Things To do In Hilton Head Island + Where To Stay + Best Family Restaurants

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I’d heard rumors of fabulous shopping in Hilton Head and I was dying to investigate firsthand the other things to do in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for families. Like you, I wondered: Are there family friendly Hilton Head Island restaurants? Is this an over-the-top tourist town? What’s the weather like? Is Hilton Head Island beach crowded? I adore sharing the southern family travel scoop that women want to know about vacation spots, so stick around for the best things to do, where to stay, and what to eat with the whole family in tow.

view of lighthouse - things to do in Hilton Head Island



Save on your hotel -


Driving onto the island that’s twelve miles long and five miles wide, it definitely felt bigger and busier than its coastal cousin of St. Simons Island, Georgia that we’ve visited before – I wasn’t sure I would like it. We are grateful to the owners of #45 Ocean Club Condo for hosting us. As always, my honest Southern opinions are my own.

The story goes that back in 1949, developer Charles Fraser fell so in love with Hilton Head that he envisioned a peaceful beach community where the structures blended into the landscape and had respect for the nature around them. That’s why we noticed structures no higher than five stories and why even the McDonald’s yellow arches were tiny and didn’t have a neon light.


  • Can you give Hilton Head directions?

Whether you are driving north or south toward this coastal South Carolina island, Hilton Head is located just off of I95.

  • Is Hilton Head close to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina?

There are about 150 miles between Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach.

  • How close is Hilton Head to Charleston?

There are approximately two hours between Charleston and HHI.

  • How close is Hilton Head to Savannah, Georgia?

Hilton Head Island is about a twenty mile drive north from Savannah, Georgia.

  • What airport is closest to Hilton Head?

If you are flying to Hilton Head, the closest major airport is Savannah Hilton Head International Airport and it’s located about an hour away, or you may can fly straight into the Hilton Head Island Airport. Rental cars, taxis, and limos are all available for transportation from both.

  • Is Coligny Beach free?

Yes, parking at Hilton Head’s public beach is free. Yes, and you’ll love the family friendly amenities that will come in handy at this park like benches, changing rooms, gazebos with swings, bathrooms, restaurants, and stores.



A unique little waterfront community hub is tucked away on the south end of Hilton Head Island called Harbour Town. A cheerful, red and white candy-striped lighthouse stands in the center as  an iconic landmark and museum. Hilton Head’s history lines the lighthouse walls as you make the easy walk up to the top for the best scenic views of the Harbour Town Marina and the Calibogue Sound. At the top there is also a tiny gift shop with fun, memorable gifts. The shopping village is a collection of fine apparel boutiques, decor shoppes, and souvenir stores.

aerial view of Harbour Town, things to do in Hilton Head Island
Harbour Town

insider tips: The lighthouse tour is $5 to and actually has great gifts. It’s $8 per car charge to enter the Sea Pines community where Harbour Town is located. Be sure to buy a hand-dipped ice cream from the ice cream shop and chill in the red rocking chairs to watch the boats come into the marina. Kids can play and climb in the treehouse at the adjacent playground with the enormous live oak tree. Stick around for the nightly free performances there for kids there by a local artist.


With over 200 local Hilton Head restaurants, there is a place or two to fit everyone’s palate. The variety of Hilton Head Island restaurants goes beyond run-of-the-mill seafood joints on the coast. Surprisingly, there’s a strong representation of authentic Italian and Mexican/Southwestern neighborhood places also.

view of Aunt Chiladas mexican plate - things to do in Hilton Head
Aunt Chilada’s Mexican Fare

One of our favorite things to do in a new place is to check out the local eateries! Below is a list of our favorite family friendly restaurants in order of awesomeness:

  • Giuseppi’s Pizza & Pasta House – most incredible stone oven-cooked pizza crust I’ve ever put in my mouth! Fresh ingredients. Family-friendly sports bar atmosphere.
  • Aunt Chiladas – broad range of “Tex-Mex” and Mexican cuisine. Indoor or covered patio outdoor seating. Not your everyday Mexican! Laid-back atmosphere.
  • The Smokehouse – exceptional wood-fired pulled pork BBQ, and wings. Very laid-back outdoor deck seating with a fireplace that was great.
  • Java Burrito – best described as a tricked-out Chipotle counter service & high-level coffee bar. Not fancy – strip mall-style space with roomy seating.

insider tips: One night we had planned to visit the fine dining Italian restaurant, Ombra, but stumbled upon Giuseppi’s instead and fell in love. This place is hopping – don’t wait too close to dinnertime to arrive or you may have to wait a while!


