Basic Guide to Beach Safety

It’s that time of year again when the idea of walking ankle-deep in the refreshing Atlantic, building sandcastles, and soaking up the Carolina sunshine becomes a little bit more irresistible.  Although Hilton Head’s temperate weather allows locals and visitors alike to visit its beautiful beaches year-round, there’s an explosion of activity that begins every year around Memorial Day that brings more tents and towels to our beaches.  The summer season is an exciting time buzzing with more people to meet and more chances to make lasting memories with friends and family.

As you prepare for your upcoming summer vacation to Hilton Head Island, make sure you brush up on your beach safety.  Don’t allow the anxiety of what could go wrong deter you from having fun during your vacation. On the other hand, you also don’t want to get caught unprepared if something does happen.  Here are some things to keep in mind before you head to the beach:

What to Bring


It’s easy to become dehydrated at the beach, especially if you’re chasing down frisbees or playing in the waves.  Make it a point to bring an ample amount of water for everyone in your group.  Not a fan of water?  I know it might be tempting to stock up on just soda and sugary juices, but any sports drink with electrolytes is a better replacement.

Another thing to keep in mind: alcoholic beverages are not allowed on any of Hilton Head Island’s beaches.


An important beach staple, sunscreen should always have a spot inside your beach bag.  There’s always someone in your group who forgets to apply sunscreen, and depending on how long your beach day is actually going to last, it’s a good idea to reapply throughout the day especially if you’ve been in and out of the water.

Out of sunscreen? Stop by one of the local gift shops or grocery stores on the island and pick up some reef-friendly sunscreen that will not only protect you, but ocean life as well! 

First Aid Kit

Having a first aid kit on hand when traveling is a good idea in general.  You never know when a rogue scraped knee or bee sting will surprise you.  Accidents do happen, and if you end up losing a wrestling match with your beach umbrella, it’s always handy to have a stash of your own band aids and other supplies, especially if there’s no lifeguard around. 

Of course, some injuries do require medical attention, so don’t hesitate to seek emergency care if necessary.

Water Safety

Here are just a few of the main water safety tips. Some of the following tips may sound like common sense, but they’re good to brush up on if you haven’t visited the beach in a while.

  • If you know you can’t swim, stay out of the water.
  • Never overestimate your swimming ability.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Always supervise your children, even if you are located in a guarded area.
  • Remember to enter the water feet first—don’t dive.
  • Ask the lifeguard why he or she is flying a yellow caution flag.

Click here for additional water safety information or if you’d like to know where Beach Patrol is located.

-Rip Currents

The chances of rip currents increase with higher surf levels, as well as with weather activity, so before you even unfold the beach chair, check with the lifeguard on duty and keep an eye on your weather app.

The best things to do if you do happen to be caught in a rip current:

  1. Don’t panic or fight the current.
  2. Swim sideways, or parallel to shore until you’re outside of the rip current.
  3. Let the current pull you out, and then swim parallel to shore once you’re outside of the current.

Click here to learn more about rip currents.


Most injuries caused by stingrays seem to happen during the months of May through June.  Whether one can pin that on stingray mating season, feeding habits, or just bad luck, there are ways to help limit your chances of getting injured.  As you splash around in the water, remember to shuffle or drag your feet.  Believe it or not, stingrays only attack you if they feel threatened, and accidentally stepping on one does in fact fall into that category. 

What happens when you’ve been injured?  The injury should be cleaned and disinfected immediately, and hot water seems to help with the pain from the stingray’s toxins.  It’s always a good idea to seek medical treatment, especially if there are any spines that remain or if the injury in the chest, neck, and head area.  Injuries from a stingray normally cause severe pain, weakness, and nausea.

Please keep in mind that we are not medical professionals, and this guide should not replace medical treatment.


Although you might not see a jellyfish in the water before unintentionally bumping into it, you can steer clear of any dead jellyfish on the beach—they can still sting!  If you’re terrified of a jellyfish sting ruining your beach day, keep a bottle of vinegar as well as a pair of tweezers in your beach bag. Rinsing the sting with vinegar is said to keep the stingers from firing any additional jellyfish venom.  Tweezers can help pluck any remaining tentacles off of the skin—the scraping method is now thought to cause more pain.  Similar to stingray injuries, soaking the skin in hot water seems to ease the pain more than cold water does.  

Please keep in mind that we are not medical professionals, and this guide should not replace medical treatment.

Local Beach Regulations

When visiting a beach—especially one you’ve never been to before—it is always smart to read up on all of the local beach regulations to help keep you and everyone else around you safe.  Click here for a link to Hilton Head Island’s local beach regulations.

