Exploring the natural beauty of South Carolina? No journey would be complete without sprucing up your itinerary with the best things to do in Hilton Head.
At 12 miles long and 5 miles wide, Hilton Head Island is an entrancing nook. It’s packed to the brim with beautiful beaches and bike trails that are just waiting for you to explore. From the idyllic historic district to the natural wonders of Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, the top tourist attractions in Hilton Head Island offer something for everyone. (That is, if you’re not distracted on your South Carolina trip by Hilton Head’s championship golf courses!)
Wondering what to do in Hilton Head? Start planning your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Hilton Head Island, SC.
Got more travel plans on the horizon? Check out all our other attractions guides and our South Carolina Travel Guide for more ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do!
Must-see places to visit in Hilton Head, SC
Coligny Beach Park
Looking for a spot to relax and watch the world go by in Hilton Head? Coligny Beach Park is Hilton Head Island’s most popular beach. With its warm water and white-sand beach, it’s one of the most popular places to go in Hilton Head.
The waters lapping the shore at Coligny Beach Park are often calm and warm. It’s the perfect option for swimming for the whole family when the lifeguards are around.
Depending on the time of year, you might even find yourself lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins playing in the water. Large dolphin pod sightings are most common in spring and winter. Smaller pods are visible throughout the rest of the year.
When you find yourself at Coligny Beach Park, find a little spot to sit and relax. The public beach offers plenty of sun-kissed zones and comfortable shady spots.
Children and adults alike can also make the most of the nearby amenities. In the area, you’ll find both changing rooms and shower rooms.
After your beach adventure, head back to Coligny Circle to explore the shops and restaurants around Coligny Plaza.
PRO TIP: Marvel at Hilton Head’s marine beauty on a 1.5-hour Guided Dolphin Tour!
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Looking to see as much wildlife as you can and get back to nature? Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places to see in Hilton Head. The nature park is home to a diverse array of animals and is a fantastic escape from the bustle of town.
Opportunities for wildlife photography await around every corner. Keep your eyes peeled. You’ll have the opportunity to see many different species. These include wading and migratory birds to alligators and white-tailed deer.
The route also doubles as one of the best bike trails on Hilton Head Island, offering views that are difficult to beat. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a bald eagle.
There is a huge focus on conservation at Hilton Head’s Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re interested in fishing, look for the areas where anglers are casting out their lines. Fishing is a huge hobby across the 4,053-acre wildlife refuge.
Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn
Looking for the top family-friendly activities for your Hilton Head trip? The Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn is one of the coolest places to go in Hilton Head for the entire family. It contains exhibits that showcase the natural beauty of Hilton Head Island. They’re set alongside scenes of natural history and cultural heritage.
The museum is designed to take you through the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry. You can expect to see centuries-old buildings here. Each is surrounded by exploratory trails, different species of birds, and idyllic gardens. If you’re visiting in the summer, enjoy wandering through the enclosure full of native butterflies.
For a moment of rest, the Bird’s-Eye View Theater is an educational center offering ample seating and some innovative public programs. Here, you can learn all that there is to know about the postcard-worthy area surrounding you.
If you’re looking for something a little bit more adventurous, check out the museum’s tours. The Coastal Discovery Museum has plenty running. Hop onto its Tours on Water to come face-to-face with bottlenose dolphins and Hilton Head Island’s native flora and fauna.
PRO TIP: Soak in the island’s ocean charms and end the day with a spectacular sunset on the Sunset Dolphin Cruise!
Harbour Town Lighthouse and Museum
Want to marvel at Hilton Head Island from above? Climb to the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse and Museum. This lighthouse is one of the most iconic stops on a Hilton Head Island sightseeing itinerary. When you reach the top of the lighthouse, you’ll be blown away by the scenic views that unfold.
Before you climb each step, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Hilton Head’s winding past. The Harbour Town Lighthouse and Museum is home to a wide variety of memorabilia. When you reach the top, the panoramic views will make it worth the short climb.
Cast your gaze towards Port Royal Sound. This idyllic inlet is worth a sailing trip if your itinerary allows time for one. Whether you’re exploring Hilton Head in one day or a week, you’ll find the experience more than worth it. Embarking on a dolphin tour with experienced staff is the perfect opportunity for nature lovers. Photographers will also appreciate the up-close-and-personal experience.
