If you’re visiting Hilton Head Island for the first time – or just moved here – you might be wondering where the most “iconic” places are on the island.
These are the places islanders take pride in, and where they bring their friends and family on their visits to the island. They’re also the places tourists are sure to remember – and keep them coming back for more.
Here are the top five must-see iconic places on Hilton Head Island:
1. Harbour Town & the Harbour Town Lighthouse
It’s said that Sea Pines Resort founder Charles Fraser wanted the lighthouse to be “a symbolic beacon” to the island -and that he chose the candy-striped paint job to make it “fun and memorable.”
Today, the lighthouse is what most people think of when they’re asked about Hilton Head. It’s the first thing many tourists spot from the sky before they land at the Hilton Head or Savannah airports, and the first landmark they see when arriving by boat.
But the lighthouse isn’t the only iconic part of Harbour Town. There’s the marina, the red rocking chairs, the huge Live Oak tree (that’s usually accompanied by a certain musician), the boardwalk, and, of course, the Shops at Sea Pines Center.
However, the most well-known part of Harbour Town – and the part that’s said to have put Hilton Head Island on the map – is the Harbour Town Golf Links. This famous golf course was designed by Pete Dye and design consultant Jack Nicklaus, and is the home of the RBC Heritage. This was the only PGA Tour stop in the state of South Carolina until this year; the Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland is set to host the CJ CUP– in South Carolina for the first time in October.
PHOTO by Ashley Francis
2. Coligny Beach Park & Shopping Plaza
Another iconic part of Hilton Head Island? Its white sand beaches.
While the entire stretch of sandy beach on the island is technically public, Hilton Head has several beach Parks that provide bathrooms, parking and other amenities. These tend to be the more popular beach areas, as other beach access points are in private, gated communities and resorts.
Coligny Beach Park is definitely THE most popular beach Park on Hilton Head Island. Why? It has the most parking (by far) and a TON of amenities. Just on the wooden entryway to the beach, there are outdoor showers, changing rooms and restrooms, plus swings and chairs under shady gazebos. There’s also a fun splash pad for the little ones – and lifeguards are set up seasonally, along with chair and umbrella rentals.
Across the street from the Coligny Beach access is the Coligny Plaza Shopping Center. The plaza is full of shops and restaurants that are both beach-goer and family-friendly – and are great options for grabbing lunch or dinner before you head home (or back to your vacation rental) after a day at the beach.
PHOTO by Ashley Francis
3. Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina – and the King Neptune statue
Hilton Head Island is known for being a boating community, so it’s no surprise that another one of its iconic locations is a marina. More specifically, it’s Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina.
While the marina is definitely center stage at Shelter Cove, it’s not the only reason islanders love it here. Shelter Cove Harbour offers year-round waterfront dining, shopping and entertainment, plus water sports, activities and tours.
There are also tons of fun, seasonal events held at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina, like Harbourfest – a summertime concert series and fireworks show – and Music & Taste on the Harbour the annual Fall concert series.
And, of course, aside from enjoying the events, shops, restaurants and marina itself, there’s also the King Neptune statue! It makes a great backdrop for photos, and even gets “dressed up” for the holidays.
4. Mitchelville Freedom Park
Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park is a must-see for visitors to Hilton Head Island. This is one of the most historic places on the island, as the home of the first freedmen community established during the Civil War.
Mitchelville became the first self-governed community by formerly enslaved people. It had its own churches, schools, mayor and councilmen, homes and crops. The town soon became known as the place “where freedom began.”
Today, the site contains many historical exhibits, as well as signs/placards with information so that you can complete a self-guided tour.
PHOTOS from Salty Dog
5. South Beach Marina & The Salty Dog Cafe
Finally, if you’ve seen people walking around Hilton Head wearing a shirt or hat with a dog wearing a yellow hat, you’re probably wondering where that logo came from.
That dog is Jake, The Salty Dog. The legend is that Jake saved his owner, John, after their boat – named “The Salty Dog” – capsized off of Hilton Head Island.
The South Beach Marina Village has a ton of shopping, dining and activities. But it’s most well-known for the Salty Dog Cafe, which not only serves great food, but offers spectacular views of the Calibogue Sound and often hosts live music and other events.