On Your Mark, Get Set, Learn!

These days, it seems as though kids (and adults) are more connected to the latest technology than they are to the great outdoors. Are you ready to shed the gadgets and get back to nature? If so, Hilton Head Island is the perfect vacation spot to unplug, and connect with Mother Nature.

There are so many fun ways for your kids (and you) to learn about the rich eco-system and wildlife on our barrier island. Your starting point should be the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. Established in 1985, the museum offers an array of hands-on explorations and investigations into the natural history of the Lowcountry.

Sea Turtle hatch-lings heading into the water

Sea Turtle hatchlings on Hilton Head Island. Photo Courtesy: Coastal Discovery Museum

“Teaching our residents and visitors about our natural history and cultural heritage is our main objective here at the Coastal Discovery Museum,” says Natalie Hefter, VP of Programs at the Museum.  “This summer we put together a great assortment of programs – many of them hands-on – that appeals to families,” she added.

One of the most popular summer programs for kids is the ‘Animals of the Lowcountry.’  “We have invited back our friends from the Oatland Island Wildlife Center to share some of the common critters that you’ll find around this area.  It’s a great way to see some of these animals – including a baby alligator – up close,” says Hefter. In addition to a baby alligator, there will be appearances made by an owl, flying squirrel, opossum, corn snakes and more! You can catch this program every Wednesday, now through August 10 at both 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.

People preparing crab to be cooked

Learn how to harvest, cook and eat Atlantic Blue Crab at the Blue Crab Discovery Tour. Photo Courtesy of Coastal Discovery Museum

The museum hosts a number of kid-friendly talks, walks and programs but here’s a guide to top summer activities not to miss:

  • Blue Crab Discovery: This wildly popular summer tour will be offered twice a week.  Participants will learn all about Atlantic Blue Crabs and their habitat, the salt marsh. You’ll also learn how to harvest and cook the crabs…and then the art of picking ‘em! This program runs Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 to noon, now through September 27. Adults $15, Child $10
  • Butterfly Discovery: The Native Butterfly Enclosure is open during regular museum hours – but for those who want to learn more – join the docent-led tours. Over the course of an hour, you’ll learn about the different stages of a butterfly’s life cycle – see a live caterpillar and a chrysalis!  The tours are Mondays at 10 a.m. and Wednesdays at 3 p.m., now through October 26. Reservations are required. 843-689-6767 ext 223. Adult $10, Child $5 (ages 4-12).
  • Evening Turtle Talk & Walk:  While you’re not guaranteed to see a turtle (as they don’t make reservations for when they’re coming to lay a nest), the museum does guarantee that you’ll learn all about Loggerhead Sea Turtles – their biology, nesting habits, and local conservation efforts.  By law they can only take 20 people out on a program at a time, so these sell out quickly.  Be sure to call ahead to make your reservations before you come to town. The Talk & Walk is offered Tuesdays and Thursdays, June through August, 8 to 10 p.m. Adult $20, Child $15 (no children under 4).

In addition to the programs, talks and walks, families can learn quite a lot by visiting Honey Horn and touring the grounds on their own.  “Interpretive panels around the property help to teach our visitors about the natural history of the salt marsh and Lowcountry in general.  Plus, we have a Scavenger Hunt for our younger visitors – just stop in and ask for one at the front desk.  It’s a fun way to explore the property – and learn a little something along the way!,” says Hefter.

At the end of your time at Honey Horn, be sure to stop in the museum’s Discovery House for a visit to the Kids Zone where your kids can examine replicas of artifacts, bones from loggerhead sea turtles and shells from our beaches. Plus there are all sorts of fun souvenirs to bring home!

The Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn is located at 70 Honey Horn Drive, Hilton Head Island. For more information or to make reservations, call 843-689-6767.