Lighthouse on Hilton Head Island
Photo: Peter Lakomy/Fotolia

Hilton Head Island is a beautiful vacation destination in South Carolina, complete with sandy beaches, great golf courses and a diverse choice of activities. The island is interlaced with an extensive network of trails so that you can easily explore it by bike or on foot. Best Things to Do on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina with kids include Daufuskie Island, the Coastal Discovery Museum and the Sandbox Interactive Children's Museum.

»Coligny Beach Park

Coligny Beach Park

Once you get to the end of Pope Avenue just off Coligny Circle, you will find Coligny Beach Park, the largest and the most popular beach on Hilton Head. Miles of hard-packed fine sand are often full of tourists working on their tans, splashing in the sea, or relaxing in the shade of their umbrellas.

The beach has excellent amenities, the bathrooms are clean, there are quaint changing rooms and outdoor showers, and you can rent any piece of beach-related equipment you need. Multiple and varied food options in the park encourage you to spend a day on Coligny Beach.

If you prefer more secluded and private beaches, keep biking to Alder Lane, Burkes Beach, Chaplin Community Park, Folly Field Beach Park, or Islanders Beach Park. They are all as beautiful as Coligny and have public access. While all Hilton Head beaches are public, access to them is often private. During the swimming season, there is a lifeguard on duty on most public beaches and parks. If you are wondering what to do on Hilton Head Island, this is a great place to start exploring.

More places to visit: 20 Best Things To Do in Charleston. Photo: sumiko photo/Fotolia

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»Hilton Head Island Bike Trails

Hilton Head Island Bike Trails

There is really no need for cars on Hilton Head. The island is tiny – only twelve miles long and five miles wide – and it has no imposing hills to climb. In fact, there is no place you cannot access with a bike. Smart islanders, in order to encourage biking and discourage gas-guzzling and smoke-belching vehicles, started developing a dense network of bike paths in 1960 and are still working on it to this day.

You can go from place to place while enjoying spectacular vistas on your leisurely bike trip. There are sixty miles of bike lanes and more than two hundred miles of shared paths. About a quarter of the streets in the city have designated bike lanes or shoulders.

There are excellent maps of all bike lanes, but let your pedals take you to the island’s secret spots you would miss otherwise; venture under the canopy of live oaks and pines to discover secret beaches and forgotten parks and monuments. You can see so much more when you go slowly and take it all in. Photo: Wave break Media Micro/Fotolia

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»Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

There is so much more to do at Hilton Head than enjoy the beaches and the magnificent vistas. In the heart of the Island, there is a 349-seat theatre that can easily stand up to much larger and better-known art centers in the country. The enthusiastic group of islanders is doing a remarkable job of providing the islanders with the best in performing and visual arts; every year they organize exciting festivals such as the Taste of Gullah, Christmas Holiday Tree Lighting, and Youth ArtsFest.

They also produce five musicals, dramas, and comedies every year, host famous musicians, artists, and performers, and organize contemporary visual art exhibitions at the Walter Greer Gallery. They offer outstanding educational program for the youth through performance and visual workshops, interesting lectures, and fun field trips. When you have enough of swimming and biking, check out what is happening at the Art Center – there is something new every day.

14 Shelter Cove Lane, Hilton Head Island, SC, Phone: 843-842-2787

More vacation ideas: the Hilton Head Health Weight Loss Spa. Photo: Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

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»Coastal Discovery Museum

Coastal Discovery Museum

If you want to know more about South Carolina’s Lowcountry, its natural history, and cultural heritage, come to the Honey Horn campus and take part in one of the many programs, excursions, courses, and festivals organized by the Coastal Discovery Museum. Established in 1985, this non-profit community organization teaches about the Hilton Head and neighboring islands and their inhabitants, large and small.

Come and visit Marsh Tacky horses, wild horses of the island left by the Spaniards many centuries ago. Check out the butterfly enclosure, enjoy the gardens full of riotous colors, walk under the ancient live oaks, or take one of the fun onsite or off-site tours and learn about turtles, dolphins, crabs, shrimp, and crocs. The Coastal Discovery Museum provides the kind of learning every kid loves and is one of the best things to do in Hilton Head.

70 Honey Horn Drive, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Phone: 843-689-6767 Photo: Coastal Discovery Museum

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»Shelter Cove Town Centre

Shelter Cove Town Centre

Once you visit the upscale, manicured, and pristine Shelter Cove Town Centre, you will have a hard time believing that it started as an uninspiring and struggling mall not long ago. With a bit of imagination and the help of a few visionary developers, the Shelter Cove Town Centre was born, and the Hilton Head community and thousands of tourists have an exciting new destination with excellent shops, great restaurants, and some very attractive residences for sale. It is now a modern village showcasing a new lifestyle in the middle of the island where so much is quite old. Overlooking picturesque Broad Creek and featuring two lagoons and a new park, the Shelter Cove Town Center is a little jewel that both locals and tourists love to visit.

