July 5, 2011 posted by Lindsay Ferrier

What to Do with Your Family in Hilton Head

What to Do with Your Family in Hilton Head

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!

Hilton Head’s beaches are perfect for children. The ocean is calm and as warm as bathwater, and at low tide, the stretch of sand is endless.

There aren’t many shells, but starfish, sand dollars, and loggerhead sea turtles are common sights.

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.

You’ll get hands-on experience harvesting, cooking, picking and tasting one of South Carolina’s most notable delicacies.

Mmm, mmm, good!

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.

17. Tour one of the many historic homes and plantations located around Hilton Head, from the Heyward House in Bluffton to Rose Hill Plantation in Beaufort.

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.

A well-stocked kids room keeps the children busy.

This butterfly enclosure showcases the insect at every stage of its life cycle.

Outside the museum, take a self-guided tour and learn more about South Carolina’s salt marsh ecology. Guided tours on all sorts of subjects also are available.

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…

…see dolphins…

…catch (and release) sharks…

…and learn to throw a cast net for shrimp.

You might even catch a little something extra!

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.

You’ll treasure those photos forever.



Images via Me, Flamingo’s Doughnuts, Beaufort Visitor’s Bureau, A Lowcountry Backyard, Lighthouse Friends, Ted Hodges/Flickr, 11th Street Dockside Restaurant



  • Lindsay, what an awesome list of things to do in Hilton Head! If we ever visit, I will know where to come for fun ideas for the fam!

    • Anonymous

      You will love it. 🙂 We didn’t want to love it as much as we did, but we couldn’t help ourselves! LOL.

  • Wow I live a little over an hour away and have never been there! Thanks so much for the info!

    • Anonymous

      Lucky you! You’ve got so many great places within just a few hours. 🙂

  • Kimberly

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We are going soon and this list is very helpful to me. Especially all the kid friendly things. 🙂

    • Anonymous

      You are going to have THE BEST TIME. 🙂

  • Kimlikins

    I am a Town Council Representative on HHI and a good friend of mine from Atlanta sent me this link. Thank you so much for sharing our special island with your followers. We consistantly strive to make HHI the best place to visit and live! We hope you and your family will come back and visit us again soon! Kim Likins

    • Anonymous

      We can’t wait to come back, Kim! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  • Tracy

    We’ve been going to HHI for eight years with our kids now and it is truly fantastic! The tide pool exploring is excellent! Some of these we’ve done, but some we haven’t. Every year we eat at the Old Oyster Factory on Broad Creek (it’s right on the water – lots of great marsh birds to look at) and an added bonus is all of the little crabs your kids can find around the rocks at the shore. It’s my 8-year old’s favorite place!

    • Anonymous

      That restaurant was on our short list, Tracy. 🙂 We’ll have to try it next time.

  • S.

    Isn’t this wonderful!! Your descriptions and pictures really made me want to go there. Maybe someday!…

    • Anonymous

      I bet you’d love it! 🙂

  • Jamie

    Hilton Head is on my must see list with hubby and the girls!

    • Anonymous

      It seems like half the people I know in Nashville went this summer. 😀

  • HHI is also our favorite family vacation spot. Wish I’d seen this list last month when we were there! Looking forward to going back next week- but that’s for a girls’ trip…which will require different kinds of entertainment…mainly lying on the beach with drink in hand

  • Pingback: Suddenly Last Summer ‹ Suburban Turmoil()

  • Pingback: The Year of Fireworks ‹ Suburban Turmoil()

  • Pingback: And Now You are Eight ‹ Suburban Turmoil()

  • Felixinmiami

    Heading there this weekend and looking forward to hitting some of those spots mentioned above.

  • Dina Laughlin

    Heading there on the first Saturday of August. We are very excited!

  • AlaskaYoungDFTBA

    My family has owned a house in the Hilton Head Plantation. Some mroe thigns I recommend-

    1. Hilton Head Ice Cream Shop (great variety, convenient location)
    2. Try Sea Pines Beach Club if you’re able- it’s a large public beach (but very family friendly) and has TONS of little classes/activities for kids. Plus the best restaurant EVER!

    3. The Art Cafe- it’s a paint-your-own pottery place. Pretty generaric but very helpful and friendly staff, and another convenient location Coligny Plaza.
    Hope this helps, and have fun on your Hilton head vacation!

  • Terry

    Thanks for all of the tips. We’ve been before and happened to find the Sea Shak via a local girl working at Tangers. It was amazing! Your list seemed to include many of the locals favs. Can’t wait to give you my opinion. Your family is beautiful. Going in May.

  • Pingback: Win a Family Cruise! ‹ Suburban Turmoil()

  • Vince Fl

    forgot the Gullah tours…

  • Vince Fl

    flamingo’s closed “(

  • Karen Baum

    Hilton Head is my absolute favorite place. I am SO looking forward to our second trip there in August…thanks so much for your list of fun things to do. I just want to comment about what NOT to do in HHI…Do not take children for a bike ride to dinner at night in Sea Pines!!!! It gets very dark early because of poor lighting in consideration of the turtles!!! My children still laugh about our crazy biking trip in the dark. They made mom lead the way in case we discovered an alligator on the bike path!!! Lol

    • suburbanturmoil

      My husband and I were just there for a few nights and I saw the same problem! Families were out biking at night and most were having to walk their bikes home because it was so dark- We even saw a few people trying to balance their iPhone flashlight on the handles as they rode!

  • Chris C

    Head to the tiki hut at the holiday inn. Cocktails, live music, and competitive volleyball. My my favorite daytime hangout, right across from coligny plaza

  • Family of Five!

    Thank you so much for the work you put into this we are going to HH for the first time this summer and now I know all the best places to go!! Thank you so much you have no idea!!

  • Norm

    Hi, Would anyone know which is the best condo management company to contact for a condo rental in Palmetto Dunes? As well, does anyone have any thoughts as to other areas on Hilton Head to stay for the last two weeks of August? We would like to be close to the beach.

  • guestpost

    Are we allowed to bring our pets in Hunting Island State Park?

    asking from

  • Janice

    We love the new ZipLine Hilton Head and Aerial Adventure park. We spent the day there and hung out at the marina.