HILTON HEAD'S SCENIC TOUR
Our Scenic Driving Tour was designed to be enjoyed in person. If you do not have that opportunity, however, we hope you will find this to be enjoyable as well. With its numerous plantations, neighborhoods, beaches, harbors, golf courses and resorts, Hilton Head Island genuinely is vacationers delight! Hilton Head boasts so much that obtaining an overview of the dozens of amenities our Island has to offer is not easy...unless you are well-organized. Our "Scenic Driving Tour" can help!
It will take you from Sea Pines Circle to world-famous Harbour Town and quaint, low key South Beach Village, then through the closest Hilton Head Island has to a down town near Coligny and Sea Pines Circles, then up to Shelter Cove Harbour and Palmetto Dunes and Port Royal Resorts, and finally to residential Hilton Head Plantation. On the way, there are numerous places where you may wish to leave your car and walk around, such as at Harbour Town and Shelter Cove Harbour. Coligny Plaza, about half way through your tour, offers a wide variety of shops, restaurants, speciality stores, bakeries and live entertainment for the whole family (in season). Coligny Plaza has more shops and restaurants than any other single Island location.
Where To Begin
We hope that you enjoy your tour, and that it helps you enjoy your visit even more!
Hilton Head Island, one of America's premiere resort and residential communities, has so much to offer that it is almost impossible to experience it all during one visit...or, to be realistic, even during many visits. With countless scenic attractions, 12 miles of ocean beach, over 200 restaurants, nearly 100 miles of fairway, hundreds of tennis courts, dozens of interesting neighborhoods, unspoiled nature preserves and sophisticated shops, a person could spend months getting to know even the best parts of Hilton Head.
The purpose of "Your Scenic Tour" is to help you to sample many of the good things on Hilton Head that have made it attractive to many discriminating people. It includes harbors, salt marshes, fairways, neighborhoods, selected hotels, and much more.
One of the best parts of "Your Scenic Tour" is that it is free, except for fuel for your car and the $5.00 per vehicle daily entry fee to help with road maintenance, etc. of Sea Pines Plantation. Or, you may choose to let the knowledgeable folks at Gray Line Low Country Adventures show you the best of Hilton Head and/or the surrounding area on one of their tours. For more information call 681-8212.
We have provided you with a suggested tour itinerary (beginning below).
We also have identified several restaurants that you may wish to consider as part of your tour. All are among Hilton Head's "better" restaurants from a food standpoint. Some offer excellent water and marina views. The first, Just Pasta, is located at Coligny Plaza, just off Coligny Circle, about half way through your tour. It offers a wide variety of excellent Italian fare at reasonable prices.
Another excellent choice, San Miguel's restaurant, is located at Shelter Cove Harbour, about 2/3 of the way along your tour route. Located right on the waterfront... San Miguel's (lunch and dinner, with continuous bar and limited menu service inbetween) specializes in Mexican cuisine. The Kingfisher, also overlooking Shelter Cove Harbour, offers excellent steak and seafood, plus excellent water views. It is open for dinner. The Kingfisher and San Miguel's also have excellent "happy hours." Many vacationers plan their scenic tour with the intention of stopping off at one of the preceding restaurants. For more information, please refer to our Dining Out section.
Where To Begin Your Tour
Your suggested tour begins on Greenwood Drive, just south of Sea Pines Circle. Sea Pines Circle is at the intersection of William Hilton Parkway (Hwy. 278) and Pope Ave., about 2/3 of the way south from the northern end of the island. The tour begins on Greenwood Drive near Sea Pines Circle.
It is not necessary, however, to begin your tour at Sea Pines Circle. If it is more convenient, or if you do not wish to take the entire tour at once, simply start at any point on the tour and proceed as directed thereafter.
You also may wish to visit only selected stops on the suggested tour. If time is a problem, read through the descriptions of the various stops, and decide which would be of greatest interest to you. To complete the entire tour, allow two hours or more... even if you never leave your car. So, try to plan accordingly!
A Word of Caution
Parts of "Your Scenic Tour" are within Sea Pines, and Hilton Head Plantations. Both are private plantations that will give you permission to go to selected destinations. While you are within their boundaries, please do not stray off of our suggested route. There have been instances of substantial fines being imposed for "just driving around" private neighborhoods. Actually, "just driving around" on private plantations should not be necessary to acquaint you with what makes Hilton Head attractive.
