A Hilton Head Travel guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on any colored question for the answer, or scroll down to read all the answers.

How do I get to the beach through private property ?

How can I get into a Plantation?

Where can I get good seafood?

How does a rental property compare with a hotel room?

I am concerned about hurricanes.

What is the weather like?

What is there to do on Hilton Head?

Can I bring my pet?

What should I pack to visit Hilton Head?

How do I get to Hilton Head?

Are alligators dangerous?

How are rental properties equipped?

Can I connect to the internet?

I don't like my accommodations.

Is ocean water pollution a problem?

Tell me about golf and tennis.

What are the liquor laws on Hilton Head?

What are the kiosks in front of some restaurants and shops?

Is Hilton Head safe from crime?

Where can I find a summer job and lodging?

Is there recycling?

What is the cost of living?

Can I save money by renting directly from a property owner?

How do I get to the beach with all the private property in the way?

This question usually applies to the South Forest Beach area.  There are public access easements every few hundred feet along the road where you can access the beach on foot.  Most properties along the beach have limited parking and will not allow automobiles.  One of the most popular beaches is at Coligny circle.   Parking for this beach is available at a municipal parking lot nearby, off Pope Avenue. The best bet is to leave the car behind.  If the beach is farther than you want to walk, consider going by bike.

How do I get into a Plantation to go to a restaurant or other business within the gates? 

It depends on the plantation.  Sea Pines plantation charges $5.00 per car for a one day pass, and that includes free parking just inside the main (Greenwood drive) gate and a free trolley shuttle to Harbour Town (in season), the Sea Pines Beach Club, Sea Pines center (shops), South Beach Marina and Plantation Center (conference center and golf). Many other plantations will let you in if you state your destination, e.g.. golf course, restaurant, hotel, etc. Some places you might want to go to appear to be in a plantation but are actually outside the gates and thus readily accessible. Sea Pines and Hilton Head plantations have a reciprocal agreement for property owners, whereby a vehicle with a property owner's sticker from either plantation can enter both. This does not apply to visitor or guest passes.

A word of caution. If you enter a plantation by giving a destination such as a hotel, tennis facility or golf course and are found off the direct route to that destination you might get a citation for trespassing and be escorted out.

Where can I get seafood - what's a good seafood restaurant?

That's kind of like being in Kansas City and asking where can you get a good steak!  Most of our restaurants feature seafood, with the exception of pizza places and a couple of beef/steak restaurants. Check the Restaurant Guide.
Raw seafood is readily available in our grocery stores.  Publix on the south end has an outstanding seafood selection, as does Harris Teeter.  Some people refuse to think grocery stores could have great seafood. For those I suggest Barnacle Bill's or Benny Hudson (fishing boats dock on premises) . Barbara Hudson, at Benny Hudson's (not Hudson's restaurant), pays shrimpers a small premium over the going cost of imported farm-raised frozen shrimp. A guide to buying shrimp is here.

How does a rental property compare with a hotel room?


Rental Properties  Hotel Rooms
May require a minimum stay No minimum stay
Can have multiple bedrooms and baths Second room doubles the cost
Have kitchens and living rooms  Some may have kitchenettes
Costs can be shared by more than one family Costs much higher for groups
Are cleaned once per stay  Are cleaned daily
No on site restaurants or room service Often have these amenities
Pets are rarely allowed   Some motels permit pets
Reservation cancellations are restricted   Usually can cancel same day without penalty

I am concerned about hurricanes.

Hurricane season is June through November, with the highest probability starting mid August and ending late September.  Hilton Head was last hit by a hurricane in the year 1896, though there have been several scares that caused evacuations.  Hurricanes move somewhat slowly, so there is always plenty of notice, from weeks to a couple of days.  On the other hand their path is unpredictable, so often evacuations are called for when, in retrospect, there was no need.  Many believe that when a hurricane is nearby the weather will be rainy and windy over a large area.  My personal experience is the opposite.  Most hurricanes pass to the north of Hilton Head, and weather south of a hurricane is usually beautiful.

