Hilton Head Island

Sunshine, sandy beaches and Southern charm are just a few things visitors love about this low country retreat.

Hilton Head Island is famous for golf, but is beloved by locals and regular visitors for so many more reasons. The 12-mile long by 5-mile wide island was the first eco-planned destination in the country. This means that there are virtually no bright street lights on the island and unlike most beach destinations, the storefronts, restaurants and other buildings are designed to blend in with the natural scenery rather than to stand out. There are no towering billboards or garish neon signs here.

Hilton Head Island

Interspersed with the fertile salt marshes, lagoons and creeks, forests of moss-draped oaks, iconic palmettos and miles of sandy beaches are championship golf courses, countless tennis courts, more than 300 restaurants and plenty of boutique shopping.

RTX members can book their exchange to the Coral Sands Resort, a perfect home base for a family vacation to the island. With spacious, fully equipped condos, outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, a fitness center and activities department, the fun never stops at Coral Sands. The resort is located just a few blocks from the public beach access at Coligny Park, and several of the area’s best restaurants and shops are within walking distance.

Hilton HeadColigny Plaza has over 60 restaurants and shops with plenty of specialty stores for the perfect souvenir or gift as well as beach necessities. For a rainy day, the Coligny Theater shows independent films in the island’s first movie theater. The Piggly Wiggly at Coligny is also the island’s first grocery store, and some of the freshest local seafood can be purchased right inside. They’ll even steam your fresh shrimp for free while you shop.

Just a short drive from Coral Sands is the Shelter Cove Harbour, a waterfront complex with the feel of a Mediterranean village. This area comes alive in the summer months, with plenty of outdoor waterfront dining, boutique shops and entertainment. Be sure to take a photo with the 12-foot tall bronze statue of Neptune, which is also a sundial. Many of the island’s water sports and activities are based at the marina here on picturesque Broad Creek, as are plenty of photo-worthy sea vessels.

One of the highlights of Shelter Cove in the summer is HarbourFest. This weekly celebration of all things summer is free to the public and especially fun for families with children, as there are several enjoyable activities like face painting, bounce houses, balloon animals, arts & crafts, practice putting and a variety of interactive games. HarbourFest happens every Tuesday from mid-June through mid-August and ends with a spectacular fireworks show at dusk.

ShelterCove9Family entertainer Shannon Tanner takes the stage at Shelter Cove’s outdoor pavilion during HarbourFest as well as every weekday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. His shows vary from sing-a-longs and pop music to classic tunes and originals. He has been performing at Shelter Cove since 1988 and is now entertaining children whose parents were once the kids in his captive audience.

Just outside of the Shelter Cove complex, the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina is a remarkable showcase for professional performing and visual arts, as well as cultural festivals and educational outreach. The summer 2014 performance calendar includes Pump Boys & Dinettes, a musical comedy tribute to life by the roadside, running from June 17 – July 27. Following that with even more laughs, Second City Comedy presents Happily Ever Laughter from August 5 – 7. An acclaimed musical presentation, The Sound of Charleston: From Gospel to Gershwin will be on stage August 13 and 14. Check the Arts Center calendar before your Hilton Head visit to plan your evening entertainment.

Sea Pines, Hilton Head’s first community and resort, has plenty to offer visitors who are staying anywhere on the island. For a $5 entry fee per day, visitors can explore Harbour Town, enjoy the view at South Beach, take a stroll through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve and more.

148013646At Harbour Town, climb the lighthouse’s 114 steps and see photos and displays of Hilton Head’s history, from Native American pottery and Civil War artifacts to information about the island’s wildlife and photos and memorabilia from the PGA Tour’s famed Heritage Classic. The gift shop at the top of the lighthouse has plenty of island souvenirs, and the 360-degree views of the Atlantic, the Harbour Town Golf Links fairway and the surrounding marshes are well worth the climb. After your descent, check out the shops and restaurants surrounding the yachts docked at the marina.

Also within Sea Pines is South Beach, as famous for its stunning sunsets as it is for the Salty Dog Cafe, whose t-shirts have been spotted around the world. The expansive outdoor bar and dining area is an ideal spot to watch the water while enjoying live entertainment. Several other dining options and plenty of shops will keep the whole family happy for hours.

Another must-see at Sea Pines is the site of the Stoney-Baynard Ruins, part of a working plantation building in 1793. The remaining portions of the main plantation house are prime examples of a masonry technique called tabby, popular in the low country when the structure was built. Oyster shells were crushed, burned and mixed with sand, whole shells and water to form a sturdy kind of cement. There are just a few rare examples of this type of structure left today.

One of the most popular and fascinating excursions from Hilton Head Island is a day trip to Daufuskie Island. Only accessible by boat, Daufuskie is a truly unique place suspended in its own kind of reality; one where you can tee off on a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course in the morning and stroll through a Gullah cemetery from the late 1800s in the afternoon.

Less than 500 residents live year round on the island, which consists of two resorts, a private residential community and several large tracts of residential land. Walk the island’s historical trail, browse the historic town’s shops and art galleries and end the day with a meal and live entertainment overlooking the Freeport Marina.

To make the trip to this little piece of paradise even more entertaining, take Calibogue Cruises’ Dolphin Sail tour from the Broad Creek Marina to Daufuskie. A guide offers insight into the island’s history and wildlife and also points out sights along the way including homes of the rich and famous (or infamous) and well-known legends and gossip about the area’s full-time and part-time residents. Often bottle-nosed dolphins will splash beside the boat along the way.

RTX members who want to experience Hilton Head for any reason – its natural beauty, history, culture, recreation options or eco-conscious lifestyle – contact us today at 888-988-4RTX or log in to your account at www.rtx.travel to start planning your island escape.

For more information about the area, visit the Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau at www.hiltonhead.org.

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