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Hilton Head Island

shorelineIt seems I’m off schedule again, but I have a fantastic excuse – in my opinion, anyway…

Lately Kendall has been working 10-12 hour days, six days a week.  A couple of Saturdays ago he woke up and decided he really, REALLY needed a vacation before things got even busier at work (that’s the beauty and curse of owning your own business).  So, you guessed it; we packed up the next day and headed to the beach.

This time we traveled to Hilton Head Island, SC.  Neither of us had ever been before, but I remembered discussing it at length in my tourism class in college (forever ago) because of its unique infrastructure, building regulations, and beauty.  Now having been, I truly appreciate why it was a case study of sorts.  Hilton Head has actually been recognized internationally for its land planning and land-use preservation guidelines.  The island looks much the same as it did 60 years ago when resort developer, Charles Fraser, began building this amazing community and location.  It has certainly withstood the test of time, and it’s really no surprise that Travel + Leisure readers voted it the #1 island in the continental U.S. last year.

Indeed, Hilton Head Island may have just beat out all of our other favorite beach locations.  This place was simply awesome.  We stayed in a very nice condo which had all the comforts of home, and had an amazing view overlooking the ocean.  I really can’t say enough how pretty the entire island was.  The sand was white and the ocean a gorgeous sea green.  In fact, I dare say it was the prettiest beach we’ve been to on the east coast so far.

One of the biggest contributing factors to the island’s aesthetics was the landscaping and the plethora of trees growing everywhere.  Thanks to Mr. Charles Fraser, a great deal of care had been put into the structural planning.  As a result, earth toned buildings and signs blended in to their surroundings and were constructed into the natural landscape, so as not to detract from the environment in which they were built.  I have to say, it was pretty neat.  Instead of the usual brightly colored buildings and distracting billboards, all you really noticed were the trees.  And they were magnificent; especially because the majority of them had Spanish moss draping from their limbs.

Other well thought-out attractions were all the bike paths.  You could ride your bike to the shops, on the beach, and pretty much anywhere you wanted to go.  And thanks to all of the trees I mentioned above, riding on the paths gave you the illusion of being on a paved trail in an urban rainforest.  If you didn’t bring a bike, you could rent one (which is apparently a big business).  And honestly, that was one of my very favorite things about this place (which is ironic if you read the funny fact at the end).  We rented a couple of bikes as well as a kiddie cart for Olivia, and we cruised around to various places.  And I’m here to tell you, riding a bike on the beach and in the surf is pretty darn awesome.  – Tip: use the public beach access areas since they have long mats over the sand to make it easier to get to the flat parts.  There’s also a really cool park at the entrance of one of them.

I’m sad to say that we didn’t have enough time to explore all of the places we would have liked.  The island offers quite a lot to see and do.  However, we did venture to the Sea Pines to do a little shopping, eat some yummy sea food (well, Kendall did anyway), and mostly so I could get a picture of the lighthouse.  And truth be told, we could have used some more time there too.  We spent five nights in Hilton Head and didn’t even come close to getting our fill of it.  So we are already planning our next trip in a few months so that we can return and explore further.

I highly recommend Hilton Head Island if you’re planning a beach vacation anytime soon.  And it’s more affordable than you may think.  It’s true; it’s an upscale area, but we found the off season to be fairly reasonable.  – Tip: you can download the free Island Compass App to help you with your planning and exploration of Hilton Head.


Behind the scenes fun (or funny) fact…

Here’s something I know many of you will find amusing.  I’m not the best on a bike.  True, decades ago when I was a city kid in the flatlands of Illinois I was great at it.  Since then, my “skills” are noticeably lacking – ok, gone.  The first day we rented bikes, I fell TWICE.  The first time we had only just made it out of the condo parking lot!  HAHAHA.  Next time I might get the three wheeled bike instead – the adult version of a tricycle!