Hilton Head Nature Preserve & Outdoor Adventures
Get outdoors - from biking to hiking in South Carolina.
Golf at one of the Island's 24 courses, some with views of the Atlantic Ocean. Kayak the tidal waters of the coast and see wildlife up close, go fishing in the Atlantic surf or sail through our waterways on Hilton Head boat tours and get up close and personal with a bottle-nosed dolphin. Explore Hilton Head Island's miles of trails and paved paths for some of the best biking and hiking in South Carolina.
Hilton Head Island has carefully nurtured and protected its lush and tropical environment. As a result, outdoor adventures in Hilton Head allow visitors to view the same waters where bottle nose dolphins play, catch glimpses of a loggerhead sea turtle on guided turtle tours, walk or horseback the woodlands where bobcats prowl, or watch a flock of seabirds swoop over a sandy shore. Explore the natural wonder of nature and the outdoors. The Hilton Head Island outdoors experience is one like no other. Experience Hilton Head videos here.
Meander the pristine waterways and inlets off Hilton Head Island and the rivers surrounding Bluffton in your personal kayak. Canoe and kayak rentals and instruction are available for those who want to explore the Island’s creeks, marshes and inlets along Calibogue Sound. Outside Hilton Head offers a year-round kayaking school led by an expert staff of ACA Certified instructors, as well as guided tours and day and overnight trips to destinations such as Cumberland and Pritchards Islands. Lucky Hilton Head Island kayaking enthusiasts might even catch a glimpse of a bottle nose dolphin during their ocean outing.
ZipLine Canopy Tour
Revisit nature at a Hilton Head nature preserve.Visit the Newhall Audubon Nature Preserve and view the natural flora and fauna of the Island. Find wildlife at Pinckney Island Nature Preserve, a former lookout used by early settlers. Walk the last remaining tract of undisturbed land on Hilton Head Island at Sea Pines Forest Preserves. Explore a 4,000 year-old Indian Shell Ring. Or, visit one of many registered South Carolina historic sites designated by the National Register of Historic Places. Listing of Hilton Head Nature Tours
Hiking & Biking
You'll find some of the best biking and hiking in South Carolina on designated paths on the Island bordered by plants, wild animals and marshlands. Each trail leads to a point of interest on the Island. Explore trails from sunrise to sunset. Or, cross the bridge to the Main Trail on Pinckney Island.
The 3.5 mile trail is completely bordered by water and watched over by dolphins and alligators. Birds and foliage spill onto the trail in some places making the experience even more spectacular. All trails are suitable for walking or careful biking.
One of the most popular activities while visiting is cycling. With over 50 miles of paved paths covering the Island, there isn’t a place visitors can’t go with their bikes, including the 12 miles of sandy beaches. Hilton Head Island is also among three League of American Bicyclists silver-lever bike friendly communities on the Atlantic coast. Click here for a map of Hilton Head Island's Bike Pathways. Listing of Bicycle Sales & Rentals & Bike Tours
Visiting with Animals
Hilton Head Island natives also include deer, bobcats, otters, minks and even a few wild boar. Of all the Island creatures, the bobcat proves to be the most elusive, lurking in the forest preserves and in the undeveloped parts of the Island. With great foresight, plantation designers in the 1950’s set aside areas for an animal habitat, when the master plan for the Island was first conceived. This ingenuity and high regard for environmental preservation set the standard for resorts worldwide. To view these Island creatures in their natural habitat, guests can take a Lake and Forest Hayride, Horseback Tour or Petting Zoo at Lawton Stables or Walking Tour of the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. These informative, award-winning nature-based tours are ideal for families and can be booked by calling 800-SEAPINE.
Endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtles
The loggerhead turtle, an endangered species, nests extensively along Hilton Head Island’s 12 miles of wide, sandy beaches. Few visitors ever meet these 200 pound giants, for the turtles choose the darkest hours of the summer night to crawl ashore and bury eggs in the soft sand. If a visitor happens to spot one of these wondrous creatures, they are advised not to interact with the turtle in any way. These rare animals, some almost a century old, must be allowed to lay their eggs to help ensure the survival of the species. Anyone who is lucky enough to witness this extraordinary sight is advised to mark the spot after the eggs are covered and inform the local Wildlife Department through the wild life hotline at 1-800-922-5431.
Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island offers a late night Turtle Watch for visitors who are interested in observing the habits of the loggerhead turtle. Please call 843-689-6767 for more information. Enjoy Year Round Activities on Hilton Head Island.
Bottle Nose Dolphins
Several oceanfront resorts on the Island, such as Hilton Head Plantation, Port Royal Plantation, Palmetto Dunes or Forest Beach, are excellent places to see a bottle nose dolphin. In the summer, dolphins are prevalent along the shoreline, where they feed on small fish and sea creatures. There are also many companies offering dolphin tours.
Marine life study and dolphin-watching excursion cruises are available through several of the Island’s public marinas and through Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island.
Protected wetlands make Hilton Head the place to watch shorebirds and inland birds. See Egrets, Sandpipers and Wood Storks in Hilton Head nature preserves. Look above to catch Sea Gulls in flight alongside Pelicans and Osprey Eagles. Hilton Head Island is a bird watcher's haven.
According to the Audubon Society, nearly 200 species of birds flock to the lakes, marshes and shoreline of Hilton Head Island. However, more than 350 species of native American birds have been sighted on the Island over the past ten years. Among the most notable of species are the Snowy Egret, the Large Blue Heron and the Osprey, but bird watchers will also discover the White Ibis with its unique beak that curves downward. In addition, smaller Cattle Egrets that first arrived on Hilton Head Island in 1954 from their South American habitat may be observed following Island cows, horses and tractors.
To learn more about the birds of Hilton Head Island, visitors are encouraged to take a bird-watching tour at the Audubon-Newhall Preserve. Please contact the preserve for additional information at 843-671-4721. Many of our Boat Tour companies offer bird and wildlife viewing tours. Click here for a full list.
Located just off Palmetto Bay Road, this Hilton Head nature preserve covers about 50 acres on the southern end of Hilton Head Island. There are several walking trails that lead through a wide variety of trees and shrubs. A particularly interesting feature is a wetlands bog that is a common characteristic of Lowcountry barrier islands. It’s a great habitat for birds and other wildlife. The preserve is open dawn to dusk and several parking spaces are available inside the entrance. There is a kiosk with information about the preserve and trail maps near the parking area.
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
If you seek a great place to see a wide variety of birds and other wildlife, the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is the place to go. Pinckney Island lies between the northern shore of Hilton Head Island and the mainland. As you come across the main bridge to Hilton Head Island, you cross the southern tip of Pinckney Island. This Hilton Head nature preserve includes most of Pinckney Island, several smaller islands and marshes along the mainland.
There is a sizeable parking area on Pinckney, so you can get out of the car and walk around the island on the 14 miles of trails. Bicycles and kayaks are welcome, but motorized vehicles and pets (whether on or off leash) are not. There are a few portable restrooms in the parking area; however, there is no drinking water available. Maps and information about the preserve are at the entrance.