How to Navigate Hilton Head’s Traffic Circles [A Visitors Guide to Sea Pines Circle]

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I’ve always found traffic circles to be confusing. That wouldn’t be at all surprising if you knew me. My special gift is getting lost. I  can get lost in the most familiar places; places I’ve visited over and over. It’s probably one of the reasons I chose the human equivalent of a GPS as my life partner. He and I and our 7-year-old son moved from Michigan to Hilton Head in May 2021. Along with all the usual trials that come with moving to a new place, Hilton Head Island presented a particularly confusing new normal for me, otherwise known as Sea Pines Circle. For those of you unfamiliar with this “traffic circle” or “round-a-bout”, Sea Pines Circle can be a bit overwhelming. The good news is, with a little guidance and a few quick tips, you’ll be navigating this infrastructural phenomenon like a pro in no time. Understanding this 4-exit exchange is your all-access pass to this amazing lowcountry destination. So here we go. 

For starters, let’s talk about traffic circle rules.

  1. When entering the Sea Pines Circle from any of the 2 lane roads that feed into it, you must do so from the left lane. If you’re in the right lane, you’ll have to turn right when you reach the circle.
  2. You must yield to all traffic in the circle when entering. Drivers in the circle always have the right of way.
  3. Signal when exiting. Traffic will flow more easily through the circle if people waiting to enter know that others are going to exit. 
  4. If you miss your exit, don’t worry. Just take another lap around the circle until you reach your desired destination road. 

Once you’ve mastered the rules of the circle, your options are plentiful. Whether you’re trying to get to the beach, looking for your resort, hoping to enjoy some of the many island activities, or just making a quick grocery run, chances are, you’re going to encounter the Sea Pines Circle. Knowing which exit leads to which destination will be helpful. Let’s break it down.

Grocery Shopping on Hilton Head Island

There are plenty of options for picking up essentials on the island.  Harris Teeter is accessible from the Pope Ave. exit.  Looking for Publix? Take the Palmetto Bay Road exit. Whole Foods and Fresh Market can be reached via William Hilton Parkway, as well as Kroger and others. Exit Pope Avenue and head south toward Coligny Beach to shop at the PIggly Wiggly.

Hilton Head Island Beaches

If you’re headed to Coligny Beach or Alder Lane Beach Access, on the south end of the island, take the Pope Avenue exit.  Shipyard Beach Access is reached via William Hilton Parkway, as are Singleton Beach, Folly Field Beach, and Islanders Beach. 

Best Restaurants on Hilton Head

For amazing pizza, try Local Pie Woodfired Pizza accessible from both the Pope Avenue and William Hilton Parkway exits, or Mellow Mushroom which can be reached from either the Sea Pines exit or the Pope Avenue exit.  There are multiple seafood options off every exit. We like The Sea Shack off Pope Avenue, Carolina Crab Company off Palmetto Bay Road, and Nick’s Steak & Seafood just off William Hilton Parkway, among others. If your kids are hangry and you need something FAST, drive through McDonalds from the William Hilton Parkway exit, Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Palmetto Bay Road, or Zaxby’s also on William Hilton Parkway.  Hilton Head diner is a great breakfast place reachable from the William Hilton Parkway exit, and Skillets is a fantastic choice if you’re heading to Coligny. Take the Pope Avenue exit.

These are just a few of the many fantastic dining options on Hilton Head. Click here for a more complete list. 

Fun Things to Do on Hilton Head

If watersports are your thing, exit the circle at Palmetto Bay Road and head to Lowcountry Watersports located in Palmetto Bay Marina. There you can enjoy kayaking, jet skiing, paddle boarding, or relaxing on one of their awesome dolphin cruises. For the more adventurous visitors, head on over to Island Head Water Sports, by taking the Palmetto Bay Road exit for an epic Parasailing experience or take a drive toward Hilton Head Island Airport off William Hilton Parkway to experience the island from the air on a Hilton Head Helicopter Tour. Take the Sea Pines exit to experience the iconic HHI Lighthouse at Harbourtown.

I’ll admit, with all the options for things to do, I’ve only experienced a few of the amazing island offerings in my short time as a South Carolinian. But suffice it to say, I’m confident there’s something for everyone. I  hope these tips for navigating Sea Pines Circle have been helpful. If I, the perpetually lost, can learn my way around, you can too. But if the thought of driving during the HHI busy season still has you feeling anxious, head on over to Wheelz of Hilton Head to rent bikes for the whole family. With over 60 miles of bike trails, you can easily hang up the car keys for a week and experience Hilton Head from a new perspective. 

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