Get ready for some pictures…
Hilton Head Island! It was our first time visiting, and it feels like we tried to cram several vacation’s worth of sightseeing into one long weekend.
We stayed at a condo at the Hilton Head Beach and Tennis Resort. The resort, itself, was okay. It was packed, and a bit rowdy for our tastes, but our room was less than a five minute walk to the beach, so that was cool.
On that first day we were there, we actually had a bit of time to kill before we could check in to our condo, so we started checking out some of the local parks. First stop was Compass Rose Park.
It’s a small park, but the monuments, lily pond and art was worth the stop. Beautiful!
We also stopped at Crossing Park, but the mosquitos were out in full force, and, without repellent on, we didn’t feel it was a good idea to explore the trails. That’s fine, though, because it was check-in time–and beach time!
Even though, as you’ll soon see, we spent a lot of time exploring the parks, preserves and museums on the island, we made it a point to get lot of beach time in with the kids.
One of the things I didn’t like about Hilton Head was the beach wasn’t good for collecting shells–at least, not at the beach near our resort. We found a few shells, but the pickings were slim. I did find this very pretty (and very alive) olive shell snail:
I also found a live sand dollar.
Both the olive shell snail and sand dollar were put safely back in the water.
Aside from the beach wildlife, there are also many swamp creatures on HHI. One of the first things you notice when visiting the island are signs like these:
And, if you are persistent (like us) and visit all the preserves and parks, you might run across this:
Wait, that’s just a turtle. Those are a dime a dozen. What we really wanted to see was this:
That’s an alligator. He’s kind of on the small side, though. A little disappointing, if you ask me. We saw this guy (gal?) at the Sea Pines Forest Preserve (more photos from the preserve can be found below). He also saw us. And, he came to check us out. And, he was a very fast swimmer. He was on the small side, though, and we couldn’t get a very good look at him. We continued to keep our eyes peeled for gators the rest of our trip and we finally saw this one:
Can you spot the gator? He’s chilling in the shade up on the side of the pond. This photo was taken at Jarvis Creek Park, which has a walking trail that goes around that pond…
…so, we were able to follow the trail around and get a closer picture of this bad boy! It was definitely larger than the one we saw at the Sea Pines Preserve! Despite how close the picture looks, we did NOT approach the gator. Cameras can zoom, and we took pictures from the trail.
There are many, many, many parks and preserves on the island. Sea Pines Preserve, is a great one to visit. It costs a few bucks to enter the resort the preserve is in, but well worth it! In addition to the enormous preserve, Sea Pines Resort also has multiple shopping areas. We particularly liked Harbour Town:
The Sea Pines Preserve was massive, and we spent a long time exploring its trails. It also boasts a real Native American Shell Ring, which, isn’t much to photograph, but cool to see in person. The Sea Pines Preserve has an alligator boat tour, which would’ve been awesome to go on, but boats are a no-go with Sean. Plenty of other stuff to see, though!
The Sea Pines Preserve wasn’t the only cool place to tour. We also visited the Coastal Discovery Museum, which is a Smithsonian affiliate, so free to enter–but they do appreciate donations! The museum had indoor exhibits showcasing art, and natural history, as well as a gift shop. Outside there’s a butterfly enclosure, insect houses, beehives, carnivorous plants, art instillations, and trails that meander through woods and gardens, and branch off towards the salt marshes. You can easily spend hours here.
And, Ft. Howell:
(Apparently, we didn’t take many photos there.) According to their website, Ft Howell was “Built in 1864 by the Union’s 32nd Colored Infantry […] to protect the freedmen’s village of Mitchelville and to improve the defenses of Hilton Head.”
And, speaking of Mitchelville, we visited the Mitchelville Freedom Park. Mitchelville was the first settlement founded and governed by freed slaves after the Civil War. The park has a walking trail, as well as replicas of the houses and buildings you would’ve found on the settlement when it was a freedmen town.
Wowza, that’s a lot of photos! This is why I broke my summer vacation post into two. Even though we only spent three nights in Hilton Head, we packed those days with as much stuff as we could.
In addition to linking all the parks and places we visited above, I wanted to mention some restaurants we ate at and enjoyed. We lunched at Chow Daddy’s, which was not very busy, but the food was delicious! I had the Chow Daddy’s burger with pimento cheese on top. So good.
On our last morning, we had breakfast at Stacks Pancakes and it was GREAT. They had a breakfast buffet, but we all ordered off their large menu. I had a more traditional breakfast combo (meaning, all the usual suspects–eggs, pancakes, sausage–on one large platter), but my kids were a little more adventurous. Maggie had the chicken and waffles, and, of course, I demanded mom-tax and ate some of her chicken. The batter was light and crispy–so delicious.
If you missed the first part of my post, in which I talk about our New York trip, you can find it here.