It’s cold here. Not terribly cold, but I’ve been wearing hoodies, and it has me wishing for beach weather. So of course, that’s making me think of our trip to Hilton Head Island a couple years ago. We went for three nights, and we found some really great things to do on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
As with our other travel posts, we’re condensing the trip into 24 Hours On Hilton Head Island. We spent so much of our trip on the beach and at the resort’s pool, so you definitely could spend just one day on the island while en route to somewhere else.
24 Hours On Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
We’re starting our 24 Hours On Hilton Head Island, South Carolina post at lunch and continuing until the next day.
One of our top places for lunch on Hilton Head Island is Java Burrito Company (1000 William Hilton Parkway, Suite J6) especially if you’re like us. I like coffee, Pete likes beer, and we both love Mexican food. Java Burrito has all three.
Even though the word “burrito” is in the name, the restaurant serves more than that. You can get a bowl, burrito, tacos, salad, or a quesadilla filled with your favorite proteins and toppings. You can finish your meal with an espresso milkshake (which, I’ll be honest, was my main reason for choosing Java Burrito to be on this list).
You can’t go to Hilton Head Island without spending at least a little time on the beach. All of the beach is public (unless affiliated with a resort), but not all of the beach has public access.
(At the end of this post, we have a list of public beach access points. It felt a little cumbersome to put it here.)
Relaxing on the beach is the best, but if you want some water activities that are a little more upbeat, you can rent a paddle board or surfboard from Hilton Head Outfitters (80 Queens Folly Road). It’s located in Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort (4 Queens Folly Road), but rentals are available to anyone.
When you’re on Hilton Head Island’s beach, though, be sure to not disturb the sea turtles and loggerheads. It’s more their home than ours.
Take a quick shower and head over to The Sea Pines Forest Preserve (Greenwood Dr.). You do have to pay a nominal fee ($6 per car) to access The Sea Pines, but you don’t have to pay to access the Forest Preserve, so it’s sort of a wash.
The 400-acre nature preserve is amazing. You’ll hike through trees, marsh, and on elevated walkways. There’s a 4,000 year old Sea Pines Shell Ring, the oldest known archaeological site on Hilton Head Island and what is believed to be where Native Americans held for religious gatherings.
There’s Lake Joe where you can have a picnic lunch, located near the Warner W. Plahs Wildflower Field, which is an acre and a half of wildflowers.
The Sea Pines Forest Preserve is open from dawn to dusk, daily, and you really can spend a few hours there.
Since you already paid the entrance fee to get into The Sea Pines, go for dinner at The Salty Dog Cafe (232 S Sea Pines Dr.). It’s a super popular tourist spot that doesn’t take reservations, so that’s a little frustrating if you’re a planner. But sometimes, I think you need to eat at the tourist destinations — even if the rules are a little frustrating.
Tourist spots are popular for a reason. The hush puppies at The Salty Dog Cafe are amazing, and totally worth the wait, so definitely make sure to order those.
If you’re dining in season, you can make a reservation for the sister restaurant, The Wreck of the Salty Dog (232 S Sea Pines Dr #116). The outdoor patio seating is worth the slightly overpriced entrees.
Now, keep in mind, if you’re dining here or at any of the other restaurants in The Sea Pines, you do have to pay the entrance fee. That’s why we suggest a few hours at the nature preserve at then dinner out here. If not, you’ll be paying the fee twice.
At the end of this post, we have a list of things to do at The Sea Pines Reserve so that you can do to kill a little time between enjoying the preserve and dinner.
The hot spot for nightlife on Hilton Head Island is known as “The Triangle” or the Barmuda Triangle aka Reilley’s Plaza (7D Greenwood Drive). It’s the perfect spot for a bar crawl, especially because the bars are located in the same plaza.
We spent a bit of time at the outdoor bar at Reilley’s Bar & Grill and watched sports on the televisions out there. There wasn’t any live music that night at The Boardroom, which is rare because there is late night music most nights there. It also boast the latest Happy Hour on the Island.
