or an increasing number of people, Hilton Head has become their own personal slice of paradise. Largely this is because even though there is an abundance of shopping, resorts and hotels, dining and things to do, the place has managed to maintain the natural beauty and laid back ambiance of the Lowcountry.
Generally called simply Hilton Head, this is a Lowcountry resort town located on an island of the same name at the extreme southern end of South Carolina in Beaufort County. It is 20 miles (32 km) north of Savannah, Georgia, and 95 miles (153 km) south of Charleston. The island gets its name from Captain William Hilton. In 1663, Captain Hilton identified a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, which he named “Hilton’s Head” after himself.
Located at the extreme southern end of the state of South Carolina, Hilton Head’s original inhabitants have made the island their home for generations with land passed down to them since the end of slavery. This is the Gullah culture, a proud heritage with African roots, descendants of enslaved Africans from various ethnic groups of west and central Africa. These are the “bin yah’s” (“been here”, a Gullah term) who have played an important role in HH’s past and still maintain a strong voice.
Other residents began visiting and living on the Island during the 20th century before the bridge to the Island was built. These residents reared families there and have also seen the Island develop. These two groups together are the “Native Islanders” .
And then there are the rest of us, the new residents and visitors to Hilton Head Island — the “come yah’s”, who began to discover it in the 1960s. It is the “come ya’s” who have made tourism the Island’s number one economic engine and turned it into a happening place.
According to the Hilton Head Chamber of Commerce, Hilton Head Island’s forty-two square miles are “lapped by the gentle waters of the Atlantic, edged with breathtaking ivory beaches and surrounded by fertile salt marshes of spartina grass.
“And on this raw canvas of striking natural beauty, man has added a few flourishes of his own. More than 40 area golf courses. Hundreds of tennis courts. And a wide range of beautiful hotels, homes and villa accommodations. Enjoy an afternoon eco-adventure or historic tour, or take in a show sponsored by our active arts community. Year-round festivals bring you the best of the Island, or you might prefer a relaxing afternoon in one of the area museums. Not to mention charming yacht harbors, sophisticated shops and galleries, and restaurants that would be the envy of any big city– with a warm welcome that’s uniquely our own.” http://www.hiltonheadchamber.com
With 12 miles of beaches you’ll have plenty of opportunity for sunning, walking, people watching, fishing and lots of relaxing. At low tide, the broad beaches are also great for bike riding.
The people of HH have done a remarkable job of maintaining its natural beauty and ecological richness in the face of this ?rush of tourism. It has a gentle climate and pristine marshes that harbor an incredible variety of wildlife, and the Island people protect this bounty fiercely. There are dolphins and alligators. Loggerhead turtles. Sand dollars and starfish, lobsters and oysters. Eagles and ospreys. And this great natural beauty, in turn, has attracted a number of artists of all types, who return the favor by presenting a wealth of art: galleries, museums, live theater, and music that reaches from a symphony orchestra to jazz to blues– year-round.
Die-hard shoppers need not feel left out, either: Hilton Head Island is a treasure-trove of fashionable shops, sophisticated galleries, and wonderful plazas and malls waiting to be discovered. More than 300 shops are sprinkled from one end of the Island to the other, clustered in intimate plazas, quaint marinas or large shopping centers. There’s even a mall and several upscale outlet centers offering designer namebrands at significant savings.
Did you say golf? Well, everyone knows about the famous golf courses here and the game is played with gusto year round. The greatest names in golf are here– Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arthur Hills, Tom and George Fazio, and Island resident Clyde Johnston. At last count, there were more than 40 courses to satisfy every taste from professional to the most callow novice.
And bring the family. Kids are not only welcome here, there is so much for them to do that you may have to make an appointment to see them– and then only briefly when they’re on their way to the next fun thing. From babies to teens, there is something appropriate and wonderful for all age groups!
Disney built on a secluded 15-acre island in Shelter Cove Harbour, across a bridge from HH proper. Guests here will enjoy studios, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom cottage-style villas reminiscent of a 1940s hunting and fishing lodge, tucked along the shore among hundred-year-old oaks.
The studios have mini-kitchens with a half-size refrigerator, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, sink, and generous counter space and cabinets. The larger villas include complete kitchens with full-size appliances, as well as washer and dryer. Those staying in studios may use the complimentary laundry room near the main building.
Resort amenities include a themed pool area including a children’s pool; fishing pier; and recreational programs for children, teens, adults, and families. Minutes away, an exclusive 13,000-square-foot beach house, located on 3.5 acres, features a pool and snack bar overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and enclosed living room-style relaxation area. Recreation, dining, and shopping opportunities are also nearby.
This is an Interval International-affiliated Premier Resort, top of the line all the way. With only 123 rooms, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is the smallest Disney resort and is very popular, so make sure to secure your exchange early!
The thing about a Disney Resort is that there isn’t much to really say. Disney’s reputation for excellence precedes them in their endeavors, so before you even visit you know this resort and its amenities and its staff will be first class. And they are— a perfect fit for a first-class Island.
Some Web sites to explore for more information:
- http://www.hhisland.com/ –The official Hilton Head Island information guide
- http://www.hiltonheadisland.org/ –Everything about Hilton Head
- http://www.hhidirect.com/ –Vacation rentals
- http://www.ultimategullah.com/ –About the Gullah culture
- http://www.islandpacket.com/ –The local newspaper
- http://www.discoversouthcarolina.com/ –South Carolina’s Official Travel Site
"On the Road" is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
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