Outdoors & Recreation

Enjoy South Carolina’s greatest outdoor adventures & nature preserves

Head to the great outdoors on Hilton Head Island! Kayak the tidal waters of the coast, go fishing in the Atlantic, or sail through our waterways on a boat tour and get up close and personal with a bottle-nosed dolphin. For more land-based pursuits, go bird watching, take a zipline canopy tour, discover the beautiful wildlife and foliage of the Lowcountry at the Audubon-Newhall Preserve and Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, or explore our 60 miles of trails and paved paths for some of the best biking and hiking in South Carolina. A world of natural wonders awaits you on Hilton Head Island.

Featured Outdoors & Recreation Partners

Vagabond Cruise
Vagabond Cruise

Vagabond Cruise is Hilton Head Island’s original sightseeing and excursions cruise operator located under the lighthouse in Harbour Town since 1968. The Vagabond Cruise fleet offers a wide range or water-bound tours and excursions including dolphin cruises, dinner cruises, ferry service to both Savnanah, GA and Daufuskie Island, sailing aboard the America’s Cup stars and stripes, shrimp trawling and crabbing aboard the Tammy Jane, and so much more! Come join the crew at Vagabond for a lifelong Hilton Head memory!

Additional featured Partners

Biking on Hilton Head Island

One of the most popular activities on Hilton Head Island is biking. With over 60 miles of paved leisure pathways running the length of the island, including 12 miles of hard packed sand beaches at low tide, Hilton Head Island is also among three League of American Bicyclists' Gold Level bike friendly communities on the Atlantic coast. Click here for a map of Hilton Head Island’s Bike Pathways and for listings of Bicycle Sales & Rentals and Bike Tours.

Hilton Head Island Bird Watching

With our protected wetland and variety of birds like egrets, sandpipers, wood storks, sea gulls, 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, while more than 350 species of native birds have been sighted on the Island over the past 10 years. Among the most notable species are the snowy egret, large blue heron, osprey and white ibis, as well as cattle egrets that first arrived here in 1954—quite a change from their traditional South American habitat!

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 1-843-671-4721. In addition, many of our Boat Tour companies offer bird and wildlife viewing tours. Click here for a full list.

Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island Dolphins

On Hilton Head Island, bottlenose dolphins are prevalent along the shoreline, especially during the summer, while several oceanfront resorts on the Island—including Hilton Head Plantation, Port Royal Plantation, Palmetto Dunes and Forest Beach—are excellent places to see a bottlenose dolphin. There are also many companies offering dolphin tours, while marine life study and dolphin-watching excursion cruises are available through the Coastal Discovery Museum and several of the Island’s public marinas.

Endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtles

The endangered loggerhead sea turtle nests extensively along Hilton Head Island’s 12 miles of wide, sandy beaches. Few people ever get to see these 400-pound giants, for the turtles choose the darkest hours of the night to crawl ashore and bury eggs in the soft sand. If you happen to spot one of these wondrous creatures, please do not interact with the turtle in any way. These endangered animals, some almost a century old, must be allowed to lay their eggs to help ensure the survival of the species. If you are lucky enough to witness this extraordinary sight, please keep a respectful distance and leave the tracks and nesting area undisturbed. The Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project staff are on patrol every morning and will document nesting on a daily basis.

Every Thursday at 1 pm, the Coastal Discovery Museum offers a family friendly, educational sea turtle program. Explore the amazing journey of Loggerhead Sea Turtles from eggs to adulthood, and discover just how easy it is to help protect these fascinating sea creatures. Although you will not see live sea turtles, this is a hands-on, eye-opening, experience filled with unique educational materials to see, touch, and interact with.

This family friendly indoor experience is also a nice escape from the afternoon heat or rain.

Cost is $10 adult, $5 child (ages 4-12) and reservations are required by calling 843-689-6767 ext. 223 or online at www.coastaldiscovery.org. The Museum is located at 70 Honey Horn Drive on Hilton Head Island.