If a hurricane threatens, all TV and radio stations will keep the public well informed. Beware of the loosely used term "the Carolinas" on TV. The combined coast of North and South Carolina is somewhere around 400 miles in length and a hurricane will affect only a small fraction of that. If an evacuation is called, you should contact your rental company or hotel for advice.  So far, evacuations have been precautionary and visitors have been able to return in a day or so.  If there is a hurricane anywhere off the east coast, you should fill your gas tank and keep it full.  During an evacuation gas stations may run out of gas, and you definitely don't want to ride out a hurricane.

Rental refund policies vary greatly.  You should ask your rental agent or hotel what their policy is.  You will find locals very helpful, as most of us are experienced regarding potential hurricanes and evacuations.  When you ask us for advice, please keep in mind you face an evacuation while we are facing potential loss of our homes and jobs.  In the center section of the telephone book is some useful information and evacuation maps.

What is the weather like on Hilton Head?

Summer average maximum temperatures are close to 90° F and minimums are about 70°F. On rare occasions highs might hit  100° F or more.  Humidity is usually high since we are surrounded by water.  Even on hot days the beach is usually pleasant due to almost constant breezes.  Ocean water temperatures in summer range from 80° F in June up to 85° in August.  Our rainiest months are July and August, with an average of 7.0 inches of rain each.  On hot summer days we frequently get mid to late afternoon thunder showers, sometimes every day and often with dangerous lightening. Fortunately they are usually brief.

In spring and fall, expect temperatures ranging from highs of 70 - 80° F and lows in the fifties.

Winter brings 50 - 60° F highs and lows in the 30's and 40's.  It rarely freezes, even at night. Sweatshirts and jeans will suffice, but to walk the beach you may need a windbreaker and perhaps a coat to go out at night.

What is there to do on Hilton Head?

Click here to go to what to do.

Can I bring my pet?

Few rental properties and hotels permit pets.  Your choices of accommodations would be severely limited.  Many condominiums prohibit pets even for property owners.  Pet prohibitions are normally strictly enforced, and attempting to smuggle in a pet is likely to ruin your vacation.  There are kennels (Evergreen Pet Lodge)  and veterinaries that board pets and permit visitation, however if you want to take a dog to the beach you need to be mindful of town restrictions as to hours of the day and use of leashes.

What should I pack?

Click here for what to bring/wear.

How do I get to Hilton Head?

Click here for directions.

Are alligators dangerous?

Yes. They can run as fast as a horse, they have lots of big teeth and they can climb part way up trees.  We have struck a deal with our alligators, though: if we leave them alone, they will leave us alone.  It is against the law to feed alligators - we are better off if they are afraid of us than if they think of us as a source of food.  Females protecting a nest are extremely dangerous if approached.  Alligators live in the lagoons so you must never swim in a lagoon or let children (even supervised) play on the banks of a lagoon. Alligators consider dogs a delicacy. Alligators move around - a lagoon that has none today could have one tomorrow. An alligator that has been fed will approach humans and will be caught and destroyed. We say "a fed alligator is a dead alligator".

How are rental properties equipped?

Most rental properties include all necessary linens, towels and dish towels but not beach towels.  You can expect more than one set of towels per occupant, but plan to launder and dry towels to keep a constant fresh supply.  Bedding is usually limited to one set per bed and perhaps a spare for a sleeper sofa (ask).  Starter supplies of toilet paper, soap, etc, are often provided, but amenities vary among the rental companies.  These supplies are typically not replenished during your stay.

Rental properties are also equipped with dishes, glasses, cookware, flatware and pots and pans.  Often you will find a microwave and an icemaker equipped refrigerator.  Most full size rental properties come equipped with dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer - those that don't usually have access to washers and dryers.  You should also find a broom and vacuum cleaner but probably no cleaning supplies.

