Things to do in Hilton Head with a baby

Things to do in Hilton Head with a baby

For those that do not know anything about Hilton Head, it is very family friendly and doesn’t have all the Spring Break shenanigans that you might expect at Myrtle Beach, SC or Panama City, FL.  Single people can enjoy this island, but more so to relax than party.

Hilton Head has most major restaurants and stores “on island” and it gets packed in the summertime (as with any beach) but doesn’t have all the “tourist traps” like Ripley’s Believe It or Not, wax museums, etc.  The whole island is well-kept, beautifully landscaped, and classy.

Where to Stay on Hilton Head

At Hilton Head, my wife’s family normally rents a house in the Sea Pines plantation by booking on VRBO.  At Hilton Head, there are very few public beach accesses so you either stay at a resort/hotel near Coligny Plaza (we stayed for a long weekend at the Holiday Inn Express-Hilton Head Island which is a 10-minute walk to the beach, plus the property is safe, quiet, & clean) and use the public Coligny Beach Park access or stay on a plantation resort (i.e. gated community with lots of rental houses or villas, beach access, and community swimming pools).

As the plantation resorts as the most common offering, we always go through VRBO.  To be honest, a lot of properties listed are by rental agencies posing as owners in recent years, so this can be a little frustrating.

There are easily a half dozen different plantations to choose from, but, our personal recommendation is Sea Pines.  It’s arguably the best-rated plantation regarding amenities (plus it doubles as a quasi-retirement community) and has several other perks (to be discussed below) for why other visitors will purchase a day pass to visit Sea Pines.

I will say that we have never rented an oceanfront house.  They cost several thousand dollars for the week and are very big. The only way it is cost-effective is if you can split the cost with 3 or 4 families.  We normally go with the wife’s family but it’s still out of our price range so we stay about 5-10 minutes away from the beach & pools normally.  If you desire oceanfront, it probably will be cheaper at a plantation other than Sea Pines, but that’s my own guess & opinion as we have never tried to look.

Visit the Beach

Things to do at Hilton Head with a babyOf course, the main reason to go to Hilton Head is the beach. The Atlantic Ocean to be precise.  If you haven’t been to a South Carolina beach, they are not for thrillseekers but are perfect for small children.

Our two small children (3 and 1 years) loved the beach this summer.

In the summertime or September, the water temp is normally in the mid-80s and very calm waves.  You might think you were on one of the Great Lakes.

You might not see any surfers, but there is plenty of beach to build sand castles, etc.  As the waves are gentle and an adult can walk out a good distance with only waist-deep water, this ocean might be a way to  have your child enjoy the surf without having to get pummeled.

My favorite beach activity is boogie boarding and bodysurfing.  Most days the waves are too small for an adult to boogie board, but are great for body surfing. Skimboarding is also a good idea.

Bike Trails

One of our favorite activities is biking.  We bring our own bikes, but you can also rent some Island Cruiser bikes for about $25 each for the week plus the cost a bike trailer or a bike-mounted baby carrier if you desire.  Bike rentals are very cheap at Hilton Head.

You can bike off plantation (the gated resorts), on plantations, or on the beach during low tide (it’s rather difficult dodging people in high tide and still finding firm sand). Our personal preference is biking within Sea Pines because there’s less traffic and it’s how we get to the pool and beach.

Speaking about the Sea Pines plantation, we bike most everywhere.  It’s normally a 10-minute bike ride to the beach and a couple minutes longer to the pool.  Plus the paths also lead to Harbour Town & South Beach (places to shop and eat).  We easily bike 20 miles in one day, but it’s real easy since the ground is flat and the trails are paved.

Visit Harbour Town

One of the reasons to visit Sea Pines is a complex called Harbour Town.  There are various gift shops & fancy stores such as Tommy Bahama and a place to get ice cream (Cinnamon Bear is my favorite!).

There is also a nice playground here and in the evenings from Memorial Day to Labor Day, children of all ages can be entertained by local folk celebrity singer Gregg Russell.  He’s been performing at Harbour Town for over 43 years so many parents saw him as a child and have the opportunity to bring their own children to the show now.

Things to do in Hilton Head with a baby

The Harbortown Lighthouse

Another neat activity is climbing the Harbour Town lighthouse.  It is only there as a tourist attraction and not an official lighthouse.  It costs about $4 per person but you can get a birds-eye view of the harbor.  It’s also pretty cool if you want to get a history lesson.  The climb isn’t air-conditioned so it might be a little hot during the dog days of summer.

Eat At Salty Dog

Things to do in Hilton Head with a babyAnother “cult classic” of Hilton Head is the Salty Dog restaurant.  Perhaps you have seen the t-shirts.  The original shop is at South Beach which is in the Sea Pines plantation a couple minutes drive further down the road from Harbour Town.