40 Shelter Cove Lane, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Phone: 843-686-3090 Photo: Shelter Cove Town Centre

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»Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

About half a mile from Hilton Head Island lies Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, which has great outdoor wildlife and nature classrooms. It is a popular tourist destination for those who love to explore, photograph wildlife, hunt white-tailed deer, go fishing, or just hike and bike through the 14 miles of trails that meander throughout the refuge. The 4,053-acre refugee consists of Pinckney Island, Big Harry and Little Harry Islands, Corn Island, and Buzzard Island. Pinckney is the largest.

The refuge consists mostly of salt marsh, brush land, forestland and freshwater ponds that are teeming with life. You can spot more than 250 species of birds, white-tailed deer, bobcats, red foxes, and plenty of American alligators. Take a hike to Dick Point or White Point – the breathtaking vista is worth an extra effort. Photo: maggier 89/Fotolia

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»Sea Pines Forest Preserve

Sea Pines Forest Preserve

Just a few minutes from Coligny Beach Park, you will find yourself in a different world. Deep, mysterious forests, secluded lakes, and elevated walkways over dark swamps infested with crocodiles are just a few of the things you can see at Sea Pines Forest Preserve, the place discovered by a group of nomadic Indians about 4000 years ago.

They left us remnants of their ceremonial plaza, which today is known as the Indian Shell Ring, and traces of their long abandoned village. Explore the Forest Preserve on foot, horseback, on a wagon, boat or on bike and travel through boardwalks and along paths, small, overgrown canals, and high observation towers.

Enjoy miles of blooming meadows full of native flowers, look at the birds and other denizens of four small lakes and numerous canals that are meticulously preserved. The Fraser family established the Preserve in 1959, and they dedicated 605 acres of Sea Pines resort land for the wildlife sanctuary and public park. Next read: South Carolina beaches and South Carolina resorts

175 Greenwood Drive, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Phone: 843-842-1979 Photo: PETER LAKOMY- Fotolia.com

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»Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center

Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center

Whether you are a guest at the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, a guest elsewhere on Hilton Head, or a Hilton Head native, when you want to play tennis, you go to the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center, the best tennis center around. There are 23 clay and two Nova ProBounce courts. You do not have to stop playing after the sun goes down; six courts are brilliantly lighted at night.

Experienced staff members are there to make your visit pleasant, and the Center’s pros are there to help you improve your game. There are daily tournaments and instructional programs for any experience level, including children. The Resort and the tennis center are located in the center of Hilton Head.

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, 4 Queens Folly Road, 843-686-9697 Photo: Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center

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»Live Oac Outdoor Adventure Company

Live Oac Outdoor Adventure Company

When you are on an island, it is very likely that there is more to see around the island than on it. Live Oac will help you see all those hidden parts. As the Hilton Head Island’s most popular outdoor adventure company since 1996, they will offer you a chance to see dolphins frolicking in the water, sharks feeding, turtles slowly swimming, and birds hiding in the mangroves.

Their incredibly comfortable boat Odyssey has a very quiet motor with a noise suppressor to avoid disturbing the animals. Live Oac can take you fishing, kayaking, waterskiing, wakeboarding, or tubing. You can explore the creeks or just cruise around the island and observe the abundance of marine and coastal life. Your knowledgeable guide will also tell you interesting stories and share the legends about many of the small islands you pass.

43 Jenkins Rd, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Phone: 843-384-1414 Photo: Live Oac Outdoor Adventure Company

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»H2O Sports

H2O Sports

When you visit an island, you expect to have a good amount of fun on the water. On Hilton Head, that means heading to the Harbour Town Marina and signing up for one of the H2O Sports activities. The only problem is deciding which activity to try, or at least which to try first: fly a Parasail, go paddle boarding, rent a Jet Ski, ride a banana boat, see the alligators, rent a sailboat or a boat, explore in a kayak, go sailing, see the dolphins, go tubing or waterskiing. Even if you have really active kids, these activities should be enough to keep them busy. H2O has highly trained and certified guides, their equipment is new and in excellent shape.

