Hilton Head Vacation Must Dos

by jessicaturner on July 6, 2012

Since going to Hilton Head in May, I have had a lot of folks ask me what are our top recommended spots. Naturally, I decided to write a list. (I started a “Places to Go” board on Pinterest to save posts like this that I may want to reference in the future. Please consider pinning this post if you think it might be helpful to you!)

Hilton Head offers so many activities that you can’t possibly do everything in a week. I did a lot of research before our vacation on age-appropriate activities for our little ones.

We struck a good balance between experiencing fun island activities and taking it easy and relaxing. This list provides an overview of what we enjoyed, and I hope it helps you if you plan a trip to Hilton Head.

  1. Go to the beach and play: This is a no-brainer. You cannot spend enough time on Hilton Head’s beaches. Our best memories were made here. A couple things I recommend taking with you are:
    • A sheet – the sand will shake right off of it, much easier than a beach towel. This also keeps your towels clean for drying off.
    • A tent if you have little kids. We bought one and were so happy we had it. Adeline napped in it one morning and it was a great place for the kids to get shade in-between playing in the water.
    • Plenty of snacks and water to stay hydrated
    • Some small beach toys and buckets
    • An umbrella – we ended up buying one in Hilton Head
    • Baby powder- this works great for getting the sand off of you when it is time to leave the beach
    • A camera – you will definitely want to take a lot of photos

  2. Explore at the Coastal Discovery Museum: We loved this gem of a museum. It is well-laid out and has much for kids to discover – just like the name says. Our favorite was the butterfly area. Also, there is no fee to visit it (though they do accept donations!).
  3. Visit Savannah for the day: Savannah, Georgia is only an hour outside of Hilton Head and definitely worth a day trip. We did a trolley tour, which was a great way  to see the historic parts of the city. Savannah also has many amazing restaurants and shops.
  4. Bike ride on the beach: One of the many cool things about Hilton Head is that you can bike ride on the beach! Definitely rent bikes for part or all of your stay and enjoy bike riding on the beach. It is so fun – and you get a little exercise.
  5. Shop at Tanger Outlets: About 30 minutes outside Hilton Head is a huge outlet mall. I could have probably spent a full-day there. I scored awesome clothes at the Loft outlet and stride rite shoes for my kids for just $15.
  6. Do a dolphin tour: Hilton Head is home to many dolphins, so a dolphin boat tour is a must. I did this dolphin tour with (in)courage two years ago and it was really, really wonderful.
  7. Ride horses at Lawton’s Stable: If you have little kids, definitely plan to spend a morning at Lawton’s Stables. It offers pony rides, a small petting farm and a beautiful atmosphere. For older kids and adults they also offering horseback riding. Lots of fun!
  8. Eat at Salty Dog Cafe: The food and atmosphere are great at the Salty Dog, a popular restaurant on Hilton Head Island.
  9. Listen to live music and eat ice cream on the Salty Dog’s outdoor patio. The ice cream shop offers a variety of fun ice creams and sorbets, including a Superman red, white and blue that rocked Elias’s world.
  10. Eat at Roastfish and Cornbread: This restaurant has amazing food, a really cool vibe and is a bit “off the beaten path” of Hilton Head Island. This was one of our favorite meals on Hilton Head Island. Definitely make a point to go here. (Bonus: the owner is a University of Wisconsin alum like me!)
  11. Stay at a vacation rental: If you haven’t read this post of the 15 benefits of a vacation rental, you should. Our vacation was wonderful in part because we had all the comforts of home at the beach! (We loved our stay in our ResortQuest condo.)
  12. Cook your own food: Memories are made in the kitchen. You will save money and enjoy quality family time if you cook at your vacation rental.
  13. Run through the fountains at Coligny Plaza: These fountains provided lots of fun for the kids – and great pictures! I think Adeline enjoyed the fountains most of all. Plus, while you are at Coligny you can enjoy great food and cute shops. I was able to find reasonable kids t-shirts + some souvenirs here.
  14. Visit Harbour Town and the lighthouse: This is iconic Hilton Head. The area is beautiful and offers lots of shops and restaurants + you can go  to the top of the lighthouse and enjoy incredible views.
  15. Take family photos at sunset on the beach: This was a must for us. The ocean + sand + sunset light made for beautiful photos.

What would you add to this list?

For most posts about our Hilton Head vacation, click here, and for more great Hilton Head tips, check out this fabulous post by Lindsey Ferrier. It is by far the best list I found in researching for our trip!

Disclosure: ResortQuest® by Wyndham Vacation Rentals generously provided the accommodations at our amazing Sea Pines condo and inspired this week’s Hilton Head vacation series. Peddling Pelican Bike Rentals provided our bikes and pack n’ play. All sight-seeing adventures and opinions are my own!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

June K July 6, 2012 at 10:58 am

Thanks so much for all this info on Hilton Head. Love hearing first hand.


Claire July 6, 2012 at 11:12 am

Sounds divine! That family shot is just gorgeous!


Brittany July 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Great list! I will be pinning this for later use!


kristin July 7, 2012 at 7:56 am

if you go again, “truffles” is an amazing restaurant, with multiple locations on the island. we recently moved to savannah, from california this january 2012. in the last 6 months, we have taken 4 hilton head weekend trips. what a beautiful place and endless things to do and see and eat at! thanks for your tips!


Debbie July 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm

The Sea Shack is a no frills wonderful seafood restaurant on HHI…amazing food and where the locals frequent…behind the Truffles on Pope Avenue, turn on Executive.


Bri July 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm

We loooooooooove HHI! It’s our fav family vacay spot! Our favorite restaurants are Frankie Bones and The Boathouse! And we love renting bikes and riding all around Palmetto Dunes. Looking forward to meeting you at the Influence Conference! ~Bri~


jessicaturner July 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I’m looking forward to Influence as well!


Jane January 10, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Hi Jessica,
My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
I was looking for blogs about the Lighthouse in Hilton Head to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you!


Rosemary February 25, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Thanks for the article! We have been to HHI several times and actually own a timeshare there. I always like to hear what other people’s favorite things/places to go in HHI. Someone else mentioned it but I will again — Truffles restaurant. I think they have two locations. Also, two of our all time faves are Guiseppe’s Pizza and Pasta (near the TJ Maxx) and Steamer Seafood. Steamers has live entertainment in the evening outside on the patio. Thanks for letting me share!


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