sightseeing Tours of Savannah
The historic city of Savannah, Georgia is only 33 miles from Hilton Head and is easily accessible by car or boat. Savannah is one of the most loved cities in the Lowcountry with historic architecture and attractions, cobblestone streets, tree lined walkways, and tranquil water views from Savannah’s historic riverfront.
Shop along famous River Street, picnic at the fountains in Forsyth Park, indulge in Savannah’s foodie hot spots, and embark on a local sightseeing tour of Savannah. Unique Savannah experiences include culinary tours, hop-on hop-off trolley tours, segway tours, Savannah harbor tours, and ghost tours of Savannah, one of the most haunted cities in the US!
Sunset Dinner Cruises
Sail into the sunset on a romantic dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island’s only sunset dinner cruise. Dine alfresco on the top deck with the best restaurant views in Hilton Head, sip on specialty cocktails and watch the HarbourFest fireworks from the water. For an evening of fine dining with live entertainment, dancing and sightseeing, you’ll create forever memories from the moment you climb aboard a classic Savannah Riverboat for a dinner entertainment cruise along the scenic Savannah River.
Take a Tour of Hilton Head Island’s Top Summer Vacation Rentals
Stay with Sunset Rentals and receive complimentary beach and bike gear credit on select vacation homes and villas, up to the value of $350! Whether you’re seeking kayaks, SUPs or bike rentals to adventure alone or chairs, umbrellas and beach toys for a family beach day, we make it easy to spend summer on Hilton Head Island. Turn your summer dreams to reality with Sunset Rentals!