The history of Hilton Head is long and varied. There has been evidence found from the Woodland Indians who resided here during the fall and winter months. These artifacts date back from 8,000-2,000 BC.
The written history of Hilton Head can be found as far back as 1526, when Spanish explorers were on their way to the coastal waters of Key West and named it "La Florida". In the 1500s, it was explored many times, including a visit by Capt. Jean Ribouet, a French Huguenot. In August of 1663, English Capt. William Hilton explored the islands and named it "Hilton Head". The head reference comes from the visible headlands at the time. In 1717, Col. John Barnwell was the first white settler on the islands. By 1766, 25 families had permanently settled on the island.
Today it is a major playground in the coastal waters of the Carolina’s. Hilton Head is also renowned for its golf. And yes, they do have some major golf here. Everywhere you go you will find people knocking those little white balls around. A couple of major PGA tournaments are held here. You will find courses designed from such names as Tent Jones, Arnold Palmer, Fazio, and Davis Love. Other than Arnold Palmer I know nothing about the other names, but my uncle, the avid golf fan assures me they design the best courses.
Hilton Head is also big on eco-tourism. During the fall thousands of turtles lay their eggs in the soft sands found here. They have a light out policy during this time which means lights are not allowed on the beach at night. You can take part in efforts to make sure once the eggs hatch the babies make it safely to the water. There are quite a few nature reserves around. You can take dolphin watching and nature tours all over the place. You can request a visitor’s guide, which will give you further information. Most major resorts will help you make tour arrangements.
Hilton Head is a shopper's and food lover's paradise. Food wise you have hundreds of restaurants to choose from on this tiny island. Specialties include BBQ, low country cooking, and some of the freshest seafood you have every tasted. They have restaurants to fit every traveler’s budget. Shopping ranges from well know designer duds than you can find at Shelter Cove to local handmade crafts and food products.
One thing I did notice about Hilton Head is that there seems to be almost an absence of a middle class, though I am sure there is since there is a Wal-Mart here. Speaking of which, you can pick up some great souvenirs that do not break your budget. But when you first drive in, you can tell you are in a poor part of town then almost immediately you see massive, sprawling homes, and gated communities. There are quite a few of those around. In most cases you can visit the gated communities, especially those with attractions, restaurants, and stores. You either go inside the club house and request a pass or you simply pay a fee of about $2-$5 per car at the gate, and you can go on in. While people here may be a bit on the uppity side, they do not refuse folks who want to come spend money in their establishments!
Hilton Head is also one of the cleanest places I have every seen. Everything is so clean and well manicured. They do not have any big looming billboards and business signs seem to blend in with their natural surroundings. While this is very beautiful, it also is a pain for out of towners. You usually spot a sign right about the time you are passing it. I cannot tell you how many times we had to go up and turn around because we didn’t spot a sign until it was too late.
No joke--magicians David Copperfield or Lance Burton could learn a thing or two about making things disappear around here. I love lighthouses and knew there was a lighthouse in the Palmetto Dunes community, which we had access to since we were staying at Disney. The Hilton Head Rear Range Light sits on a golf course at Palmetto Dunes. The light was built in 1881 and is a skeleton light meaning it looks like the skeleton of a lighthouse before brinks are added. It is made of steel and the outside is just a frame. The daughter of a keeper, Caroline Fripp, supposedly haunts the light. We went to the clubhouse and got a map with directions to the light. We drove up and down that place for an hour. I never did find it. How you hide a 90-foot lighthouse is beyond me, but they did. If you are interested in trying to find the light your self you can visit www.palmettodunes.com. Disney guests have access to the community. Other wise you can just go and request a pass to see the light from the clubhouse. It is supposed to sit on the golf course and of course golfers have right-of-way.
Hilton Head is also a great place to day trip to or from. The very lovely and historic city of Beaufort (where a large portion of Forrest Gump was filmed) is only 30 minutes away. Beautiful Savannah, GA, is only 35 miless away. You are also only about an hour from the gorgeous Brunswick/Jeckyll Islands of Georgia. These include St. Simons, Cumberland, and Jeckyll Islands.
Hilton Head is the second-largest barrier island on the east coast. The island is a mere 12 miles long and 5 miles wide. More than 2.5 million people a year visit here. This is truly a beautiful place to spend a few days. You can enjoy walks on the beach, horse rides on the beach, kayaking, shopping, bicycling the area, or just relaxing on the beach. It is the perfect place to soak up some of the Southern rays and just let your cares fade away. If you would like to visit, please go to www.hiltonhead.org or www.hiltonhead.com for more information and for a visitors guide. Please do come enjoy this small piece of Southern paradise.