Hilton Head Island is accessible by air, highway, train or boat.
By automobile, get on I-95 and go to exit 8 (mile 8 from the GA border).
Unless I95 is backed up, please ignore signs at other exits designed to direct you through commercial
there and travel East, following the signs to Hilton Head. You will be on US 278
at this point. Go about 18 miles and you will cross the bridge to Hilton Head.
Beware of "welcome centers" off island, which are not official. They
are there to sell you something. Continue over the bridge and look for signs for the Cross Island Expressway.
you are going to the south end of the island (Shipyard, Coligny, Forest Beach,
Sea Pines) stay to your left and use the expressway (Toll
$1.25 ) to save time and
gasoline. Otherwise, keep right and stay on Business 278.
Map of Hilton Head.
Traffic crossing the bridges to Hilton Head will be very heavy in summer on Saturday, especially between 2 and 8 PM. You might want to be prepared to use escape routes like the Bluffton Parkway, or if I 95 is heavy, exit as early as Walterboro and take back roads. Consult your GPS or a map. Traffic departing Saturday mornings will be very heavy as well - not much you can do but be patient.
The Cross Island Expressway ends shortly after the toll booth at a bridge crossing Broad Creek. It becomes Palmetto Bay Road (watch your speed - it is radar patrolled). Continue on Palmetto Bay Road until you get to Sea Pines Circle. At this point you will exit the circle at different roads depending on where you are going.
Continue on Bus. 278 for about 10 miles to Sea Pines Circle. You will exit the circle at different roads depending on where you are going.
A word of warning: many parts of the island restrict or prohibit such vehicles as motorcycles, trailers, motor homes and vehicles with signage on them. If this describes your mode of transportation make sure you have made arrangements in advance.
First time visitors are often intimidated by traffic circles because they are uncommon in other parts of the country. The two circles you are most likely to encounter are Sea Pines circle and Coligny circle. If you are confused about where to exit, keep in mind it's a circle and you can go around until you decide. In either circle, if you enter from the right lane of the approach road you will be forced to exit at the first exit, so always enter from the left lane until you become familiar with the system.
Each circle has four "spokes": the one on which you approached, the next one is the same as a right turn, the next is the same as going straight, and the next is equivalent to a left turn. All traffic moves counter-clockwise.
Sea Pines circle backs up in the summer, especially the left lane coming in on Palmetto Bay Road and the left lane coming in on Rt. 278 (William Hilton Pkwy.) Click here for a map that shows how you can avoid these backups by going around them.
Hilton Head airport has expanded the runway to accommodate medium size jets. At this writing, American and Delta fly here. Sadly, the terminal is a disgrace - it was not prepared for the expanded capacity. If you are departing, go through security as close to departure time as possible, since there are no restrooms and little seating past security. An option is to fly into Savannah, GA, which can accommodate aircraft that are not as affected by weather. Savannah is a short drive (about 50 minutes) from Hilton Head and offers car rentals and limo service to the island (Low Country Adventures, for one). Generally, the extra cost to fly direct to Hilton Head is close to the cost of the limo. Airlines serving Savannah are: Delta, US Airways, United and American Eagle.
Amtrak offers service to Savannah and they have a partnership with Hertz for a car rental. Make the arrangements in advance with Amtrak and Hertz will provide transportation to their airport location to pick up a rental car. The car can be returned at the Amtrak station. With thanks to Barb W.
Hilton Head is on the Intracoastal Waterway and thus is easily accessible by boat. Make sure you have made advance reservations for a place to dock. Not all marinas accommodate transient boaters and those that do are booked up well in advance.
List of marinas and phone numbers.
This page Updated 10/08/2019