149 Lighthouse Road, Harbour Town Yacht Basin, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Phone: 877-290-4386 Photo: H2O Sports

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»ZipLine Hilton Head

ZipLine Hilton Head

Seeing Hilton Head from 75 feet in the air is the thrill of a lifetime. ZipLine Hilton Head will let you soar amongst the enormous live oaks and ancient pines. You will get a spectacular view of the water, marshes, and boats in a way you have never experienced before. This two-hour long canopy tour includes hanging on eight zip lines 75 feet in the air and swinging from swaying bridges and an aerial staircase.

You will zip from platform to platform over the canopy of the majestic trees. Participants even have the option of racing each other to the finish line. ZipLine has trained and highly experienced professionals who will make sure you are safe and will provide basic ground school before strapping you in.

Broad Creek Marina Adventures, 33 Broad Creek Marina Way, Hilton Head Island, SC, Phone: 843-682-6000 Photo: ZipLine Hilton Head

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»Java Burrito Company

Java Burrito Company

From the moment Java Burrito Company opened its spacious and cheerful burrito and coffee bar, people started flocking in. The secret of their instant success? They have the right attitude, a perfect atmosphere, and very good food. Part of their philosophy is knowing the name of the boat your fish came in, knowing the name of every farm you work with, and knowing exactly what you put on your guests’ plates.

At Java Burrito Company, they use excellent quality ingredients, and they don’t use products with MSG, other additives, hormones, or antibiotics. This family-owned and run business serves delicious burritos with unusual yet tasty fillings like swordfish, tilefish, and barrel fish. Add a nice cup of java roasted right in Hilton Head and brought in through fair trade, and you get the perfect meal, whether you’re there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

1000 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head Island, SC, Phone: 843-842-JAVA (website) Photo: Java Burrito Company

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»The Sandbox Interactive Children's Museum

The Sandbox Interactive Children's Museum

It was a group of Hilton Head moms that came up with the idea of The Sandbox. This interactive museum is a place where kids, from tiny babies to eight-year-olds, can come to play and learn while playing. All activities are designed for the kids and parents to do together. The kids take the lead the choosing the activity that interests them most and the parents follow suit, answer questions, and just have as much fun as possible with their kiddies.

Each activity has a different goal: from the development of language, to improving reading skills, to triggering interest in science or math. Ultimately, learning through play helps children improve their physical and emotional well-being. They also have a lot of fun in the process, and parents will be happy their children are enjoying themselves while learning.

18A Pope Ave, Hilton Head Island, SC, Phone: 843-842-7645 Photo: The Sandbox Interactive Children's Museum

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»Daufuskie Island

Daufuskie Island

Between Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head, South Carolina, lays Daufuskie Island, a tiny speck of an island with only about 250 residents. What it lacks in size, the island makes up for in amenities. The island consists of two resorts and one private residential community. The island has been declared a historic district for its role in the Civil War and for its original inhabitants Gullahs.

The island is a luxury enclave with high-end shops, great golf courses, art galleries, and superb restaurants. There are no bridges to the mainland, so all transportation takes place by ferry and boats. The island boasts an air of privacy and seclusion; even the ferry is private. Photo: Matt/Fotolia

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»Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks

Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks

Your dining experience at Hudson’s starts long before the food arrives. Sitting at the table overlooking Port Royal Sound, you can sip your South Cackalachy Punch (Firefly Cherry Moonshine, Lemon, Blackberry Brandy, and Honey Syrup) as the fishing boats come in and unload the day’s catch. It is an exciting time, and you will get caught up in the atmosphere as the sea bounty goes straight from the boats to the Hudson’s kitchen, ready for preparation.

The menu is extensive and has mouth-watering items, but why interfere with perfection? Just ask for the catch of the day. Rest assured, it will be prepared to perfection; Hudson’s has been doing it for the last 46 years. If you are lucky, there will be a live bluegrass band to make your evening perfect.

1 Hudson Road, Hilton Head Island, SC, Phone: 843-681-2772 (website) Photo: Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks

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»Audubon Newhall Preserve

Audubon Newhall Preserve

The Hilton Head Island Audubon Society was established in 1974 with the goal of promoting and appreciating island nature and its wildlife and ecosystems. The Society owns and manages the 50-acre Audubon Newhall nature preserve. The Society’s naturalists offer daily guided tours through the Preserve’s several distinct ecosystems, showcasing the plants and wildlife that live within them.

