Autumn, as any beach aficionado knows, is the best time to visit. The water’s still warm and the weather’s balmy but the crowds have gone and room rates have dropped.
In September and October, you get more beach for your buck.
Hilton Head Island, SC, offers 12 miles of sands, 30 golf courses (24 open to the public), and some 200 miles of trails for cyclists and strollers. Unlike many other shore destinations, Hilton Head also sustains a significant portion of its Lowcountry natural habitat.
Resorts are set back from the sands so the buildings don’t seem to be devouring the shore. The beach is alluring, dune bordered, wide and, in fall, quiet enough to really hear the sea gulls call. Palmetto palms and live oak trees edge the roads. You can hike or horseback ride past stands of oak, pine, bay, and sassafras trees in the 605-acre Sea Pines Forest Reserve. In fall the preserve is an especially good spot to admire the thousands of migratory birds flying in “V” formations that head south along the Atlantic flyway.
Kayaking or boating offshore and through the island’s salt marshes gifts you with more wildlife encounters. On a Commander Zodiac outing through Braddock’s Cove, an inlet lined with oyster beds and bordered with thick cord grass, we pass egrets standing on pilings and a great blue heron stretching his thin, white neck into the shoals in search of minnows. In Calibogue Sound, a placid stretch of water between Hilton Head and Daufuskie Island, it doesn’t take long for us to find a playful pair of dolphins, breeching the water’s surface in a series of graceful arcs.
The Coastal Discovery Museum sponsors a variety of ecological outings, including naturalist-led beach walks, dolphin research excursions, shrimp-trawling cruises, kayak trips, and marine science boat explorations of nearby Bluffton’s May River.
Good places for watching the sunset are next to the iconic red-and-white striped lighthouse in Harbour Town, the main village in Sea Pines Resort, one of Hilton Head’s communities, and at Skull Creek Boathouse, a popular dockside seafood restaurant. Casually upmarket Red Fish serves tasty seafood and features a 1,000-bottle wine shop. What more do you want?
Along with Sonesta, Westin, Omni, and Marriott hotels, Hilton Head has many condominiums (villas) and private homes for rent. Contact Resort Rentals of Hilton Head Island, hhivacations.com. For more information about Hilton Head Island, contact Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau, hiltonheadisland.org.