Hilton Head Island Trivia: 5 Unique Facts

How much do you know about Hilton Head Island—beyond the beautiful beaches, the serene sunrises, and the expected activities? Do you know the more obscure stories? The behind-the-scenes stuff that makes it a really unique and special place? Check out our five fun facts about Hilton Head Island. Who knows, you may even win a round of trivia with this insider info.

The Secret of Harbour Town Lighthouse

Harbour Town Lighthouse from ground view with palm trees in front.
Photo by @dilibare on Instagram

If you’re familiar with Hilton Head Island, you’ve likely admired the Harbour Town Lighthouse. A pillar of our community’s culture, this red and white, candy-striped structure is a landmark for visitors and locals alike. However—this lighthouse has a secret.

The Harbour Town Lighthouse is a replica. Completed in 1970 by developer Charles Fraser, the lighthouse was meant to establish the island’s identity as a coastal community, and has become an icon recognized by islanders and visitors from all over the world.

The first privately-financed lighthouse built since the early 1800s, it’s lovingly nicknamed “Fraser’s Folly” to honor the man with the vision. With 114 steps leading you to the top of the lighthouse—and the museum existing along the way—you’ll get a history lesson as you climb to that world-class, panoramic view. Civil War-era photographs, artifacts dating back to 3000 BC, and more live in the Harbour Town Lighthouse. Once you reach the top, you’ll want to pop into the giftshop, “Shop at the Top”. Offering Hilton Head’s finest collection of handcrafted crystal keepsakes, you can pick up a prize to prove you made it to the peak of Hilton Head Island.

Lights-Out on Hilton Head Island

Sea turtle tracks in the sand on the beach at twilight.
Sea turtle tracks! Photo by @theprosciuttohappiness on Instagram.

On your evening beach stroll, you may notice there’s little artificial light visible. This is intentional.

On Hilton Head Island, sea turtles are a part of our DNA. We’re lucky enough to be the place loggerhead sea turtles come to lay their eggs—the least we can do is keep these endangered reptiles comfortable, safe, and protected.

Between May and October—hatching season for loggerhead sea turtles—we require all light structures visible from the beach to be covered or turned off between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Hatchlings are attracted to light, migrating toward any landward lights they see. To protect the hatchlings from moving inland (where they’ll be in harm’s way), we turn out the lights. Giving the hatchlings a safe place to grow ensures they’ll be ready for their journey to the ocean, and that we’ll see many of them back on Hilton Head Island to lay their own eggs down the road.

Say “No” to Neon Signs

Speaking of lights—you won’t find brightly lit neon signs on Hilton Head Island. Rejecting the temptation to become a commercialized, glitzy tourist town with bright lights and neon signs, the town of Hilton Head Island has bylaws in place to avoid neon-lit signage.

There’s a time and a place for everything—and your time on the Island is meant for easy, serene scenes. Designed to be in harmony with the natural world, you’ll notice neutral colors, greenery, and other time-honored details donning Hilton Head Island’s streets, making it a relaxing place to vacation. 

Home of the Gullah Culture

Man casting out fishing net in black and white photo
Fishing has been and continues to be an important aspect of Gullah culture, not only as a means to make a living and feed the family, but also as a community touchstone. Many times family reunions, fundraisers and community celebrations are pot luck fish fries or oyster roasts.

Hilton Head Island is full of history. One of the most important stories of the island’s history? That of the Gullah people. 

Gullah—both a language and a vibrant culture—is one of the most culturally-distinctive African American populations in the United States. Settling on Hilton Head Island in the 1700s, the island is still home to a thriving Gullah community, upheld by the resilience of its forefathers. 

Traditional music, cuisine, folk stories, crafts, and more communicate the compelling stories and history of the Gullah people. When you visit Hilton Head Island, take time to “Kumbaya” and learn more about this piece of American history. Our Gullah community is always happy and willing to share their rich insight!

The Best Things Come in Small Packages

Sure, we’re small, but enjoying the little things is what makes life so special. Just five miles wide and 12 miles long, Hilton Head Island packs a lot of punch. Did you know our shore boasts more than 60 miles of well-groomed leisure pathways, 50 miles of bike trails, 24 gorgeous golf courses, and of course, 12 miles of unforgettable beaches? Watch the sunrise, stick your feet in the sand, read a great book, or go for a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. This small but mighty island is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors.

Think you could win a round of Hilton Head Island trivia now? We hope you found these five lesser-known facts interesting! Want to learn more about Hilton Head Island? Request your destination guide today!

A wide angle shot of the 18th green of Harbour Town Golf Links. In the distance is the lighthouse, sunset, and 4 golfers in the distance.

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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