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Barber Family Favorite Activities on Hilton Head Island

February 3rd, 2014

Our family has been vacationing on Hilton Head since 1998 with extended family of all ages. Below are our “tips” on restaurants, shops, activities and places to go. We also recommend that you visit the Palmetto Dunes General Store located across from Alexander’s Restaurant and next to the PD tennis courts. You can pick up on the front porch multiple free brochures which provide details on activities, restaurants, golfing, etc.

Activities Located on Palmetto Dunes – Park Your Car and Relax!

Beach
We are located third row and there are two wooded lots between our home and the beachfront homes. You may access the beach using the stepping stones through the bamboo archway from the left side of our pool or using the “secret” path from the right side of our pool which goes through the bamboo jungle. If you use the left side path you will exit onto Amada Court, turn right toward the beach, turn right again at the Amada Court “T” and then left onto the concrete path between beachfront homes to the dunes crossover steps and the beach. If you use the right path you will exit onto Amada Court, turn left and then right onto the concrete path between beachfront homes and on beach.

If you want to take a shortcut to the Dunes House pavilion you can take the “secret path” to Amada Court, turn right and find your way to the pavilion which has a restaurant and public restrooms. There is also a turn-around driveway at the beach pavilion if you need to drop off people needing assistance in walking, large loads of gear or the kayak for placing it in the ocean.

If you have teenagers who enjoy the opportunity of meeting people, turn right on the beach toward the more populated areas near the hotels and villas. If you prefer a more private beach experience, turn left on the beach toward the residential area. Since this is a gated, “residents only” beach area to the left, you will find a unique haven.

Pool
Enjoy the privacy of our backyard pool. The switch for the pineapple light is right below the white SPA control button on the railing going from deck to pool. The pool and SPA light is on the white button located on the deck railing. Our pool service comes twice a week to keep the pool clean, so you may notice them at work during your stay. During the cooler seasons, the pool may be heated at an additional charge, and we require advance notice for activation. There is an enclosed outdoor shower on the side of the house near the pool.

Tennis
The Palmetto Dunes tennis complex, conveniently located within walking distance of our home, rents court time and features a daily round robin open to all. There are clay courts in the main complex, and hard surface courts across the lagoon via a small foot bridge. There is a tennis shop, and once a week they stage an exhibition match between the pros, usually involving free light refreshments, such as lemonade.

Golf
Golfers across the country recognize the superior facilities and services offered at Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island. The ultimate vote of confidence comes from the Fodor’s Golf Digest Places to Play fifth edition where the courses at Palmetto Dunes received high rankings from the golfers who know them from first hand experience. The Arthur Hills course rated an impressive 4.5 stars and was noted as an “excellent course and treated like a king; great condition; last three holes unbelievable”. The George Fazio rated an outstanding 4 stars.

The Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course, which was being renovated in 2002, received accolades from Golf Magazine as ‘The Pick of the Month’ in March 2003. This course offers a challenging layout and beautiful ocean views. This course is located a 2 minute walk from our home.

Canoes and Kayaks
Palmetto Dunes features 10 miles of lagoons, and a fun way to explore them is through renting a canoe at the Dunes Outfitters bike/canoe rental shop within walking distance of our house. Allow at least an hour or an hour and a half for this activity, as there is a prescribed “loop” recommended by the kayak rental company. Also be aware that they cut off rentals several hours before closing time to allow time to return kayaks. There is not a lot of current, so be prepared to paddle most of the way. Enjoy the tranquility, and you’ll probably see some low country birds such as cranes up close. Bug spray, bottled water, and sunscreen are recommended. You may also see an alligator or two.

Bikes
We have two children’s bikes and four adult bikes available for guests at our home free of charge. They are located in the shed on the side of the house. If you require more bikes, there is a bike rental shop within walking distance of our home. Palmetto Dunes Plantation is bike-friendly, with miles of bike paths crossing the property. There is even a bike path under highway 278 which will take you to the Shelter Cove area which features a shopping center, a marina, restaurants etc. Hilton Head Island also features a bike path along the main highway if you are a more ambitious biker.