Televisions are found in virtually all rental properties, and many have DVD players and stereos. If multiple televisions are important to you, ask your rental agent.  You can bring a TV, but reception by antenna is impossible on Hilton Head, so you are limited by availability of cable outlets.  Many rental properties have no telephone, since cell phones are now common. Wi-Fi is becoming a common amenity.

Can I connect to the internet?

If you left your computer at home ask your rental agent if you can check for e-mail, or go to the Public Library for $2/Hr. internet access, or go to The UPS store and rent time on their computers for $15/Hr., $5.00 minimum. Located in Park Plaza at the far (away from Harris Teeter) end.

Wi-fi hot spots. If you have a laptop with wi-fi, you can connect as shown below. (Thanks to Leslie H for the suggestion)

The Salty Dog offers free access at their facility in the South Beach Marina (Sea Pines). I'm told the best reception is in the courtyard between the Inn office and the restaurant (outdoors). I checked it out and it works fine. Keep in mind outdoors can sometimes wash out an LCD screen.

Broad Creek Marina and the Up the Creek Pub offer free wi-fi.

Coligny Beach Park and Compass Rose Park on Pope Avenue at New Orleans Rd. have free wi-fi hot spots.

Java Joe's at Coligny Plaza also has free wi-fi.

Starbucks (two locations) offers free Wi-fi through T-Mobile.

Barnes and Noble at the North end offers free Wi-Fi.

Most hotels and motels are acquiring Wi-fi for use by their guests. The more enlightened ones may allow public access.

In a recent ad, the local telephone company listed the following wi-fi hot spots : Aunt Chilada's, Callahan's, Christine's Go-Go Gourmet, Frankie Bones, Harbour Town, Hemingway's Bayside Grill, Hilton Head Diner, Hilton Head Medical, Internet Café and Sundries, Main Street Café, Mangiamo, both McDonald's, Planet Smoothie, The Sand Bar, Shelter Cove Harbor, Shelter Cove Mall food court, Skull Creek Marina, all three Subways,  Woody's Bagels and Hargray's retail store. There may be a fee at some, but there are plenty of free wi-fi hot spots.

Keep in mind Internet access via Wi-fi is inherently not secure and you should not divulge any information you wouldn't want the whole world to have. Never make a credit card purchase using Wi-fi. unless you are an expert in wireless security.

I don't like my accommodations.

By all means, say so.  Your hotel management or rental agent wants you to be happy and return some day.  When you decide on your approach to solving this problem think about who you would bend over backward to please in a reversed situation.  You wouldn't be strongly motivated to deal with someone who is unreasonably demanding, makes a scene, or exaggerates the flaws found or perceived.  They say in the south '' you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar''.

Is ocean water pollution a problem on Hilton Head beaches?

Hilton Head has never closed a beach due to pollution.  The State DHEC monitors water quality at 15 points along the beach twice a month from April to September and once a month other times.  Hilton Head has no heavy industry to produce toxic waste and most of our storm water runoff is captured in lagoons and ponds and not emptied into the ocean.

How about golf and tennis?

Your hotel or rental agent can provide specific information.  Some properties have on site tennis courts, where the usual unwritten rule applies - play all you want, but if someone is waiting limit yourself to an hour.  In some cases limited tennis privileges are provided at private courts - usually one hour per day per property. There are some public courts as well. More information here.

Most hotels and rental companies offer discounts on golf at the majority of public courses.  Tee times can be made for you in advance and you can get a package deal on accommodations plus golf. Depending on the time of year, you might be better off not making advance arrangements and taking advantage of specials offered by many courses.  These are usually special discounts for playing in the afternoon.  They can be found in the local newspaper or by calling the courses and asking about them. More information here.

Liquor laws

Liquor by the bottle is sold in licensed liquor stores only.  They also sell beer and wine and most sell mixers, but all these are usually less expensive in grocery stores.  Liquor stores must close at 7 PM by law, and are closed on Sundays and most holidays.  Grocery stores sell wine and beer any time they are open.  The mini bottles once mandated by law are history, to most everyone's relief. You might find a mini bottle for a drink that is rarely ordered, or for a product being promoted in a liquor store.