This park is located in the center of Hilton Head Island and has several nice walking trails through the woods. There are benches along the trails and many native plants are labeled. The trail leads to a lovely scenic pond. The part that goes through the wetland is raised onto a boardwalk. Photo: Audubon Newhall Preserve

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»Pau Hana and Flying Circus Catamarans

Pau Hana and Flying Circus Catamarans

If you want to take a sailing sunset cruise, catamarans are an excellent and unique option to consider. Unlike ordinary sailboats, they do not heel, so you will not spill your cocktail. Pau Hana and Flying Circus will show you how much fun sailing can be, whether you take one of their dolphin cruises, participate in private sailing lessons, or just go for a fun, relaxed trip around the island.

The catamarans sail through the quiet, protected waters of the Intracoastal Waterway and Calibogue Sound. With the sails up, you will enjoy the pure silence interrupted only by the sound of waves. The captains are very experienced and, like true sailors, have many tall tales to share. You will learn about the nature around you and local folklore and legends, and you will have great time on the water.

843-686-2582 Photo: Pau Hana and Flying Circus Catamarans

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»Golf Academy of Hilton Head Island at Sea Pines

Golf Academy of Hilton Head Island at Sea Pines

Improving your golf game is a pretty good reason to come to the Hilton Head Island. The Golf Academy at Sea Pines resort is one of the best in Low Country. Part of the Plantation Golf Club, this golf learning center has very experienced and PGA-trained instructors who will straighten out your tee shots, sharpen your game at the greens, and help you save many strokes. They have lessons for any skill level and use the most modern technology.

The most popular are three-hour long daily Instruction, short game, or full swing. There is a video review at the end to help you remember everything. There are also two and three day schools lasting five hours each day. The school has been around for 19 years, and you can trust them to help you address your weaknesses and really enjoy yourself while playing golf.

100 N Sea Pines Dr., Hilton Head Island, SC, Phone: 843-785-4540 Photo: Golf Academy of Hilton Head Island at Sea Pines

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»The Village at Wexford

The Village at Wexford

The Village at Wexford is an exciting outdoor mall; it is a spacious, elegant, and upscale place where the locals and tourists come to do their shopping. Visitors can browse the 30 luxury shops, get pampered at the Faces Day Spa, get their pets pampered at the Tail Wiggles, treat the kids with a fabulous ice cream at the Pino Gelato, surprise a girlfriend with an engagement ring, enjoy a gourmet meal, or just sit by the fountain and enjoy the cool misted air and some live jazz music. The Village is always busy and filled with sounds and laughter; it is an opulent little enclave in the middle of enchanting Hilton Head.

1000 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head Island, SC Photo: The Village at Wexford

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»Live Oak

Live Oak

If you want to make the most of your meal at the Live Oak, come for brunch. In the soft morning light, you can truly enjoy the magnificent vista of the Plantation Golf Club’s green expanse through the dining room’s grand floor-to-ceiling windows. The dining room is elegant and luxurious with its soft blue tones and a 35-foot rotunda ceiling. You can also sit outside and breathe in the smell of freshly cut grass and listen to the birds.

The food will not disappoint either; Chef Ryan Hicks does not serve your typical club fare. His Lowcountry-inspired cuisine is both refined and simply delectable. Try his traditionally Southern but oh-so-unique Southern Pulled Pork & Potato Hash with sweet peppers, crispy potatoes, fried egg, caramelized onions, and South Carolina barbecue sauce. Live Oak has excellent craft beers, and their wine list is award winning. Dress appropriately for the sophisticated Live Oak experience.

100 North Sea Pines Drive, Hilton Head Island, SC, Phone: 843-842-1441 More things to see: Mitchelville Beach Park, Driessen Beach Park and the Stoney-Baynard Plantation Photo: Live Oak

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»The Jazz Corner

The Jazz Corner

Upon entering the Jazz Corner, you might suddenly feel disoriented. The establishment seems more like one of New York celebrated jazz club than an unassuming joint on the quaint resort island of Hilton Head. However, The Jazz Corner made its name on the jazz map of the world and is considered one of the best jazz establishments out there. Moody, elegant, and sophisticated, with soft lighting and original paintings on the walls, the Corner features décor that sets the mood for the magic to come.

Every night, seven days a week, their stage welcomes some of the best contemporary jazz musicians in the country. You will soon realize that the food is not an afterthought in this place. They serve Southern fare, but the menu items are by no means predictable. Try grilled jumbo sea scallops wrapped in prosciutto, drenched in butter sauce, Oilerie balsamic vinegar, and apricot and pear chutney served with crispy kale on Boursin Carolina risotto. The Jazz Corner’s martinis are satisfying and refreshing.

The Village At Wexford 1000 William Hilton Pkwy, Hilton Head Island, SC, Phone: 843-842-8620

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21 Best Things to Do on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina