Wildlife Viewing on Hilton Head Island

Southern Living has officially ranked Hilton Head Island “The South’s Best Beach Town” for 2022! 

Hilton Head Island is a destination worthy of every vacation bucket list – miles of enticing Atlantic coastline for beach-goers, world-famous golf and tennis for sports enthusiasts, luxury shopping, dining and spas (it’s a must on vacation!), and acres of pristine protected habitats for unique marine life, birdlife and wildlife experiences on Hilton Head.

No sacrifices have been made in sustainability and the preservation of Hilton Head Island’s natural beauty and pristine wildlife habitats. Personal encounters with wildlife in their natural habitat on Hilton Head Island are regular and expected – Great Blue Herons, pelicans and eagles soar the skies, dolphins and otters play in the water, loggerhead sea turtles nest on the shoreline, indigenous white-tailed deer cross the bike paths and fairways, or grazing the seagrass, and you may even experience a sighting of a gator lazing in the sun, or an elusive bobcat deep in the preserves.

Aside from your daily wildlife encounters on the beaches and trails of Hilton Head, here’s the top ways to experience the abundance of birdlife, wildlife and majestic marine mammals that call Hilton Head Island home. 

Embark on a Dolphin Experience

A dolphin encounter on Hilton Head Island should be #1 on your wildlife adventure bucket-list! Any aquatic adventure on Hilton Head Island offers the chance to encounter our friendly Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat – but embarking on a dolphin watching tour is first prize!

On Hilton Head Island you’ll find everything from family-friendly dolphin tours and kid-centric pirate ship dolphin encounters to fishing charters, strand-feeding tours and romantic sunset cruises. Each experience offers a chance to get up close with our friendly, local dolphin pods and encounter Hilton Head’s friendly residents in their natural environment.

Paddle the Waterways

There are hidden creeks and waterways on Hilton Head that only a kayak or SUP can reach! Paddling and gliding through the salt marshes and shallow marsh creeks along the historic Calibogue Sound and waterways is an experience that puts you in the heart of Hilton Head’s natural landscapes. From ospreys, herons, eagles and oystercatchers to dolphins swimming alongside, it’s here you’ll find the most unique, personal encounters with the wild residents of Hilton Head Island. Book a tour or pick up a rental and adventure alone, Hilton Head Island offers eco-adventures for every traveler!

Take to the Skies

Not everyone likes their feet off the ground but, if you do, having a birds eye view of Hilton Head Island is the perfect opportunity for wildlife viewing. Soar hundreds of feet in the air on a Hilton Head parasailing adventure with dolphins swimming in the Calibogue Sound below and views as far as Daufuskie Island – or head to Adventure Hilton Head and zipline through the ancient pine forests with an abundance of birdlife and views of the island marshes.

Eco-Adventures in Sea Pines Forest Preserve

The 605-acre Sea Pines Forest Preserve is a top destination for wildlife viewing, birdwatching, nature tours and eco-adventures on Hilton Head Island – a must for nature lovers visiting the island with swampy woods, marshes and lakes attracting an abundance of birdlife and wildlife.

Visitors to Sea Pines Forest Preserve can pick up a trail map to wildlife watch at their own pace, book eco-adventures along the waterways, wagon tours of the preserve, or horseback ride with Lawton Stables through Sea Pines Forest Preserve with wildlife encounters along the way. If you’re traveling with kids, visit the petting zoo at Lawton Stables to play with their local (and not so wild!) residents.  

Coastal Discovery Museum

The Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn is one of the top wildlife viewing and birding spots on Hilton Head Island, with tours and activities for every nature lover! The grounds offer visitors 68-acres of Lowcountry landscapes with wheelchair accessible walkways, boardwalks with spotting scopes, a butterfly house, and marsh tacky horses, a breed native to South Carolina.

The Coastal Discovery Museum offers amazing indoor exhibits and all kinds of tours and activities, on the grounds and beyond! Hilton Head tours from the Coastal Discovery Museum range from seasonal turtle talks and beach discovery tours, on land birding tours and boat tours along the waterways of Hilton Head Island.

The Audubon Newhall Preserve

The Audubon Newhall Preserve is a 50-acre preserve located near the Sea Pines resort area. The preserve boasts five diverse ecosystems with tranquil trails through the wetlands and wilderness, forest canopies with birds and butterflies, native plants, and the chance to spot a Great Horned Owl on Hilton Head Island. The Audubon Newhall Preserve is a treasured wildlife habitat on Hilton Head Island and offers guided bird walks and nature walks for nature enthusiasts.

Visit Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

Once an island lookout during the Civil War, Pinckney Island offers visitors to Hilton Head Island the ultimate escape in a Lowcountry wildlife refuge with 14 miles of trails through a variety of wildlife habitats home to an abundance of wildlife and birdlife. 

Boasting over 4,000 acres of pristine tidal creeks, freshwater ponds and forestlands, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to white tailed deer, red foxes and racoons, rare bobcat sightings and beautiful birdlife including ibis, egrets and herons. Ibis Pond is a prime spot to relax with your binoculars and soak up the beauty of the South Carolina sea islands.

Boat Trip to Daufuskie Island

Daufuskie Island is a small and serene five by two mile island nestled between the South Carolina mainland and Hilton Head Island, abounding in natural beauty and wildlife. The ferry embarks daily from Buckingham Landing near the Hilton Head Island bridge for naturalists to explore the island alone or embark on a Daufuskie Island tour from Hilton Head Island where you’ll ride along with dolphins to bike or golf cart your way around Daufuskie Island, with wildlife opportunities at every turn.

Wildlife on Hilton Head Island Beaches

The wildlife on Hilton Head is found without effort on our miles of wild beaches. 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!).

Stay with Sunset Rentals

Stay near Hilton Head’s top wildlife attractions with Sunset Rentals – the chances are you won’t have to leave home to experience some of the best wildlife viewing on Hilton Head.

Our selection of luxury Hilton Head Island vacation homes and villas are situated in the top resort areas of Hilton Head Island with luxury amenities, peaceful Lowcountry views, and opportunities for wildlife watching from your porch.

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