Hilton Head, South Carolina A Year-Round Retreat

Just as Sedona, Arizona is one of my must-go and return-to destinations on the West Coast, Hilton Head, South Carolina is my favorite vacation spot on the East Coast. A fellow vacationer once said, "I've found my Mecca." I agree. Since my first visit to Hilton Head mor than 15 years ago, I haven't been able to resist returning year after year. Here's why.

Hilton Head, which is the second largest island on the East Coast, is located between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Its history dates back to the late 1700s, when it flourished as an agricultural community with crops of cotton, indigo, sugar cane, and rice. Later, the Island's economy was based primarily on hunting and fishing. Today, Hilton Head's 42 square miles of semi-tropical terrain is a premiere resort and retirement community.

You won't see bright lights or billboards in Hilton Head. The restaurants and shops have been tucked away, to blend with the surrounding landscape. It may be a little disconcerting, at first, since the lighting and building facades are quite different from what you're accustomed to seeing. However, it won't be long before you appreciate the beauty and charm of the town's design, and realize that you wouldn't want it any other way.

Although Highway 278, the access road to Hilton Head, is congested in the morning and evenings, after you've crossed the bridge to the Island, the pace slows down considerably. You'll find traffic circles at the major intersections and at many of the gated resorts. The South Beach Marina Village and Harbour Town, home of Hilton Head's trademark red and white striped lighthouse, are contained within my favorite community, Sea Pines. This resort, within a resort, enhanced with palm trees, fragrant magnolias and the Spanish moss-draped oak trees that are common to the area, make it an unforgettable getaway.

There are many bike rental shops with "beach cruisers" that are great for a leisurely pace when touring Hilton Head. However, mountain bikes and bicycles-built-for-two are available, as well. Some will rent by the hour, but all will rent by the day or week. Since I usually stay in Sea Pines, I rent my bikes at South Beach Cycles, located at 230 South Sea Pines Drive. With more than 50 miles of wide, flat bike paths, and 12 miles of beach, biking is an excellent way to see the Island, and to stay in shape. If you're riding on the beach, choose the three or four hours before and after low tide. Otherwise, the sand will be too soft to support your bike for easy peddling. Whether you choose to bike 5 miles or 50 miles, you'll certainly have fun exploring the many unique and beautiful sights of this southern retreat.

There are over 250 restaurants in Hilton Head, so you won't have a problem finding a restaurant that you'll enjoy. We continue to discover new favorites, so we've compiled a list of some of our best picks.Click here for restaurants to try first.

The next time I'm in Hilton Head, perhaps I'll play some tennis, go golfing, kayaking, deep-sea fishing, or take a dinner cruise around the Island. What's not to like about this vacation utopia, when there's so much to do, and there's always next year to try something new.

Here are some of the sights on Hilton Head. It's not hard to understand why many describe this vacation spot as their "Happy Place."


For more of the sights around the Island, click here.