Ask all of your OTP friends, but the debate over whether to visit Hilton Head Island or the 30A area in Florida for a great vacation spot could go on and on and on. Both are worth the drive for a family vacation. But as my children become teenagers, I’m sure we will undoubtedly spend a spring break over in the 30A area, so this time we opted to enjoy some Forced Family Fun at Hilton Head Island. Luckily, I got some great Scoop that made our trip even better.
The Island has everything you need: Walmart, Publix, liquor stores, and more, so you don’t need to load up the car before you arrive. Known for its beaches, golf courses, tennis facilities, bike trails and nature hikes, it is a very family friendly area.
Where you stay will determine where you do most of your most activities, but visiting the other plantation areas is easy — everything is within 20 minutes. We stayed at the Palmetto Dunes Plantation that has large hotels like the Marriott, Omni, and more. Many visitors tend to rent homes or timeshares for their longer stays in the popular Sea Pines Plantation.
Near the Marriott was a rental place for both bikes and kayaks, so that made it easy. They deliver the bikes to you, and f you are staying for a week, they have great rates for weekly rentals. The whole island is known for their great bike trails, and they have double bikes if your children can’t pedal the whole time.
We rented bikes and rode over to the Shelter Cove area, which had boat rentals, dolphin tours and a variety of restaurants. Our bike ride continued to one of the three miniature golf courses on the island; we played the Pirate course. As in most family dynamics, the game can become very competitive. Good times!
The bike ride was no more than six miles — relatively easy and flat! We also rode on the beach, which was only tougher because of the wind, not because of the sand. And one rainy day, we ventured back across the bridge to the Tanger Outlets for shopping.
We kayaked in a canal that had great views of golf course homes. I recommend finding a canal verses the ocean, as that current can take you far away from your starting spot. Luckily, we didn’t see the “lawn pet” of Hilton Head — the Alligator!
The one thing I thought was really neat about Hilton Head was the tide. (Depending on what time you arrive at the beach, you may have to move your chair a few times during the day!) The way the beaches are formed, the tide changes quickly and leaves these little pools of water on the beach, which is perfect for families with little children — very safe and fun for them to play in. Plus, the horseshoe crabs always seem to scuttle around there too, which is fun!
For great and casual seafood is the very popular Hudson’s seafood restaurant on the docks. Their raw oysters, steamers, and Bloody Mary’s were amazing. Also in that area is the highly recommended The Skull Creek Boathouse and a fancier restaurant called The Chart House. Some cute gift shops are located around there as well, with one called the “Boat-Tique,” and you know I love a play on words!
It’s a scene, but you should visit The Salty Dog Cafe for the live music on the other end of the island too. This was the only place we didn’t eat seafood, but enjoyed their pizza instead. If your children are old enough, it is a safe area to let them wander around the pier and local shops. Plus, the Salty Dog logo shirts are a classic souvenir that screams HHI!
Home to the famous Lighthouse and the Heritage Golf Tournament, Harbor Town is a must see. It has great shops and restaurants; we ate at the Crab Crab, and nearby we could hear live music at the Quarterdeck. Arrive early to enjoy the lighthouse, shops, and then dinner as the area closes by ten. We ran out of time, but I have also heard that the Calibogue area is cute.
If you are on the Palmetto Dunes side, near the Marriott, hidden from the beach and street — but on the beach — is a restaurant called The Dunes House. Look for the red umbrellas in the marsh. This is a great place to get superb food, and not at hotel prices! Also, for a fancier restaurant on that side of town, we enjoyed Alexander’s Seafood Restaurant and Wine Bar.
And a tip from the locals is that the General Store has the best Fried Chicken, but they don’t serve it on Sunday.
From the debates about where to spend vacation time, I think it always comes down to where people have made their memories. People love the places they re-visit to eat their favorite meal or see their favorite singer. We hope you enjoyed the scoop and think HHI is worth the drive to make the memories. And we’d love to hear your scoop on the other parts of the island!