I’ve been to a lot of beaches over the years and Hilton Head gets my vote as one of the most family friendly vacation spots in the U.S. The island caters to parents and kids, and there are a zillion things to do and see, whether you’re a history buff, an adventurer, a nature lover, or a beach bum. (We have all these types in my family!) We did A LOT of research on Hilton Head before we went this summer- Now you get to enjoy the benefits.
And so, without further adieu: 35 fantastic ideas for what to do the next time you take your family to Hilton Head.
1. Go to the beach!
2. Rent bikes or bring your own. Hilton Head has more than 50 miles of bike trails and you can also ride on the beach. Younger children ride in chariots or on tandem bikes with their parents.
3. Explore the backcountry creeks in a guided kayak tour. My husband took our older girls on this 4-hour tour and it was their favorite part of the entire trip. Special mention to their awesome tour guide, Adam.
4. Visit Flamingo’s Doughnuts for fresh, hot doughnuts that can be custom dipped and covered with just about anything you can dream up! Best doughnuts I’ve EVER TASTED!
5. Head to Shelter Cove Harbour on Tuesday night for fireworks at HarbourFest, a free summer event that includes live family-friendly entertainment, food, activities for children, and arts and crafts vendors.
6. Go shelling! Hunting Island State Park is an hour’s drive from Hilton Head, and it’s where the locals go for the best seashells in the area.
7. Sign up for a Blue Crab Discovery tour.
8. Go on one of Lawton Stables‘ raved-about guided rides on horseback.
9. Spot an alligator (and plenty of other wildlife) on a trail hike at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure to bring the bug spray and plenty of water!
10. Buy fresh-off-the-boat seafood from where the locals go to get it- the Piggly Wiggly (make sure it’s the Coligny Piggly Wiggly, which specializes in local seafood), or the Bluffton Oyster Company in nearby Bluffton.
11. Engage your smallest travelers (best for ages 5 and under) at The Sandbox Interactive Children’s Museum.
12. Have dinner at A Lowcountry Backyard, an insidery, kid-friendly place with ambiance, where every single one of our dishes was TO DIE FOR.
13. Tee off comfortably with the kids in one of Hilton Head’s heavily shaded miniature golf locations.
14. Take a turtle tour and learn the fascinating story of the loggerhead sea turtles, which swim on a 5-10 year journey from North Africa to Hilton Head in order to lay their eggs in the dunes.
15. Spend an afternoon ambling around Savannah’s lovely historic squares. Savannah is about an hour’s drive from Hilton Head. While there, treat the kids to a lunch at the famed Crystal Beer Parlor– the burgers are ridiculously good.
16. Grab your boogie boards and head over to Folly Beach, which has more surf than any other beach on the island.
18. Don’t miss a meal at the kitschy Squat n’ Gobble just outside of Hilton Head. The menu is varied, the food is cheap and surprisingly tasty, and the small-town atmosphere is part Gilmore Girls, part Whistlestop Cafe.
19. Visit the Coastal Discovery Museum for fun, interactive exhibits on the area’s natural history and rich cultural heritage.
20. Tee off on one of dozens of golf courses on and around the island. Hilton Head is known as one of the premier golf destinations in the country.
21. Visit nearby Beaufort and step back in time as you stroll down this sleepy town’s streets lined with beautiful historic homes and B&Bs. For a romantic getaway, stay a night or two at the highly-rated Beaufort Inn. You’ll love it!
22. Go on a two-hour Kids Cruise aboard the Gypsy, where you will…
23. Make time for a legendary Grouper Melt at family-friendly restaurant Captain Woody’s. It’s OMG good.
24. Get a view from the top of Harbour Town Lighthouse, a 90-foot lighthouse on Hilton Head offering a panoramic look at the island and a Shop at the Top! As an added bonus, you can take a self-guided museum tour and learn the history of the island as you climb the steps to the top!
26. Rainy day? Visit the massive Tanger Outlets and score some great deals on designer clothing and accessories.
27. Take a chartered boat over to Daufuskie Island (no cars allowed) for a History & Artisans Tour, and learn about the island’s Gullah culture and vibrant arts community.
28. Stand in line at the locals’-favorite restaurant, Sea Shack, (don’t worry, the line moves fast!) for no-frills seafood that’s as fresh as it gets and absolutely delicious.
29. Take a day trip to Charleston, two hours away, where fabulous shopping, antique stores, restaurants, and historic walking tours abound.
30. Enroll the children (ages k-5th grade) in a Friday night Kids Night Out at the Island Recreation Center from 6pm-10pm, and enjoy a date night at Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte, a charming French/Lowcountry restaurant on the island with a super-fresh menu that changes daily. You’ll definitely need to make a reservation in advance.
31. Shop the artsy stores and art galleries of nearby historic Bluffton. But be warned- many of the gallery and boutique owners don’t take well to small children. Fortunately, there are a few shops in the area specifically for kids- My favorite was The Storybook Shoppe, which is a small but well stocked children’s book store. Also, Captain Woody’s just opened a second location there, so it’s a great place to do a little shopping and end with Grouper Melts!
32. Learn to volley like the pros at one of Hilton Head’s world-famous tennis clubs. Lessons from noted tennis pros, lighted courts for night playing, and Grand Slam courts all are available for tennis enthusiasts.
33. Enroll the kids (ages 6 and up) in Adventure Camp, a 2-hour, 2-day beach camp for kids that teaches them to cast nets for shrimp, catch blue crabs in pots, and fish for shark, flounder and redfish. This is where the locals send their kids to day camp.
34. Enjoy the scenic drive to 11th Street Dockside Restaurant in Port Royal, which many have labeled as a required stop on any trip to Hilton Head.
35. Take pictures of your family at sunset.