Hilton Head Travel Guide

USA  #2 in Best South Carolina Beaches
Credit

Courtesy of Sean Pavone/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Free Things To Do in Hilton Head

If you have extra time, Mitchelville Beach is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Hilton Head
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    #1 in Hilton Head
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Coligny Beach is by far the most popular beach in Hilton Head. The shoreline is scenic as can be and the adjacent beach park features a wealth of amenities perfect for beachgoers of all ages. Not only are there restrooms and showers but also separate changing rooms, plenty of benches and gazebos with swings to shade yourself from the sun. There's also loads of eateries just a stone's throw from the sand (think: coffee shops, ice cream shops and seafood restaurants) and should you forget an umbrella, you can rent that here in addition to beach chairs. What's more, parking is free.

    Recent visitors, especially those traveling with families, love Coligny Beach. Along with the beautiful Carolinian coastal scenery, visitors praise the beach's clean facilities and nearby amenities. And although the beach is known to get pretty crowded during summer, some travelers note that if you walk long enough down the shore, away from the beach park, you can find fewer people taking up spots in the sand. If you are visiting during the summer though, be very wary of jellyfish. Sea Nettle jellyfish permeate the beach's waters from June to August or September. While lifeguards are equipped to deal with jellyfish injuries on the spot, it's stingray stings that are much more severe and often lead to a trip to the emergency room. Before getting in the water, ask lifeguards about conditions to avoid injury. 

  • #2
    Daufuskie Island
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    #2 in Hilton Head
    Beaches, Golf, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Golf, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Daufuskie Island offers Hilton Head vacationers a getaway within a getaway. The island, located west of Harbour Town across the Calibogue Sound, feels like a world away thanks to its remote nature. Daufuskie is only accessible by ferry, has few inhabitants (around 300 full-time residents), is almost completely devoid of cars and is awash in hundreds-year-old Spanish moss oak trees and crowdless beaches. The island is also a historical hub, so much so that it was added to the list of National Registry of Historic Places in 1982. 

    Today's Daufuskie Island houses residents that range from retirees to artists and features antebellum-style mansions scattered about (the island was once a prime place for cotton picking) as well as landscapes prime for recreational activities and adventures. Here, you can glide down one of the island's many bike-friendly trails, kayak or paddleboard around the waterways, ride horses or golf along the beach. If you're interested in learning more about the island's history, you can partake in a history tour with Tour Daufuskie or take a self-guided tour along the Robert Kennedy Historic Trail, which takes visitors to various historical sites around the island. The island is also home to art studios and galleries, as well as a rum distillery and community-run farm.

  • #3
    Mitchelville Beach
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    #3 in Hilton Head
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're looking for a quiet shore in Hilton Head, you'll no doubt fall in love with Mitchelville Beach (also known as Fish Haul Beach Park). Located on the northeastern end of the island near Hilton Head Island Airport, Mitchelville Beach is more secluded and more rugged than its southern counterparts (think Coligny and Folly Field). Here, crowds are few and far between, pathways are unpaved and the coastal flora extends down well into the shoreline, creating an enchanting beach experience. What's more, in the area surrounding the beach, you'll find restrooms, an outdoor shower and some picnic tables.

    Recent visitors who made the trek to Mitchelville Beach found it to be secluded and peaceful. Many highly recommended visiting during low tide, when the salt marshes and beach tide pools (and all of their inhabitants) are more visible and ripe for exploration. Travelers also noted that some parts of the beach can be pretty muddy, so it's possible you might get a little dirty. And if you're looking to swim, you might want to go elsewhere. There are no lifeguards staffed here and a few travelers recalled the sand not being as smooth underwater.  

  • #5
    Coastal Discovery Museum
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    #5 in Hilton Head
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you need a break from the beach, or just want a family-friendly activity to keep your kiddos on their toes, make time for a visit to the Coastal Discovery Museum. The museum aims to educate visitors on Hilton Head's ecological and cultural history, offering up educational exhibits, expert lectures, live animal presentations and more. The museum can be found on the 68-acre Honey Horn property, where visitors will also be greeted with trails, gardens and beautiful live oaks as well as a butterfly habitat, where you can find a flurry of native butterflies from May to October. For a real adventure, consider joining a tour, some of which include guided kayaking excursions, dolphin cruises (bottlenose dolphins are known to swim through some of the island's salt marshes) or take a trip to the museum's barn, where you'll get a meet and greet with rare Marsh Tacky horses.

    For many travelers, the Coastal Discovery Museum provided a relaxing alternative to the beach as well as an interesting way to learn more about the island's flora and fauna. Visitors agree that it is the perfect place to take the kids and highly recommend scheduling a tour or activity where the little ones can interact with the animals that call the museum home (the Critters "Meet and Greet" is popular among travelers). If you aren't traveling with kids, reviewers say that adults will no doubt delight in the property's beautiful oak trees and gardens, one of which features 131 varieties of camellia plants.  

  • #6
    Driessen Beach
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    #6 in Hilton Head
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    When locals want to escape the crowds of Coligny Beach, they often retreat to Driessen Beach. Located on the northeastern end of the island, Driessen offers a wide shore that stretches as far as the eye can see. The beach is so big that even if it's crowded, you'll still likely find a roomy patch of sand to plant your towel. And just because the beach does see fewer visitors than Coligny doesn't mean it skimps on amenities. Here, you'll find restrooms, outdoor showers, a picnic pavilion, a playground, grills, bike racks and lifeguards during summer. Plus, resorts line Driessen so if you're in need of refreshments, you can always dip inside one of the hotels' restaurants for a bite to eat.

    Recent visitors agreed that Driessen is less crowded than Coligny Beach, but they also recommend arriving early in the day to claim your spot in the sand. Travelers were also pleased with the clean facilities and low parking rates, but did warn that the walk from to the beach is long, so make sure you have an extra set of hands if you're carrying a lot of beach gear with you.

  • #7
    Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
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    #7 in Hilton Head
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Hilton Head doesn't have a zoo, but that doesn't mean it's lacking in wildlife. To catch a glimpse of some of the island's longtime residents in their natural habitat, head to the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. Spread out across 4,053 acres, the refuge comprises Pinckney Island, Corn Island, Big and Little Harry Islands, Buzzard Island and many small hammocks. It's important to know that Pinckney Island is the only island open for public use, though there's no shortage of things to do. On Pinckney, visitors are treated to 14 miles of scenic hiking and biking trails that weave through freshwater ponds, salt marshes and maritime forest. While here, you'll likely spot a variety of birds (the refuge houses 250 species) as well as alligators, turtles and deer, among other wildlife. While here, be on the lookout for the White Ibis, and if you're visiting during the summer, the multicolored Painting Bunt, the latter of which is a species at risk of endangerment. 

    Whether or not you're an animal person, travelers highly recommended a visit to the refuge, saying it's the perfect place to get some R&R with Hilton Head's beautiful natural surroundings. Travelers were delighted at the lack of crowds, nothing that even during the busy summer season, the refuge felt completely empty. Many were also keen to note though that there is only one entrance to the wildlife refuge, so if you venture on a trail, you have to come all the way back too. Another important thing to keep in mind is that there is minimal shade in the refuge, so come equipped with a hat and slathered in sunscreen.

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