You’d think that after visiting the same place a few times a year (every year), a vacation spot might become a little “ho hum” after a while. Even though our family has been visiting Hilton Head for over 26 years (my husband for even longer), and our daughters consider it their second home, we continue to discover new spots that keep our island visits fresh. No matter what stage in life we’re in, our Hilton Head vacations are the backdrop for some of our sweetest family memories.
We often do the tourist hot spots — Harbour Town and other lures within Sea Pines, dining at popular restaurants and shopping for deals at the Tanger outlets — but making time to find those lesser-known attractions and restaurants is what makes it our Hilton Head.
Whether you come to the island as a couple, with small children or with hard to please teens, there’s plenty here to bring you back year after year. Here are some of our family favorites.
When the girls were elementary age, they adored this place. Actually, they even still talk about it. We found it one rainy day, yet returned on many sunny days. Located on the south end of the island just off Pope Avenue, the Sandbox is an interactive children’s museum that will keep your kids entertained for hours. My daughters’ favorites were the international airport terminal complete with an airplane; the pirate adventure boat and the South State Bank. The Sandbox also offers programs and summer camps.
When the movie Soul Surfer was released, the girls were mildly obsessed with Bethany Hamilton and anything related to surfing. That summer, we earned “parents of the year” status when we signed them up for surf camp through the Island Rec Center. The camp took place at Burkes Beach, which is a great public beach to hang out on for the day. The cost for the camp is extremely reasonable, too. Island Rec also offers lots of other camps and programs for adults and seniors — sailing, paddle boarding, pickle ball, biking, etc.
My mother-in-law and I share a passion for estate sales and consignment stores, and we’ve spent many vacation days meandering through the aisles in search of treasures. I bought my favorite lamp at Classic Consignments, scored several mint-condition vintage Nancy Drew books at The Bargain Box and keep a robust costume jewelry collection thanks to The Church Mouse Boutique Thrift Shop.
Crave by Daniel’s
We only discovered this place a few years ago when my husband and I spent the weekend in Hilton Head sans kids for our anniversary. We made a pact we would only eat in restaurants we’ve never been to. Best. Decision. Ever.
Tucked away amidst the tee shirt and souvenir shops on the ocean side of Coligny Plaza is this hip tapas restaurant with the most remarkable happy hour. Savor a variety of delectable international dishes accompanied with signature drinks, and still stay within your budget. Lucky for us, it’s within walking distance of our condo (because those Berrypolitans really pack a punch!). I highly recommend the spicy shrimp and calamari or the freshly made hummus plate. You can enjoy live music on select nights, too.
No matter how often we visit Hilton Head, no trip is complete without watching Gregg Russell perform under the Liberty Oak in Harbour Town. When they were younger, the girls practically wore out their DVDs of his movies Camp Tanglefoot and Come Away Home, and they often drove us to distraction with their incessant singing of his song “Are We There Yet?” on the four-hour ride home. Gregg is talented, engaging, funny and kind. He’s also one of the reasons Hilton Head is such a special place for so many. Oh, and you don’t have to have kids to enjoy the show, either. He’s that much fun.
Places to Stay
There’s no shortage of fantastic places to hang your hat while you’re here. AAA Four Diamond accommodations like The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa, Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort, Sonesta Resort Hilton Head island and The Inn & Club at Harbor Town are all great options. They also offer special discounts to AAA Members.
Do you have a favorite family vacation spot? We’d love to hear about it! Share it with us in the comments section below.
Want more beach vacation inspiration? Last year, we popped over to Daufuskie Island for a weekend! You can read about it here: Exploring the “Island with no Bridge.”