Hilton Head Island

Discover the Greatest Outdoors on Hilton Head Island

Maybe you’re a bona fide outdoor enthusiast, or perhaps you’d just like to enjoy a little fresh air during your next vacation. Either way, Hilton Head Island is the perfect place to get outside and experience nature at its finest! We’re America’s Favorite Island, after all.

With 12 miles of pristine beaches, stunning nature preserves, and more than 60 miles of multi-use trails, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy stunning coastal scenery during your Hilton Head Island vacation.

Here are just a few opportunities for you to get outside on America’s Favorite Island.

If you love to bike…

You’ve come to the right place. Hilton Head Island is a cyclist’s dream destination! With more than 60 miles of trails criss-crossing our Island, biking is the perfect way to get around. In fact, Hilton Head Island’s trail network connects many of the most popular spots on the Island–beaches, restaurants, shops, and attractions–so it’s entirely possible to stick to two wheels for much of your vacation.

Don’t worry about packing your own bike. Approximately 15,000 bikes are available for rent on Hilton Head, so you’ll have no trouble finding a set of wheels. Pick up a bike path map at The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce (1 Chamber Of Commerce Drive), or join one of the local bike groups’ weekly rides to meet some locals and see the sights with an insider perspective.

Thinking of hopping on a bike on Hilton Head Island? Review our Biking FAQ beforehand for a quick refresher on bicycle safety, dos and don’ts, and other frequently asked questions.

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground... 

Those multi-use trails aren’t just for biking–they also make excellent hiking and jogging paths, too. Lace up your walking or running shoes, slap on some sunscreen (more on that below!) and hit the trail. Keep your eyes peeled for local plants, birds, and animals while you explore paths lined with stately oak trees and expansive marshes.

Spanish moss-draped trail on Hilton Head Island
Photo: @ahempcarr on Instagram

For a pleasant, moderate hike with incredible views, drive across the bridge to the Main Trail on Pinckney Island, a National Wildlife Refuge. There is ample parking and trail head maps are available inside the refuge. This 3.5 mile (one way) main trail has water on both sides and is the perfect place to watch for wildlife. Bring your binoculars! In total, Pinckney Island is home to 14 miles of trails–and countless photo ops.

If you like to make a splash…

For a unique vantage point of Hilton Head Island, you can’t beat taking to the water! There’s nothing more soothing than a peaceful paddle, and with our plentiful waterways, marshes, and inlets, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect spot to dip your oars. If you’re new to canoeing or kayaking, sign up for instruction, or join a guided tour to discover the best spots for dolphin watching.

Dolphin on the side of a boat in Hilton Head Island's waters.
Photo: @tcny23 on Instagram

Another option for water lovers: paddleboarding. Get a great workout in while you traverse the Island’s creeks and inlets.

Regardless of the vessel you choose, there are plenty of ways to see Hilton Head Island from the water.

If you’re an animal lover…

Birds, turtles, dolphins...countless critters call Hilton Head Island home. The good news for visitors is there are tons of opportunities to spot our Island wildlife! Head to a nature preserve to glimpse animals in their protected habitats.

If you’re an avid bird watcher, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to a variety of striking birds, like the colorful Painted Bunting and the stately White Ibis. Keep your eyes peeled while you’re out and about—Hilton Head is home to birds like sandpipers, gulls, pelicans, and wood storks.

In many different cultures, dolphins are considered symbols of good luck, so it’s no wonder our guests love to catch a glimpse of these friendly and playful mammals! During the summer, spotting a dolphin from our coastline is a common occurrence. In fact, Hilton Head Island has been named one of the 10 Best Dolphin Sighting Destinations in North America! Increase your chances of seeing a bottlenose dolphin during a nature and dolphin cruise with Outside Hilton Head, or book a dolphin-watching excursion through the Coastal Discovery Museum or one of the Island’s marinas.

Another beloved animal that makes its home on Hilton Head Island is the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. These 400-pound turtles are shy–in fact, you probably won’t see one during your visit, since they bury their eggs in the sand on shore during the nighttime hours. Due to their endangered status, visitors and residents alike are reminded not to interact with loggerhead sea turtles in the wild.

To learn more about these gentle giants, visit the Coastal Discovery Museum. On Thursdays at 1pm, a family-friendly sea turtle program guides guests through the life cycle of the loggerhead sea turtle with a focus on protection and conservation. If you need a break from all your outdoor activities, the museum is a fun and engaging place to visit.

If you just want to relax…

No Hilton Head Island escape is complete without a trip to the beach. Sunny days, warm waters, and pristine stretches of sand make a stroll along the beach a must! Recognized as one of the top 10 family beach destinations in the US, it’s ideal for snapping sunrise or sunset photos, building the perfect sandcastle, or simply soaking up the sun. After all, relaxing and rejuvenating are key to any good vacation, and there’s something about Hilton Head Island’s beaches that’s just good for the soul!

How to enjoy the great outdoors on Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island’s warm, subtropical climate means temperatures are enjoyable year-round. You’ll want to pack sunscreen, a protective hat, and sunglasses for your Hilton Head Island vacation, no matter when you plan a visit. If you’re visiting during the winter or late fall, pack layers, like a fleece or a light jacket. The summer months, while hottest, tend to have the highest amount of rainfall, so a lightweight rain jacket or a compact umbrella are good ideas from July through September. Be sure to check out the latest weather info before you pack so you know just what to bring.

Wear comfortable shoes for your outdoor adventures–the last thing you want is for sore feet to cut your exploring short! And of course, be sure to bring plenty of water and healthy snacks to fuel your outdoor activities.

Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten to pack something. Hilton Head Island’s shops and stores are well-stocked with anything you’ll need to enjoy your stay.

Ready to start discovering Hilton Head Island’s greatest outdoors? Request a vacation planner guide, and check out even more ways to get active and get outside on Hilton Head Island.  

Two kayakers paddling a salt marsh on Hilton Head Island

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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