Hilton Head is a town in the Lowcountry of South Carolina nestled in Beaufort County. This 12-mile long, foot-shaped island off the coast of the Atlantic is named after Captain William Hilton. In 1663, he led an expedition in the Port Royal Sound before self-naming the area as a navigational landmark for sailors. I’d be remiss to not acknowledge the rich history of the historic Gullah community, as well. The land truly belongs to them. While the cozy island has around 40,000 year-round residents, they receive upwards of 3 million visitors every year. Notable nearby cities include Savannah, Bluffton, Palmetto Bluff, and Charleston.
HHI is hands-down my favorite place in the world. My family and I have traveled there consistently for 13 years and counting. It has always felt like a second home, and I find myself tearing up every time I have to leave the island. I promise: if you travel there, you will not regret it! Before you consider touring the island, read this guide containing helpful nuggets for your travels.
- When to go
Obviously, Hilton Head’s peak tourism season falls in the summer months of June, July, and August. While everyone loves a good beach vacation during summertime, the island is always popping throughout those three months. Here’s a little tip: three weeks to avoid traveling to HHI are the weeks directly before, during, and after the Fourth of July. Celebratory fireworks, impeccable seafood dinners, and gorgeous sunset cruises attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, consistently pushing Hilton Head to nearly 90% capacity every year during the nation’s birth-week. The best time to travel for comfortable temperatures and less traffic are April, May, September, and October.
- What to pack
If you’re like me, you pack way too much every time you leave the house. Whether you’re gone for a weekend getaway or week-long excursion, here are a few essentials for your trip to the island:
· bathing suits
· a cover up
· a towel
· sunglasses and a sun hat (if that’s your jam)
· sunscreen *No-Ad from Walmart is the best
· a speaker for your vaca jams
· a beach chair
· your favorite beach bag
· a few cute outfits *keep in mind you won’t need many because you’ll be at the beach all day! Aim for breezy and comfy items
· a cardigan for those chilly indoor restaurants
· a sundress or two to throw on before hitting the town
· accessories galore
· a few pairs of shoes *don’t forget something comfy for hikes, bike rides, and long walks!
· some room in your suitcase for souvenirs *thank me later!
- Who to support
Hilton Head Islanders are great people. The majority of residents are friendly – even to their millions of visitors. It’s easy to locate big names and business across the island with flashy signage and Groupon discounts, but spending several summers there has opened my eyes to a multitude of small business owners who deserve recognition. Here are a few of my favorite entrepreneurs on the island that you need to visit:
· Captain Megan from Island Time Charters *I miss you and can’t wait to see you again!
- Where to wine and dine
I’ve got to admit: I’m a foodie. The highlight of my travels typically include delicious meals that my family and I share. Although I’ve acquired too many favorite places, there are three restaurants and three shops that stand out year after year. Here’s a list and short summary of 6 must-stops for your enjoyment.
· The Jazz Corner – the coolest joint in town featuring creative meals and world-class jazz
· Nunzio Restaurant and Bar – Italian cuisine with immaculate deserts and exceptional hospitality *Shout out to Remy, the best waiter in history!
· Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks – the freshest local seafood on the island supplemented with hush puppies instead of bread for the table
· Jamaican Me Crazy at Coligny – for my fellow gypsy souls
· The Nash Gallery at Shelter Cove – for something artsy and hand-made
· Gifted Hilton Head at The Village at Wexford – for unique and adorable HHI knick-knacks