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Beautiful Hilton Head Island

Updated on July 17, 2015

Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head is a beautiful resort and luxury home filled island in the low country of South Carolina. We have visited several times and absolutely love it. The first time we went to Hilton Head was the summer of 2011, we loved it so much that at the end of our first week we decided we must stay another week and we rented a new house and moved over for seven more days of relaxation, beach fun and island adventures.

The Beaches in Hilton Head are wide and flat. You can ride bikes and trikes easily on the smooth beach, especially at low tide. This is a great beach for exercising. I ran every day this past summer when we were was hot and humid, but a great work out. Biking is also a great workout when you go against the wind it can almost be impossible to pedal. I love to fish on this beach, and have rented a pole and gear each time we have gone at a little shop called Hilton Head Outfitters near the houses we rent in Palmetto Dunes. The same place you can rent canoes, tubes, and bikes.

My kids love wading in the tide pools that form at low tide, they can get deep in some places and it's always a great place to find little sea creatures. We even found a sting ray one time. The girls love finding silver dollars and starfish and using their nets to catch little minnows. One of the greatest things about this beach is the extreme low and high tides that occur twice a day. At low tide the beach is long and wide, and you will find people playing games, riding bikes, and searching through the tide pools. Low tide is also a great time to Kayak, paddle board or launch a small sail boat because the waves are very small or almost non-existent. As the tide roles in the beach changes, my kids love laying in the waves that start forming because they roll across the flat beach and are very shallow. As high tide approaches the waves get bigger and become perfect for boogie boarding. There is so much to do all day long on the beach you will find people setting up tents and umbrellas with all of their gear and camping out for the entire day.

Beautiful Low Tide Beach

Palmetto Dunes and Shelter Cove Harbour

Palmetto Dunes is a 2,000 acre destination location located in the heart of the Island and offers three miles of Pristine Atlantic Ocean beaches on one side and a sheltered intercoastal waterway on the other. It offers three world class golf courses, a marina, corner store, world class tennis center, luxurious private homes, villas and condos, an 11 mile lagoon, Hilton Head Outfitters for renting bike, canoe, kayak and so much more. We've stayed in Palmetto Dunes several times and absolutely love the area and all it has to offer.

Directly across the street is Shelter Cove Harbour which features Harbour side shopping and dining, the marina which offers many different boating excurions including, dolphin watching trips, sport crabbing and fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and our very favorite, Shannon Tanner's Most Excellent Pirate Expedition. The Pirate Expedition is a must do experience for kids of all ages. The kids become pirates for the day and go aboard the ship for a fun pirate adventure.

Shannon Tanner is most known for his Shannon Tanner show which he has been peforming in Hilton Head for 26 years. His show takes place two times a night Monday through Friday at 6:30 and 8:00 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It is a blast, he is so much fun with silly songs for adults and kids, but mainly he's there for the kids and lots of laughter. He is so great with families and truly enjoys what he is doing. There are kids who have been coming back to see him for years, including ours. You must fit in one or two Shannon Tanner shows when you visit the Island.

Harbourfest takes place at Shelter Cove most Tuesdays during the summer. It of course features Shannon Tanner, but also includes many children's activities, arts and craft booths, food vendors and Cappy the Clown who entertains children nightly during the Shannon Tanner shows. At Dusk the sky is lit up with fireworks over the harbour, it is beautiful.

I highly recommend a stay in Palmetto Dunes if you visit Hilton Head Island, you will not be disappointed with all that there is to offer. We have rented through Island Getaway Rentals and have always been satisfied with the service they offer and the beautiful homes we've rented.

Shelter Cove Harbour, Hilton Head Island, SC

The Shannon Tanner Show
The Shannon Tanner Show
The Shannon Tanner Show
The Shannon Tanner Show
Shannon Tanner's Most Excellent Pirate
Shannon Tanner's Most Excellent Pirate | Source
The Harbour at Dusk at Shelter Cove, Hitlon Head Island, SC
The Harbour at Dusk at Shelter Cove, Hitlon Head Island, SC
Shannon Tanners Most Excellent Pirate Expedition
Shannon Tanners Most Excellent Pirate Expedition
Cappy the Clown, Entertaining Mon-Friday 6-9 pm
Cappy the Clown, Entertaining Mon-Friday 6-9 pm

Sea Pines and Harbour Town

Sea Pines spans a third of Hilton Head Island and is a 5,000 square foot community bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Calibogue Sound. With four distinct luxurious communities, award winning golf, one of the nations top tennis resorts, family friendly and upscale dining, endless bike trails, a beautiful lighthouse, shopping, parks, a marina, and so much more.