From just south of Sea Pines Circle, proceed toward Sea Pines Plantation on Greenwood Drive. Greenwood Drive, an extension of Wm. Hilton Parkway (Hwy. 278), which brought you onto Hilton Head, is half way around the circle from the end of William Hilton Parkway. Bear right as you approach the Sea Pines entrance gate, and purchase a pass (currently $3.00 or $5.00 per vehicle for a day, depending on the season) from the guard. When you purchase your pass, ask about the free shuttle service to Harbour Town, which you may choose to return and use if Sea Pines Plantation is crowded and you wish to stop at Harbour Town. Drive south into Sea Pines, along Greenwood Drive.
Continue south on Greenwood Drive for about one mile, then turn right onto Plantation Drive. Lawton Stables and their adjacent pastures, usually complete with numerous horses, will be on your left. If there are children with you, they might enjoy a quick stop at the side of the road to say "hello" to the horses! The nice folks at Lawton Stables also offer pony rides, riding lessons, scenic guided trail rides through Sea Pines' 600 acre forest preserve and professional training for pleasure or competition. Except for the pony rides, Lawton Stables is for both kids and adults! Please telephone 671-2586 for information and to make your reservations.
On to Harbour Town!
Harbour Town may be the best known of Hilton Head's scenic attractions. The marina is a popular stop for yachts traveling up and down the Intracoastal Waterway that extends from New York to Key West. Harbour Town has numerous shops, and several restaurants. To reach Harbour Town, proceed along Plantation Drive to Lighthouse Road. Notice the pleasant homes, many built along the fairways of the Sea Marsh Golf Course, as you drive. Turn right onto Lighthouse Road at what seems to be the end of Plantation Drive (actually, it continues on after a jog to the left), then continue along Lighthouse Road to Harbour Town. Harbour Town, like Shelter Cove Harbour (further along your tour), is considered by many to reflect much of the essence of Hilton Head. It and Shelter Cove Harbour are two places where you should get out of your car and walk.
If you continue just as far as you can go on Lighthouse Road, you will find yourself in one of the most scenic parking areas anywhere. If there is room, park your car overlooking Calibogue Sound. If the lot is full, you should turn around and retrace your steps. You will see additional parking on the right (preferably) or left as you return along Lighthouse Road. After you have parked, walk to the harbour. There is a path that goes all the way around it. At one end is the famous red and white Harbour Town Lighthouse. If you have a reasonable amount of energy, use the stairs inside to climb to the top. The view from the lighthouse is absolutely spectacular! There also is a pier at the base of the lighthouse that will take you well out into Calibogue Sound. It is almost like being in a boat without leaving shore.
Three of Hilton Head's tour boats, the new, beautiful Spirit of Harbour Town, the 80-foot Ultra Yacht Vagabond, and the sailing yacht Stars & Stripes operate from the Harbour Town pier. All offer an outstanding way to see Hilton Head from a different and totally delightful perspective. The Spirit of Harbour Town even offers an "elegant Sunset Dinner Cruise." Please refer to our "Boating, Cruising and Fishing" section for more information.
If you want a truly outstanding scenic tour from the water, include a cruise from Harbour Town, South Beach Village or Shelter Cove Harbour (the latter two locations are further along your route) as part of your itinerary!
After strolling out to the end of the pier, return to the path around the harbour. Visit some of the shops and galleries. Or... just sit back and relax on the old-fashioned rockers overlooking the yachts in the harbour. Before you leave, be sure to stroll all the way around the harbour until you are opposite the lighthouse. Notice the elegant yachts as you walk. When you reach the end of the path, you will be standing just past the 18th green of the famous Harbour Town Links, home of the prestigious MCI Heritage Classic golf tournament. As you return, you may wish to take the first walkway (really a lane) on your right and explore the Charleston-like residential area on foot.
Baynard Ruins Park
After you are finished touring Harbour Town, return to Lighthouse Road and retrace your route. Turn right onto Plantation Drive, the second major street on your right. As you drive along southern Plantation Drive, note the lovely vistas on your right leading up to the Harbour Town Links Clubhouse. Also glance down the fairways and streets on your left. They are representative of many of Hilton Head's nicer golf-oriented neighborhoods. Baynard Ruins Park is on your right just after you pass Baynard Cove Road and Marsh Drive. If you wish, park your car at the entrance, and explore the ruins of the pre-Civil War home of William E Baynard. The ruins consist of foundations left when a Confederate raiding party razed the structure following the occupation of Hilton Head by Union forces during the Civil War. The Baynard home had been the long-time headquarters of a 2,450 acre cotton plantation.
