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Published on March 22nd, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Hit the links and soak up the sun at Hilton Head, South Carolina

South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island has long been known as a place for comfort and escape, but visitors may be surprised to learn of all that the small island has to offer. It is a veritable mecca for the worship of leisure time and the game of golf, featuring several of Golf Digest Magazine’s top 100 U.S. courses. Besides hitting the links, fishing is another great reason for a visit, and there are numerous guides available to lead a charter out to the best fresh and salt water spots. The island has a small but thriving art community, and the local West Africa-derived Gullah culture adds a great touch of history and art to the area. Wrap up your trip with a walk or lazy bike ride along one of the brilliant white sand beaches, and soon you’ll be looking to trade your rental condo for a permanent beachside address.

Climate
Both the temperature and rainfall numbers for the region can vary widely, and winter can bring a brief dusting of snow. High humidity can make it feel a lot hotter and clammier than the actual temperature, especially in July and August, but a regular sea breeze tends to keep things cool regardless of the thermometer’s reading. Autumn makes for the most pleasant time for a visit owning to the brisk air and lower midday temperatures, but visitors need to be aware that hurricanes spin in from the Atlantic about every 10 years during that season. Hurricane season is from June to November, peaking in August and September.

Sporting activities
Ask most Hilton Head visitors what’s on their itinerary, and it’s a good bet that a visit to one of the island’s premiere golf courses is near the top. This delightful South Carolina island is a putter’s paradise, with more than 20 courses on the island and surrounding Lowcountry. Some of the best known courses include Harbour Town, Colleton River, Haig Point and Long Cove, and all are rated as some of the best in the country.

Besides golf, tennis is also a popular pastime, and enthusiasts will find over 350 tennis courts. The island also boasts a myriad of water activities once you leave the clubs and rackets behind. These include outstanding sport fishing and 12 miles of gorgeous beachfront, perfect for sunning, swimming, and shelling. Sailboats, powerboats and waverunners are also available for rent. The most popular beaches include Folly Field Beach, Driessen Beach and Bradley Beach.

Attractions
There are several parks and historical attractions worth visiting on Hilton Head. These include the Fort Mitchell Historical Site, an earthen fort built in 1862 during the Civil War by Federal soldiers to protect Skull Creek (now the Intracoastal Waterway) from a Confederate assault. The fort was used later as a base for the Union blockade of Charleston and Savannah. For another interesting experience, head to Sea Pines Forest Preserve to see the Indian shell ring, a 150-foot ring of shells and bones dating back several thousand years.

If you need a dash of culture to go with your stroll back in time and across the golf course, swing by the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. There is a 350-seat main stage and two smaller venues for youth and experimental theater, and you can catch everything from musicals to concerts there.

Gullah/Geechee culture
The Gullah/Geechee Nation, descended from the West African ethnic groups once enslaved for plantation work, form a distinct and vital part of the Hilton Head population.

Gullah language combines elements of West African dialects with English pidgin bases, and is the only surviving English-based Creole language in America. Ethnographers believe that Gullah/Geechee people reflect more African influence in their behavior, self-expression, and beliefs than any other African-American group in the U.S.

There are many ways in which to experience Gullah culture on Hilton Head. If you feel like a guided tour, Point Historic Tours’ Sea Island-Gullah Tour offers a three-hour tour in a luxury coach with several stops. Visitors looking to explore more on foot can check out the Gullah Flea Market, where they can purchase locally-made crafts and artwork. And those wishing to get an in-depth understanding of this fascinating Sea Island group can arrange to participate in a six-day program at the Gullah Institute, held on the Penn Center campus on St. Helena Island, immediately above Hilton Head.

Dining
There are not that many options for dining on Hilton Head, but what is to be found is generally very good. Choices include Italian, Caribbean and other international fare, but if you want to know where the locals are going, just follow the fishing line. There are more than 20 restaurants dedicated to the region’s coastal bounty, and the freshness and flavor of just-caught crab, shrimp and fish make for a just as dedicated group of diners.

Lodging
There is perhaps no more important part of a vacation than deciding where to stay, and one of the best ways to ensure a stress-free trip is by renting. This is a great alternative to the cookie cutter formula that many hotels follow, with each residence as unique as the visitor using it. Besides a much more private and homey environment, renting on your vacation makes good sense as the rental property often has amenities that other lodgings lack.

With Hilton Head rentals ranging from seaside cottages to condos and family-sized vacation homes, you’re sure to find the perfect escape for a memorable South Carolina vacation.

 

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