Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Summer Road Trip 2015: Hilton Head, SC


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Hilton Head beach
Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head, South Carolina, can be considered one of the premier East Coast beach areas to visit. It's full of luxurious resorts, noted golf courses and fine dining. I always thought it was a bit out of my league, and in high season, you won't find those $50/night specials. But, it was time to finally visit.

Foundation of Baynard Plantaton
Baynard Plantation Ruins, Harbour Townm Hilton Head, South Carolina
I decided a taste of Hilton Head, SC was better than no nibble at all. Since I am a vacation club owner, I really didn't want to spend an astronomical amount at a resort when I could use my points. But then, what if I didn't want to trade all my points for a week? 

I decided to bite the bullet and just pay to stay for two days to check it out, rather than trying to book a resort through my vacation ownership exchange. After sifting through reviews on Trip Advisor, I warily booked the Red Roof Inn. I needed not have worried. For two days, this motel was adequate, particularly only if one needed someplace to sleep (they do have a pool and a very small complimentary continental breakfast). I am not a very picky lodger and I didn't require luxury for this part of my road trip. Clean and safe is all I needed and that's what we got. But, before your book any lower priced lodging, always check out the latest reviews of your favorite travel site.

Red Roof Inn, Hilton Head, So. Carolina
Red Roof Inn, Hilton Head, South Carolina

The motel was on William Hilton Parkway, a major thoroughfare for the island. A car is definitely required if one wants to take advantage of the sights. For those who would be flying in, I would recommend staying at a beach front resort if you don't rent a car. 

Bicycling around the island is also a great option. The flat terrain, bike lanes and bike racks almost command you to park the car for your entire stay. We had our own bikes, but there are bike rental places everywhere. 

Cycling in Hilton Head, So. Carolina
Bicycling around Harbour Town, Hilton Head, South Carolina

So what was the hype? If you're a golfer, you're in absolute heaven. If you just want to sit on the beach, you could do that, too, until it rains. If you want to eat, there are all types of options from fine dining to Dunkin' Donuts. If you want to get in shape, you can jog or bike ride around US 278 for miles. 

The ambiance of the island is due to the low-key physical appearance. Town ordinances specify how construction is done resulting in the entire island looking like it was decorated by the same interior designer in varying shades of sage and taupe. Also, some buildings must be behind trees to preserve the forest look of the island. We rode right by what seemed to be the only miniature golf place in town because it looked like it was built right into the terrain. Despite these restrictions, the island abounds with businesses including shopping outlets right over the bridge in Bluffton. 

Lighthouse, Hilton Head, So. Carolina
Harbour Town Lighthouse

For our beach experience, we chose Coligny Beach Park, because it was a public beach. It was clean, yes, popular, but accessible. Parking is not the best and you need to read every single sign. There are paid parking lots. 

Always plan for inclement weather when staying near the shore. Hilton Head, South Carolina, Coligny Beach Park.

As ritzy as the place is, one might be surprised to learn it is actually the home to descendants of slaves and those of Gullah background who stayed after the Civil War. The island celebrates its place in U.S. history and you can visit relics of a plantation on the Sea Pines Resort (Stoney-Baynard Plantation). You can pay for a day pass to explore Sea Pines.

Plantation Ruins, Hilton Head So. Carolina
Stoney-Baynard Plantation, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head, So. Carolina.

If you want Vegas-y style nightlife or a noisy, lit up Time Square-like boardwalk, this is not for you. Hilton Head is a place to relax, retreat, get in some recreation and to refresh. Go on down, it just might do you some good.