South Beach Village
After visiting Baynard Ruins, retrace your route to Lighthouse Road and turn right. Proceed to the traffic circle. Turn right onto Greenwood Drive (the first right, 1/4 of the way around the circle). Follow Greenwood Drive to its end, then turn right onto South Sea Pines Drive. Follow South Sea Pines Drive south until you see New England-style South Beach Village on your right. As you drive south along South Sea Pines Drive, notice the attractive homes and panoramic marsh views. When you reach South Beach Village, you may wish to stop for a stroll. You will find boats, charming shops, and an overall atmosphere that is both pleasant and rather quaint. The Gypsy, The Drifter and The Boomerang, offering tours and fishing, respectively, operate from South Beach. Please see our "Boating, Cruising & Fishing" section for more information.
South Forest Beach
After leaving South Beach Village, retrace your route along South Sea Pines Drive. Continue straight ahead (do not turn back onto Greenwood Drive) all the way through the eastern portion of Sea Pines plantation. When in doubt, bear right. You will see attractive neighborhoods and golf vistas along the way.
After you exit through Sea Pines Plantation's Ocean Gate, bear right as you travel onward. Soon you will be on South Forest Beach Drive. South Forest Beach has Hilton Head's largest concentration of ocean-oriented hotel, motel and villa accommodations. As you drive north, you will see several hotels and motels, plus numerous villas (condominiums). Proceed north along South Forest Beach Drive to Coligny Circle. Turn left onto Pope Avenue (3/4 of the way around Coligny Circle). Drive along Pope Avenue to Sea Pines Circle (the next traffic circle), go 1/4 of the way around the circle, then travel north on William Hilton Parkway (Highway 278).
Shelter Cove Harbour
Continue north about three miles to Palmetto Dunes. Turn left at the traffic light at the entrance to Palmetto Dunes, to reach Shelter Cove. Then proceed several hundred yards and you will be at the center of the Shelter Cove Harbour area. Shelter Cove Harbour, a Mediterranean style harbourside village, is another area where you should park your car and take a pleasant stroll. Shelter Cove boasts pleasant shops and restaurants, numerous boats and yachts, and lovely water vistas. Shelter Cove is Hilton Head's largest harbor.
Fort Mitchel and Hilton Head Plantation
Fort Mitchel, deep in Hilton Head Plantation, is the last stop on "Your Scenic Tour." Fort Mitchel, built in 1863, served as a base for the Union Blockade of Confederate supplies to Savannah and Charleston. It is a classic example of a seacoast earthworks gun battery of the Civil War era. The remains of the earthworks plus two civil war vintage cannon are at Fort Mitchel site. Pathways wind among the ruins, with signs along the way to explain the significance of each section. There are two special benefits to visiting Fort Mitchel. First, visitors see large parts of Hilton Head Plantation, one of our Island's plantations that is not resort-oriented. Secondly, Fort Mitchel has a lovely view of Skull Creek and the marshlands beyond. To reach Fort Mitchel, return to William Hilton Parkway, and travel north (turn right) until you reach the entrance to Hilton Head Plantation (presently the third traffic light), and turn right. Ask the guard at the security gate for a pass to Fort Mitchel. Remember, your pass is valid only for travel directly to and from Fort Mitchel. Proceed straight ahead to the end of Whooping Crane Way, then turn left onto Seabrook Drive (you must turn right or left). Follow Seabrook Drive to Skull Creek Drive, and turn right. There are signs for the Fort Mitchel, the Country Club of Hilton Head and other destinations at the intersection of Seabrook and Skull Creek Drives. The entrance to Fort Mitchel is on the left, a short distance down Skull Creek Drive. Park your car in the large lot, and stroll around Fort Mitchel. As you travel through Hilton Head Plantation, notice the gracious homes and the extensive Spring Lake Recreation Area at the intersection of Whooping Crane Way and Seabrook Drive (complete with Spring Lake Racquet Club, a large swimming pool, a picnic grove and two large structures for gatherings of plantation residents). Notice, also, the fairways that may be seen threading their way through many of the plantation's neighborhoods. When you are ready to leave the Fort Mitchel area, we recommend that you return to William Hilton Parkway (Highway 278) by simply retracing the same route you followed from William Hilton Parkway to Fort Mitchel. We hope that you have enjoyed "Your Scenic Tour," and that you feel that you know Hilton Head much better than you did before you began. If you saw some areas you especially liked, why not return to them for a longer visit!