Wondering where to go in Hilton Head with eating and shopping on your mind? Look no further than Harbour Town. This charming array of boutiques and restaurants is a worthwhile stop. It surrounds the Sea Pines Resort’s basin for yachts, with plenty of outdoor cafés allowing you to soak in the sun.
From the Harbour Town waterfront, there are lots of different options. You can relax and enjoy the view or partake in a recreational activity. Explore nature on a dolphin cruise, get some thrills jet skiing, or go paddleboarding. Whatever you choose, there’s something here for every style of traveler.
Golfers will be happy to know that around Harbour Town golf links are aplenty, too. Several world-class golf courses dot Hilton Head Island. For a fun & active day out, it’s worth playing a round.
Folly Field Beach Park
Does your heart long for a quiet Atlantic Ocean beach? Folly Field Beach Park ticks off all the boxes. One of South Carolina’s little gems, Folly Field is one of the area’s top family beaches.
While staying in the blissful coastal town, there are so many Hilton Head Island beaches for you to choose from. Folly Field Beach is particularly attractive. The water is warm enough to wade in and the sand is soft enough to settle in. Little tide pools make for a great interactive experience for families.
The beach properties surrounding Folly Field Beach Park are available to rent. They can be a good option if you want to stay on the doorstep of one of the quieter beaches in the area.
PRO TIP: Want a day on the water? Explore Skull Creek between Hilton Head and Pinckney Island on a Guided Kayak Tour!
Driessen Beach Park
Enjoy both beautiful beaches and shade-covered spots? Driessen Beach Park is ready and waiting. Encompassing Hilton Head Island’s many natural wonders, the park stands out from others in the area.
When you arrive, you’ll quickly notice an element of seclusion. Driessen Beach Park is generally quiet enough for you to enjoy your own little slice of the shoreline. The boardwalk leading to the beach is a little adventure many miss. Even with plenty of beach houses around, this is a quiet gem.
Although quieter, Driessen Beach Park still offers plenty of facilities. You can find rental hubs, fresh water, and changing rooms right by the beach, as well as parking.
PRO TIP: Enjoy some of the island’s finest natural beauty from above with a High-Flying Parasail Experience!
Traveling to Hilton Head Island with children? Adventure Cove is the perfect family vacation destination. With an arcade and two mini-golf courses with a total of thirty-six holes, there’s a lot of fun waiting to be had.
After a long day exploring Hilton Head Island’s beaches, treat yourself to some of its fun activities. Little ones are certain to be delighted by the Caribbean-themed golf courses. Get ready to see some old favorites in the family-focused arcade, too.
Dreaming of a chilled-out beachside escape? Mitchelville Beach is one of Hilton Head’s quieter beaches. Here, nature and the sandy shoreline sit side by side to create one of South Carolina’s best views. Trees line the white sand, creating a backdrop that feels like seclusion.
Mitchelville Beach can be found down a short sandy path. It’s one of the only beaches on Hilton Head Island without beach matting. Even so, the beach is easy to reach. You’ll also enjoy other amenities, like an outdoor sand shower.
Shelter Cove Towne Centre
Want to spend a few hours shopping and dining during your trip to Hilton Head Island? Shelter Cove Towne Centre might catch your attention. The unspoiled beauty of Broad Creek surrounds this unique retail and relaxation space.
One of the best things about Shelter Cove Town Centre is its layout. Cyclists will love it. You can hop straight onto your bike and head down the trails. Each of the bike paths leads to impressive natural wonders, including Shelter Cove Harbour.
Or follow the trails around Shelter Cove by foot to soak in the beauty of Broad Creek, the lagoons, and the waterfront park. When you get back, delve into one of the many restaurants, including gourmet seafood and a rooftop bar.
Sea Pines Forest Preserve
The great outdoors calling your name? Sea Pines Forest Preserve is a protected area in Hilton Head, full of trails surrounded by wildlife and nature. Perfect for outdoor exploration, there’s something for every type of traveler here.
You can choose your own adventure at Sea Pines Forest Preserve. Enjoy horseback & pony rides and boat tours, or meander along boardwalks and bridges. Or find the perfect fishing spot and cast your line into the water at its docks.
Dive head-first into history at the Sea Pines Shell Ring. The centuries-old wonder is believed to be an ancient Native American religious gathering spot. Grab a camera to enjoy its miles of protected shores. There are even a few award-winning Eco-Adventures in the area.
Looking for little-known gems around Hilton Head Island? Pop over to Burkes Beach. Nestled alongside Chaplin Park on Burkes Beach Road, Burkes Beach is best reached down by its bike path.
