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The Kayaker's Guide to Hilton Head Island

By Hilton Head Insider

Welcome to America’s Favorite Island—best explored by sea. Grab your life vest—and your sense of adventure—and take in the natural beauty of Hilton Head by kayak. Navigate creeks, lagoons, and rivers as you glimpse the Lowcountry's unforgettable scenery and native wildlife.

For accommodations that are close to the action,  discover an oceanfront oasis at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa. Settle in to spacious accommodations, indulge in luxury amenities, and savor fine dining with delicious indoor or al fresco options. Best of all, with direct access to the beach you’re just a hop, skip, and a paddle away from a day spent on the water.


Location, location, location. Hilton Head Island is surrounded by water so naturally, there’s plenty of fun to be had on—or in—the waves. When it comes to the top spot, you’re truly spoiled for choice. Famous lighthouses, remote beaches, playful dolphins—Hilton Head has a kayaking experience for everyone. Staying at the Marriott? Each one of these paddling paradises are within a 30-minute drive!

  1. Harbour Town: Take a private paddle through Hilton Head and find yourself up close and personal with Island fauna. As you make your way through the salt marsh, be on the lookout for bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, manatees, and the famous Harbour Town Lighthouse.

  2. Daufuskie Island: Spend the day exploring Daufuskie Island from a unique perspective. Whether you prefer to enjoy the scenery or are in the mood to push yourself, Daufuskie offers two unique kayak outings—a more challenging ocean journey, or a lazy creek float—for a truly memorable ride.

  3. Jarvis Creek: Beginners and families—this one’s for you. Join a certified naturalist guide on a kayak exploration of Jarvis Creek. The absence of recreational boats means the waters are calm, and the many inlets and creeks make it an ideal location for spotting wildlife. 

  4. May River: Wind your way through Bluffton’s Old Town on the May River—home to Lowcountry marshes, dolphins, and sea birds. Plus, twice a day the tide recedes and reveals the famous Sand Bar. If the tide is right, stay for the sunset—it’s quite possibly the prettiest in the area.

  5. Palmetto Dunes Lagoon: Boasting a vast array of wildlife and calm, uncongested waters, the lagoon is a kayaker’s dream. Keep your eyes peeled for otters, egrets, and cranes as you pass idyllic residential areas and three sprawling golf greens.

  6. Shelter Cove: Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina is the largest deep-water marina on Hilton Head Island. Visit for a trip down Broad Creek—a breathtaking waterway that winds through the Island. As you navigate, you’re likely to see eagles, herons, and maybe even minks.


Don’t worry about packing your kayak—we’ve got you covered. There are several locations around Hilton Head Island where you can rent kayaking equipment for your paddling vacation.

  1. Kayak Hilton: Overlooking Broad Creek, Kayak Hilton Head is located near one of the busiest dolphin feeding grounds on the Island. Offering both single and double kayaks, they are one of the few outfitters that can launch from their own private slip.

  2. Tour Daufuskie, LLC: Locally owned and operated, Tour Daufuskie specializes in guided and self-guided kayaking tours. Kayak rentals are available by the hour or, if you happen to be staying on the island, take advantage of an overnight rental.

  3. Coastal Discovery Museum: Join a naturalist guide from the Coastal Discovery Museum on a private kayak exploration of Jarvis Creek every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Jarvis Creek Water Sports will be on hand with all the equipment you need.

  4. Outside Palmetto Bluff: Enjoy the natural beauty, history, and culture of the Lowcountry with Outside Palmetto Bluff on a backwater kayaking excursion. With a fleet of single, double, and fishing kayaks, you can enjoy paddling the pristine May River day or night!

  5. Hilton Head Outfitters: Situated on the shores of the Palmetto Dunes lagoon, Hilton Head Outfitters offer single and tandem kayak rentals for upwards of 24 hours at a time. (Pro tip: They’re just a five-minute walk from the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa.)

  6. Outside Hilton Head: Visit Outside Hilton Head at the Shelter Cove Marina for hourly rentals available all year long. If a guided tour is more your speed, check out their daily two-hour tours, or embark on a kayak fishing expedition with your very own naturalist guide.

Now that you’ve got the inside scoop on kayaking on Hilton Head Island, it’s time to book your trip. Browse travel offers available at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa—you’ll want to stay somewhere that grants you access to pristine shorelines and kayak outfitters. Make sure you share your adventures with us using #LowcountryLife on Instagram

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