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The ABCs of HHI

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It’s easy to love Hilton Head Island…and one could say, it’s as easy as ABC! We’ve collected a list of some of the most iconic places, activities, and overall information that all have to do with the island we know and love.

Bird’s-eye view of Coligny beach on Hilton Head Island. Ocean view at sunset with trees and hotels in the foreground

A is for All You Can Eat Crab Legs

Among the popular questions that visitors have about Hilton Head, we often hear “Where can I find AYCE crab legs?” But we get it, it’s an important inquiry! Head to FISH Casual Coastal Seafood in Coligny Plaza from 11am-4pm on weekdays only. Prepare to come hungry, since this deal only applies if you dine in and don’t intend to share with the table.

B is for Beaufort County

Let’s get one thing straightened out: it’s pronounced, “BEW-fert.” “BOH-fert” is in North Carolina. Hilton Head Island is the largest community within Beaufort County, but by no means is it all you should explore. Towns like Bluffton and the City of Beaufort are full of Lowcountry charm and are packed full of history. Islands like Daufuskie, Fripp, and Parris Island might ring a bell, but there are other towns, islands, and communities worth visiting. See which of your favorite movies were filmed in Beaufort County.

C is for Coastal Discovery Museum

Located on the historic Honey Horn property, the Coastal Discovery Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate that highlights the island’s history and culture in various indoor exhibits, while offering plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration. Free to visit, the museum does offer a wide array of scheduled talks, classes, and excursions that’ll go into more detail on many topics, and often give you a hands-on learning experience. Not only is it beautiful, and great to spend the day exploring, but the Coastal Discovery Museum is known for hosting events like the Farmers Market every Tuesday morning, and some annual island favorites like the Italian Festival.

D is for Dolphins

The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin is often sighted along Hilton Head’s coastline and throughout the creeks and interior waterways. Want an almost certain opportunity to see these playful creatures? Find the best dolphin cruise for your group and spend the morning or afternoon navigating through the beautiful marshes between the island and Bluffton, where you can find plenty of other wildlife to watch! Read our guide to learn more about the local population of dolphins.

E is for Escape Island

This fun escape room on the north end is great for friends and family who are looking for a challenge! Work together to figure out how to escape one of the three rooms that Escape Island offers. Whether you’re looking for a fun indoor activity to escape the heat or wait out the rain, this is a great choice to add to your trip’s itinerary.

F is for Festivals and Events

Before you arrive for your vacation, you’ll want to check what’s happening on the island. There are some seasons where it feels like there’s a lot going on, but Hilton Head always has something scheduled. From live music to annual events, and even new festivals making their debut, we’ve got you covered. Find events now!

G is for Gullah

A big part of the island’s history and culture, the Gullah and Gullah Geechee people are descendants of the Africans enslaved to work on plantations located in coastal South Carolina, North Carolina, and even Georgia and Florida. On Hilton Head, there are multiple ways to learn more about the Gullah people. See exhibits at the Coastal Discovery Museum or the Gullah Museum, take a history tour of the island, or visit Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park. Keep an eye out for scheduled events that you won’t want to miss to immerse yourself into the culture with live music and delicious food!

H is for Harbour Town Lighthouse

Located in the Harbour Town Yacht Basin within the Sea Pines property, this lighthouse is probably the most iconic landmark on the island. This red-and-white-striped beauty overlooks the Calibogue Sound and awaits you as you finish up your game on Hole 18 of Harbour Town Golf Links. Take a peak inside the ground floor gift shop to find great books and collectibles to commemorate your journey, or purchase a ticket to climb to the top and walk through hundreds of years of Hilton Head history as you ascend. Oh yeah, there’s also some pretty amazing views and another neat gift shop at the top!

I is for Intracoastal Waterway

A common misconception is that it’s actually called the “inter-coastal waterway.” This extremely helpful connection of waterways is 3,000 miles in total, and Hilton Head is located on the Atlantic stretch. A key part in building up coastal communities’ trade, it is still used commercially today, especially in the winter. During the warmer months and when the waterway is calmer, recreational use is popular–and boy to we recommend it! Many of the private charters and cruise tours make good use of inlets, rivers, and creeks.

J is for Jazz Corner

This award-winning jazz club is world-renowned for its live music and delicious cuisine. Located within the Village of Wexford, make your reservations for either the 6:30pm or 9:00pm show. Dinner is required with all reservations, and reservations are highly recommended as shows sell out fast! You can look at the upcoming shows on the Jazz Corner’s website.

K is for Kind of Blue

This unique dining experience blends high-end entertainment with a music-inspired food and drink menu. Located on the south end of the island, guests can enjoy nightly entertainment ranging from jazz, R&B, funk, and more. Check Kind of Blue’s website for upcoming events, and keep in mind that Dueling Pianos is on Tuesdays, live band karaoke is on Wednesdays, and another chance for karaoke after the lineup of live entertainment on Sunday evenings. Reservations are recommended.

L is for Lowcountry

What is the Lowcountry? Is it a region of South Carolina or a way of life? It’s both. You’ll notice that we mention the term a lot in our articles and guides, so we always want to make sure you know exactly what we’re talking about! The Lowcountry includes all of the southernmost counties in SC and is made up of picturesque coastline, forest, and marsh.

