Hilton Head Island is a gorgeous, pristine part of South Carolina, adjacent to Savannah, Georgia. Amazingly, it has yet to fall prey to endless chains of high-rise condo towers and piles of litter. I’m assuming they have some pretty strict rules regarding new development. Wildlife is abundant, and the miles of walking and biking paths are clean. Even towering neon store signs and billboards must be forbidden, because I didn’t see them anywhere. Hilton Head has the only Wal-Mart I’ve ever seen that can barely be noticed through the trees, and whose sign is car-level and, well, small. Smaller businesses improvise on their store signs by parking a small U-haul-size truck out front with a big poster or banner attached to the trailer. If you need any more convincing that this place is one relatively untouched piece of paradise, let me just point out that the only construction sign we saw was made out of wood and had elegantly carved letters.
I first visited Hilton Head in July 1997, but was only there for a night with a friend, and didn’t see much of anything aside from a nice boardwalk area and a whole lot of palm trees. In August 2009, my family spent a week in a luxurious beach house just a minute’s walk or so from the shore. Going to sleep at night in a dark forest of palm trees and listening to the waves crash is perfectly tranquil.
We were only a minute’s walk (if that) away from the beach. A path made out of white carpet had been put down throughout the neighborhood. It wasn’t uncommon to see ghost crabs scuttling across it as we made our way down for night walks.
I don’t have words to describe the loveliness of this place, but I’ll try to find some. It is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen. The island is covered with a lush forest of pine trees, palm trees, Spanish moss, and palmettos. The beaches are pristine; even the housing developments along the beach are completely unobtrusive and set farther back in the trees.
My family rented a set of four wooden lounge chairs with umbrellas; every day a nice fella named Justin would come around in his beach buggy and set them up for us early in the morning. There are few things as nice as relaxing in the shade, drinking a Hawaiian beer and listening to the waves.
The waves weren’t too good for surfing, but Rob managed to catch some nice ones here and there, especially when we got a couple of rainstorms.
On our first day at the shore, someone made this sand gator. There are lots of those all over the island!
We loved combing the water for sea creatures and shore life every day. There’s plenty to be found. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a beach with so much wildlife. In fact, I’m going to have make a whole other post after this one just for animal pictures.
We gathered for dinner each night, with a different family member or members providing the meal each time. Eric and I cooked veggie burritos. Thankfully, they were a hit 🙂
The Sea Pines Forest Preserve is one place we were eager to take a look at. It’s located in a rather ritzy neighborhood, and you have to pay a fee for a permit to come in there. Since I never learned how to ride a bike without training wheels (I know! I KNOW!), Eric and I walked several miles in. We found the entrance to the preserve around the corner from a golf course and country club (where I think my dad was having a drink) and past a preparatory school, where I casually walked in and drank half the water out of the water fountain as kids ran by.
When we entered the preserve, we saw a couple of lizards and some giant piles of horse poop. Eventually, we came to a giant lake called Lake Joe, and then a smaller one called Lake Chapin. The second one has the color of a cup of hot black tea, which a sign explained is due to the large amount of tannic acid in it. Eric started making up stories about the Lake Chapin Monster. He saw a snake and tried to point it out to me, but it got away before I could find it.
We wound up at the Shell Ring, a large circle of oyster shells left behind by Native Americans many centuries ago. The ring was supposedly used for ceremonies or perhaps as just a large trash heap. Things that have survived that many years are fascinating to me.
On days when we were feeling a little overbaked from being at the beach all morning, we’d jump in the backyard pool, which had an attached hot tub with waterfall. On a couple of rainy days, you could find us either walking down the beach avoiding jellyfish washed up onshore, or camped out on the back deck with wine and card games.
We went to The Salty Dog one night for dinner. It’s basically a huge outdoor patio right over the water with a great beer selection and a dude singing and playing the guitar on a small stage. Loved it!
We also took a walk around Harbour Town. I figured out that this is the place I saw the last time I was here.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. On our last night at Hilton Head, we spent a lot of time walking along the beach watching the sun go down. When the last rays of sunlight hit the shore at low tide, the wet sand looks like flames on glass.
We all fell in love with this place. I think I might retire here one day.
(End note: I’ve tried to properly credit all of the pictures. If I got one wrong, please let me know. Any pictures that don’t have a credit were taken by me.)