Hilton Head Island: The Hamptons of the South

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Grounds of the Sonesta Resort

The drive to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is met with empty highways and dozens of resorts peeking out from behind palm tree-lined streets. The scenic route is about a 45-minute drive from Savannah Airport in Georgia.

Hilton Head Island is named so after Captain William Hilton, who identified a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, in 1663 and named it “Hilton’s Head,” after himself. Located in the Lowcountry in the town of Beaufort County, the island is immensely popular during the spring and summer months for vacationing families.

Known for its beautiful beaches and golf courses as well as the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse and Museum, which stands proud at the southwest tip, Travel and Leisure magazine recently named Hilton Head Island the best island in the continental U.S.. With 39,000 permanent residents and 2.9 million visitors a year, Hilton Head is a quiet, but busy place. Golf is huge, especially in the winter, when snowbirds from the north come down south for some warmth.

“There isn’t anything you can’t do in the summer that you can’t do in the fall,” said Charlie Clark, Vice President of Communications for HHI Chamber of Commerce of Hilton Head Island. “South Carolina is in the high 60s in the fall and winter and everything is open year round. The best kept secret in South Carolina is the shoulder season.”

Clark said that although golf is very popular, it’s not what South Carolina is known for.
“We have about 200 restaurants on the island, which is about the size of Manhattan,” she said, adding that the Harbour Town Lighthouse and Sea Pines Forest Preserve are popular say time activities while the Barmuda Triangle is great for night life.

For our trip (I traveled with my husband), we spent four days on the island and were accommodated by the beautiful Sonesta Resort. Chloe Bradley, the assistant guest services manager, greeted us with a tote bag of the island’s publications and fresh lemon water, the beginning of a lovely experience where guests are the number one priority.

hiltonhead_110216bUpon arriving at the resort, a relaxing massage at Arum Spa is a must, and if you have some time, a lavender foot soak with a warm neck towel is the perfect ending to waking up your muscles.

Among dining on delicious coastal cuisine, a round of 18 holes of golf at Robert Trent Jones Course in Palmetto Dunes, a dolphin watching tour and a peaceful hike through Sea Pines Forest Preserve, we soon found that Hilton Head has so much more to offer than just beaches and palm trees.


Check out our Hilton Head travel guide—with tips about food, golf and recreation.

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