A March 2002 trip
to Hilton Head by smmmarti guide
Quote: You probably know Hilton Head Island as a great golf and beach resort with excellent restaurants and extensive resort-style attractions. But did you know it is also a center for the promotion of the Gullah culture, historic sites, thriving art community and lowcountry nature preserves?
It seems everyone here has plenty of time on their hands and the sense of satisfaction that comes from a day of ocean activities or golf. Sunset at Harbor Town is one of those ritualized community activities that brings everyone together happily. At Shelter Cove Marina, you will find the crowds setting out in their beautiful yachts and sailboats or stopping for lunch and ice cream in a Disney-like setting that mimics a Mediterranean village.
For birdwatchers, catching a sight of a parliament of wood storks, or simply watching the activities of such a wide variety of marsh birds that your eyes may ache, is a thrill. Dolphin and wildlife lovers can participate in specialized tours of the rivers, refuges and sounds to view area indigenous creatures.
At the Self Family Arts Center, special performances, exhibits and longer running musical productions extend Hilton Head's appeal beyond the usual beach/golf activities. The Gullah Flea Market, held on Saturdays, perks up a visit to the island with a panoply of locally produced crafts, collectibles, antiques and everything else.
In many places along highway 278, which traverses the island, there are some unexpected "merge" lanes that make oncoming traffic seem confusing and crossing the highway downright thrilling!
Want to skip the traffic issues? Rent a bike from one of the many outlets on island and take your sweet time peddling the 15 miles of paved bike routes at Sea Pines alone, with more down Hwy. 278 and running all through Palmetto Dunes Resort.
Hotel | "Marriott Hilton Head Beach and Golf Resort"
Located in Palmetto Dunes, the Marriott has taken into consideration all possible needs of guests. A stop in the spacious, open-air lobby, decorated in tropical furnishings, finds the first of many small tokens of care where courteous, helpful concierges dole out island information as if you were the first and only guest.
If you stay a bit longer, you'll appreciate the in-house restaurant cafe that serves up outlandish brunch buffets complete with waffle and omelet stations, some staffed by French-speaking cooks. Three other restaurants including a popular lobby bar where sporting events are shown on the big screen, making it easy to stay at the compound full-time, if you like You can even have your hair done at the beauty salon or barber in house, or shop at any of the gift shops for sundries and necessities. For more demanding food purchases, there is even a grocery and provisions store on the lower level. A guest laundry or valet service is on hand for refreshing the wardrobe after long walks on the beach and sand-castle building.
The pool area is sized appropriately for the huge ten-story hotel, with inviting landscaping, a whirlpool and children's pool that caters to small-fry. Quinn's II, the beachside café serves light snacks and sandwiches during the active day. An indoor pool guarantees that inclement weather will not thwart your desire to doing a little splashing and stroking, and a health club helps you stretch out before hitting any of the five 18-hole golf courses available to guests. At the oceanfront, long stretches of smooth, white sand seem to entice everyone to their favored manner of beach activity, whether jogging, strolling or scavenger hunting.
We spent a good amount of time out and about during our short stay on the island and weren't able to take full advantage of all the services and amenities in the hotel, but it was great knowing they were there. During a walk on the beach I spotted the townhome/condos just adjacent to the property that fronted directly on the beach. Kids ran into the ocean and back to their "home" as if it was their private frontyard. Guests lounged on the beach long into twilight, and frisbees whirled until darkness or mother calling put an end to their flights.
Everything here seemed so relaxed, easy, accommodating. Just what a beach vacation should be.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 9, 2002
Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa
One Hotel Circle
Hilton Head, South Carolina 29928
We took a rustic table outside on the dock with a great view of the marsh where an old fishing boat is permanently anchored and great sea and marsh birds suddenly take flight from among the reeds. Our enchantment was disturbed promptly by an attack of "no-see'ums" which sent us indoors before we even ordered our food. The interior aptly provided a new opportunity for staring with its nautically inspired décor and gigantic fish tanks. The spacious restaurant, willing and able to seat a hundred patrons at once, was staffed by an industrious but laid-back staff dressed in shorts and tennis shoes and eager to please.
The menu, as expected, offers many lowcountry favorites such as "She-crab Soup," steamed mussels and oysters, clams by the dozens and a steamed seafood pot filled to the brim with crab legs (from Alaska), mussels, shrimp and oysters. Another specialty of the house is the "crazy crab boil" which come with crab legs and corn on the cob. I had the Seafood Platter, perfect for when you can't decide between the shrimp, oysters, crab cake or grouper. Entrees are served with french fries and coleslaw, all tasty additions to the feast.
There are also broiled options of all the mentioned seafood as well as a marinated, grilled kebob, sandwiches including hamburgers and a children's menu.
There are two Crazy Crabs in Hilton Head, the other being at Harbor Point at the opposite end of the island. During our lunch at Crazy Crab Jarvis Creek, there were only a handful of diners being served mid-way between lunch and dinner hour, but later when we walked around Harbor Town, the restaurant was a bustling cacophony of fun as diners gathered to talk of the day and watch the sun go down over the harbor and lighthouse.
149 Lighthouse Rd
Hilton Head, South Carolina 29928
The foresight was a good thing. Hours later we returned to find the restaurant bubbling with excited diners and rushing waiters, hailing one another in broken English and Italian. A wine list abruptly presented by our hurried, yet somehow still charming server, revealed Brunello Di Montalcino, my husband's favorite. One sip took us back to Rome, where we'd enjoyed the same bottle at the Hotel Eden.
All this authenticity is understandable when you learn that Peter Landwehr, Swiss by birth and a longtime resident and restauranteur of Hilton Head, is married to an Italian and spent nine years in his wife's homeland learning the art of the Italian table. So, of course the pasta is homemade! Of course, the sauces are terrific! Of course, the ambiance of old Italy is represented most faithfully.