To access this sandy beach, put your walking shoes on or hop on your bike and head down the pathway. For some active fun, neighboring Chaplin Park is full of open fields, tennis courts, and spots to keep families entertained.
If you’re traveling with a furry companion, the dog park here is great, too. It’s fenced in and ideal for dogs who like socializing.
Looking to add a dash of the historical to your Hilton Head itinerary? The Stoney-Baynard Plantation is one of the top Hilton Head attractions for history buffs.
Head down to Plantation Drive and you’ll find a storied and illustrious past waiting to be discovered. Here, you can trace the property through its history, from its past as a plantation house & slave house to a Union Headquarters during the Civil War.
Lovers of ruins should take their cameras when they visit Stoney-Baynard Plantation. Get ready to capture how nature is taking over the historic zone.
Need a quick escape from Hilton Head Island? Add in a day trip to Daufuskie Island. Located between Hilton Head and Savannah, GA, the small island is one of the area’s top day trips.
Accessible only by boat and ferry, Daufuskie Island is a quiet getaway from the booming coastal town. When you reach Daufuskie Island, natural views will be yours to enjoy from the moment you step off the boat. A few paved roads and elegant beach houses will show you how people live here.
RELATED: Top-Rated Day Trips from Charleston, SC
Let the island’s historical landmarks take you back to a time that appears to have been lost. Indulge in the cultural importance of the art scene that keeps the island blooming.
There are also championship golf courses on Daufuskie Island. The courses welcome both hobbyists and professional golfers.
PRO TIP: Want to take the guesswork out of your day trip? Book your Round-Trip Daufuskie Island Ferry Ticket online!
Need another historical stop? Get lost in the rich history of Fort Mitchel. Located just north of the town center, Fort Mitchel is one of the top points of interest in Hilton Head for history buffs.
The Hilton Head area traces the history of the American Civil War. The Civil War started on the borders of Port Royal Sound. Nearby, the Union built Mitchelville, a safe space for some of the first emancipated slaves. Fort Mitchel was built to protect the settlement.
Today, Fort Mitchel is mostly just remnants. But American Civil War history lovers will still find themselves at home. Set out on your own journey of discovery or join a guided tour to learn more about the site.
Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park
Want to learn about the events following the emancipation of slaves on Hilton Head Island? Visit Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park. Get ready to learn about the importance of the area on a tour of one of the most significant sites in South Carolina.
During your trip to Historic Mitchelville, you’ll see what happened after the first slaves were freed. Mitchelville was built as a safe space for them to cultivate crops and build homes.
RELATED: Top-Rated Savannah Day Trips
Military forts, including Fort Mitchel, were built nearby to protect the emancipated slaves. In Mitchelville, they had the freedom to make their own laws, build what they wanted, and live in their own way.
Audubon Newhall Preserve
Looking to get off-the-beaten-path? Audubon Newhall Preserve is the perfect Hilton Head Island escape. The protected nature reserve is full of interconnected hiking trails winding through a small shaded forest area.
Get comfortable shoes ready to embark on this calming walk. Follow guides as you spot different species of native hardwoods set alongside local flora and fauna. You can expect to see lots of birds, both local and migratory. Keep your camera close to capture its birdlife.
The walk is an easy stroll for most travelers. If you’re looking to get a few more miles in, head to the nearby Sea Pines Forest Preserve.
Recommended places to stay in Hilton Head for sightseeing
For travelers, the best places to stay in Hilton Head lie around William Hilton Parkway and the beachfront. From these areas, you’ll have no problem experiencing all the top Hilton Head Island points of interest. There’s also a handful of accommodation options around Harbour Town, Sea Pines, and Shelter Cove.
Palmera Inn and Suites
Located just off the island’s parkway, these suites are perfectly located to squeeze the most out of your Hilton Head adventure. End your day cooling off in the outdoor pool or soaking in the hot tub.
Home2 Suites by Hilton
Add a home-like feeling to your stay by ducking into one of these fully-equipped suites. Besides the spacious rooms, you’ll enjoy a wealth of amenities like an outdoor pool, fitness center, and bike rental.
Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort
For the ultimate in Hilton Head luxury, book yourself into this stunning seaside resort. You’ll love access to a private beach along with an outdoor pool and on-site spa. Upgrade to a luxury suite to enjoy a private balcony with stunning ocean views.