What are the kiosks in front of some restaurants and shops?

Time shares are aggressively marketed on Hilton Head. The kiosks typically offer an incentive, such as a free meals at a restaurant, for people who will commit to sitting through a sales pitch. The sales pitches are well scripted and difficult to resist, as well as time consuming. It's your choice, but if they were selling a used car wouldn't you wait a day or two before committing? These sales people are very persuasive and usually press for a quick decision (made emotionally rather than rationally). You should also know there are several time share resale companies on the Island. There you can get an idea what you will be able to get for your time share if you decide it was a mistake. (Thanks, Shaun for the suggestion.)

Crime on Hilton Head

Hilton Head has a  low crime rate.  Every plantation has its own security force with arrest powers, and the island is patrolled by Beaufort county Sheriff's Deputies.  That said, visitors should always exercise common sense to prevent crime.  Petty theft is not uncommon, so you should not leave cameras, purses and other tempting targets on your car seat in plain view.  Leave your expensive bike at home and rent one.  Bike locks are relatively easy to defeat.  Don't bring expensive jewelry - you won't need it here - and don't carry a lot of cash.  Lock your rental property when you leave.  Thieves target tourists because if they get caught the victim might not return to testify. Although incidents are very rare, I would recommend women not walk on the beach alone at night, if for no other reason because drunks are common in resort areas.

Summer jobs and housing

Since Hilton Head Island is a tourist destination, summer jobs in the service industry are plentiful and most pay fairly well. The hard part is finding housing, because many rental properties rent by the week at prices too high for this purpose. A very few businesses provide rental housing for seasonal employees. Finding something by the month without a one year lease is difficult. The best bet is to find roommates - whether you arrive as a group or find someone living here who seeks a roommate. The local newspaper, The Island Packet, has classified ads that are available over the internet where you might find jobs or housing. Click here.

Recycling on Hilton Head

Recycling is part of trash collection. You need not separate recyclables by type, but put them in the provided containers. The recycling centers previously open have been replaced by a new recycling center off  Dillon Road (which is between Folly Field Road and Mathews Drive) across from Port Royal Plaza. Take 278 to Dillon Rd., turn the only way you can (more or less East), turn left at Gateway Circle then right on Summit Dr. The center is on the right.

Hours: 7:30 AM to 7:00 PM daily except Wednesdays and holidays.

They accept:
Household trash
Aluminum cans (not Steel)
Glass: Separate Clear, Brown, Green
Used oil, filters and bottles
Cardboard, folded flat
Yard (plant) waste

Not accepted:

Commercial waste

Cost of Living

Statistics vary depending on where they come from, but this is believable to me.

 US Average=100
Overall   143.1  
Housing   221.1  
Food   103.3  
Transportation   105.4  
Utilities   92.3  
Health   107.2  
Miscellaneous   108.6  

The average cost of housing is driven up by multi-million dollar oceanfront mansions. According to Zillow, median price for a house here is $431,300.

Renting accommodations directly from a property owner.

It's possible to save by renting directly from a property owner, especially if they are breaking the law by not collecting sales and accommodations taxes. You might be asking for problems, however. What will the owner, who  probably lives elsewhere, do if you accidentally lock yourself out of the property, or if the refrigerator or air conditioner expire, or if you don't like the accommodation, or if it's not clean enough, or if the person above you floods out your property? Rental companies are local and have clout with companies that fix problems, based on the volume of business they give them, so they can get emergency service when an individual cannot. They also manage multiple properties, so can give you some options or move you if disaster strikes.

The Town and County are now aggressively pursuing tax cheats - not something you want to be involved in.


The voice of intelligence is drowned out by the roar of fear. Most of all, it is silenced by ignorance.
--Karl Menninger


 This page Updated 08/07/2019




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