Once the hot, sunny days start cooling off, there are a couple of things that start happening on Hilton Head Island. For one thing, the crowds start to dwindle, meaning summer vacation has officially ended for families. Secondly, Hilton Head’s social calendar has started ramping up. We tend to call it Festival Season since the weather is perfect for outdoor get-togethers. Last, but definitely not least, is the return of Oyster Season!
If you’re not familiar with the “R” Rule, here’s the scoop: you should enjoy oysters during months that include the letter, “r”. A popular menu item that visitors to Hilton Head and the surrounding region have come to expect, it’s not uncommon to see crowds at cafes and restaurants ordering a plate of these delicious bivalves in the middle of summer. In this case, the oysters you’re consuming in the “off-season” are sourced from farmers located in colder waters or have different cultivation methods that allow for safe consumption.
That being said, some might think that the “R” Rule is a thing of the past. However, oyster season in the Lowcountry is considered to last from September to April. This is due to the fact that oysters reproduce when the water is warmer, and during the colder months as the water cools down, oysters get meatier and tend to taste better.
Oysters and the fishing industry in general have been a huge part of the Lowcountry’s history and are still very prevalent today. If you’d like to learn more about the history of this Lowcountry favorite, or more about the sustainability of the local and overall oyster industry, click the links below.
Best Spots for Ordering Oysters
The only restaurant on this list with “oyster” actually in its name, it would only make sense that this pick is the place to go! Located on the beautiful, Broad Creek, and on the site of an original oyster cannery, the Old Oyster Factory not only has a great atmosphere, amazing views, and delicious fare, but their raw bar remains unmatched. You’ll have the opportunity to order from a long list of different kinds of oysters found along the East Coast. Starting with local, May River oysters, you’ll find seasonal and fresh selections up to oysters found on the Canadian coastline near Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The Old Oyster Factory also offers other delectable seafood appetizers and The Bateau Bar, but for those who can’t decide, the OOF Seafood Tower might be your best bet–6 oysters, 6 mussels, 6 jumbo shrimp cocktail, snow crab, lobster tail, and smoked salmon.
Also located on the banks of Broad Creek, Fishcamp is a celebrated dining experience that offers guests both amazing seafood plates and local live music. Take in the gorgeous Lowcountry landscape on the pet-friendly patio, take part in a local tradition, and experience a piece of the island’s history. Fishcamp’s Broad Creek location is in the original Simmons Fishing Camp building, built by Cap’n Charlie, or Charlie Simmons, Sr., the first local owner of a motorboat and who changed transportation in and out of Hilton Head Island. Fishcamp’s Chill Bar offers plates of fresh oysters that tend to pair perfectly with one of the many mouthwatering house cocktails. Unsurprisingly, this restaurant stays busy throughout the year, so reservations are recommended.
This restaurant is a seafood lover’s dream. Not only does Poseidon have fresh oysters served on the half shell, but this restaurant offers chilled seafood platters and an appetizer that combines two baked oyster delicacies: Oysters Gulf Coast Style, and Oysters Rockefeller. And as far as other seafood options, what does Poseidon not have? From fresh sushi rolls and bowls to shareable plates, soups, salads, and entrées, you’ll have a harder time finding something that doesn’t include seafood–but just as a disclaimer, Poseidon’s non-seafood plates are just as delicious, and the staff and kitchen take all food allergies very seriously.
The Crazy Crab–Jarvis Creek & Harbour Town
There are two locations on Hilton Head Island where you can enjoy Crazy Crab’s delicious menu, one located on Jarvis Creek that you’ll pass when you’re driving on and off the island, and the other is located in Harbour Town, the location of the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse that sits within the Sea Pines property (and requires a pass upon entry at either gatehouse). Our personal favorite oyster dish is the Oysters Rockefeller, but the other choices are just as divine. Choose from a large portion of the Grilled Oysters that have the perfect amount of parmesan and garlic, a pot of perfectly steamed oysters, or of course, an order of Oysters on the Half Shell. Visit Jarvis Creek’s happy hour for fresh-shucked oysters at only $2 apiece.
Located within Coligny Plaza, you’ll not only find fresh seafood dishes, but a fun-filled atmosphere and great live music. Perfect for families or those just coming from a day at the beach or an afternoon full of shopping, FISH is an affordable spot that keeps it simple with Oysters on the Half Shell, but also offers guests a delicious spin on Roasted Oysters. This appetizer includes a good helping of oysters roasted to perfection with caramelized onion, bacon confit, and parmesan cheese. In other words, you might consider ordering two plates, since they’re so delicious!
A fun and popular spot to sit on the patio and enjoy live entertainment every night, The Sandbar boasts two delicious menu items you’ll have to try. In addition to the classic, Oysters on the Half Shell, you’ll have the option of ordering a plate of Chargrilled Oysters, grilled with pecorino pepper butter and served with a toasted baguette. If that doesn’t already sound delicious enough, the third option of Oysters Sandfeller, the establishment’s twist of Oysters Rockefeller will be a hit! The Sandbar’s menu also features amazing shareable plates that they call Beach Snacks.
The Sea Shack does seafood right–especially, fried seafood. A great place to order a meal to go, this locally-owned spot on the south end of the island has some of the best fried oysters in town. Speaking of, they also have some of the best fried soft shell crab, calamari, shrimp, conch fritters, gator…we could go on and on, here! Aside from ordering a mouthwatering basket full of fried oysters, or a combo plater, try one of the Sea Shack’s specialties, an Oyster Po Boy. Order some fresh coleslaw and some warm hush puppies, wash it all down with a sweet tea, and you’ll want to go back again the next day!
A local favorite and picturesque spot located on Broad Creek, Up the Creek is a great place to enjoy some delicious food and watch the sunset. You’ll find Fried Oysters on the appetizer menu, as well as a whole bunch of other plates you’ll want to order to share as well. The oysters, conch fritters, and okra are all fried to perfection and served with a side of remoulade sauce. Not only affordable but a great laid-back location for friends and family to gather, members of your group who aren’t fans of seafood will love the lineup of delicious burgers.
With locations throughout the United States, Hook & Reel does quick-service seafood right! You can always count on fresh ingredients and the classic plates you know and love. This spot does include a Raw Bar, but the Basket of Oysters are perfectly fried and great to share or enjoy as a meal. This restaurant also includes a wide variety of Po Boys and Sliders and specializes in Seafood Boils that you can customize and share with your family and friends.