Where to Go & What to Do in Hilton Head, S.C.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


For about the bazillionth year in a row. my family visited Hilton Head Island, S.C., which I wrote about just before Thanksgiving. That was an emotional-ish trip down memory lane; today's post is a travel-centric, telling you some of my favorite spots & things to do on the island.

First you should know that in the 1980's, the island marketed specifically to Ohioans, selling it as the "best family vacation" & not too far from the Buckeye State. When I was a kid, we drove, but now, Allegiant offers easy, inexpensive direct flights to Savannah, GA - & Hilton Head is just a 45-minute drive way. There are so many Ohioans who vacation in or have moved to Hilton Head - like, generations of us, by now.

In the mid-1980s, my grandparents bought a timeshare here, which is now in my mom's name. Each September, she stays in the same little house we've been in since my childhood (though this year, our trip was canceled due to hurricane!) A few years ago, my aunt & uncle bought a large rental house with private beach access, which is where we stay during this Thanksgiving trip.


Without further ado, here are just a few of my favorite spots on the island. If you're a Hilton Head-lover like I am, I'd love to hear your recommendations for my next visit! 

Rent bikes from Sharky's.

There are tons of bike rental shops on the island, but we like this one best. Their bikes are in good shape, & the guy who owns the place is super-friendly & easygoing. For $25 apiece, we got the bikes for seven whole days, baskets & bike locks included, & they picked them up when we were done with them. How convenient is that?!

Our beach house is about 1.2 miles from Coligny Plaza, where all the closest stuff is, & it's a nice, easy ride down a bike path. There are even two Little Free Libraries along the way!




Do a little local shopping at Coligny Plaza.

We always stay down the road from Coligny, a shopping & food plaza full of locally owned & independent spots (along with a few more corporate ones, like Francesca's & Chico's). Some of my favorites are House of Jerky, The Shell Shop, The Spice and Tea Exchange, & Black Market Minerals, an incredible shop full of hippie stuff like Himalayan salt lamps & crystals & driftwood masks & God-knows-what else.

Search for weird sea creatures along the beach.

Our beach house is right off a private stretch of beach that runs into Coligny Beach, the public beach. All along the way, we spotted horseshoe crabs (I'd never seen them here before!), jellyfish, fish, & all kinds of other deep-sea weirdness. There aren't many shells on this beach, but the weirdness makes up for it.



Get your seafood fix at The Sea Shack.

Mike wanted to hit up a hole-in-the-wall seafood joint while we were on the island, which led us to The Sea Shack. It boasts lines out the door during the busy season, but we were lucky to wait only about 10 minutes during the off-season. Still, the place was slammed throughout our visit.

Don't expect anything fancy of this place, which is what you'd expect from a place with "shack" in the name. They've got a letterboard menu & serve lots of fried foods - but they do it well. We both got the shrimp po' boy sandwiches, which Mike inhaled (though I wished they'd come with remoulade). My sides of choice were "field peas" - black-eyed peas, apparently! - & sweet potato cornbread, plus each meal comes with two hush puppies. Yum.


Watch the sun set on the beach.

We were lucky to have a few beautiful, warm-ish days during our visit, which isn't always the case during the off-season. When the skies were clear, we headed out to the beach to watch the gorgeous sunsets over the Atlantic... & to take a bunch of goofy family photos on a timer.





Taco 'bout the soup at The Sandbar Beach Eats.

This spot is located on the edge of a popular shopping plaza full of local stores. It used to be the location of one of my favorite restaurants, which has since moved into a new building - but the Sandbar has gained it's own place in my heart as one of the best little places on the island. My mom & Mike watched the Michigan v. Ohio State game there on Sunday while I finished a little freelancing.

Their tacos are huge & fresh, served in fried flour tortillas for a little bit of a crisp, & their she-crab soup (a South Carolina specialty) is a thing of delicious beauty. I'm a sucker for a coconut shrimp, too, & theirs hit the spot, served with a mango wasabi dipping sauce.



Get your tiki on at Pool Bar Jim's.

I was so excited when Mike discovered an oceanside bar that no one in my family had ever heard of! This place was super difficult to find, as it's located within a gated community & there are "No Trespassing" signs everywhere, but once you make it to Pool Bar Jim's, you'll feel like family.

Jim is an expert in tiki & exotic drinks - literally, he wrote a book on them, full of 200ish incredible & over-the-top recipes, We got rum painkillers, then Mike ordered a Jamaican milkshake - & Jim was kind enough to give me one, too!



As you can see, we did quite a lot of eating & drinking on this particular visit - even though we spent two solid days cooking & eating at home, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday & all the leftovers it provided! Because it was colder than usual, we stayed in more than usual - not as many days spent sitting on the beach, lots of time hanging out on the porch of our beach house - but it was nevertheless a great trip.

I loved being able to show Hilton Head to Mike for the first time - & as always, I'm looking forward to going back!

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