The Dunes Buggy
The Dunes Buggy is in full operation for the summer. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a passenger van that you can ride free of charge to various points on Palmetto Dunes. It runs from 8 AM to 9 PM through early Sept. 10. The van stops at The Dunes Beach House on the ocean near our home, at the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center, also within an easy walk of our home, and goes to both golf courses on Palmetto Dunes, to Shelter Cove Harbor across 278 from Palmetto Dunes. For more information call 689-4222.

Beach Chairs
Beach chairs and some floats and water toys are also available for the use of our guests in the poolside storage chest. We have additional beach chairs in the “Bike” shed.

Dunes House dining
The Dunes House beach pavilion near our home offers casual open air dining right on the ocean. (hamburgers, fries, sandwiches, wine, beer, etc.) It is usually open for lunch and dinner during the season and they sometimes have a singer/guitarist performing in the evenings. Be aware that on occasion the Dunes House may be closed for a private party, such as a wedding.

Hotels
The main hotels on Palmetto Dunes offer dining opportunities. We are within easy walking distance of the Marriott, especially on the beach. This hotel has undergone extensive redecorating and renovation and offers fine dining. There is an outdoor bar area right on the edge of the beach which is delightful in the evening. There is an ocean side casual restaurant with outdoor umbrellas overlooking the beach that serves pizza and sandwiches. (Beachside dining is rare as most restaurants are on the lagoon or inter coastal waterway side of the island.) On the beach are also ocean rentals, such as umbrellas, chairs, wave floats and those crazy looking paddle vehicles that look like a large tricycle. There is also a gift shop on the second floor near the check in desk that offers a variety of resort wear and souvenir gift items such as hats, mugs, etc. and the prices aren’t astronomical.

Alexander’s Restaurant, located within walking distance of our home, offers good seafood and traditional selections. We take advantage of their “early bird special” before 6:00. Not only do we save money, but we beat the crowds. The early bird special includes either a soup or salad and we recommend the she crab soup or seafood chowder when offered. If you enjoy scenery, you might request a table overlooking the lagoon.

The General Store
Also located within walking distance of our home, near the tennis courts. Offered are snacks and staple items. There are newspapers, ice cream, and even breakfast items. They also offer great take out breakfasts and lunches. So convenient to send the kids off on their bikes!

Fishing
“Uncle Dan”, our family fisherman routinely surf fishes on the beach and catches a variety of fish. Fish can also be caught in the lagoons. A bait shop is located in the Shelter Cove Marina area across highway from Palmetto Dunes.

Activities and Services on the Island

Grocery Stores
The nearest grocery store is the brand new Kroger located a mile north of the Palmetto Dunes entrance on Hwy 278 in the Shelter Cove complex.

Other grocery stores located farther away. For other stores such as Publix, go to the Sea Pines traffic circle. Go right for Publix, and it will be on the left. There is another Food Lion type store on the right near Publix as well. I often go to the Bi Lo, which is past the Piggly Wiggly and in the Sam‘s Club shopping center several miles north.

Shelter Cove Shopping Center
The shopping center is located just north on highway 278 from Palmetto Dunes and is undergoing a major renovation. It has several small department stores and specialty shops.

Shelter Cove Harbor
Just across 278 from the Palmetto Dunes entrance you will find a scenic harbor full of docked boats surrounded by shops and restaurants. Most of the restaurants feature outdoor dining harbor side.

Shelter Cove Harbor
Located across the street from Palmetto Dunes has boat slips and shops and restaurants along the waterfront. It’s nice for an evening stroll. During the summer they had evening outdoor entertainment with a singer who did fun games and songs that appeal to children.

San Miguel’s restaurant is here, and you can enjoy Mexican food and sunsets. There is a free Live Family Show at Shelter Cove most nights during the summer, usually featuring Shannon Tanner who does an interactive show featuring sing-alongs, 60’s standards, original ballads and children’s favorites. (April through Sept.) Shows take place under the Shelter Cove Harbor Gazebo and show start at 7:00 PM. They’re free and open to the public. Information: 843-785-9087.

Children’s playground also located at Shelter Cover Harbor. It’s elaborate, but it will entertain those who like to swing and climb.

Outlet Malls
Two outlet malls are located on the main highway off the island. They have a typical mix of name brand stores. We have purchased bargain golf shoes, clothes, etc.
Shop until you drop!

