by Marley Braun, Guest Contributor
When I think of a relaxing family vacation, Walt Disney World is not the first place that pops into my mind. True, it is a lot of family fun, but relaxing? Not necessarily. For relaxation, our family heads to Hilton Head, South Carolina every spring.
Hilton Head is an island surrounded by lovely beaches on one side and sea marshes on the other side. Old, majestic oak trees shade the island and palmetto trees give it that southern, beach-y feel. Temperatures in the area range from the 50s in the winter to the mid-80s in the summer, so it is always perfect for a year round getaway.
Hilton Head is about 65 miles north of the Savannah airport or you can easily reach it off of exit 28 on I-95 South or off of exit 5 on I-95 North. Without traffic, you can be on the island within 20-25 minutes of leaving I-95. During the summer months or rush hour, it can easily take you over an hour so consider yourself warned. However, if you do get stuck sitting in traffic, the Tanger Outlet Stores are located right before you head over the bridge into Hilton Head. They have over 45 stores there that include J. Crew, Ralph Lauren and the Gap. I've been known to stop there and "force" myself to pass the time away.
If lying around all day in a hammock does not appeal to you, Hilton Head definitely has its share of activities. The island is a cyclist's paradise. You can rent almost any type of bike on the island. Crossing the roads is easy and safe thanks to the many tunnels that take you under the main thoroughfares. Shady bike paths can always be found, especially helpful if it is a particularly hot day, and flowers and wildlife seem to be everywhere you turn. Once, we even saw what looked like an otter crossing our path. Now that was cool!
For guided tours or cruises, try the Coastal Discovery Museum. The museum offers tours ranging from dolphin cruises and Loggerhead turtle walks to old plantations and long forgotten forts. Kayak tours are also a great way to see the island and enjoy the wildlife. We've even seen dolphins come up close to the kayaks. Everyone is friendly on this island!
For those of you who love golfing, Hilton Head is a golfer's paradise. I wouldn't know, since I'm just hanging out in my hammock, but apparently there are 24 challenging golf courses on the island and another 16 within a 30-mile radius. Many of the golf courses are open to the public and provide beautiful views of the island while you play.
After a long day, we have two local hang-outs we like to sit down and relax at. The Salty Dog Café is probably the most well-known. You inevitably see someone walking around with a t-shirt from this famous local eatery. It is located at the South Beach Marina and it is a great place to unwind, listen to some Jimmy Buffett music and let the kids run around under the huge sycamore trees. For seafood, we always head to the Crazy Crab. You can get anything baked, broiled or fried here and there is plenty of it!
A visit to Hilton Head wouldn't be complete without visiting the beautiful area of Harbour Town. The area is surrounded by unique shops, art galleries, restaurants and a marina. My kids love to climb up the stairs of the historic red and white lighthouse and play in the huge playground that sits just outside of the many shops. Last year, we were lucky enough to stumble upon one of Gregg Russell's free family concerts. He gives the concerts nightly (except for Saturday) from Memorial Day to Labor Day under the Liberty Oak tree. He has been giving these concerts for over thirty years and once you see him, you will know why he is a Harbour Town tradition.
If Hilton Head's pace becomes too slow for you, keep in mind that the hustle and bustle of both Savannah and Charleston are just within and hour to an hour and a half drive away. However, when I go to Hilton Head, I never want to leave. You can look for me in my hammock. I will be the one completely content with a smile on my face.
This article appeared in our February 15, 2006 newsletter -- subscribe to our popular newsletter today for free!