Over Spring Break in mid-March, not only did we explore Myrtle Beach, but we also spent a few days exploring Hilton Head, SC. This was our first Hilton Head family vacation and there was so much to see and do, especially with kids.
We loved riding our bikes and kayaking along the waterways in Hilton Head. And, of course, the beaches are fantastic. We had just three or four days in town, but I definitely could have spent more time here. Take a look at the 15 must-do’s if you’re considering a Hilton Head family vacation.
1. Stay at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. There are a variety of hotels and rentals to book in Hilton Head, but we loved Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, which has a variety of home and villa rentals that are perfect for families. It’s quiet and serene, but there’s plenty to do, too.
We stayed in a two-bedroom condo (740 Queens Grant) at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, which worked perfectly for my family of six (there was a pull-out sofa for two of my kids). Our condo had a full kitchen, a washer and dryer and a good-size family room. There was plenty of space to move.
The beach was a short walk from our condo, as was a bike rental shop, tennis courts, three golf courses, a kayaking lagoon, a convenience store and Big Jim’s Restaurant (be sure to order the nachos). There were also loads of bike paths. One of my favorite things about Hilton Head and Palmetto Dunes is that it is so bike-friendly. You can truly bike everywhere that you need to go on your Hilton Head family vacation.
Within Palmetto Dunes, look for daily activities, like golf clinics, tennis exhibitions and live music. There’s even a Nachos Day at Big Jim’s on Saturdays. I will tell you that Martini Monday at Big Jim’s is popular, so if you want to eat dinner there on Mondays, get there early to beat the crowd.
2. Rent Bikes and Explore the Island. There are lots of bike rental shops on the island, but since we were staying at Palmetto Dunes, we rented ours from Hilton Head Outfitters. You can rent all kinds of bikes, as well as bike baskets and helmets, even kiddie carts. We opted for tandem bikes, which my six- and eight-year-olds absolutely loved. As a bonus, Hilton Head Outfitters delivered our bikes right to our condo.
3. Play Pickleball. Introduced last summer at Palmetto Dunes, pickleball has quickly become one of the most popular activities at the resort. A mixture of tennis, badminton and ping pong, Palmetto Dunes offers pickleball lessons several times a week, as well as daily round robins. Kids will love hitting back and forth with over-sized paddles and softball-sized balls.
4. Go on a Boat Cruise. There are several cruises available on Hilton Head, including dolphin and nature cruises, but we opted for a pirate cruise with Pirates of Hilton Head, which sets sail from Harbour Town at Sea Pines Resort. This was our first pirate cruise and the “pirates” on board were amazingly good with the kids. Even my older girls (10 & 12) loved spraying water cannons at Stinky Pete. Highly recommend.
5. Tour a Lowcountry Plantation. It’s a must to check out a Lowcountry plantation while in South Carolina. Rose Hill Mansion is said to be the only antebellum plantation house left in Beaufort County. Guided tours are offered weekdays at 2 pm. No children under six-years-old are allowed on the tour. Since Rose Hill Mansion is a private residence, reservations are required.
6. Explore the Coastal Discovery Museum. Relax and enjoy a walk around the grounds at the Coastal Discovery Museum. Take the Honey Horn Trail around the property for lovely water views and Spanish moss hanging from the live oak trees. Kids will love the Kids Zone inside the Discovery House. The museum also offers guided walks and nature tours, even “kids only adventures,” several days a week.
7. Play a Round of Miniature Golf. Hilton Head may not be the Mini Golf Capital of the World, like nearby Myrtle Beach, but it’s still a definite highlight while on a Hilton Head family vacation. Try Adventure Cove, which has two 18-hole miniature golf courses (Paradise Falls and Lost Lagoon). There’s even an arcade. While in town, pick up a copy of 101 Things to Do, the free visitors magazine, for money-saving coupons.
8. Get Out on the Water. There’s so much to do on the water on Hilton Head Island. You can go stand-up up paddleboarding, tubing, wakeboarding, sailing, water skiing. The list goes on and on. We opted for kayaking around Palmetto Dunes, which you can rent from Hilton Head Outfitters. You can get right on the water behind the shop and we did so in our single and double kayaks. So much fun.
9. Watch the Sun Set. There’s nothing like a good beach sunset. Sure, Hilton Head may be on the east coast, but you can still catch some amazing views as the sun dips below the horizon. Head to Shelter Cove Harbour or Harbour Town, both of which are popular spots for catching the sunset. Vagabond Cruise also offers several sunset dinner cruises.
10. Try Out a Treetop Canopy Tour. I can’t lie, I love a good treetop canopy tour, so I was super excited for our two-hour aerial adventure through the trees with Zipline Hilton Head. We walked across tight ropes, traversed cargo nets and made our way across various obstacles. The staff is amazing there too, even guiding my son across the first “element,” as they say. The second time on the course, my son crossed no problem.
11. Climb a Lighthouse. Climb 114 steps to the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse at Sea Pines Resort. Stop on your way up to check out various artifacts and photographs. Take in the views from the top and pick up some souvenirs at the gift shop at the top of the lighthouse. Or, just grab an ice cream cone at the base of the lighthouse like my kids did while I went to the top of the lighthouse. 🙂
12. Go Horseback Riding. Head to Lawton Stables for a one-hour guided tour on horseback. It’s a great way to explore the Lowcountry of South Carolina. While trail rides are for riders ages eight and up, Lawton Stables also offers pony rides for kids ages seven and younger. It’s a great way for little ones to enjoy their own ride on a friendly Shetland Pony.
13. Go Crabbing. Head out on a sport crabbing cruise on board the Crabber J II with Adventure Cruises out of Shelter Cove Harbour. Plan to motor out into the calm waters of Broad Creek to fish for blue crabs, but be warned, it can get competitive. Catch the most crabs and win a coveted Crabber J II t-shirt. Also, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins playing during this nearly two-hour cruise.
14. Visit the Small Animal Farm. In addition to horseback trail rides and pony rides, make sure to visit with the goats, alpacas and pigs at the free animal farm at Lawton Stables. There’s even a deer named Callie who walks freely around the petting area. Lawton Stables offers food that you can buy to feed the animals while you are there.
15. Take a Boat Cruise to Savannah. Given Savannah is just a riverboat cruise away (or 45 minutes by car), hop aboard the Spirit of Harbour Town for a historic cruise of Savannah. Riverboats depart twice a week and allow for plenty of time to explore and eat lunch in Savannah before heading back to Hilton Head. You can buy tickets for guided tours of Savannah’s historic district right on the boat.
Have you been on a Hilton Head family vacation in South Carolina? I’d love to hear your favorite things to do with kids.