What Are the Best Things to Do at Hilton Head Island?

I’m devout in the belief that Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is one of the hidden gems of the DVC program. Some members don’t give this resort a chance since it’s one of three that’s not located near a theme park. 

As a native southerner who has honeymooned in Hilton Head, I’m aware of the beauty of this island and an evangelist for it as a vacation spot. When persuading friends to travel here, I’m often asked questions about island activities. What are the best things to do in Hilton Head, South Carolina? I have strong opinions…

Tennis and Golf 

I divide Hilton Head’s leisure recreational sports into two categories — water-based activities and tennis/golf. You may not realize this fact, but Hilton Head’s quietly one of the south’s meccas for tennis and golf. 

In fact, circling back to my honeymoon, at the risk of dating myself, I watched a pair of preteen girls absolutely wreck the competition in town for a Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) event. Yes, they were the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. 

This statement underscores how long Hilton Head has held its reputation as an excellent place for tennis activities. You’ll find heated online debates regarding the best tennis courts/complexes in the area.

Most lists would include Palmetto Dunes Tennis and Pickleball Center, Sea Pines Racquet Club, and Shipyard Van Der Meer Tennis. If you’re like me and want to watch the next generation of tennis stars, you should go to Smith Stearns Tennis Academy during an event. Former Wimbledon/U.S. Open champion Stan Smith founded this academy. 

As for golf, you can skip straight to Harbour Town Golf Links, the host course for the PGA’s annual RBC Heritage event since 1969. Golf Digest ranks it as one of the top 30 public golf courses in the country. 

Meanwhile, Davis Love III had a hand in reinventing The Sea Pines Resort: Atlantic Dunes. Most of the holes include a water element, and the running joke is that an alligator may snag your golf ball. 

More casual golfers may prefer one of the simpler courses. Those options include Oyster Reef Golf Club, Palmetto Dunes Resort: Arthur Hills, and The Sea Pines Resort: Heron Point.

Oceanfront Activities

One of the joys of a DVC stay is that you gain access to Disney’s section of beach on the Atlantic Ocean. A shuttle will transport you from Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort to the Disney Beach House, or you can drive. 

Disney lists some official waterfront activities here, including Dolphin and Nature Discovery, which costs $45 per person. You’ll ride a boat to a secluded section of water where your host can speak to the dolphins by name.

If you prefer something less guided, Disney rents fishing gear and bikes. So, you either get in the ocean or bicycle beside it. Note that Disney no longer allows kayak launches from its part of the beach. Instead, the resort encourages you to use the public boat ramps at Marshall Landing.

You can also choose a third-party vendor in the area. Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina is less than a mile from the resort lobby. At this marina, you’ll discover a slew of options, including boat rentals, drifter excursions, tubing, kayaking, and even boat-based fireworks exhibitions. 

Dining and Shopping 

You’ll have no problem spending your vacation money at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. Tourist merchandise is available everywhere. 

Lately, the most popular option is Shelter Cove Towne Center, which is close to Community Park. So, you can entertain your kids while you find that perfect trinket. You’ll find some chain and local stores here. When you want more variety, you should visit the Village at Wexford. This place is a sort of high-end bazaar. You’ll find eclectic items here, but there’s also a luxury spa and a popular nightspot called The Jazz Club. 

Personally, I visit Coligny Plaza Center the most for sentimental reasons. Since it turns 70 next year, it’s no longer the hot place for tourists, though. Other shopping options include Circle Center, Main Street Village, and Tanger Outlets. 

When you get hungry, Hilton Head’s appeal proves undeniable. This sleepy beach town has become a hotbed for culinary excellence. For example, Wine Spectator recently named Charlie’s Coastal Bistro and River House (in nearby Bluffton) winners of its Award for Excellence.

Meanwhile, Hogshead Kitchen and Wine Bar recently earned nominations in four different James Beard Award categories. Then, on the entirely opposite end of the spectrum, we have the southern tourism legend that is The Salty Dog Café. When you want fish and a few pet stories, this is the place. 

I’ll add that TripAdvisor lists the following as the best options in town:

  • Coast
  • Delisheeyo
  • The French Bakery
  • Hilton Head Social Bakery
  • Links, an American Grill
  • Michael Anthony’s Cucina Italiana
  • Nunzio Restaurant + Bar
  • Ocean Lounge
  • Stu’s Surfside Subs
  • Truffles Café 

You should find a place that fits your budget in that list. Overall, Hilton Head has quietly become one of the best tourist dining locales in the south. So, you’ll eat well while you’re here. 

If you want a first- hand experience of what Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort and the local area have to offer, check out this recent trip from our friends over at DVC Fan.

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