National Stores
The Sam’s Club and Super Wal-Mart (groceries included) are located north of Palmetto Dunes (back towards the mainland) on highway 278 past the airport. Wal-Mart has a souvenir area that’s affordable. There’s a Home Goods, Steinmart, etc. Keep in mind that it is extremely hard to see stores and shops as there is much vegetation and low key signage to preserve the charm of the island.

Fast Food and Chain Restaurants
To find Wendy’s and McDonald’s, go left out of Palmetto Dunes on 278. There are numerous others available. Check the phone directory. Most major restaurant chains are represented, including Outback Steak House, etc.

Island Restaurants
One of our sons recently took his girlfriend to the Old Fort Pub for her 21st birthday. He reported a very picturesque setting in an old plantation type house where there was a great view of the sunset. .

Our family has also tried Japanese steak houses and other seafood restaurants. The Kingfisher is located in Shelter Cove across from Palmetto Dunes. It overlooks an inlet and offers live music most nights. We have eaten the early bird special, which includes a limited menu and smaller portions, and a dessert (usually pecan pie.)

We also like the Old Oyster Factory and the Crazy Crab for seafood.

The Salty Dog Café is located in Sea Pines Plantation. (You must pay a parking fee to enter Sea Pines and parking is sometimes hard to find.) We ate lunch on the dock under umbrellas. There was no hostess to seat you – first come, first serve. Think burgers or seafood and hushpuppies in a plastic basket with fries. There is some sort of legend about a dog saving a seaman’s life and the Salty Dog T-shirts are quite popular with the teen set, and there is a Salty Dog shop located nearby to get your souvenirs.
If you just want the t-shirts, there is a Salty Dog store outside of Sea Pines (no $5.00 gate pass) on Arrow Rd., which if off highway 278. Turn left out of Palmetto Dunes and go several lights to Arrow.

Hudson’s Seafood Restaurant is located on the north end of the island on the shrimp docks. It’s been operating for 30 years and has the typical “old beach” décor – plastic table cloths and ladder back chairs. The tap water was undrinkable so order tea or soft drinks. They serve hush puppies and the traditional Southern fish dishes of shrimp, shell fish, crabs, etc. The food was good but I found it a little greasy and not as good as Alexander’s. It also seemed a bit higher priced for the quality of food when compared to early bird specials at other restaurants.

Bone Fish Grill in Fresh Market Shopping Center (when leaving Palmetto Dunes turn left toward Sea Pines and the shopping center will be on your right a mile or two.) They feature grilled seafood and then add signature side sauces to complement your selection. The waiters wear chef’s smocks so you feel as if the chef is paying special attention to your table. The service was excellent and the price included either a salad or a soup, bread, and potato/veg. sides with your meal. We noticed mostly an adult clientele and I’m not sure if it caters to children. Don’t miss the crab/corn chowder. Call ahead for reservations as it is extremely popular.

The Fresh Market
This is a very upscale specialty food store that has dim lighting, classical music, high quality (and priced) meats, gourmet foods, flowers, prepared meals that can be taken home and heated, nuts, coffees, etc. Take a look and see if you can find something new to try!

Miniature Golf
We like the Legendary Golf course on 278 as it is well shaded and landscaped and the holes are fun with one “hazard” each such as a gravel pit or a water hazard. You can get your name on the “leader board” inside with a good enough score.

Movie Theaters
Theaters are located north toward the airport or south toward Sea Pines. We have gone to both theaters and have never found either crowded. Each individual theater is quite small and intimate inside. .

Sea Pines Plantation
Sea Pines is located on the south end of the island and visitors may visit for a daily parking fee. Since parking is limited at the Harbor Town Marina area, during the summer there is a visitor’s parking lot where you board a free trolley to Harbor Town. At Harbor Town is the lighthouse (never a working lighthouse, but a landmark which you may climb for a view). I believe recently they began charging to go up to the observation deck. At one time there was a gift shop up top.) Here you can see the yachts and pleasure craft that dock on the island. There are also small shops and restaurants, plus a dock where water skiing and other small watercraft are available. Our family did the water skiing and enjoyed it. The crew gave good instructions on how to do it. Advance reservations are required and bear in mind that times of high winds equal choppy waves and hence, unsuitable water skiing. Also available on Sea Pines is a forest preserve with trails (we’ve never gone. Mosquito repellant highly recommended, however), and horse back riding stables (we’ve seen them cross the road – think tame line of slow horses with people of all ages.) At the stables they also have a small farm animal petting zoo and pony rides. And of course, there’s the golf course where the Heritage Tournament is played.

