18 Things to do on Hilton Head Island in 2018

Three kayakers at dawn on Hilton Head Island

Is your New Year’s resolution to take the vacation of your dreams? Is sand, surf, and refined Southern dining on your “to do” list for 2018?  Good news. We know just the spot to check everything off your list: Hilton Head Island. You deserve a trip to America’s favorite Island, and we want to make your 2018 getaway the best it can be. To kick-start your planning, we’ve compiled a list of must-do experiences anyone visiting this year should try. Can you check all of these off your list this year?

1. Hit The Beach

Hilton Head Island is one of the top 10 family beaches in the country for good reason. Our 12 miles of pristine beaches have been some of America’s favorites for years. Whether you like to stay active on vacation, or just want some good ol’ fashioned R&R, our stretches of sand should do the trick.

2. Take a turn behind the handlebars

With 60 miles of multi-use trails, in addition to our hard-packed beaches, Hilton Head Island is a biker’s paradise. To top it all off, we’ve been rated as a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the American League of Bicyclists. Go ahead, get the biker’s guide to Hilton Head Island, and explore our shores and trails on two wheels.

3. Celebrate the rich heritage of the Gullah people

February’s the month to learn about and celebrate the Gullah people of Hilton Head Island. All month long, the annual Gullah Celebration will showcase the Gullah culture music, cuisine, basketry, folklore, and more. From the popular Gullah Market Festival, to an evening of tasting Gullah cuisine, this is your opportunity to learn about the history and heritage of one of the most culturally distinctive African American populations in the United States.

4. Shuck your first (or your 100th) oyster

These luxuries of the sea are extra “shell-icious” when they’re fresh from Hilton Head Island. Use our guide to raw oysters if you’re ordering some locally. Better yet, plan to visit us in November for the Hilton Head Island Oyster Festival for live music and tastings.

5. Catch a sunrise

It pays to be an early bird on Hilton Head Island. Our skies come alive at the crack of dawn, and shutterbugs will want to report to the beach immediately. Search either #LowcountryLife or #HiltonHeadIsland on Instagram to see why—you’re bound to see countless sunrise shots no matter the time of year.

6. Sport your best plaid

April 9–15, 2018 marks the 50th Annual RBC Heritage classic, and you can bet it’s going to be an event for the books. This PGA golf invitational has been dubbed “the most fun and fan-friendly stop on the PGA Tour”, and you can expect the event to be bigger and better than ever to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

7. Climb to the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse

When you think of Hilton Head Island, this is probably one of the first images that comes to mind. The Harbour Town Lighthouse is a Hilton Head Island icon, so it pays to take a visit. Climb to the top for views of the Harbour Town Marina and to get your U.S. Lighthouse Society passport stamped. We find the best reward for the climb is a scoop of gelato or ice cream at a nearby ice cream shop.

8. Take a day trip to Bluffton

Matador Network describes Bluffton as “a state of mind”—who can argue with that? This charming Southern town, minutes away from Hilton Head Island, makes for a great day trip while you’re visiting. Stroll through Historic downtown, pop into an art gallery or café, take a sip of sweet tea, and see why we consider Bluffton to be our own little slice of heaven.

9. Spot a baby sea turtle

The beginning of May through the end of October is a magical time to visit Hilton Head Island—it’s nesting and hatching season for endangered loggerhead turtles! If you’re visiting this time of year, it’s possible you’ll see hatchlings make their way to the ocean for the first time. Just remember: never interact with a turtle. Keep your distance—we promise spotting one from afar will take your breath away. 

10. Dig into a food festival

Visit Hilton Head Island in February or March to get a taste of Lowcountry cuisine at its finest. The Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival (February 19–25) is a family-friendly, week-long culinary showcase of Hilton Head Island’s seafood, and includes celebrity guest chefs, culinary classes, live music, and more.

Foodies will also want to mark March 5–11 on their calendars, as we celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival. This celebration of Lowcountry flavors includes a seafood cooking class with Executive Chef Matthew Roher, a Sip and Stroll (tasting wine and exploring the shops of Harbour Town), and a Grand Tasting event.

11. Visit the Coastal Discovery Museum

Nature lovers should plan to make a stop at the Coastal Discovery Museum when visiting. This 68-acre property houses scenic trails, beautiful gardens, and plenty of live oaks that we all associate with the South. The Coastal Discovery Museum is always a family favorite for many reasons: kids love the butterfly enclosure, and there are plenty of events, classes, and activities to keep them busy.

12. Savor our Southern restaurant scene

The best way to experience Hilton Head Island? Through your taste buds. Our restaurant scene doesn’t disappoint. From seafood to steaks, and with over 250 restaurants to choose from, we’re sure you’ll find several crowd-pleasing options for your family. Here’s a challenge: let’s see how many must-try restaurants you can visit this year!

13. Take the ferry to Daufuskie Island

Daufuskie Island has no bridge to the mainland and only a few paved roads. Visiting is like taking a trip back through time. Condé Nast Traveler named Daufuskie Island on its list of America’s underrated islands, and many visitors describe time spent with its white sand beaches and ancient oaks as peaceful and quiet. If you need time to relax and unwind, a day trip to Daufuskie should do the trick.

14. Explore some of the great(est) outdoors in Lowcountry

Hilton Head Island’s waterways and nature trails make for one unforgettable adventure. Take a hike, try your hand at bird watching, head out for a paddle—the choice is yours. Insider tip: If you want to snap some all-star wildlife photos, be sure to add a visit to Pinckney Island to your itinerary. The Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge’s diverse habitats are home to all kinds of wildlife, including more than 250 species of birds.

15. Meet some of Hilton Head Island’s friendliest locals 

Keep your camera ready at all times when you’re walking along Hilton Head Island’s shores—you never know when a dolphin might pop up to say “Hello!”.  These friendly, intelligent animals can be found year-round, but your best chances to spot one are in the summer. Take a dolphin watch cruise to learn about Hilton Head Island’s marine ecosystem while keeping an eye out for one of our friendliest residents.

16. Say “I do”

Making 2018 wedding plans? The best destination weddings in South Carolina are right here on Hilton Head Island. Maybe it’s the choice of tying the knot with sand between your toes, under a grand oak and Spanish moss, or in a charming church. Maybe it’s the option to keep things small and intimate, or lavish and grand. The only way to find out? Start planning your dream Lowcountry wedding.

17. Put the pedal to the metal

Concours d’Elegance—Hilton Head Island’s premier motoring festival—celebrates the centuries-old love story between man and machine.  Auto enthusiasts come from all over to take a peek at antique planes, watercraft, and automobiles that have stood the test of time. Don’t miss your chance to indulge in some of the finer things in life during one of the Lowcountry’s annual signature fall events.

18. Sample a Lowcountry Delight

Also known as Frogmore stew, the beloved Lowcountry boil is a must-try dish for anyone visiting Hilton Head Island. Fresh, local shrimp, corn cobs, potatoes, and sausage cooked up in a giant pot and served family style? Sign us up. Once you’ve sampled this treasured dish locally, use our guide to preparing it at home.

As you can see, there’s no shortage of ways to keep busy on your Hilton Head Island vacation. From outdoor adventures, to culinary treasures, and everything in between, we don’t think you’ll have any problems keeping everyone in your party entertained while you’re here. Still planning 2018’s trip? Browse our vacation deals before you book. See you soon.