Hilton Head will always be a special place for my family. In the early 1970s, my grandparents bought a beautiful southern house in the area and we have been enjoying trips there as a family ever since that time.
When I was a child, we would load up a car of beach toys, suitcases, and snacks and make the drive down south from our home in Ohio. The long drive was always the most difficult part of the trip because my sisters and I were always so antsy with anticipation. But once we settled pulled into town, we would immediately settle down to relax, feeling immediately at home next to the crashing waves and salty air.
Hilton Head is not only a sentimental place for me, but it is also a place where I have created some of my best memories. Over my last trip to the island, for which I was there for a family wedding, I created a travel guide to Hilton Head, specifically in The Sea Pines Resort. There is always plenty to do, day and night, for both kids and adults in the area – you really can’t go wrong! Hilton Head is a great place for families, but hopefully this friendly guide will make your trip just a little bit easier and more relaxed.
Where is Hilton Head?
Hilton Head is a barrier island located off the coast of South Carolina. It’s home to all kinds of wildlife and boasts a significant historical past. It is located near both Savannah and Charleston and has its own airport, which makes it a popular destination for families during the spring and summer.
My family typically stays in The Sea Pines Resort, which spans the southern third of the island. The resort is known for its private beaches, golf courses, restaurants, shops, bike trails, and harbors. Visitors can stay in one of Sea Pines many rental properties, hotels, or condos, or buy a pass to visit for a day.
Where to go and what to do on Hilton Head Island
Harbour Town Bakery & Café
A day of fun in the sun should always start with a good breakfast. The Harbour Town Bakery & Café is a small restaurant that offers both breakfast and lunch options. It is located in a historical building that matches the local scenery, and is across from the Gregg Russell Harbour Town Playground. There is seating both indoors and outdoors, and they offer food to go.
I recommend the Orange Cranberry Muffin for something light, or the Golden French Toast for those who want a bigger meal in the morning. As for lunch, the Build Your Own Deli Sandwich and Quesadilla are easy to eat and delicious.
The Harbour Town Bakery & Café tends to get pretty busy at the normal breakfast and lunch times, but the line always moves fast and the service is always great. After a nice lunch or breakfast, I definitely recommend stopping by the rest of Harbour Town to see the boats, shops, and activities on the pier.
The Salty Dog
The Salty Dog has become a well-known spot on Hilton Head, and for good reason! It is located on the South Beach Marina, and offers both lunch and dinner options. It’s family-friendly, has a kid’s menu for little ones, amd offers plenty of seafood options. Though, if you’re not a seafood fan, they offer several southern-style dishes that are absolutely delicious, too.
I love Jake’s Hushpuppies and their Chicken Strip Basket, both are fried to perfection. For dinner, the Jambalaya Pasta was a big hit amongst my family- although I will warn you that it is a little spicy.
Again, after enjoying lunch or dinner, I recommend visiting the rest of the marina. There are many great stores and sites, including some beautiful scenes for photos with family or friends. The Salty Dog has two stores that sell shirts, jackets, hats, and more with their signature logo and, as an added bonus, The Salty Dog T-Shirt Factory is home to two parrots that live inside and outside, and will chat with you if you’re lucky.
The Quarter Deck
For those looking for a more formal and quiet evening, I recommend The Quarter Deck for dinner. The restaurant is located in Harbour Town, and the view of the boats and ocean is wonderful- especially at sunset. The Quarter Deck also offers a lunch menu, and I recommend sitting outside during lunchtime for the best views of the boats coming and leaving the harbor.
I had the Grilled Steak Salad, which had a beautiful arrangement of colors and flavors. The fried goat cheese included introduced a southern element to the salad that I couldn’t turn down. The restaurant also offers a wide-variety of dinner options, including a selection of fish and steak that are absolutely delicious.
Also located in Harbour Town, the Links is a great option for dinner. The restaurant is located in a newly built building right on the golf course and has many elements of southern interior design and architecture. The Links offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I definitely recommend their dinner menu the most.
For appetizers, the Links Stout Beer-Battered Onion Rings are a great take on the standard onion ring and the Grilled Peach Salad is full of southern charm. For your entrée, I’d definitely go with the Filet, which was beautifully cooked and plated. As a side, the Creamed Spinach was a fan-favorite amongst my family.
Sadly, I haven’t had the chance to explore much of their dessert menu, but I did try the Colossal New York Cheesecake. It’s served with a perfectly created strawberry compote, which paired deliciously with the cheesecake.