We've visited Sea Pines for golf, shopping and dining during many different visits to the Island, but we've only rented a home there one Spring Break. We really enjoyed staying somewhere other than Palmetto Dunes for a change, it was a uniquely different experience.

Surrounding Sea Pines Yaht basin is Harbour Town which features art galleris, shopping of all kinds, upscale and casual restaurants, a full service marina offering various boating excursions, a candy striped lighthouse which you can climb to the top of and a unique and fun park for the kids.

Although we've never experienced the legendary singer/performer, Greg Russell who preforms nightly, we've heard his show is very fun for the entire family. He also has a preshow featuring puppet shows, scevenger hunts, and crafts adjacent to the Liberty Oak Tree. We have a hard time going to anything other than Shannon Tanner, but I think we should try his show sometime, I'm sure it's fantastic.

Sea Pines is beatiful with tree lined streets, lagoons with alligators sun bathing outside the water, bike paths that seem to go on forever, pristine wide open beaches, and luxurious homes.

Beautiful Sea Pines

Alligator sun bathing by the water in Sea Pines
Alligator sun bathing by the water in Sea Pines
Bike Riding in Sea Pines
Bike Riding in Sea Pines
A Beautiful Beach Day in Sea Pines
A Beautiful Beach Day in Sea Pines
Deep Sea Fishing abord the Drifter.  Departs in Sea Pines from the marina near The Salty Dog
Deep Sea Fishing abord the Drifter. Departs in Sea Pines from the marina near The Salty Dog

Deep Sea Fishing

We had a lot of fun deep sea fishing aboard the Drifter. We took a five hour boat trip and went about 12 miles out into the ocean. Several people caught multiple sharks, and a few black sea bass. I definitely recommend this crew, they were so nice and very helpful!

Deep Sea Fishing Aboard the Drifter

After a few hours of fishing, the ride back with cold beer was perfect!
After a few hours of fishing, the ride back with cold beer was perfect!

Hilton Head Restaurants

There are many Hilton Head restaurants worth trying. The seafood is fresh and many restaurants feature southern favorites, and unique creations. We dine out a lot on vacation, I've tried to list as many restaurants below as I can remember visiting. Hopefully, if you've tried something different you will share your favorites too!

Skull Creek Boathouse

This is a fun restaurant with great views and delicious food! Everything we had here was fantastic and we definitely over indulged. The first year we came to Hilton Head we stumbled on this place after sitting in traffic for over an hour trying to get onto the island. It's near the bridge when you first come onto Hilton Head Island, and we were hungry. The ideal place to sit is on the large patio, but it gets crazy busy so you may not be able to find a seat...I think they do take reservations.

You must try the Seafood Gumbo, it is perfectly seasoned and filled with lots of seafood.
We love the Homemade Hushpuppies! The oyster fans in our family (which is definitely not me) really enjoyed the Oysters Rockefeller.
The Seafood is fresh and delicious. My husband had a really good pasta. Everyone in my family ordered something different and we all enjoyed it so much that we went twice on our first trip and we were back there again this past summer. They have a large bar outside and one inside and this year we noticed they expanded and have a small bar adjacent to what appears to be a stage where they offer live entertainment. It's fun to watch the large boats be carried from storage to the water, and there is a cute little shop next door with unique gifts and souvenirs.

For something a little fancier and upscale we enjoyed Red Fish

It's pricey, but for the atmosphere and the quality of food it really isn't that bad. Maybe not the best place for kids (we brought all of ours and it was a long dinner!) The food was very good. We shared the Blue Crap Dip and the Hummus for appetizers, both very good! The Seafood is incredibly fresh and if you want to be healthy they will serve your fish "naked" which means just simply grilled with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and garlic.
So if you order the fish "naked" go ahead and have the lobster mac and cheese and truffle fries....yum! One thing I don't love about this restaurant is the location is not anywhere near the water, but the food is worth a visit.

One of the best meals I've had (maybe ever!) was at the Topside Waterfront Restaurant
The fish is so fresh and you can pick how you want it prepared (grilled, Pan Seared, or Blackened), you can also choose your sauce and your sides. It's basically a build your own dish and so make it has delicious and healthy or not healthy as you want. I had the Corvina Blackened with black-eyed pea salad and dirty rice, I chose the salsa Verde sauce. It was delicious! However, this past summer when we went back, all very excited to go back for another delicious dinner, the food was not nearly as good as we had all remembered. They were out of the fish special, and the appetizers were only average. I was a little disappointed, maybe it was just an off night.

