Hilton Head Island is in South Carolina, just across the border from Savannah, Georgia. With an approximate population of 33,000, it is on a beautiful, semi-tropical 12 mile barrier island. Hilton Head Island is a vacation playland with famous beaches and great golf courses that overlook the Atlantic Ocean.
US Route 278 is the only road on and off the island. An interchange with Interstate 95 is along US 278 about 40 minutes west of the island. Between the island and I-95, US 278 intersects with South Carolina Route 170, which provides access to and from Beaufort and Savannah.
Hilton Head Island is served by two airports.
- Hilton Head Island Airport (IATA: HHH) is the only airport on the island. American Airlines operates flights to Charlotte year round. A majority of the airport's operations are still general aviation.
- Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (IATA: SAV) is about an hour away from the island and served by seven airlines. The airport is directly connected to Interstate 95.
Air taxi and air charter companies such as Jetset Charter fly a variety of private charter aircraft, such as pistons and turbo props, for small groups and individuals into Hilton Head Island Airport (KHXD). Generally, private jet aircraft must fly into Savannah/Hilton Head Int'l (KSAV).
Once entering the island, US 278 becomes known as the William Hilton Parkway. After traveling about a mile on the island, the road splits in two. William Hilton Parkway continues as US 278 Business, a surface road around the eastern end of the island. US 278 Business is a four-lane divided highway, but most businesses on the island are along the road, making for a slow, 25-to-30-minute drive to the southern end of the island. US 278 itself branches off onto the Cross Island Parkway, a grade-separated expressway. The Cross Island Parkway is a toll road, costing $1.25 for most passenger cars. The parkway reduces the journey from the split to the south end of the island to five minutes. Both US 278 and US 278 Business terminate at the Sea Pines Circle at the south end of the island. From this circle, cars can continue south on Greenwood Drive to enter the gated Sea Pines plantation, or east on Pope Avenue to head towards Coligny Beach, the major public beach on the island.
Hilton Head is quite cycling-friendly. All main roads and most major roads in the resort plantations have a companion bicycle path, and there are a few miles of paths that cut their own trail away from the roads. Although not lit for night riding, they are the perfect way to traverse the island during the day time hours. Bicycle rental stores are plentiful, although they may be expensive.
Along with the convenience of bicycle travel, however, come a few rules to be followed. The most important rule, as with most bicycle path systems, is that cars always have the right of way when crossing the street. All bicycles are expected to stop and yield to cars at all street crossings. Most crossings have bicycle-sized stop signs and painted stop lines to remind riders of this fact. Bicycles may cross only when the street is clear or a car stops and yields the right of way. Riders are also expected to ride on the right side of the paths. Some golf courses may open up their cart paths to bicycles during non-playing hours (in the morning and at night), but other than this it is generally not a good idea to stray off the paths.
- Harbour Town. Visit to see how the upper class lives. Admire the multi-million dollar yachts in many different marinas and sailing in the Atlantic Ocean.
- Jenkins Island. Right between the bridges from Bluffton to Hilton Head Island.
- Shelter Cove. The Island's largest deepwater marina. During the summer enjoy live music and weekly fireworks.
- Biking. The Hilton Head Island area features over 25 crossing bike paths and many locations offer bike rentals.
- Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center. Regarded as one of the best in “The 50 Greatest U.S Tennis Resorts” by Tennis Magazine, this resort offers 25 courts, instructional programs, and tournaments.
- Beaches - Nearly 9 miles of Atlantic Ocean surf and beautiful beaches, all publicly accessible. There are several public parks that provide beach access. From there, you can walk or bike the length of the island. Recommended spots are South Beach, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort area.
- Golf Courses - There are almost too many to count. Among the best:** Harbour Town Golf Links - While it has one of the most expensive greens fees in the Hilton Head area, here you can play the same course as the pros, as Harbour Town hosts the Heritage (currently the Verizon Heritage) golf tournament every April. Among the best public golf courses is Hilton Head National in Bluffton one mile from the bridge to Hilton Head. Greens fees and rates are very affordable for all.
- George Fazio Golf Course. Designed by the revered golf designer, George Fazio, this 18 hole course is the only par-70 course on Hilton Head Island.
- Arthur Hills Golf Course. Ranked 4.5 by Fodor’s Golf Digest, this course takes advantage of the natural beauty of Hilton Head Island’s marshland and ocean surroundings.
- Robert Trent Jones Course. Recently renovated in 2002 for $3 million, Golfweek readers regard this course as one of the best in the region. This course was named 2003 Golf Course of the Year by South Carolina Board of Directors of the NGCOA.
- Bottle-nosed dolphins - Take a boat tour. Seeing dolphins is virtually guaranteed; getting a good picture of one is another matter.
- Island Explorer, 101 Marshland Rd, ☎ . Dolphin and Nature Boat Cruises
- Palmetto Dunes Outfitters. Offers boat, kayak, canoe, surf board, and various other watersport equipment rentals. Palmetto Dunes Outfitters also offers instructional programs for watersports like kayaking and surfing.
Ask some service employees for their recommendations for great Hilton Head restaurants. Well-known or busy does not necessarily mean good food. Coupons and menus are available in local tourism magazines.
