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Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

#7 in Best Things To Do in Hilton Head

Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge picture in Hilton Head
Jeff Gunn / Flickr

Price & Hours

  • Free
  • 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily

Details

  • Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing Type
  • 1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
3.9
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    5.0
  • Facilities
    1.0
  • Atmosphere
    5.0

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

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.

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is located about 10 miles north of downtown Hilton Head. The refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset; the entrance gate closes approximately 30 minutes after sunset. Keep in mind: There is no vehicle access into the refuge, other than to the free parking area about a quarter of a mile from the entrance. From there, visitors are only permitted to walk or bike. Trail guides are available at the trailhead adjacent to the parking area. Alligators, stinging insects, poison ivy and snakes are prevalent throughout the refuge. Remember to pack insect repellent and never feed or harass the animals that call the refuge home. Since overgrowth on some trails can conceal some of the refuge's more dangerous critters, keep your guard up and tread carefully. There's no drinking water available at the refuge nor are there restrooms inside the refuge. Entrance to the refuge is free of charge. For more information on Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge, visit the attraction's website

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Hotels Nearby

  • Thing to Do
  • Hotel
Suburban Extended Stay Hilton Head

Suburban Extended Stay Hilton Head ...

  • 3.8 Miles Away
  • 2.0-star Hotel Class
Hampton Inn Hilton Head

Hampton Inn Hilton Head ...

  • 4.2 Miles Away
  • 2.5-star Hotel Class
Hilton Garden Inn Hilton Head

Hilton Garden Inn Hilton Head ...

  • 2.7 Miles Away
  • 3.0-star Hotel Class
See all hotels in Hilton Head »

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#1 Coligny Beach 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 ... Read more » Ann Rivall / USNWR

#2 Daufuskie Island 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 ... Read more » akaplummer / Getty Images

#3 Mitchelville Beach 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 ... Read more » PETERLAKOMY / Getty Images

#4 Harbour Town Hilton Head's Harbour Town district a pocket inside the island's gated Sea Pines resort community, is home to the iconic candy-cane-striped lighthouse that you've likely seen splashed ... Read more » Louise Heusinkveld / Getty Images

#5 Coastal Discovery Museum If you're wanting a break from the beach, or need a family-friendly activity to keep your kiddos on their toes, make time for a visit to the Coastal Discovery ... Read more » U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / Wikimedia Commons

#6 Driessen Beach 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 ... Read more » Shannon Fagan / Getty Images

#7 Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge 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 ... Read more » Jeff Gunn / Flickr

#8 Golf Often referred to as "The Golf Island," Hilton Head isn't lacking in pristine fairways. Some offer an enviable coastal lookout while others are shrouded by mossy live oaks. All ... Read more » Courtesy of the Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau

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Visit Coligny Beach in the morning if you don't want to contend with huge crowds.  Ann Rivall / USNWR

Daufuskie Island is lauded for its many beautiful, crowdless beaches. akaplummer / Getty Images

Mitchelville Beach is one of the quieter shorelines in Hilton Head.  PETERLAKOMY / Getty Images

Hilton Head's Harbour Town district, a pocket inside the island's gated Sea Pines resort community, is home to the iconic candy cane-striped lighthouse you've likely seen splashed across the island's postcards. Louise Heusinkveld / Getty Images

Situated on the 68-acre Honey Horn property, the museum features trails, gardens, live oaks, a butterfly enclosure and Marsh Tacky horses, a rare breed native to South Carolina. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / Wikimedia Commons

When the crowds of Coligny get to be too much, locals are known to head to Driessen Beach for some R&R.  Shannon Fagan / Getty Images

Jeff Gunn / Flickr

This popular golf course was designed by renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones. Courtesy of the Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau

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