Hilton Head Island
History of Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is famous for its twelve-mile stretch of glistening sands. However, a visit here is much more than a day at the beach. There’s golf – perhaps more quality courses and programs than anywhere else on earth, including, of course, the RBC Heritage of Golf, one of the top events on the PGA Tour. And don’t forget tennis.
Then, too, there’s fishing, biking, boating, outlet shopping, rollerblading, horseback riding, nature watching, and a wealth of cultural and artistic activities to explore, and all that beach to enjoy.
History and nature are inextricably mixed on Hilton Head Island. The first islanders were Indians who lived here as early as 4000 B.C., supported by the rich bounty of earth and sea. In 1663, the fertile land of the New World drew English sea captain William Hilton to explore the Island on behalf of a syndicate of Barbadian planters. His report was enthusiastic, and in honor of his pioneering explorations, the Island was christened Hilton’s Head – a reference to the headlands that marked the way into Port Royal Sound. However, it was not until the threat of the Spaniards to the south and the Indians to the west was quelled in the closing years of the 17th century, that English colonists would settle permanently in the area.
As the 18th century dawned, the Island prospered with large indigo and, later, rice plantations. But it was sea island cotton – first successfully cultivated in the 1780s – that made the planters wealthy beyond their dreams. By the mid-1800s, at the height of the plantation era, more than a dozen large land-owning families divided the Island’s riches among themselves.
The onset of the Civil War brought an abrupt end to the cotton dynasties. The fine homes and fertile fields of the planters were destroyed by occupying Union troops after what would prove to be the largest naval engagement of the entire war: the Battle of Port Royal. A freedman’s village, Mitchelville, sprang up briefly, but its life was short, and when the Union troops left, the Island returned to a long period of bucolic quiet, with those who remained making a modest living farming, fishing and oystering.
Hilton Head Island has something for everyone: golf, tennis, beaches, watersports, cultural events, shopping, fine dining, and sophisticated resorts. In many ways, it’s the perfect vacation getaway destination. It’s easy to see how a family whose interests vary widely can be accommodated in one vacation to South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
The Island will please beach lovers, with its 12 miles of sandy coastline, perfect for sunbathing, jogging, and bike riding. It’s a sport enthusiast’s dream with its world-renowned golf courses and tennis courts, not to mention nature walks, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, and miles of bike paths for rollerblading, strolling or biking. Those who enjoy fine dining, shopping at outlet malls and antique stores will find more than enough to entertain themselves.
Highly developed, yet in harmony with nature, Hilton Head has no billboards, neon signs, roller coasters or skyscrapers. In fact, no building can be higher than the trees. Signage ordinances keep signs low key and unobtrusive. Only 40,000 permanent residents live on the island, along with wildlife such as deer, osprey, pelicans, alligators, herons, and near-shore dolphins.
First-time visitors are encouraged to visit the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce and the Coastal Discovery Museum of Hilton Head, both located on the right soon after you’ve crossed the bridge onto the Island on U.S. 278 (William Hilton Parkway). All visitors will benefit from a visit to the Welcome Center. View the Hilton Head Island video for a quick orientation to the Island. Stroll out on the deck and marvel at the spectacular marsh view so typical of the beautiful South Carolina Lowcountry.
Enjoy the art displays by local artists. Friendly information specialists will answer your questions and you may pick up maps and more information on the Island’s lodging, dining, shopping, golf, tennis, water sports and more.
Be sure to visit the Coastal Discovery Museum located in the Welcome Center. The museum features historical and ecological exhibits of Hilton Head Island’s colorful history and lush natural beauty and varied wildlife. Museum staff can tell you about upcoming environmental lectures and beach walks. Browse through the gift shop and make reservations for one of the historic or environmental tours hosted by the Museum.
The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina sponsors many ongoing activities and events. For information or a calendar of events, call the Center at 842-ARTS. The Coastal Discovery Museum sponsors nature walks, lectures and classes. For information call 689-6767.
The Hilton Head Art League sponsors ongoing exhibitions, lectures and workshops. For information call 681-5060.
The Island Recreation Center (681-7273) and S.H.A.R.E. Senior Center (785-6444) offer ongoing activities for all ages including sports activities, outings, and classes in painting, photography, dance and crafts.
For up-to-date information on Hilton Head Island events, call 785-3673 or 800-523-3373.
Enjoy your visit to Hilton Head Island, an internationally known playground and family vacation spot.
Hilton Head Island A Vacation For All Seasons
Winter is a wonderful time on Hilton Head Island. The Islanders don’t feel the drastic change of seasons as do our upstate friends, enabling them to enjoy year ’round activities that some only dream about in these cold months. The locals enjoy peace and quiet that’s hard to find during the busy Summer months on the Island.
This is our warm welcome – value season, offering great prices on everything from greens fees and court time to luxury accommodations and delicious meals.
