A last minute trip to the beach (literally booked the day before) lead us to a three-night stay on Hilton Head Island (HHI). Only a 4-hour drive from Atlanta, it’s surprising that my family waited over a decade to revisit. Our experience was definitely better with the girls as teens rather than toddlers, although you shouldn’t hesitate to head over with your little ones. It’s easy to see why Travel & Leisure has voted HHI the #1 Island in the Continental U.S.
Booking a stay during the week of Independence Day can be a challenge, so do plan ahead! Fortunately, we were able to find accommodations within the Palmetto Dunes Resort Community at the Omni Hilton Head Island Oceanfront Resort. This luxurious Lowcountry property is beautiful and the staff most welcoming. Upon check-in, anticipate glasses of champagne for the adults and cookies and mango lemonade for the younger guests.
The girls are a bit older now, so we opted for the Luxury Oceanfront Suite, which gave us ample room both inside and out on the balcony. This resort has daily activities available to keep you on property, and an Old Skool burger my family raved about, but we decided to explore a bit.
Arriving just after 3pm, everyone was looking forward to a late lunch. The first request was for something “easy” so I suggested heading to Java Burrito. You’ll quickly find that building codes restrict any blaring signage for businesses, so use Waze and keep your eyes peeled for the outdoor shopping plaza that houses Java. If you’ve been to a burrito bar like Chipotle, you’ll know what to do upon entering. Just know that, no matter the toppings you choose, this is going to be way better! Everything is extremely fresh, locally sourced and sustainably raised. In fact, I spied a bushel of unshucked corn behind the register. Coffee is available, too, hence the name. Arrive between 4-6pm and enjoy the freshest margarita you’ll find on HHI during Happy Hour.
If you’ve come to HHI in search of fresh seafood, don’t mill Skull Creek Boathouse. There will likely be a wait for those coveted outside tables beneath a canopy of mossy trees. Aim for a late lunch. If you don’t time it right, parking will be farther and the line will be longer. That being said, it’s more than worth the wait. The food is fabulous, service top notch and the atmosphere is very laid back, so relax and take in the live music and beauty of the marina and be glad you’ve dodged the touristy spot (we didn’t) and found a treasure the locals enjoy.
Near the hotel, you’ll find the newly built Shelter Cove Town Centre which houses Poseidon. Consider this your go-to if anyone in your group has food restrictions. Seafood and cocktails are at the ready, but there are plenty of gluten free options and a kids menu to satisfy the most challenging palette. Don’t miss their tomato pie!
As for the first meal of the day, we tried a few places, but enjoyed our first and last the most. Watusi is a charming restaurant and the perfect choice for a healthier breakfast and great coffee. Harold’s Diner offers no-frills but very tasty and budget friendly breakfast classics coming hot off the griddle — cash only and do follow the rules.
Situated between the Calibogue Sound and Atlantic Ocean, Hilton Head gets a bit steamy; you’ll want to pace yourself with outdoor activities. There are three championship golf courses at Palmetto Dunes. The hubby enjoyed one designed by Robert Trent Jones while the girls and I shopped the outlets. The carts are air conditioned, but I strongly urge you to reserve the earliest tee time available so that your game isn’t affected by the heat.
Want even more golf? There are lots of options for playing putt putt. We found lots of shade and a fun but challenging course at Legendary Golf. You can’t hide from humidity, so be sure to drink water and grab one of my favorite frozen treats, a cherry flavored Screwball, from their cooler before hitting the links!
My family loves going to the movies, and I was able to find a theater with the same reclining seats we’re accustomed to in Atlanta. Now, the theater is much smaller, but four adults can catch a matinee for $30 with online ticketing. Head to Park Plaza Cinema if there’s rain in the forecast or you don’t want to miss a new release.
Of course, back at the hotel there are pools to explore, sugar sand beaches to wander and s’mores to be made. If planning your first trip to Hilton Head, don’t miss going the iconic red-and-white-striped Harbour Town Lighthouse. With all we did during our 4-days at HHI, we left plenty of items on our to do list for the next time we need a beach getaway. And something tells me that with our oldest headed into her senior year of high school, that will be sooner rather than later!