The Salty Dog Cafe

The Salty Dog is a tourist destination for sure, but it is still a recommendation of mine because you kind of need to say you've been, sweated out the miserable heat on the patio, eaten mediocre food and had meh service. We go despite the not so great food and the service that is often confusing and unorganized. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, yet no one eats indoors, most people sweat out the heat. Also if you have a large group as we most often do, prepare to sit at multiple tables as the tables are bolted to the ground and cannot be combined.

Almost all of the restaurants we visit feature Hush Puppies, the appetizer at Salty Dog is okay, not terrible and not the best I ever had. My husband and daughter attempted to split the Big Boss Sandwich, it was a very heavy and rich sandwich of pulled pork with coleslaw and BBQ sauce on a pretzel roll. It looked good, but the verdict was that it was not great at all.

I had a shrimp salad, it was okay.

Honestly, I can't say you go to this place for the best food you have ever eaten, but it's on the water, and you can make your own tie dye shirts which my family seem to really enjoy doing. Also, the key may be to go at night when it's not as hot and there is live music.

Bistro 17

Bistro 17 is located in Shelter Cove, they offer lunch and dinner with indoor and outdoor patio seating along the water's edge. We went for lunch and really enjoyed the service and the food. The menu is small, but everyone found something they enjoyed. The soup of the day was a Roasted Red Pepper and everyone who tried it said it was delicious, the kids were dipping crackers in the leftover. We ordered two Baked Brie to start and ended up ordering another one because it was so good and gone within minutes. Several of my family members had the Croque Monsieur, which the kids enjoyed pronouncing and everyone said it was amazing. I had the Pepper Mustard Salmon over a delicious salad of mixed greens with pine nuts, dried cranberries and gorgonzola, it was very good! The Salmon was a little small, but for lunch it was an okay portion. My husband had the French Dip, he said it was quite good. All of the sandwiches came with Pomme Frites which were crispy and well seasoned. We enjoyed several bottles of white wine and a delicious lunch! I would recommend this place if you are visiting Shelter Cove. I took a look at the dinner menu and it was slightly different than the lunch menu, it looked very interesting with entrees such as Duck Confit, Wild Salmon, Beef Bourguignon, Rack of Lamb, and Steak Frites.

The Crazy Crab

The Crazy Crab has two locations, one on the north part of the island and one located in Sea Pines at Harbour Town. We went to the one in Harbour Town.

The food was pretty good, and the seafood heavy menu does offer a few options if you aren't a fish person, they have burgers, sandwiches and a couple of non-seafood salads. I had the fish tacos, they were pretty good, but I did substitute the fish with grouper, I think it comes with Mahi Mahi, also I prefer corn tortillas which they didn't offer. My brother in law had the fried oyster sandwich, he said it was delicious. I couple of people ordered the fried grouper sandwich, and others fried shrimp. The theme here...fried. The food is pretty heavy, you can order broiled crab dishes or steamed shellfish for something a little healthier. My family said the crab dip was really good, I arrived too late to try it. If you are in Harbour town, this is not a bad option for lunch or dinner.

Catch 22

This small tucked away restaurant is located in between Palmetto Dunes and Sea Pines off the main road in a shopping center, not the best location, but the food was excellent. My family, always big eaters, of course ordered appetizers. We tried the bruschetta, hushpuppies filled with shrimp and crab and served with delicious honey butter, the crab cakes, and the house made ravioli. We should have stopped after the appetizers and delicious bread served with dinner, but we didn't. Some of us, including myself even ordered salads before our entrees. I had the beefsteak tomato salad, it was large tomatoes with gorgonzola cheese, onion, pesto and balsamic vinaigrette. It was fresh and delicious, my youngest daughter ate most of my tomatoes, so it must have been good. After my salad I had the miso Atlantic Cod over edamame risotto, and it was mouthwatering. My mom had the flounder fish special, which she loved, others in our group tried the seafood pasta, the deviled lobster stuffed with blue crap, and the surf and turf. Everyone had something different, I can't remember all that was ordered but I do know that there were not any complaints, the food was amazing across the board. In addition to seafood, they offer hand selected and aged beef options, short ribs, and pork.

We don't typically splurge and order dessert after eating appetizers, salads and entrees, but the dessert menu was too enticing for some of my family, especially the kids, so we indulged. The favorite was a chocolate/peanut butter sushi roll.

I definitely recommend this place, we met the owner as we were leaving and he was very friendly.

**One thing we thought was interesting was the pricing, they price menu items to the cent. ($12.07, $11.81, etc.). We asked the owner and he explained that if they have to fluctuate pricing because of an increase in their cost it's less noticeable when it goes up a few cents vs a dollar or more. Good point.