Sea Pines was the original development, founded by Charles Frazier, and was a ground breaking concept in it’s time. Sea Pines is large and spread out. It’s too far to walk from the satellite parking area where the trolley stops at Harbor Town.

Boat Excursions
Various companies offer boat excursions, some leaving from the Shelter Cove Marina which is right across Hwy 278 from Palmetto Dunes. Advance reservations are required. Here are the following tours we have taken:

Daufuskie Island Tour:
A boat takes you over to Daufuskie Island, once famous for its isolation and featured twenty or thirty years ago in the first book written by Pat Conroy who was a teacher on the island following his graduation from the Citadel. Pat wrote a book entitled “The Water is Wide” later made into a movie “Conrack,” which told of the unusual culture of the local black community where Gullah was spoken. On the boat trip over the captain narrates a bit about the Calibogue Sound which separates Hilton Head from the mainland and you get to view interesting homes, etc, from the water.

The boats usually have a lower deck with tables, windows, and air conditioning, a small snack bar and a maritime rest room. (these same boats do dinner cruises) We recommend being early to the boat as these downstairs seats fill fast. There is also usually an upstairs deck with an awning, which is less appealing because of the heat and also if a rain shower blows over.

Once on Daufuskie, we boarded a decrepit school bus with open windows (no air conditioning) for a local tour. Another option was to rent a golf cart and tour the island on your own. A local gentleman drove the bus and gave the tour over the rural roads. The whole thrust of the tour is to get a taste for the local black culture. Don’t expect scenic beauty that can’t be found on Hilton Head. What you will see are the entrances to exclusive private plantations which you are not allowed to enter, and the humble homes and cottages of the long time black residents. There were two stops, perhaps the best being the white clapboard church. It is a wonderful old fashioned structure that stands as a testament to the faith and culture of the black community. My favorite part: the original kerosene lamp chandeliers. The second stop was on the beach. Again, not as impressive as Hilton Head as it is somewhat sheltered and does not receive the same wave action. If you do make the trip, make sure to order some of the local crab cakes when offered. They are fabulous! This trip takes at least half a day. Travel by boat is slower than you think, and the ride home can be boring.

Savannah Boat Trip:
The same type boat with a narration of the Calibogue Sound, this time, destination the docks on the Savannah River in Savannah, Georgia. The boat ride is interesting, but again, long as often the boat must slow for no wake dock areas. Take playing cards or something to read for the trip when you tire of the scenery. The trip does, however, give you a sense of what it must have been like in seafaring days to take a trip from one of the outlying sea islands to the city. The banks of the Savannah River itself are remarkably undeveloped, with only an occasional industrial outpost to spoil the feeling of time travel. Once in Savannah, you dock right on the heart of the tourist hub where merchant ships used to unload their wares in the riverside warehouses.

Here your boat ticket entitles you to a sight seeing trolley ride. (Open air, no air conditioning, paper hand fans available) This trolley trip is well worth the time and you are also given a voucher good for a tour of a historic home of your choice. The trolley runs through the historic district and around the lovely city squares, giving you history along with a bit of corny humor. There are designated stops and you may get off and get on whenever you desire. We discovered, however, that the departure time back to Hilton Head allowed just enough time to go through the whole tour without stopping, having lunch at a waterfront restaurant, and walking back for one house tour, and we would have preferred a bit of time to browse through shops. Before you dock in Savannah they give our coupons to local restaurants, which we used for a delicious free bowl of she crab soup with our lunch.

Savannah is well worth the time to visit. The boat trip is long (it seems it took about 2 hours to get there) and it is expensive when you have larger numbers of people. Less expensive (and less travel time) would be a car trip (one hour drive) to Savannah and a trolley tour.

Two homes we have toured both are connected with Juliet Gordon Lowe, the founder of the Girl Scouts. Admission is charged and tours are limited in size and run on a time schedule, so you may have to wait for a tour.

Cultural Arts
The Self Cultural Arts Center is located in the Shelter Cove Area across the highway from Palmetto Dunes. It is a small, intimate, state of the art theater with friendly ushers and volunteers. I saw a program on Gullah music featuring a cast of singers doing traditional southern/African singing.

