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Learn about Hilton Head, South Carolina, by reading Head for Hilton Head by Charlie Spence, Aviation Writer. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!

Head for Hilton Head

by Charlie Spence, Aviation Writer and IFA Member

Beach Walk
A picturesque path to the beach.
Photo courtesy of the Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau

If you think of Hilton Head Island as just 12 miles of beautiful Atlantic Ocean beaches you're missing much of what can be found at one of the most famous vacation areas in America. This fascinating community on South Carolina's eastern shore offers something for everyone from a charming place to hold a wedding or honeymoon to fun activities for children, outdoor adventures for adults, or just a peaceful, quiet setting for relaxing.

You'll notice something special about the area once you arrive. Buildings are set back from the main roads. This gives an opportunity to enjoy the native pines and oaks and helps to give the community its serene and un-crowded appearance. Also, there are no bright, gaudy colors on the structures. Subdued tones blend with the natural environment.

About two and a half million visitors come here every year. With this many persons enjoying the place there is a variety of accommodations ranging from inexpensive motels to luxurious resorts and beachfront villas with private swimming pools and tennis courts. Or, stay in a quaint bed and breakfast in the heart of town. There are more than 6,000 villas, 3,000 hotel/motel rooms, and 1,000 time-share units.

Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Hilton Head's average daytime temperature is 70' F and the ocean temperature averages 69' F. The island encompasses 42 square miles, about the same size as the city of San Francisco.

But, let's start enjoying some of the Island's attractions. For real enjoyment of the area let's go bike riding over the 50 miles of bicycle trails or ride on the hard packed sand of the beach when the tide's out. Perhaps you would prefer not to use all that energy peddling, so let's take a guided horseback riding tour. For ages eight and up, these adventures offer western style rides through the 600-acre Sea Pines Forest Preserve.

If water sports are more to your liking, stretch out on a part of the 12 miles of beach (much of it has public access), and if you don't mind getting that bikini or swim shorts wet, let those waves rejuvenate that weary body.

Local businesses know what visitors want and they offer a variety of activities. A charter boat will take you out for some deep-sea fishing. Or, take another and stand along the rail as you scan the waters for dolphin fins. Maybe you would prefer skimming across the waves in a sailboat. If you are more adventurous, take a canoe or kayak and explore the creeks and inlets. Some trips include overnight, adding to the experience you will never forget. If you have time there are other activities to attract and please you. Try scuba diving, parasailing, or waterskiing.

There are 25 golf courses on the Island (five are private) and 40 in the nearby low country. Tennis players will find 300 courts (8 are available for resort play).

Soak up a lot of culture at the arts center or visit some of the historic sites. In the early 1500s, the Island was "discovered" by the Spanish on their way to want became Florida, but was not settled until the late 1600s-early 1700s. It was not until 1955 that the first vacation cottages were built. Visit the Shell Ring sites that date from the Woodland Indians. Visit the Harbour Town Lighthouse or the nearby Daufuskie Island's two range lighthouses, which were built in 1863. Local tour operators can take you around the Island and surrounding interesting places and explain much about the history of the area.

The kids can find a lot to do also. Many of the resorts have special activities for children to keep them entertained all day. (Some also have expert staffs to mind the youngsters while their parents take time out for their own pleasures.) The Bristol Sports Arena has a skating park with ramps for skateboarding. Putt-putt miniature golf courses let the young emulate the master golfers who have played the regulation courses. (It was here that Arnold Palmer ended his winless streak in 1969 by winning the Sea Pines Resort's Heritage Classic.) Adventure Cove is an entertainment center with batting cages, parachute simulator, laser tag, bumper cars, an extensive arcade, 4D movie theater, and other options to please the youngsters.

Of course you will want to do some shopping and there are more than 200 shops on the Island from elegant boutiques and art galleries to outlet and indoor malls with department stores and specialty shops. For a personal souvenir of your visit, go to the Art Caf' where you can select and paint your own pottery.

There are abundant activities in nearby locations. For a fascinating day, take the boat from Hilton Head to Savannah, Georgia. The trip over and back is fun with much to see and your time in Savannah can be making discoveries right at the waterside area or exploring this town with its southern charm.

Once you visit this Island you will see why it is so popular that it has more than 39,000 permanent residents. Some are retired families who long ago discovered the attraction of this place. Something you will certainly do once you head for Hilton Head.

How to Get There

The Hilton Head Airport is just three miles from the city and has all the conveniences you want. Find it on the Charlotte chart. Be alert for ultralights, banner towing, helicopter operations, and hang gliding. Traffic pattern for light aircraft is 1200 MSL and 1500 MSL for heavy. (Ultralights are at 519 MSL).

Runway: 3/21 - 4300 X 100 asphalt


Fees: Ramp, parking, tie-down

Fuel: Shell 100 LL; Jet-premix

Ground Transportation: Rental cars, limo service

Where to Stay

Because Hilton Head has so many visitors you can be assured the available accommodations are both numerous and varied. There are hotels and inns, resorts, spa resorts, time-share, vacation homes and villa rentals. We can find just the place to meet your comfort, price and convenience to areas of interest to you.

You may also book your accommodations and rental car at IFA's Online Travel Booking Service. Deep discounts may be available.

Where to Dine

There are more than 250 restaurants on Hilton Head Island where you can find everything from fast-food to gourmet dining. You will find major ethnic cuisine. Be sure to enjoy the local seafood and some of the southern-style fare.

Notice: This information is current as of May 2008. It is recommended that you contact the numbers, and/or visit the websites above to determine any changes to the information.

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