To get started:
- HH Prime, 23 Ocean Ln (in Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort at Palmetto Dunes), ☎ . Provides beachside dining with culinary flair including USDA Prime Grade beef selections and fresh seafood along with decadent dessert creations, serving up classics like New York Strip to a savory Filet. For a lighter fare, enjoy island seafood. The grand interior and exterior fireplaces, dinner hour music, and the island's ultimate wine room, offering the island's largest collection -- more than 100 selections.
- Kenny B's, Circle Center (Bi-Lo), Pope Avenue. New Orleans-style cuisine. Great for lunch.
- Amigo's, Circle Center (Bi-Lo), Pope Avenue. Great burritos and BBQ Grilled Chicken salad.
- Kurama, Island Crossing (Publix, Walgreens), Palmetto Bay Road. Great Japanese Steakhouse. Pricey.
- Santa Fe Cafe, Plantation Center (near entrance to Palmetto Dunes), William Hilton Parkway. Mexican/American. Nice lunch combos. Try the Painted Desert Soup. If you're feeling flush (and haven't eaten for two days), the Cowboy cut rib of Aberdeen Angus beef takes some beating.
- British Open Pub, Village at Wexford, near intersection of William Hilton Parkway and Arrow Road. Excellent overall menu.
- The Sea Shack, Executive Park Road, off Pope Avenue. Tasty seafood, cheap prices.
- Sunrise Cafe, Palmetto Bay Marina, south end of the Cross Island. Great breakfasts.
- Woody's, Palmetto Bay Marina, south end of the Cross Island. Tasty and generally fairly priced with a nice atmosphere.
- Kingfisher Seafood & Steak House, 11 Heritage Rd, ☎ .
- The Quarterdeck and Topside at the Quarterdeck, +1 843 671-2222. Great views of Harbour Town, fantastic sunsets and outstanding food and service.
- Tapas Restaurant, 11 Northridge Plaza, +1 843 681-8590. Cozy locals place. Incredible food.
- Alexanders, take the entrance to Palmetto Dunes and it's further down on the right. Popular seafood restaurant, but also does a great fillet mignon.
- Stacks, past the entrance to Palmetto Dunes on William Hilton Parkway in the direction of Sea Pines. Excellent for breakfast, diner-style, fast, friendly service. Be prepared to queue if you're not an early riser.
- Jump & Phil's Bar & Grill, 7B Greenwood Dr, ☎ . Local bar and grill used mainly by locals. Seen "Cheers", well thats says it all. GREAT Burgers.
- Salty Dog Cafe, 232 South Sea Pines Dr, ☎ . 11AM-10PM. Outdoor cafe that is especially popular with tourists. It's in the gated Sea Pines resort plantation, so you must pay $5 at the visitor's center to get in if you are not renting in the plantation. On the back of the temporary pass is a map to guide you to the area of the restaurant. Live music plays most nights in the summer. As with most restaurants on the island during the summer, you must arrive around 5:45-6PM if you don't want to wait for a table. After that time, the wait usually jumps to 30-45 minutes and slowly increases from there. This is especially true for popular restaurants such as the Salty Dog. A t-shirt from the accompanying store is a common souvenir. $10-$20.
- Jump and Phil's, Hilton Head Plaza. Islands local watering hole.
- Frosty Frog, Coligny Plaza, ☎ . Frozen drinks
Being such a popular vacation destination, Hilton Head has many lodging choices. There are several hotels on the island, however a great and widespread accommodation alternative is the vacation rental. Vacation rentals are available in many types, from large condo buildings to quaint homes, new and old.
- Comfort Inn Hilton Head, 2 Tanglewood Dr, ☎ , fax: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. This hotel is located on six acres of wooded land and surrounded by three lagoons.
- Crowne Plaza Resort, 130 Shipyard Dr, ☎ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 12PM. A beachfront hotel located in the gated Shipyard Plantation, on the south end of the island. Also serves buffets at Brellas Café and fresh seafood at Portz restaurant. High Season rates, approximately $150-250/night.
- Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort, 23 Ocean Ln, ☎ . The hotel features 324 rooms with full mini-kitchens. Two in-resort restaurants plus a pool/beach bar serving hot snacks/lunches. In November 2012, the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort began a multi-phase renovation. It includes enhancing the front entrance & lobby, revitalized spa facilities, new resort swimming pools with poolside bar, additional dining deck and courtyards with ocean views, and updated meeting facilities. The Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort is a condominium hotel featuring 937 feet of Atlantic Ocean beachfront property located on 13 acres in Palmetto Dunes Resort. It is sold through Dunes Securities [dead link].
- Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, toll-free: . A family-friendly oceanfront resort featuring private home and villa rentals, and offering three public championship golf courses, 25 tennis courts, and various outdoor activities.
- The Sea Pines Resort, 32 Greenwood Dr, toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Check out the gators! Seasonal rates, approximately $200-300/night.
- 1 Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa, One Hotel Circle, ☎ . Check-in: 4:00 PM, check-out: 11:00 AM. Full service resort featuring updated guest rooms, luxury spa, and 3 golf courses.