M is for Marsh

The sea islands are made up of a collection of really beautiful things, but primarily the ocean and the marsh. Sure, the pristine beaches on Hilton Head are pretty dang amazing, but the island wouldn’t be the same without the beautiful greens and blues of the tidal salt marsh. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s home to a lot of local wildlife and an important part of the region’s ecosystem!

N is for No-See-Ums

This one is not as fun, but helpful to know. Hilton Head happens to be in an area of the country where No-See-Ums (officially called Ceratopogonidae–what a mouthful) are found year-round. These teeny tiny flying flies can bite, so if you’re outside around dawn and dusk make sure you have some bug spray on hand. Essential oils mint and lemon also deter these near-invisible rascals.

O is for Oysters

The Lowcountry Legacy. There’s nothing like sitting outside on a restaurant’s patio overlooking the island’s stunning marsh views while enjoying a plate of oysters on the half shell. These bivalves have been an instrumental part of Hilton Head and the surrounding region’s development, and due to cultivation methods, you can find oysters on the menu year-round. But it’s ok if you stand by the R-Rule: only eating oysters in months that have the letter “R” in their spelling, since that’s typically when the official oyster season is.

P is for Pirates

Did you know that your kiddos can become a pirate on Hilton Head Island? Sign them up with Pirates HHI, and they’ll get to join a crew in search of some treasure along Broad Creek. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to set sail with the crew as well. And speaking of, they’re not too far off in their hunt for treasure. During the Golden Age of Piracy, pirates like Blackbeard would use the Intracoastal waterway to go between Savannah and Charleston or stop in Skull Creek to clean their ship’s hulls. Some say Blackbeard’s treasure could be in North Carolina…but others speculate it could be somewhere on Hilton Head. Take a history tour to find out more!

Q is for the Quest for the Best Happy Hour

Come on, it’s your vacation! You’ll definitely want to try a few happy hours at our local restaurants. A great way to start winding down your day after soaking in the sun, relax with a cool drink in your hand, and listen to some live music with friends and family.

R is for Ruins…Stoney Baynard Ruins, that is!

Located inside the gates of Sea Pines, the Stoney Baynard Ruins is a pretty unexpected sight, especially after driving past the charming neighborhoods and pristine greens of Harbour Town Golf Links. What was once a mansion belonging to Captain Jack Stoney of Tipperary, Ireland, this historic site displays a great example of architecture using tabby concrete (a mix of water, sand, ash, and oyster shells). This site is free to explore on your own, just keep in mind that Sea Pines has a gate fee.

S is for Spartina Grass

Spartina is the type of grass found in the coastal salt marsh of Hilton Head Island. It’s what gives the marsh its beautiful green hue, and is a refuge to a lot of different wildlife including birds, otters, and other creatures. If you’re ever in a position where you can take a closer look, you’ll find tiny Marsh Periwinkle Snails clinging to the thin pieces of Spartina.

T is for Turtle Patrol

Sea Turtle Patrol’s mission is simple: save the sea turtles. Hilton Head Island’s organization is authorized by South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources to monitor the island’s nesting activity. The group engages locals and visitors on the importance of protecting the Loggerhead Sea Turtles in every way that we can while scouring the beaches during Sea Turtle Season (May-October) for nests that need to be relocated, and ensuring that hatchlings have an easy journey back to the ocean. Find out how the season is doing on SeaTurtle.org.

U is for UV Rays

That’s what most people visit the island for, right? Warm sunny days that are perfect for heading to the beach! While you can try to keep up with the UV index on a weather app, it’s safer just to apply sunscreen (and keep reapplying when necessary) while you’re spending some time in the sun. Nobody likes a sunburn!

V is for Vagabond Cruises

Drop anchor out of the Harbour Town Yacht Basin for all sorts of trips with Vagabond Cruise! From specialty holiday cruises to ferries to nearby Daufuskie and Savannah, Vagabond might be the best way for you to take in the sights and enjoy an excursion out on the beautiful waterways surrounding the island. Book your group for a dolphin, sunset, or dinner cruise, or if your family is interested in fishing, a crabbing expedition or shrimp trawling cruise might sound more exciting!

W is for Watersports

So many watersports, so little time! There are many trusted operators like Lowcountry Watersports and Island Head Watersports that’ll allow you to get out on the water in as thrilling or as calming an experience as you’d like. We’re talking jet skis, mini boats, creek cats, kayaking, paddle boarding, parasailing…the list goes on! Put on your swimsuit, grab your lifejacket, and let’s go!

X is for Xing (Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Wildlife!)

This is just a little PSA for those using the public pathways throughout the island: please stop at all of the crossings! The trails and roads on HHI can get pretty busy, so we want to make sure that everyone–including local wildlife–stays as safe as possible. Need bikes? Reserve your group some beach cruisers and other attachments from Wheelz of Hilton Head!

Y is for Year-Round Sports

Hilton Head Island’s temperate climate is perfect for outdoor activities year-round, especially when it comes to golfing or playing tennis and pickleball. There are tons of top-notch golf courses on and around the island, and there are also plenty of opportunities to play or schedule a lesson or clinic at one of the racquet clubs on the island. For more information about where to play the fastest-growing sport in the United States, read our guide here.

Z is for Ziplines at Adventure Hilton Head

Adventure Hilton Head is the only place where you can find not only ziplines but also aerial courses and Go-Karts on the island. Reservations are required, so head to their website for the full scoop on pricing and certain age, height, and weight requirements for each activity.

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