If you’re intrigued by eco-conscious travel, meet Hilton Head, a barrier island with a deep green soul. Initial development emphasized environmental awareness over making a buck, so slow-paced growth trumped rapid expansion. Visitors reap the benefits of this preservationist policy with a pristine coastal landscape and wide-open recreational opportunities under a canopy of majestic oaks laced with Spanish moss. While the climate is not without seasonal differentiation, winters are mild, so there’s year-round getaway potential.
Hilton Head’s beaches take center stage, presenting an aquatic treasure trove of soft white sand sprinkled with starfish and sand dollars. With miles of car-free paths crisscrossing the coastal forest, pedal power rules. For a novel ride, spin your wheels directly on the miles of hard-packed sand.
Explore the peaceful marshland as you paddle a kayak on a guided adventure with H2O Sports. You’re likely to spot bald eagles, herons and dolphins during this up-close encounter with the natural world.
If you crave an adrenaline rush, head to Zipline Hilton Head. The course includes eight lines and two suspended sky bridges overlooking serene marshland. The island is a magnet for golf and tennis lovers, offering an array of courts and courses for swinging a racket or a club.
Island cuisine is strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean’s rhythms and nearby farm’s daily harvest. Wild shrimp is a menu staple from May-December but local chefs infuse mojo into sustainable seafood in every season.
To get an overview of the island’s varied foodscape, plan your visit during the Hilton Head Wine and Food Festival, held each March. It showcases South Carolina culinary talent and Lowcountry cooking, accompanied by an international selection of wines.
The Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island recently completed a major renovation. It is located on a desirable stretch of beach surrounded by lush native greenery. A spa, delectable on-site dining, heated lagoon-style swimming pool, lap pool and the ocean are at your doorstep. The hotel brings elements of the seascape indoors with soothing sea-glass plus a pop of colorful accents dotting the public spaces. The 340 guest rooms encapsulate an air of gracious living while offering modern comforts.
The Insider Tip
The Gullah are descendants of slaves forcefully taken to the Sea Island’s from West Africa. They held on to their native language, traditions and foodways, forming a rich and distinct cultural tapestry that survives today. Examples of Gullah culture can be found all over the island, from one-room schoolhouses to churches to hand woven baskets. Gain insights into their resilient customs when you book a tour with the knowledgeable historians at Gullah Heritage Trail Tours.
Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, just across the border in Georgia, is a 100-minute flight from the NYC area. The efficient airport shuttle will whisk you to Hilton Head in 45 minutes.
For more information and vacation planning tips, go to www.Hiltonheadisland.org.
Photo credits:James Armstrong, Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau, Sonesta Resort
Allison is a native New Yorker, who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto and Los Angeles. She frequently contributes travel pieces to Family Travel Forum, using her own children as guinea pigs as they travel the globe. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. Her background as an Early Childhood Educator gives her an added understanding of what it takes to travel with kids in tow. She firmly believes that the most important part of education takes place outside of the classroom, on the road, around the world. She never misses a chance to sample local delicacies, as her love for travel goes hand-in-hand with her love for food and wine. Follow Allison at @gourmetrav.