What, do you ask, are the best things to do in Hilton Head Island? This remote jewel of the Lowcountry beckons with its sublime beauty and captivating allure. A visit to this island transports unsuspecting travelers to a world where nature's symphony echoes in every whispering breeze and tidal rhythm.
Hilton Head's storied past, intertwined with tales of Gullah traditions and Southern heritage, adds depth to its enchantment, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in a tapestry of history and culture. Amidst the island's verdant golf courses, vibrant cuisine, and warm hospitality, one discovers an island that whispers stories of resilience, connection, and the simple joys of life.
Let’s see why 2.5 million people and counting follow the magnetic pull of Hilton Head Island each year, with an overview of the best things to do in Hilton Head Island.
Go To The Beach
What's one of the best things to do in Hilton Head when you first arrive? Make your way to the beach, of course! Hilton Head Island is renowned for its beautiful beaches. Spend a day relaxing on the sandy shores of Burkes Beach, swimming in the ocean at Driessen Beach Park, or indulging in water sports like kayaking, paddle-boarding, or jet skiing. Nature lovers will want to keep an eye out for wildlife while strolling along the beach, as Head Island is home to a variety of bird species, including pelicans, herons, and sandpipers. You might also spot dolphins playing in the surf or nesting sea turtles (during nesting season).
Otherwise, how about a pick-up game of beach volleyball? Many public beaches on Hilton Head Island, including the award-winning Coligny Beach Park, have volleyball nets set up, providing an opportunity for friendly games with family and friends. Gather a group and enjoy a fun-filled volleyball match on the sand, then fire up the BBQ pit at one of several grills and shaded picnic areas scattered along the beach access points.
Visit Harbour Town
Located in Sea Pines Resort, Harbour Town is a charming waterfront village featuring a famous lighthouse, boutique shops, restaurants, and live entertainment. Don't miss the picturesque views of the Calibogue Sound from the 90-foot-tall red-and-white striped lighthouse, where you can get a glimpse of other fun happenings that occur throughout the year.
A visit to Harbour Town is also one of the best things to do in Hilton Head with kids – its interactive playground boasts a carousel and a host of nature programs at the nearby Coastal Discovery Museum. If a shopping spree is at the top of your agenda, a trip to Harbour Town is one of the best things to do in Hilton Head Island. There, you’ll find eclectic gifts, coastal jewelry and apparel, and local artwork at more than 20 boutiques.
Go On A Dolphin-Watching Tour
Playing with dolphins is one of the best things to do in Hilton Head! Did you know that the Island is home to a large population of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins? Take a dolphin-watching tour at any time of the year to witness these intelligent creatures in their natural habitat. Several tour operators offer boat excursions to get up close and personal with dolphins and other marine life.
On your tour, your knowledgeable guides will combine education and fun! Laugh as the dolphins leap and surf the bow waves by the boat – if you’re lucky, you might get to watch dolphin stranding behavior. In this natural phenomenon, a pod of dolphins will rush a school of fish against the shore and devour them before wriggling their way back into the water. A sunset dolphin-watching tour is one of the most romantic things to do in Hilton Head Island.
Explore Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife sanctuary is a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Walk or bike along the trails and observe a diverse range of bird species, alligators, deer, and other wildlife. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can expect to observe bald eagles, herons, ospreys, and other local birds. The refuge occasionally offers nature photography workshops to learn how to capture these stunning creatures mid-flight.
The Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge’s waters are also a coveted fishing spot where anglers can fish, and families can try their hand at crabbing. There are various picnic areas where you and your kids can enjoy a lunch between biking, hiking, and enjoying quality time in a pristine setting. If you're looking for more remote fun, a trek to Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge is one of the best things to do in Hilton Head Island.
Go Kayaking On The Saltmarsh
There are so many sweet spots to launch your kayak or paddleboard around Hilton Head. Glide through the calm waters of the Broad Creek, with its many tributaries, where you can additionally access the Shelter Cove Marina and its shops and restaurants. Skull Creek, on the other hand, has a reputation for its incredible sunsets, and the Skull Creek Boathouse is one of the best restaurants in Hilton Head Island.
If you’d prefer a completely freshwater experience, the Palmetto Dunes Lagoon is the place to go. Located in the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort – one of the best hotels in Hilton Head – the area also allows patrons to rent electric boats or pedal boats. Alternatively, try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding; the calmer fresh waters are ideal for learning how to balance while taking in the glorious scenery. Whether you kayak, pedal, or paddle, exploring the tributaries and channels are one of the best things to do in Hilton Head Island for those hoping to get in a workout.
Bring Out Your Inner Child At Adventure Hilton Head
Calling all Lowcountry thrill-seekers – do we have an exciting adrenaline rush in store for you! Bring your whole crew to Adventure Hilton Head for an entire day of fun-filled adventures; this venue is easily one of the best things to do in Hilton Head with kids. Start off racing in circles on the go-kart course before making your way through the aerial adventure high ropes courses, where you can swing and climb your way through more than 50 challenging obstacles!
Afterward, take in some of the best views of Hilton Head Island while whirring from canopy to canopy across seven ziplines. There’s even a built-in spiral staircase among the trees and a 900-foot-long dual-racing zipline finale!
Take A Day Trip To Daufuskie Island
Accessible only by boat, a day trip to Daufuskie Island offers a remote escape for those looking for something more off the beaten path. You can book an hour-long ferry ride that takes off from Buckingham Landing and glides through the Calibogue Sound. A trip to Daufuskie Island is easily one of the best things to do in Hilton Head — be prepared to take lots of photos!
Once you’re on the island, you can choose from culinary, historic, and recreational attractions. Historic landmarks like the First Union African Baptist Church and Daufuskie Island School offer a window into Gullah-Geechee culture, while a trove of interesting artifacts at the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation and Museum will transport you back in time to the early days of Hilton Head’s development.