During Labor Day weekend, I got a taste of the east coast beach life by visiting Hilton Head Island. In my head, I couldn’t imagine the beaches on the east coast to be better than the beaches we had access to while living on the west coast. But a visit to Hilton Head Island completely changed my impression of east coast beaches. It made me feel less sad about being MILES away from Hawaii now. Here are 7 things to do at Hilton Head Island that’ll show you exactly what this paradise of an island is all about!
1. Bike on Hilton Head Beach
Along the southeast side of Hilton Head Island is a 12-mile stretch of sandy terrain makes up the island’s beaches. The sand on this beach is incredibly dense. It’s fun to walk on, and even funner to bike on. When visiting Hilton Head Island, biking on Hilton Head Beach is one of the top things you must do! There are many places you can rent bikes from on the island. Just use Google Maps to find a rental shop near you.
2. Eat Fresh Seafood
An island vacation isn’t complete without a taste of fresh seafood. If you’re a seafood lover like me, the abundance of fresh seafood restaurants on the island will make you love HHI even more. Here is a list of restaurants to check out for the best seafood on the island:
One of the most popular restaurants for Seafood on the island, Hudson’s, is also one of the oldest. With all that time it’s easy to see how they have perfected the art of serving delicious seafood cuisine. According to Yelp, some of their most popular menu items include Crab Cakes, Crab Soup, Fried Shrimp, and Blackened Shrimp.
If you’re lucky, you may also spot Charlie, an alligator that rose to fame by showing up with a shark in his mouth in the waters next to Hudson’s outdoor dining area. If you thought LA was where people went to spot celebrities, think again.
Skull Creek Boathouse
Right next to Hudson’s is another popular seafood restaurant: Skull Creek Boathouse. The restaurant is situated at a Lakefront and offers stunning views especially at sunset. They also have live music from time to time – call to find out what the latest performance schedule is!
Wanderer Tip: The restaurant does not take reservations and there is often a long wait. Come about an hour to two hours before sunset and snag a seat in the outdoor dining area. The outdoor patio is the best way to enjoy all that Skull Creek has to offer!
The Sea Shack
If you’re looking for a more casual place to dine on Hilton Head Island, the Sea Shack is a great choice. Things you can find on their menu include Alligator (I know!), Popcorn Shrimp, Fried Scallops and an Oyster Po’ Boy. For a seafood lover like me who wants as much variety as possible, the Sea Shack is literal heaven!
We visited The Sea Shack on two occasions and there was a line both times. However the line moves reasonably fast so don’t be discouraged and be sure to check this place out to get your seafood fix.
For More Seafood…
I don’t know about you, but to me enjoying Southern seafood is one of the best things to do on Hilton Head Island. In addition to the restaurants above, every year, Hilton Head Island also hosts a Seafood Festival that will give seafood aficionados the ultimate dining experience.
There’s also always the option of cooking your own seafood. Barnacle Bill’s Fresh Seafood Market is the place to go for fresh ingredients that can be turned into a delicious homemade feast.
3. Visit the Stoney-Baynard Ruins
Just because Hilton Head Island is #retirementgoals doesn’t mean it’s not also rich in history and culture. The Stoney-Baynard Ruins is a particularly good spot to get a glimpse of what life used to be like for plantation owners on the island.
Located in the Sea Pines Preserve, the Stoney-Baynard Ruins consists of remains of the main Stoney-Baynard residence and a few slave courters scattered throughout. The buildings are well-preserved and you can see the hundreds of thousands of shells that make up much of the home’s exterior. It’s both a historical and architectural wonder.
4. Take a Walk in the Sea Pines Preserve
Once you’re done admiring the Stoney-Baynard Ruins, find a trailhead within the Sea Pines Preserve and explore the rest of the area by foot or bike. The trails are mostly shaded and you may even see some interesting wildlife along your stroll. Alligator, anyone?
5. Hit Up a Driving Range
Although I enjoyed the last two times I hit up the driving range – once on the Big Island of Hawaii and once in Long Beach -both times I also learned how difficult of a sport it is. So when I found out golf was a popular thing to do on Hilton Head Island, I began researching for beginner-friendly driving ranges.
Beginner-friendly driving ranges were actually quite difficult to come by while we were just wandering around on the island. After some research, I discovered the Hilton Head driving range facility and the Palmetto Dunes’ Robert Trent Jones practice facility that both seemed promising golfing spots for beginners like myself. Read more about the facilities here.
6. Daifuskie Island
Don’t play golf but dream of driving around in a golf cart? Well you’re in luck…because golf carts are the main mode of transportation on Daifuskie Island!
One of the coolest things to do on Hilton Head Island is to take the ferry to another island. I mean where else can you do that in the U.S. besides Hawaii? There’s plenty to do on Daifuskie Island too. Kayaking, visiting baby goats at the Daifuskie Island Community Farm. and admiring local artists’ work at Iron Fish Art are all popular activities that cover a range of interests.
7. Day Trip to Savannah
Since Hilton Head Island is quite small – it’s just 69 square miles – take a break from the isle life by day tripping to Savannah, Georgia. Savannah is only an hour’s drive from Hilton Head Island, and is one of the most picturesque cities you will ever visit. If you decide to take a day trip to Savannah, here are a few things you can do:
Buy Local Produce from Forsyth Farmer’s Market
Forsyth Farmer’s Market happens every Saturday from 9-1pm and is located in the beautiful Forsyth Park. It’s worth visiting the market just to see the park that’s filled with beautiful fountains and statues.
People often bring their dogs to the market and park, so it’s also a great spot to dog watch. Peaches, nuts, and honey are just some of the things you can buy from Forsyth Farmer’s Market. There’s also events from time to time. For example, the Savannah Jazz Festival takes place in the park every September.
Get Coffee at Franklin’s
A trip wouldn’t be complete without a cup of local coffee. The moment I arrived in Savannah, I was on the hunt for the best coffee shop. That’s when I came across Franklin’s, a coffee shop situated in a European style white and black building.
Upon walking in, it’s hard not to notice the checkered floors, brass details and the white brick walls that form the space. It felt like I had momentarily teleported to Paris.
I ordered an iced lavender latte and it just hit the spot for me!
Brunch at Fox and Fig Cafe
Okay. I don’t think I have had better vegan food! Fox and Fig Cafe’s brunch was so good that my parents couldn’t even tell that the cheese part of the Mac & Cheese was made entirely from cashew.
Brunching at Fox and Fig Cafe got me curious about all the other great restaurants in the city. I wish I had more time to explore!
Admire the 19th Century Architecture
Savannah is FILLED with colorful architecture that take inspiration from 18th and 19th century style buildings. Plus, there isn’t just one type of architecture – you can find Federal, Georgian, Gothic Revival, Greek Revival, Italianate, and more architecture styles all within the city of Savannah.
To get an in depth view of the architectural landscape in the city, book an Architectural Tour and learn all about how the buildings came to be.
Hilton Head Island is a Well-Kept East Coast Secret
From chilling at the beach to experiencing the Lowcountry lifestyle in Savannah, there are so many things to do on Hilton Head Island.
We spent four days there and it was the perfect amount of time. I got to see most of the island in 2 days, visited Savannah for the for a day, and relaxed at the beach and did some work the last day we were there. The island made me feel so calm it reminded me of the times I visited Hawaii while I was still living in San Francisco.
Whether you’re a golfer or a beach lover, Hilton Head Island has something for everyone. If you live on the U.S. east coast, getting to Hilton Head is likely a short flight from your home city too!
Save this pin for later!