Cocos on the Beach

As I mentioned we have stayed in Palmetto Dunes many times and this summer is the first time we stumbled on this little beach gem. We were walking on the beach in the dark one night and we saw Cocos lit up, I asked someone about it and they said, "You have to go there." I said, "I WILL!" So the next day I told my family we were biking about 1/2 a mile down from our house to check this little spot out. This place is so cute, it has a sand volleball court in the front and then a bar with big oversize highboy bar tables, one very swamped and overwhelmed bartender, a long, long line, cold beer and drinks and a suprisingly fun and yummy menu. How did we not know this was here? We had fun biking down here a few times on our visit. Order your drinks in pairs if you want more than one and order everything you want all at once, they need help but don't care, the line is long! We had the pickle fries, wings, and my crazy brother in law tried the peanutbutter burger (yuck!), he said it was good?! The pickle fries (basically fried pickles) were very good, as were the wings, but we mainly went for the cold beer and drinks. They also have slushies for the kids, which were a big hit. Fun place, I am glad we found it!

Patio at Ela's Blue Water Grill
Patio at Ela's Blue Water Grill

Ela's Blue Water Grill

I had to put this restaurant in it's own category because it is our favorite so far! We love Ela's Blue Water Grill located on the tip of the harbour in Shelter Cove. The food is very good and you cannot beat the atmosphere, especially if you go on a Tuesday to watch the fireworks. We have been twice, the first time we sat outside on the patio with the perfect view of the firework show, this past summer we had a private room at the top of the restaurant, it was so neat to be in a room to ourselves, but you do have to climb quite a few stairs.

Everything we had at this restaurant, from the bread before dinner through to dessert was exceptional, and our server was very sweet and attentive. We had fried green tomatoes at several restaurants but they were by far the best at Ela's, for appetizers we also loved the Prosciutto Shrimp and Grits, the Lobster Nachos, and the lightly battered Calamari. I had the Grouper special and it was perfectly cooked, other people loved the Ribeye, the Flounder and crab cakes. We also had to try the truffle French fries which were so yummy! It is expensive, but it is worth it! I also saw that they offer brunch and a different lunch menu so I will need to come back and try both of those on my next visit.

Hilton Head Outfitters

Hilton Head Outfitters is located inside of Palmetto Dunes. They offer bike rentals of all kinds, kayaks, canoes, fishing gear, paddle boards, surfing lessons and much more. We always rent bikes from them because it is convenient, they will drop the bikes off at your house and come back and pick them up. They are not the cheapest place on the island to rent, but they are pretty reasonable. You can rent a kayak that they will drop right into the lagoon adjacent to their shop or you can take one with you to the beach.

Miniature Golf

There are several fun miniature golf courses on the Island. I find it much to hot to play during the day, but I am usually out voted. We like Pirate's Island Adventure Golf, but there are several others to choose from. The course is not too hard for young kids but is fun for everyone.

Traveling to Hilton Head and a short visit to Savannah, GA

We fly into the Savannah/Hilton Head airport and then it is only a short 45 minute drive from Savannah to Hilton Head Island. However, we have been stuck in traffic for over an hour one time when we reached the island.

Twice we've had a little bit of time to spend in Savannah, I'd actually love to take a full day and stay the night sometime because the city is beautiful and rich with history.

On one visit we had lunch at The Pirate House. It was interesting to read about the history of the restaurant, it's been there since 1753! The history of pirates who long ago frequented this old building is intriguing to adults and children alike and some even claim it may be haunted. There are 15 different dining rooms, the food is classic southern home style dishes. Prepare to wait, the restaurant is busy all of the time.

Recently we had a few hours before our flight so we decided to drive around the historic district of Savannah. We should have parked and taken one of the many trolley cars to discover all of this old cities history, but instead we drove around passing old buildings, the old railroad museum, ancient graveyards, etc. Finally, after doing a drive by of Paula Dean’s Lady and Son's restaurant we decided to park and walk around for an hour or so. We ended up parking by the First African Baptist Church. It is a beautiful old church and there was a wedding taking place. Across the street we stumbled on a busy shopping/restaurant area where we discovered the most impressive candy store, Savannah's Original Praline Maker, I've ever seen and an awesome pizza joint, Vinnie Van GoGo Pizzeria. Even though we had just eaten in Hilton Head we had to try some treats at the candy store and later right before we left for the airport some of our group tried the pizza. This areas was so cute with shops, art museums, restaurants, and street vendors, I'd love to have had more time to explore.

Short Visit to Savannah

First African Baptist Church
First African Baptist Church
Savannah's Original Praline Maker
Savannah's Original Praline Maker
Look at all that candy
Look at all that candy
Pizza from Vinnie Van Go Go Pizzeria
Pizza from Vinnie Van Go Go Pizzeria

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