The Island's 12 miles of hard-packed, white-sand beaches provide the perfect opportunity to relax on a rented beach chair under an umbrella with a good book, build sandcastles, or ride a bike. But if the water is calling your name and you want to do a little more than get sand between your toes, there are several ways to get out on the water and explore the freshwater lagoons and brackish backwaters. Few other places offer a wealth of opportunities to explore nature and wildlife at your fingertips.
We've listed the top 5 activities to get you off the sand and into the water including places you can rent equipment if you don't have your own. Try one or all five—it's all an adventure and each one a great experience to make your Hilton Head vacation all the more memorable!
Daufuskie Island is one of the South Carolina Sea Islands, just a mile across the Sound from Hilton Head Island. Their historic district is named in the National Register of Historic Places and still has original Gullah-constructed homes, churches, and schools. It has been inhabited for thousands of years and possesses a rich, interesting history and a culture. In fact, artifacts found on Daufuskie suggest the area was inhabited 9,000 years ago! During the Civil War, plantation owners and slaves fled Daufuskie Island as Union Troops occupied the island. Once the war ended, the Gullah people (freed slaves) returned to the island to work in oyster canneries and the logging industry. These days, Daufuskie hosts around 400 full-time residents and 3 private/semi-private communities.
There is no bridge to Daufuskie Island and the only way to get here is by boat. Much of Daufuskie's land is undeveloped and most roads are unpaved, making it not very walkable. The best way to explore the island is with a guided tour or renting a golf cart to discover the galleries, eateries, and natural and historic spots along the roadways. You can also do some horseback riding, lounge on its three miles of pristine sand beaches, take a guided tour of Daufuskie Island Community Farm, or take an authentic Gullah tour with Sallie Ann Robinson, a sixth generation native.
In many ways, Hilton Head Island is a stand-up paddling paradise. There are multiple large, calm creeks and flatwater options that are perfect for it. SUP is easy to learn and a great workout. Once you get the hang of it, nothing beats being in the waters of the Lowcountry to see all the marine wildlife and peacefulness it can offer. If you've never tried SUP before, don't let that stop you! Take a few lessons from Outside Hilton Head before heading out to the creeks and estuaries. They offer some incredible SUP tours and offer all paddle board rental gear, too.
Perhaps the best place to do SUP is Broad Creek. Sea birds soar above your head as flounder, stingrays, dolphins, and schools of fish swim beneath you in the water. With the changing tides and seasons Broad Creek can seem familiar and freshly new even to those who have paddle boarded here for years. Other great flatwater options include Skull Creek, Pinckney Island, and the May River in Bluffton. The water and islands surrounding Pinckney Island are part of a roughly 4000-acre wildlife refuge that is pristine and beautiful. Bald Eagles, dolphins, redfish, white tail deer, and everything in between call this island home.
What better way to end your day than to enjoy a delicious meal aboard a dinner cruise as you watch a spectacular sunset, cruising around the island and waterways? It's the perfect atmosphere for a candlelight evening for two or a family party with a view of dolphins and stars. Aboard the Spirit of Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island's only heated and air-conditioned luxury yacht, every table has a waterfront view of the Carolina coast. This is Hilton Head's only on-board dinner cruise. The Lowcountry buffet, prepared by a private chef, consists of three courses, from seafood to traditional southern country cooking, multiple meat options for the entree, and a fully stocked bar.
Daufuskie Difference also operates a Sunset Supper Club at the Daufuskie's Freeport Marina's Old Daufuskie Crab Company. The Daufuskie Sunset Supper Cruises depart from Broad Creek Marina on Hilton Head Island every Friday at 4 p.m. The Daufuskie Island Ferry returns to Hilton Head Island at 8:30 p.m. In addition to dinner, the cruises include:
- Round-trip ferry service
- Golf cart rental
- Dolphin watch tour
- Narrated history excursion
- Plus a complimentary Scrap Iron Cocktail.
If you've ever wanted to soar hundreds of feet above the water on a parasailing trip, your visit to Hilton Head Island is your chance! Enjoy the beautiful views of Daufuskie Island, Calibogue Sound, Harbour Town Lighthouse, Harbour Town Yacht Basin, South Beach Marina, and all the other breathtaking views the Lowcountry has to offer. You might even get to see Hilton Head Island's famous bottlenose dolphins! There are several companies to choose from that offer Parasailing adventures—including Sky Pirate Parasail, H2o Sports, Island Head, and Island Water Sports.
There's no better way to explore the outdoors than to kayak the waters of Hilton Head Island. It's the perfect activity for some family fun or a little solo time for yourself. If you want to see more wildlife, then head out at low tide when the waters for many of these marches get so low you can even get out of your kayak and walk around. But if you'd rather do a more exploratory trip, then go out at high tide when there are more waterways to explore. Wildlife is common in the marshes and there are several channels to explore in your kayak. Check with guides to find the perfect time to get out. Below are some of the best places to kayak on the Island—ranging from calm waters for beginners to more experienced kayakers.
Calibogue Sound is an ocean channel that extends up to the top of the island and has several creeks branching off of it. You might even see manatees, horseshoe crabs, and cannonball jellyfish. Branching off the channel from Calibogue Sound and extending west, leading up to Bluffton is the May River. You can paddle near the shore to see all kinds of wildlife and take a lunch on a secluded sandbar. Outside Hilton Head offers kayaking on May River.
One of the most popular places to kayak on Hilton Head is in Broad Creek. It's the largest creek on the island and extends from Calibogue about seven miles in, with marshes and streams snaking out from the creek. Kayak Hilton Head operate out of Broad Creek and offer kayak rentals and guided tours.
For those with a little more kayaking experience, head to the north end of the island and kayak Skull Creek, which leads out to the Port Royal Sound. Then be sure to check out Pinckney Island, a national wildlife refuge just north of Hilton Head Island to see some wildlife. Birds and other animals love to spend time in the salt marsh. Live Oac Adventures can get you all set up for your Skull Creek kayaking adventure.
If you're a beginner and looking for a smooth, easy trip, then head out to Jarvis Creek. It doesn't have any of boat traffic, which makes it the perfect place to explore for beginners and families with children. This small creek runs through the top of the island and dead ends at Honey Horn Plantation. The waters of the Palmetto Dunes lagoon channels are also very calm and away from the boat traffic in the bigger waterways, making it perfect for beginners. Hilton Head Outfitters offers rentals and tours of the lagoon.
Finally, if you're a pro and want a kayaking journey that's much more challenging, then take a trip to Daufuskie Island. Watch out for boat traffic and beware of the strong tides! This is a trip only experienced kayakers. If it's a little too adventurous, you can always go to Daufuskie by boat or ferry, then rent a kayak at Tour Daufuskie and travel the smoother waters by the shore.
As you can see there is no shortage of way to get out on the water and places to explore once from, but why stop at just one? Explore them all when you stay close by in one of our luxury hilton head island vacation homes!