Beach Alternatives

Sometimes the beach can get crowded, or you just want to try something new.  If you are staying on Hilton Head Island and are looking for a non-beach related activity, here are some ideas:

Sea Pines Forest Preserve – Also known as the Nature Preserve, this is a huge green space where you can enjoy quiet while looking at native plants and animals including alligators, Osprey, and if you are lucky an occasional Bald Eagle.  The entrance used to be difficult to find, but in 2021 they opened up a new road that makes it much more accessible.  Head south on 278, and keep going straight through the main traffic circle (like you are going to One Hot Mama’s, which, by the way, you should at some point).  You have to pay an entrance fee at the guardhouse, where you will also receive a map that shows how to get to the preserve.  Warning – there is a water treatment facility at the entrance to the park, so you might want to make sure your car windows are up as you enter.  The odor, if present, will not be detectable once you are inside the preserve.  Since you have paid for the day-pass, you might also consider visiting the….

Sea Pines Harbor Town and Lighthouse – A “must-see” if you are here for a week or more, this area has the famous Hilton Head lighthouse, a number of shops and restaurants, a playground for the kids, and a harbor usually filled with some very expensive looking yachts.  A number of tours leave from this harbor including dolphin watching, fishing, jet-ski, and parasailing.  This is also an excellent place to see the sunset, or try your luck crabbing off the pier.

Salty Dog Cafe and t-shirt Shop -See all those folks walking around in Salty Dog shirts?  This is probably where they got them.  Decent restaurant with mainly outside seating and a great view of the harbor.  Take in some of the other shops and the little ice cream window and you have yourselves an evening!

Coastal Discovery Museum & Honey Horn – Unfortunately, the museum had to store a number of its exhibits when it moved to its current location, but the area around Honey Horn is a significant upgrade over where it used to be – the parking lot of the Crazy Crab!  The museum and grounds are free, so walk through the old house that hosts the exhibits and then plan to spend most of your time exploring the grounds.  There is a very large camellia garden (blooming very early spring), overlooks into the marsh, a butterfly house, and even part of the Atlas V rocket booster!

Old Town Bluffton / Downtown District – Neat little downtown area just off the island, fun to walk around.  Some pretty good restaurants, and just 30 minutes from Captains Walk.  Search for a restaurant like Agave Sidebar to get GPS directions.  Some old homes and galeries as well – see the link to get more of an idea.  While there, don’t miss…

The Church of the Cross, Bluffton – A few blocks from the historic downtown (above) sits a church from the 1800’s.  Built in 1857 (next to a chapel built in 1842) this beautiful building is right on a bluff overlooking the May River.  A very peaceful place to relax and get away from the crowds.

Audubon Newhall Preserve – Here is a hidden gem!  This fairly small park is (50 acres) is at 55 Palmetto Bay Road.  As you leave Palmetto Dunes, turn left onto 278 and take the first exit at the traffic circle.  This is a free park, with walking trails, a pond, some benches, and many labeled plants for easy identification.  They also have weekly free guided tours led by a Master Birder – check the website for details and some beautiful photos.

Park Plaza Cinema – Yes, there are several theaters on the island, but this locally owned and special.  Great for rainy evenings (or matinee) you can also get a bite to eat.  Sometimes in the off season they offer discounts on certain days – check their website.

Dining – You could spend a year on Hilton Head and go to a different restaurant every day.  People tend to get their favorites and return year after year, and it is a given that if you tell someone about your upcoming trip to Hilton Head they will have a favorite restaurant that “you have to try.”  Not to be one of ‘those’ people, but we have picked out a few of our favorites.

Shelter Cove Veterans Memorial – A really nice park, sort of behind the Kroger (at 59 Shelter Cove Ln).  Very respectful memorial with a beautiful, not crowded park.  A great place to go to see sunsets and rabbits.

Miniature Golf – Good place to go when the beach is too crowded.  There are several locations right off of 278, but we recommend Pirate’s Island Golf, right about in the middle of the island.  The owner is super nice (and generous with free passes!) and keeps the place nice and clean.  Two courses, and you can read interesting facts about pirates as you play!