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Southern Living Names Hilton Head Island the South’s Best Beach Town

The South’s Best of 2022 is officially out, and it looks like the Lowcountry and neighboring City of Savannah have officially won over the hearts of those at Southern Living as well as their readers. With fourteen categories in total, South Carolina captures the “winningest state” title, earning the number one ranking in five divisions. Four out of the five are located right here in the Lowcountry:

  • The South’s Best Beach Town: Hilton Head Island, SC
  • The South’s Best Small Town: Beaufort, SC
  • The South’s Best City: Charleston, SC
  • The South’s Best Brewery: Palmetto Brewing Company (Charleston, SC)

We’re also excited to see the South’s Best Bakery, Back in the Day Bakery, is located in the lovely, Savannah, GA, which was also the runner up to the South’s Best City!

You can’t deny the charming allure of these destinations, and Southern Living has written fantastic accounts that’ll make you want to pack a bag and visit!  After winning the South’s Best Beach Town in 2019, Hilton Head Island has reclaimed its rightful title once again.  There’s something to be said about a place where pristine, near-perfect beaches are just the starting point as to why it’s considered the best beach town.

     The article sings Hilton Head’s praises in detail, stating that the island’s Gullah roots, environmental mindfulness, and delicious local fare are just some of the many factors that have shaped the island into the flouring coastal community that it is today. With a heavy nod to the surrounding waterways—be it oysters, beautiful views, or boats and watersports—the article includes comments from locals who have never taken the island’s splendor for granted.  

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Coligny Beach Named One of Trip Advisor’s Top 25 Beaches in the United States

Congratulations are in order for Hilton Head Island’s very own, Coligny Beach! Listed on Trip Advisor’s Top 25 Beaches in the United States, Coligny Beach is the only South Carolina beach that made the cut, beating out several well-known beaches on Hawaii and along Florida’s coastline.


“Beautiful miles of sandy beach. Great for long walks on the beach. Nice walkways with bathrooms, showers, changing areas and decks to gather on.”


Already an island favorite, Coligny Beach is easy to access with convenient, free parking and plenty of places to lock up your bike—that is, unless you’re going on a relaxing beach bike ride! Steps away from some of Hilton Head’s best shopping and dining, the beach is also within minutes of the Lowcountry Celebration Park, the island’s newest hotspot for festivals, seasonal events, and live entertainment.

Fill out the short form below to receive our Mini Island Discount Packet that offers coupons for dining, shopping, activities, and more in and around the Coligny Beach area!

Sea Pines Traffic Circle Hilton Head Island

How to Navigate Hilton Head Island’s Sea Pines Circle [A Visitor’s Guide]

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 less than 3 months ago, 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, The 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 buckle up! 

Sea Pines Traffic Circle Hilton Head Island

For starters, let’s talk traffic circle rules.

  1. When entering the Sea Pines Circle from any of the 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 Avenue/Coligny Beach exit.  Looking for Publix? Take the Palmetto Bay Road/Cross Island Parkway exit. Whole Foods and Fresh Market can be reached via William Hilton Parkway (Highway 278), as can Kroger and others. The Piggly Wiggly, where I’m told you can get the BEST fresh, locally caught seafood, is in Coligny Plaza, accessible from the Pope Avenue exit.

Hilton Head Island Beaches

If you’re headed to Coligny Beach, take the Pope Avenue exit toward the south end of the island.  Shipyard Beach Access is reached via William Hilton Parkway, as are Singleton Beach, Folly Field Beach, and Islanders Beach. Shipyard Beach Access is inside the gated community, so be sure you have a pass if you’re planning to go there.

Best Restaurants on Hilton Head

For amazing pizza, try Local Pie, accessible from both the Pope Avenue and 278 exits, or Mellow Mushroom, which can be reached from either the Greenwood Avenue/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 off William Hilton Parkway just to name a few. If your kids are hangry and you need something FAST, drive through McDonald’s 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, a breakfast favorite, is reachable from the William Hilton Parkway exit, and Wild Wing Cafe is a favorite for chicken wing enthusiasts. Get there from 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 of Hilton Head Restaurants.

Sea Pines Traffic Circle Hilton Head Island

Fun Things to do on Hilton Head

If watersports are your thing, exit the circle at Palmetto Bay Road and head to One HHI. There you can enjoy kayaking, jet skiing, and paddleboarding or relax during one of their awesome dolphin cruises. For the more adventurous visitors, head on over to Island Head Watersports, 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 3 short months 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.  (editing to add: my colleague and I hopped on a couple of Wheelz bikes and peddled down to The Circle to take some pictures for this article. I hadn’t been on a bike in years, but am happy to report that, despite the blazing HHI summer temperatures, my first experience with the Island on a bike was fantastic. 5 out of 5 stars! Highly recommend it.)

Did you know that you can purchase tickets for many of these activities for up to 60% off through Hilton Head Guest Services? Call 843-612-6917 or fill out the short form below. One of our local experts will guide you through making the absolute most of your time on Hilton Head. Just for filling out the form, you’ll receive our Mini Island Discount Packet, which includes coupons for some of our favorite restaurants and excursions.