There is no shortage of Hilton Head Island shopping. From the Shelter Cove shopping center to the extensive range of Tanger Outlets, there is an area for everyone. Nestled in woodsy lots, each shopping center has a beautiful promenade and coastal decor.

view of best things to do in Hilton Head - shopping!
Hilton Head Shopping Center – Francesca’s at Shelter Cove


With twelve miles of Hilton Head Island beach to choose from, you’ll find wide stretches of hard-packed sand perfect for walking and bike riding. All along the South Carolina Coast, this area is family friendly and one of the cleanest you’ll find. With several public beach accesses, each have a vibe of their own:

  • Alder Lane Beach Access, off South Forest Beach Drive
  • Burkes Beach Access, at the end of Burkes Beach Road
  • Chaplin Community Park, off of William Hilton Parkway
  • Coligny Beach Park, off Coligny Circle
  • Driessen Beach Park, at the end of Bradley Beach Road
  • Fish Haul Beach Park, off Beach City Road
  • Folly Field Beach Park, off Folly Field Road
  • Historical Mitchelville Freedom Park, at the end of Beach City Road
  • Islanders Beach Park, off Folly Field Road

Driessen Beach and Islanders Beach parks are great choices for families because they have playgrounds and picnic shelters.

beach chair on the beach - things to do in Hilton Head Island SC
HHI’s South Forest Beach

Personally, we thought South Forest Beach, the one-mile stretch of beachfront that begins at Coligny Circle and ends at Sea Pines Plantation (and directly in front of our condo), was the perfect family friendly spot because of the quiet, more secluded feel but with close access to beachside barefoot cafes, shopping, dining and live entertainment options.

insider tips: If you’re torn about where to stay, consider the AirBnB we stayed in (described below) that’s only 100 steps from the patio door to our favorite beach!


It may seem odd to include our condo to this list but it added SO much value to our stay! What we didn’t realize was that this was no ordinary beach condo. Not only was it located on the quietest area of the island, it was also close to shopping and restaurants, and had a fantastic view of the ocean. Literally five steps away from the back patio was a short walkway that led straight to the sand. Equipped with everything we needed, there were many extras that made our stay extra special.

Ocean Front 45 Ocean Club 
Recently renovated with breathtaking Coastal Farmhouse decor, our condo came with two roomy bedrooms, two baths, and the best master shower I’ve ever experienced. Not only was it immaculately clean but we had every possible supply that we needed plus many extras.

The extras included a fully stocked kitchen, modern washer and dryer, beach chairs, umbrellas, beach toys, heated pool, outdoor grill, over-sized Adirondack outdoor furniture, and three smart TVs. Here’s how to book this condo now.





Hilton Head Airbnb: South Forest Beach, Hilton Head, Island SC

Harbour Town Village & Lighthouse: 149 Lighthouse Rd, Hilton Head

Giuseppi’s: 32 Shelter Cove Ln, Hilton Head

Aunt Chilada’s: 69 Pope Ave, Hilton Head

The Smokehouse: 34 Palmetto Rd, Hilton Head

Java Burrito: 1000 William Hilton Pkwy

Shelter Cove Town Centre: 40 Shelter Cove Ln, Hilton Head

Tanger Outlets: 1414 Fording Island Rd., Bluffton, SC

Coligny Plaza/Beach Park: 1 N Forest Beach Dr., Hilton Head

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Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, and more, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist with a passion for helping women lose the overwhelm of planning family-friendly trips in the south. She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about Georgia, Florida, & the Carolinas vacations.

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️



  1. Kate werth
    March 18, 2019 / 9:56 pm

    Hilton Head looks incredible and exactly like the kind of place my husband would love to visit! I am a Beachcomber myself so I think we could both have some fun. The thing that stands out the most to me is that you had a question and answer section up top with the directions and information and I think that is just genius!
    Im wondering for far hilton head is from Detroit!

    • Shan
      March 19, 2019 / 6:27 am

      Awww, thanks, Kate. I’m glad it was helpful. Maybe you can head down one day soon with the hubs – and I think you’re looking at about 13 hours or so. 🙂


  2. Cass
    March 20, 2019 / 8:42 pm

    I have visited both St Simons Island and Hilton Head numerous times. Both are great but I liked the vibe at Hilton Head and we have great memories there. We always eat breakfast at a great little place called Stacks Pancake House. Just our minor recommendation for your next visit.

    • Shan
      March 21, 2019 / 8:35 am

      Love it! Thanks so much for the idea. Sounds yummy!


  3. Margie
    March 21, 2019 / 8:36 am

    Hilton Head looks like a great place for a family vacation. We drove for a bit to check out the outlets there while we were in Charleston, but didn’t hit the beach.

    • Shan
      March 21, 2019 / 9:10 am

      So glad you got to see the outlets. We loved the smaller Tanger Outlets2 that were on the island. So gorgeous!


