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Blessed with natural beauty, sandy beaches and a temperate climate, it’s no wonder that Hilton Head Island has earned a reputation as one of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States. The island and nearby Bluffton offer many opportunities for all ages to make fun vacation memories.

ON THE WATER

  • Take a guided kayak or stand-up paddle board tour through salt marsh estuaries, where if you’re lucky you’ll spot bald eagles, hawks and osprey.
  • Learn to surf. Palmetto Dunes Outfitters, Sunny Daze Surfboards and Forest Beach Surf & Cycle are eager to teach you or rent you a board. Hilton Head isn’t known for giant waves, but when there’s a swell surfers head for Burkes Beach and North Forest Beach near Heron Street.
  • Watch bottlenose dolphins play in the Atlantic Ocean or in the Intracoastal Waterway during sightseeing tours on motorized boats of all sizes. Pontoon boats, catamarans, center consoles and even sailboats offer excursions, and while they don’t guarantee you’ll see dolphins, the odds are in your favor.
  • Kids will love Hilton Head’s pirate adventure tours. The history of the island is peppered with real pirates, so it’s fun to dress up, use pirate props and take to the open waters. Three different ships set sail from different areas of the island.
  • Catch (and maybe release) a big one. Local charters specialize on inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing around Hilton Head Island. Anglers can catch a variety of species throughout the year, including redfish, cobia, speckled sea trout, flounder and sharks. Tarpon, a majestic trophy game fish, show up in the waters off Hilton Head in the early summer.
  • Go parasailing, waterskiing, jet skiing, banana boating or tubing in Broad Creek, a wide, flat waterway. Excursions leave from the island’s marinas.

ON HORSEBACK

At Lawton Stables, mount a well-trained horse for a ride through the scenic Sea Pines Forest Preserve. Lawton Stables also offers pony rides, a small animal farm and a horse-themed gift store.

IN THE AIR

• Glide through the trees on ZipLine Hilton Head’s canopy tour adventure. The eight zip lines on the course offer a beautiful view of Hilton Head, including some plantation views that the public can’t easily access from land. Aerial Adventures is also onsite, featuring sky bridges and tree-top obstacles.

THE NATURAL WORLD

• Visit the Coastal Discovery Museum, one of the most memorable destinations on Hilton Head Island. Explore natural history and cultural heritage on the 68-acre Honey Horn property. The museum’s trails, gardens, live oaks, butterfly enclosure and horses are just a few of the fun experiences you will encounter during your visit.

Hike and birdwatch on Pinckney Island. Located between the bridges onto Hilton Head Island, Pinckney Island is a national wildlife refuge. Travel down its wide, well-maintained pathways to watch blue crabs skitter across coastal mud flats in between tides. Observe blue herons, snowy egrets and other birds as they soar and roost in the trees in and around a secluded pond.

HISTORY AND CULTURE

• Visit the historic Mitchelville Freedom Park. Before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, a group of escaped slaves, considered “contraband of war” by the occupying Union Army, were granted a plot of land where they created their own town. The Mitchelville Preservation Project is dedicated to preserving and sharing the triumphant story of the first self-governed settlement of freedmen in the U.S. and the site is an amazing lesson in our nation’s history.

• Reserve a tour at the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head. Since 2003, the nonprofit museum has been committed to maintaining Gullah customs, traditions, language, stories, songs and structures in the Lowcountry. The preserved Little House is a quiet, haint-blue cottage just off Gumtree Road, built in the early 1950s before a bridge connected the island to the mainland. The museum also hosts oyster roasts and educational seminars throughout the year.