The busy family of seven at the next table were, however, firm reminders that we were still in the American family-style resort of Hilton Head island. A glance around the room proved that this restaurant is a favorite of children and adults alike, as the under twelve crowd made up a good percentage of the dining population.
As the evening wore on, the moms and pops wore out one by one and carried their little ones out toward the ice cream shop around the corner. We settled further into our cushy booth under the light of the "Venus" and let our imaginations wander through our plates of Angel Hair Mediterraneo (seafood and pasta in a cream sauce, with spinach and basil) and Filet Mignon al Barolo, a relief from all that shellfish!
Since we'd had the calamari and caprese salad for appetizers, we had no room for the traditional Italian desserts: tiramisu, cannolis, and gelato. Instead, we sipped the remainder of the Barolo and enjoyed the new-found quiet which revealed a recording of Boccelli in the background. Afterward, we strolled the harbor once again then headed toward the statue of King Neptune which guards the entrance to the marina and pointed the way to our parking spot.
"Good choice," my husband remarked once we were inside the car. After turning the key he added, "When do you want to go to back to Italy?"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 9, 2002
2 Shelter Cove Lane, Shelter Cove Harbour
Hilton Head, South Carolina 29928
Attraction | "Golf at Palmetto Dunes, Harbor Town and More"
Many courses require private membership, but
Harbor Town , which was preparing for the WorldCom Classic during our visit, is a rare, exquisite, public course where amateurs can test their skill after watching how the pros have played it. A Pete Dye designed course, it is not particularly long at 6973 yards, but the slope rating of 146 tells you something about the importance of shot placement. The eighteenth fairway, which follows along the seashore and leads directly toward the Harbor Town Lighthouse, presents a notoriously deceiving challenge and is one of pro golf's most recognizable landmarks.
If you haven't played in a while or are only fortunate enough to play on cherished weekends and during vacations, you might like to start out your stay on Hilton Head by playing the Robert Trent Jones course at Palmetto Dunes. Forward tee players (such as myself) like the relatively non-intimidating first tee and a mere 5,425 yards from start to finish. For back tee players, a substantial 6710 yards and slope rating of 133 challenges enough to make the round worth it. It's ideal for vacation outing where one player has a low handicap and the other is a nature lover dragging around a golf club. Other courses at Palmetto Dunes available to guests at the Marriott are:
Arthur Hills/Palmetto Dunes (18 holes; 6122 yards; 72 par; 1 miles away)
Arthur Hills/Palmetto Hall (18 holes; 6257 yards; 72 par; 5 miles away)
George Fazio (18 holes; 6239 yards; 70 par; 0.5 miles away)
Robert Cupp (18 holes; 6042 yards; 72 par; 5 miles away)
Other golf courses available for open public play at other resorts in the area include:
Planter's Row (6,284/133)
Oyster Reef (6,463/124)
Sea Marsh and Ocean Courses at Sea Pines
Barony and Robber's Row at Port Royal Golf Club (6,328/129)
You could get lucky, as my husband did while playing at Seabrook outside of Charleston . The other members of his threesome were members at Indigo Run who invited him to play there after hearing he was on his way to Hilton Head. Or, you could fall in love with Hilton Head, as those members did, and simply buy your own membership at one of the many stellar courses located there.
4 Queens Folly Road
Hilton Head, South Carolina 29938
Attraction | "Coastal Discovery Museum and Tours"
Different tours are offered daily with a rotating schedule and are led by the experienced volunteers and curators. History Tours, Nature Tours and the most appealing of all, Cruises are on the regular schedule. The Nature excursion cruise takes six select passengers through the marshes of Broad Creek out toward Daufuskie Island to explore the area and view the dophins, sea and marsh birds along the way. A guided kayak trip is another option offered for educational entertainment on the waterfront. On land, walking tours of the beaches departing from Burke's Beach and of the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge provide hours of fun and enlightenment for a mere $10 per person.
The Discovery Center itself is relatively small with a few rooms on the main floor that offer historical insight into the region's development. The upstairs exhibits focus mainly on native wildlife and bio-diversity. A loop-running video shouldn't be overlooked, as it explains the development of Gullah culture and language, a charming and lilting dialect that was born of the slaves' need to speak a common language. Here you'll learn that the culture of the Gullah also gave rise to the music of blues and jazz in America and for that alone is most "note" worthy.
It is obvious that the museum's primary focus is on community and visitor education. The Sea Turtle project, in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources, conducts summer month monitoring of beach nests of the logger-head turtles. Nests that are in jeopardy are moved or isolated until small, threatened, hatchlings make their way safely to the sea. Visitors during the summer months can sign up for a Turtle Walk and Talk to learn more, and anyone can register to Adopt a Turtle Nest . Extensive summer programs offering everything from crafts to puppets to Gullah music, Discovery Abroad Tours, specialty education programs, special events rounds out the work of the museum.
As a result of the obvious role the Museum plays in bringing nature, life and culture to the area, a unanimous vote in January by the Town Council agreed to dedicate the Honey Horn property, with 68 acres and a 7,000 square foot historical home, to the Coastal Museum's expansion. As the site's webpage states, " As the main house becomes the new home for the museum, three main themes will be addressed; 1)history and culture, 2) natural environment, and 3) eco-historical (how these two themes inter-relate)."
Work on the new center is slated to begin this May. I hope to schedule a return to Hilton Head island for sure-to-be grand opening and to sign up for a slew of those tours!
Coastal Discovery Museum
100 William Hilton Parkway
Hilton Head, South Carolina 29925