Hilton Head Brewing Company (1 Cardinal Rd #13) used to be located at Reilley’s Plaza, but moved a few years ago. If you haven’t been to HHI in a while, though, that’s worth noting.
The new location offers tours by appointment, so be sure to give them a call if you want to check out the brewery and cannery. If not, you can just stop by the tasting room for a pint.
Hilton Head Island is filled with tons of resorts and rentals, but we love The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa (2 Grasslawn Avenue). The hotel is really comfortable, the rooms are amazing, and the three pools can’t be beat. Plus, the hotel has late night bars that you can take advantage of and a private beach.
The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa has a great breakfast buffet with a fantastic omelet station that’s the perfect way to start the day.
You can’t leave the Island without doing some shopping. There are over 30 open air shopping plazas to check out.
While you’re out and about, be sure to stop by Branches in The Village at Wexford (1000 William Hilton Parkway E6). That’s where you’ll find Marche de Macaroons. Be sure to take home a dozen (especially the Banana Foster one. So good!).
Hilton Head Island Public Beach Access:
You can find public access for Hilton Head Island’s beach at the following locations:
- Alder Lane Beach Access (off South Forest Beach Drive)
- Burkes Beach Access (at the end of Burkes Beach Road)
- Chaplin Community Park (off of William Hilton Parkway)
- Coligny Beach Park (off Coligny Circle)
- Driessen Beach Park (at the end of Bradley Beach Road)
- Fish Haul Beach Park (off Beach City Road)
- Folly Field Beach Park (off Folly Field Road)
- Historical Mitchelville Freedom Park (at the end of Beach City Road)
- slanders Beach Park (off Folly Field Road).
There is a fee to park at most locations, but you can find free beach parking on Hilton Head Island at:
- Coligny Beach Park
- Fish Haul Beach Park
- Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park
Top Attractions & Things To Do On Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Of course we couldn’t fit everything into 24 hours. So below are a few of the top attractions on Hilton Head Island that didn’t fit into our post. Hope you can try and add them into your itinerary.
Coastal Discovery Museum
The Coastal Discovery Museum (70 Honey Horn Dr) is 68 acres of trails, gardens, and docks, plus access to a museum. It’s a Smithsonian affiliate, so admission is free although there is a fee for guided tours and activities.
Harbour Town is located in the Sea Pines Resort and is where the Salty Dog Cafe is. It’s a neighborhood in Hilton Head, filled with shopping and restaurants, right on the water. It’s a great place to spend the evening and get some souvenir shopping done.
Harbour Town Lighthouse
Within Harbour Town is the Harbour Town Lighthouse (149 Lighthouse Road), which is a really popular Hilton Head Island landmark. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse for $4.95 (kids are free). While you’re there, you’ll learn the history of the lighthouse, be able to check out Daufuskie Island and more.
Hilton Head Distillery
Hilton Head Distillery (14 Cardinal Rd) is Hilton Head’s first craft distillery. You can head over to the distillery for mixed drinks or to buy a bottle to bring home. But, what we love doing at a distillery is taking a tour. And you can do that here. For $15, you’ll get a tour, learn more about the distillery process, and get to try some samples.
Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse
The Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse (53 Leamington Ln), which is located in the Palmetto Dunes Resort, was built over 100 years ago. It’s the only historic lighthouse on the island, so it’s worth checking out. You can read all about the lighthouse’s history here.
The Sandbox – Interactive Children’s Museum
We don’t have kids, so The Sandbox (18A Pope Ave) was not on our to do list. But if you’re looking for something to do with kids, this interactive children’s museum is it. The museum, which was founded in 2005, is perfect for kids ages 8 and under.
Day Trips From Hilton Head Island:
If you’re staying in Hilton Head Island for an extended period, you might want to take a few day trips. A few places you visit, that are only a short road trip away, are: