It’s extremely hard not to think of the Harbour Town Lighthouse when Hilton Head Island is mentioned. The iconic, red-and-white striped structure has welcomed visitors for more than five decades, and its likeness has traveled around the country on many a bumper sticker and T-shirt.
Although the lighthouse itself was constructed in 1969, it holds a collective history of Hilton Head within its walls. Now a museum with 9 landings documenting the island’s history dating back to its Native American populations, visitors can climb all 114 steps to the very top for the best panoramic views of Harbour Town and the surrounding Calibogue Sound. The museum also includes a Coast Guard Exhibit, the first of its kind in the United States.
At 93 feet, the Harbour Town Lighthouse stands out amongst the live oaks as it overlooks Harbour Town Yacht Basin and the legendary 18th hole of Harbour Town Golf Links. In addition to acting as a navigational beacon for those out on the water, the lighthouse serves its true purpose as a gathering point, daily. Charles Fraser, the creative genius and developer of the Sea Pines property, insisted there be a place for people to socialize. After extensive research, the plans of Harbour Town developed with Mediterranean influences, mainly open-air central plazas with gorgeous backdrops. There was really only one thing missing—a centerpiece. And so, the Harbour Town Lighthouse was created, making it the first lighthouse built since the early 1800s that was privately financed. Construction was completed just in time for the inaugural Heritage golf tournament, something that only grew Hilton Head Island’s popularity.
A must-see for first-time vacationers to the island, especially for those interested in the region’s history, a visit to the Harbour Town Lighthouse will complete your trip to the island. Easy to get to and worth the trip, keep in mind that there is a gate fee when entering the Sea Pines property. Plan to drive into Harbour Town, as bikes aren’t permitted through the gate unless you’re a guest staying within Sea Pines. Parking does tend to fill up later in the day during peak seasons, so we recommend making the excursion after breakfast or brunch on a beautiful, clear morning. You’ll arrive just in time for the museum’s opening at 10 am and can enjoy the shops or have lunch in Harbour Town afterward. To find ticket pricing, the live webcam, or other information, click here.