Fireworks
The Shelter Cove area has fireworks once a week on a week night during the summer. We haven’t gone to see them. Check an Island Guide, free at tourist information sites.

Off Island Golfing
If you are looking for more affordable greens fees, consider an off-island golf course. Our family prefers Old South/Carolina where children golf free for every paying adult. Since we’re not professionals, we appreciate wide fairways.

Honey Horn Plantation
Here you’ll find scenic grounds of the original hunting type retreat that was on the island around the turn of the century. There is a large white cottage with exhibits about Hilton Head history and the natural resources, plus a nice gift shop. There are many walking/nature trails, a camellia garden, and a marsh observation dock. This is also the site of special events, such as polo matches and craft fairs.

Beaufort, SC. About a 30 or 40 minute drive from Hilton Head, Beaufort has several blocks of historic southern mansions facing the water. You can take a carriage tour, shop main street, or talk a walk through the historic district. It’s not on the size same scale as Savannah, but it gives a good feel of bygone days in the old South.

The tide in Beaufort is treacherous, and has the greatest rise and fall on the coast. This causes dramatic contrasts in the inlet waterfront, going from exposed oyster beds and mud flats to full flood water over the course of several hours. Also home to the Parris Island Marine training base.

Churches
There are churches of many denominations located on the island. There are also special events, such as a community sunrise Easter service on the beach. We have attended St. Andrews by the Sea Methodist on Pope Avenue and the First Presbyterian Church.

Bluffton – small art shops in a quaint Fishing Village
Bluffton is located just off 278 on the mainland near the Home Depot. The town is made up of old coastal cottages. There is a small historic home open for tours. On the small main business street are small art and antique shops in old cottages.

The Church of the Cross, Bluffton, SC
One of my favorite churches anywhere. It was built before the Civil War and is a shingle style Gothic with rose colored stained glass windows. It sits in a lovely churchyard overlooking a bluff on the river. It’s often open so you can take a look inside. It’s Episcopalian and although that isn’t my denominational background, I enjoy the wonderful music, the setting, and the minister. Call to find out worship times as they are somewhat unusual.

Other Adventures
Jet skis and kayaks are available for rent at most marinas. You may also hire excursion boats and or embark on a deep sea fishing excursion.

Coligny Plaza and North Forest Beach
The heart of the tourist/retail/motel section of the beach. We are not as familiar with this area as we have not often visited there. People, traffic, and action. Go around the Sea Pines circle and head east to the ocean. There’s a good ice cream shop here and the usual beach shops.

Pinckney Wildlife Refuge
This is located off the bridge to the mainland. We recently visited and found that there’s not much “action” for children. It is a true refuge with quite a bit of walking on a gravel road through marsh and maritime forest areas. Bikes are permitted, so it could offer good biking with no cars in sight for a tranquil family outing. We didn’t see any wild life but a few small crabs. Serious bird watchers might go in the morning or evening.

Consignment Shops
There are several small consignment shops on the island offering clothes or antiques. We were actually quite successful finding a suitable outfit for my sister to wear at her son’s wedding at one of the shops. The price was right, too! These are very small shops and you never know what you’ll find but they’re stocked by a surprisingly large year round population of well heeled people on the island who live on some of the gated plantations who sell their gently used clothes. The few small antique shops I have been in are fun to browse in, but the prices are high.

Airport
Hilton Head Island has a very small airport with only about 30 seat passenger planes flying directly in however our mother-in-law has traveled there via this airport from Charlotte or Atlanta where I believe all direct flights originate. They have recently put the name of Hilton Head onto the Savannah Airport with a slash. This airport is a nice mid size city terminal with easy access to Interstate 95 and is about an hour and fifteen minutes drive from Hilton Head Island. Low fare carriers such as Air Tran do fly into Savannah, so prices tend to be competitive.

Sea Shack is well kept secret

March 6th, 2007

For fresh seafood in a down home setting, try the Sea Shack at Hilton Head. The portions are large, the seafood is fresh, and the atomosphere is cozy. Get there early as the line is often out the door with no free tables. Get your food to go and bring it back to enjoy it at the Barber Beach House!make

18 Mooring Buoy | Palmetto Dunes Plantation | Hilton Head Island, SC