My grandmother, a local to Hilton Head for many years, always loved Truffles. The restaurant is located in Sea Pines, but away from the hustle and bustle of visitors. She enjoyed the atmosphere and interior decorations of the restaurant and the wine menu– of course!
I recommend the Tomato Dill Soup for a starter and the Filet or Salmon for entrée. The filet is beautifully prepared and comes with onion straws on top, and is served with mashed potatoes and a seasonal vegetable. The salmon is topped with a vibrant mango chutney and is also served with mashed potatoes and veggies on the side.
The restaurant has a small gift shop, or market, that sells different eclectic clothing, toys, and knick-knacks that’s worth checking out, too. It’s a fun addition to the restaurant, and I definitely recommend popping in after a nice meal.
Salty Dog Ice Cream
After a long day of biking, swimming, or golfing, my family loves to stop by South Beach to grab a cone of ice cream. Salty Dog Ice Cream offers an extensive variety of flavors that are sure to get your sweet tooth going.
I love the standard Cookie Dough flavor, but my sister (who is more adventurous) tried a Horchata Sorbet which is new to the menu. For kids, Cake Batter is always a hit. They offer both dairy and non-dairy options, so there is plenty to try for everyone.
Like all tropical destinations, Hilton Head offers plenty of options for outdoor activities. The natural landscape is one of the best features of the island, and it is the perfect excuse to soak in some vitamin D.
The best parts of Sea Pines are always the pristine and beautiful beaches. Guests have access to the private beaches through bike paths and beach clubs, which are a little bit quieter and more relaxed than the public beaches on the island. One of my favorite things to do is pack up my bike for the day and ride until I find a bike path to the sea. It’s fun to enjoy the journey and to get my blood pumping a bit early in the day!
Sea Pines is home to several cherry red trolleys, and they offer the perfect transportation around the island. The trolleys stop at Harbour Town, the South Beach Marina, the Plantation Golf Club, and most other places you may want to visit during your stay. The trolley service is complimentary and an iconic part of Sea Pines.
Biking is an integral part of Hilton Head culture. Guests can bring their own bikes, or you can rent them from one of the many rental companies on the island. Condos, villas, or houses occasionally will include the rental fees for bikes, too.
There are bike paths to almost every destination around the island, which makes it the easiest mode of transportation. The paths in Sea Pines are lit and paved well, which makes biking safe for the whole family. The Harbour Town loop is a great path that gives a scenic tour of Sea Pines, including the architecture of surrounding houses and the natural environment- there might even be alligators relaxing on the banks of the ponds!
Visit the Lighthouse
At the center of all the hustle and bustle in Harbour Town stands a beautiful red and white striped lighthouse. At the end of a delicious meal or a day of shopping, climbing to the top of the lighthouse is the perfect way to end a busy day.
Visitors can explore the history of Hilton Head and the lighthouse as they walk up the stairs to the top. I recommend bringing pennies and quarters to get a pressed penny along the way, but there is also a souvenir gift shop filled with local goodies.
Baynard Ruins & Sea Pines Forest Preserve
The island’s beautiful scenery is one of its greatest attributes. Biking is a great opportunity to see some of the local flora and fauna, but for those who want a more in-depth exploration of Hilton Head’s natural surroundings, I recommend checking out the Sea Pines Forest Preserve and the Baynard Ruins.
My grandmother was an animal lover and made regular trips to the Forest Preserve to see the turtles, alligators, and other small animals that roamed the habitat. There is also a large field of wildflowers that is quite a sight in the spring and summer months.
For a more unique experience, the local stable takes horses through the trails, but bikers and hikers are welcome as well! Southern weather can be pretty hot, but the shade among the trees makes the Forest Preserve an excellent activity to do for an afternoon or evening.
Baynard Ruins are the remnants of a historical estate built in the 1790s. The ruins are an integral part of Hilton Head’s extensive historical past, and are a must-see for history buffs. Be warned though, there have been accounts of ghost sightings and haunted experiences! I recommend taking the bike path to the ruins from Harbour Town to enjoy the sights of the golf course along the way.
The Island is Waiting!
Hilton Head is a beautiful setting to create memories with loved ones. There is plenty to do for all ages day and night, but relaxation is available if that’s what you’re craving. The southern charm and natural scenery of the island makes it the perfect vacation destination, so pack your bags because the island is waiting!