Colorful turtle ornament
Hilton Head Island

FootGolf on Hilton Head

Heritage Golf Group brings FootGolf To Hilton Head! Experience Hilton Head Island’s first FootGolf Course at Port Royal Golf & Racquet Club. The goal of FootGolf is to kick a soccer ball into a 21” inch diameter cup in as few kicks as possible. It mirrors golf’s basic model. Players of all ages will enjoy the 9-hole, FootGolf course on Planter’s Row. It takes less than an hour to play 9-holes of FootGolf. It is open in the afternoons from Thursday to Saturday at the Port Royal Golf Club. Learn more.

Hilton Head Island Hiking 

You’ll find some of the best hiking in South Carolina on Hilton Head Island, with designated paths and trails beautifully bordered by plants, wild animals and marshlands. Each trail leads to a point of interest on the Island, and can be explored from sunrise to sunset. Another option is to cross the bridge to the Main Trail on Pinckney Island: this 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.

Horseback Riding on Hilton Head Island

At Lawton Stables, riders of all abilities enjoy one hour Western style trail rides meandering through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve where the Lowcountry’s natural wildlife abounds. From the majestic Snowy Egret to the famous Yellow Bellied Slider usually seen sunning themselves on the banks of the lagoons along with the occasional alligator, a wide variety of birds and four legged animals can be spotted in their natural habitat. The horses are gentle and the guides are friendly and knowledgeable. Truly a happy place for the entire family. Book online at here or call 843-671-2586 for this unique nature based tour.

Kayaking on Hilton Head Island

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. Lucky Hilton Head Island kayaking enthusiasts might even catch a glimpse of a bottle nose dolphin during their ocean outing.

A couple horseback riding on a trail
Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island Nature Preserves

Get in touch with your wildlife-loving side at a Hilton Head nature preserve. Visit the Newhall Audubon Nature Preserve and view the natural flora and fauna of the Island, or discover 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 Preserve, 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. For more information, check out our listing of Hilton Head Nature Tours.

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

If you’re looking for a great place to see a wide variety of birds and other wildlife, then head to Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, which includes most of Pinckney Island, several smaller islands and marshes along the mainland. You can get there by car and with 14 miles of trails, you can choose to walk, bike or kayak around the island. Please note: Motorized vehicles and pets (whether on or off leash) are not allowed on the island. 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.

Animals on Hilton Head Island

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.

ZipLine Hilton Head & Aerial Adventure Hilton Head

Zipline Hilton Head at Broad Creek Marina Adventures features two-hour tours soaring over magnificent live oaks while looking out at beautiful Broad Creek, the boats, marshes and dolphins. Come fly along eight ziplines with heights up to 75 feet, including a dual cable racing zipline finale—plus climb suspended sky bridges and an aerial staircase. Professionally trained guides lead your group; reservations preferred. Aerial Adventure Hilton Head, a playground in the sky of 50 in-the-trees challenge activities on 6 different ability courses. Self guided. A 5-year-old will love it; a Marine will soar.

Helicopter Tours

See Hilton Head Island like you’ve never seen it before with Hilton Head Helicopter Tours! Book a customized helicopter tour for passengers of all ages. Enjoy breathtaking views of the island and the surrounding Lowcountry through several tour packages available, which provide a good chance of seeing Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, manta rays, sharks, alligators, and shipwrecks. Bring your camera and get ready to take some amazing photos!

Additional Activities & Videos

Are you still looking for more outdoor activities and adventures? Golf at one of the Island’s 24 courses (some with views of the Atlantic Ocean), go fishing in the Atlantic surf or sail through our waterways on Hilton Head boat tours. Horseback the woodlands where bobcats prowl, watch a flock of seabirds swoop over a sandy shore, or explore South Carolina’s wonders of nature. The Hilton Head Island outdoors experience is one like no other. Experience Hilton Head Island videos here.

Find Your Island Time

Hilton Head is America’s favorite island, offering 12 miles of pristine beaches and everything you need for the ultimate retreat. Enjoy easy days relaxing in the sun, sand and surf on some of the best beaches in the country.
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2023 golf guide

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