Average winter temperatures in the 60s invite sports lovers to play in their short sleeves – 24 championship golf courses await, over 300 first rate tennis courts are available. Bike or jog on paved fitness trails that wind the length of the island, or paddle a kayak through inviting salt marsh creeks.
Inclement weather activities might include exploring the Coastal Discovery Museum or visiting the beautiful Arts Center of Coastal Carolina which offers dance and orchestra concerts, outstanding theatrical performances, various classes and intriguing art exhibits.
The Lowcountry comes alive in the springtime. Hilton Head Island explodes in a burst of blossoms.
Azaleas, wisteria, red buds, dogwoods, and bright yellow jessamine fill the warm air with fragrance and color.
Crowds of sports lovers fill the air with cheers of admiration for the display of championship skills on the greens at the Verizon Heritage PGA Tournament.
In addition to these and other tournaments spring begins a season of festivals. Beginning in March, Spring Fest is a huge island-wide celebration. Guests find a wide array of activities including wine tasting, sampling chocolate creations, and even a tour of the Island’s finest kitchens.
Spring is a great time to explore the great outdoors with trained naturalists.
Perhaps you’ll spot elegant herons and egrets, shy white-tailed deer, or lagoon dwelling alligators (please don’t feed them). Art is in the air all during May with BRAVO! Celebrate the Arts festival. Hilton Head Island and Bluffton celebrate the area’s vibrant arts community and diverse cultural heritage through visual and performing arts events, activities and programs during the month of May each year. For an event calendar, please call the Hilton Head Island – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce at 843-785-3673.
Warm summer days are made for family vacations – there’s so much to see and do on the Island. Boating, fishing, sailing, golf, tennis, lazing at the beach, golf, water skiing, scuba diving, kayaking, biking, beach combing, golf, flying kites, watching dolphins play and pelicans dive, catching crabs, golf. Oh, then there’s miniature golf, horseback riding and nature trails. There’s even programs for kids so that mom & dad have a chance to explore on their own. There’s so much to do, we can’t list it all here.
After a fun-filled day, top it off with a fresh local seafood feast at one of the 250 terrific restaurants on the Island.
If shopping is your thing, have we got some deals for you… super savings are found at our outlet malls, and one-of-a-kind treasures are found in the dozens of quaint specialty shops. Saks Fifth Avenue/Off 5th. Chicos. William-Sonoma. Brookstone. Talbots. Jos.A.Bank and other fine specialty stores. The Audubon Nature Store. And many more.
A subtle change in the season is evident in the golden hue of the salt marsh grasses. Fall brings cooler nights and crisp tee times. Thanks to the nearby Gulf Stream waters Hilton Head enjoys year-round moderate temperatures, including 70s and even the 80s well into November.
Sunny days and mild temperatures are perfect for tournaments… including fishing for deep-sea trophies, and events like the annual Labor Day Celebrity Golf Tournament, which brings famous sports stars and Hollywood actors to the Island for three days of play. Celebrity Golf, Concours D’Elegance and the spicy Annual Chili Cookoff – all make Fall an exciting time to visit Hilton Head Island.
Take an old fashioned hay ride through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve or tour some of the Island’s most beautiful homes during the St. Luke’s Tour of Homes. Hilton Head is truly a year-round destination.
Hilton Head Area
Audubon Newhall Preserve
Palmetto Bay Road, (843)785-5775.
50-acre preserve where native plant life & many species of birds have been identified. Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Honey Horn Plantation, William Hilton Pkwy., Hilton Head Island, (843)689-6767, M-Sun 9am-5pm. Coastal plant & animal life & area history. Marsh walks, butterfly garden, cruises & tours of historic & natural sites.
Coastal Discovery Museum At Honey Horn
70 Honey Horn Dr.(843)689-6767.
Honey Horn consists of 68 acres of breathtaking natural beauty and a dozen historic structures scattered throughout the property. Guided Walks and Terrace Talks teach of the varied nature and rich history of the area. An art gallery and interactive exhibits are found in the main structure.
Old Zion Cemetery
US 278, Hilton Head Island.
Grave sites of families of prominent Lowcountry Sea Island cotton plantations, most pre-dating 1860. Site of the Zion Chapel of Ease, part of the Angelican St. Luke’s Parish, established 1767.
Sea Pines Forest Preserve
605-acres set aside for nature in the heart of Sea Pines, call Sea Pines Recreation Department for reservations for walking tours, hayrides and more at (800)SEAPINES.
at the end of Lighthouse Road in Sea Pines Plantation. See the Harbour Town Lighthouse, Harbour Town Yacht Basin and many charming boutiques and restaurants. Admission fee to Sea Pines.
Shelter Cove Harbour-Palmetto Dunes Resort
The island’s most unique specialty shops and restaurants all with glorious harbour and sunset views.