  4. Carolyn
    March 25, 2019 / 10:45 pm

    Is the lighthouse just decorative or was it a working one at some point in history? Looks like a cute little community. Nice that the condo was so close to a good beach and had a swimming pool.

    • Shan
      March 26, 2019 / 1:03 pm

      I know there was a lighthouse constructed in the 1800s but the one standing not functional. I read that the developer wanted a fun landmark to draw the community and visitors together and that’s exactly the feel we got. It was very cute. You can walk all the way up for incredible views and the walls of the lighthouse have history of the island on them. Super cool!!!


  5. umiko
    March 25, 2019 / 11:31 pm

    After reading your post, I know that I have to visit Hilton Head again. There are so much that I haven’t done or visited yet. Maybe they are new, because I visited in December 2002. And I have no idea that it is only 2 hours from Charleston. Next visit will cover Charleston as well. And of course, Savannah.

    • Shan
      March 26, 2019 / 12:45 pm

      Yes to seeing HHI, Charleston, AND SAvannah. Some of the most unique, gorgeous places in the U.S.!


  6. Tiffany
    March 26, 2019 / 12:11 pm

    Perfect timeing. We are looking to vaca there as it’s the closest beach to us! Tucking this back!

    • Shan
      March 26, 2019 / 12:43 pm

      Yay! Hope it’s very helpful to you on your trip! Have fun!


  7. Marta Rivera
    March 26, 2019 / 1:35 pm

    I’ve never been to Hilton Head, but now that I see this, I’m wanting to go!

    • Shan
      March 26, 2019 / 2:58 pm

      We had a lovely time there. Let me know if I can help in any way!


  8. Mimi
    March 26, 2019 / 3:58 pm

    That looks like an amazing place!

    • Shan
      March 26, 2019 / 4:39 pm

      It was so lovely!


  9. Paula I'm Busy Being Awesome
    March 26, 2019 / 3:58 pm

    Such a stunning place, I’d love to visit

    • Shan
      March 26, 2019 / 4:39 pm

      You should, Paula! Let me know if I can help in any way!


  10. Leigh Suznovich
    March 26, 2019 / 9:25 pm

    I’ve never been but I love a nice beach vacation!! Hilton Head looks so fun for families and gorgeous too.

    • Shan
      March 27, 2019 / 7:02 am

      It truly is. Hope you get to visit soon! 🙂


      • Leigh Suznovich
        April 8, 2019 / 5:34 pm

        We recently joined the Disney Vacation Club and they have a place there. Definitely going to visit in the future!

        • Shan
          April 10, 2019 / 1:27 pm

          I saw that when there. I had no idea but it looks really cool too.


  11. Helen Little
    April 8, 2019 / 4:13 pm

    This sounds like such a unique place to visit and so far away from the usual!

    • Shan
      April 10, 2019 / 1:28 pm

      YES! I love the unusual places! It was great!


  12. Rebecca Strength and Sunshine
    April 8, 2019 / 4:50 pm

    I’ve heard wonderful things about it!

    • Shan
      April 10, 2019 / 1:27 pm

      Awesome! We enjoyed Hilton Head Island so much!


  13. Stephanie D
    April 8, 2019 / 5:49 pm

    I love a good beach and it looks like there is plenty! Also love that strutures don’t impede with the view and that surrounding nature is respected.

    • Shan
      April 10, 2019 / 1:26 pm

      Yes, me too, Stephanie. I love that things are left as natural as possible!


  14. Amber
    April 9, 2019 / 10:05 am

    Looks like a great family vacation destination! We’ve been thinking about visiting sometime early summer!

    • Shan
      April 10, 2019 / 1:25 pm

      Yay! Glad it was helpful. I hope you love it like we did!


  15. Tamara | This Mom's Delight
    April 10, 2019 / 11:38 am

    Hilton Head sounds like the perfect place for my family to take one last vacation before my daughter starts her own family. I haven’t been to the beach in so long that I am having trouble choosing just one from your list!

    • Shan
      April 10, 2019 / 1:20 pm

      Aww, how exciting for you. I hope this was helpful!


  16. Marina
    April 11, 2019 / 4:34 am

    sounds like an amazing place. I really need a break and this post reminds me that I haven’t booked my spring holidays yet :/

    • Shan
      April 11, 2019 / 8:30 am

      I’m so glad you liked it! Yes, you must get to planning that Spring holiday – you’ll be so refreshed, I’m sure.


  17. joy abou zeid
    April 11, 2019 / 9:53 am

    Lovely post! my favorite would to be to relax on the beach and eat of course 😛

    • Shan
      April 11, 2019 / 10:20 am

      Thanks for your kind words. Oh yea, beach time and eating are our favorites too! 🙂


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