I have never eaten at Salty Dog but I’m told they have good hamburgers & hot dogs.

I will verify that they have good ice cream.  We’ve sampled almost every flavor and most of them are pretty good. Personally, we didn’t care for the bubble gum flavor since it reminds us of the dentist’s office.

As a heads-up, one single scoop of ice cream will be $4 almost anywhere on Hilton Head Island.   We normally get ice cream once and go to the grocery store to buy some cartons for the remainder of the week to eat at the rental house.

Tip: Save money and every grocery store visit with the Ibotta app. And, get a $10 cash bonus with your first visit.

 

Visit A Museum

There are two museums you can also visit on Hilton Head Island for a change of scenery.

Museum #1: The Sandbox

The first option is a children’s museum called The Sandbox.  At this museum, you can escape the heat (or rain) and children of all ages can have fun at hands-on exhibits.  The museum is reasonably priced at $6 for adults & $5 for children.  It is located in the hoppin’ part of Hilton Head, just a few blocks away from Sea Pines and the Coligny Plaza beach.

Museum #2: Coastal Discovery Museum

If you like island history and enjoying the outdoors, you will enjoy the Smithsonian affiliate Coastal Discovery Museum.  This location is more enjoyable for parents and grade-school children, but, it’s easily navigable with a stroller.

The museum is mostly outdoors, although, it has some indoor exhibits regarding island history and the history of the former Honey Horn Plantation (where the museum is located) that adults will enjoy.  There is also a live terrapin turtle exhibit in the main house that the kids will enjoy along with some other hands-on activities.

Outdoors, you can walk on their “Around the Horn” trail that is an educational nature trail that includes a Butterfly House and the opportunity to walk through an awesome stand of Live Oak trees with Spanish Moss growing on them.

The suggested donation is $5 per person and is located on the north side of the island.  This can be a great way to fill an afternoon when you need a break from the water.

Daytrips

One final option is to take a daytrip to Charleston, SC (2 hours) or Savannah, GA (45 minutes).  Both cities are very similar although I prefer Savannah.  It is a little bit smaller & easier to navigate, plus parking is cheaper.

Charleston

If you go to Charleston, my favorite location is Ft. Moultrie.  It is a decommissioned military post located at the mouth of the Charleston Harbor and now belongs to the National Park Service.  They have setup the fort to be an interactive time capsule beginning with the original structure from the colonial days constructed with Palmetto logs to walking through the World War II bunkers.  It’s awesome & kids would enjoy it.

There is also the aquarium, Ft. Sumter (historically significant but kinda so-so to visit), and shopping at the Market.

If you just want to walk the streets, you can see lots of old, charming Southern homes and churches.  Although most churches only have their graveyards open for the public to tour.

Savannah

You can also shop in Savannah, and they have their own version of Ft. Moultrie (Ft. James Jackson), plus, they have a plethora of streets to walk and discover historic homes and public squares.  The movie Forrest Gump was filmed in a Savannah square (when he was sitting on a bench).

Beaufort

You can also visit Beaufort. We’ve gone once and like the quaintness of the town. Beaufort has the historic charm of Charleston or Savannah, but it’s smaller. Instead of walking by 20 or 30 historic houses, you might pass by 10 houses instead. All the city blocks are very close together and there’s plenty of parking, so you don’t have to walk far.

Since I’m not a big shopper, I also like the fact that it doesn’t have as many shops! But, it still has it’s fair share.

Summary

Going to the beach is a great option for any family, and, there are a plethora of things to do in Hilton Head with a baby.

Our typical day consists of going to the beach in the morning (before it gets hot & crowded), return to the rental house for naptime, go to the pool for the afternoon and do something outside once it cools off.  For a change of scenery, we will take a day to go to a museum, shop :-(, or go on a road trip.

Plus, it’s a relatively cheap trip!

If you have any questions about Hilton Head Island (and Sea Pines resort) my wife will be glad to answer!

Have you ever vacationed at Hilton Head before?  What are your favorite beach activities?

Thanks For Reading,

Josh

BONUS: Read my articles on how we find sweet vacation deals and stick to a vacation budget!

18 Comments on "Things to do in Hilton Head with a baby"

  1. Love this post. I’ve been wanting to plan a family vacation to the east coast for a while now. This gives us some great ideas. 🙂 However I’ll need to get over the fear of taking our 2 year old on a plane again. Haha! Thanks for sharing.

    • Glad I could help! I can relate with flying with a toddler. I haven’t done it personally, but our flying plans have been put on hold temporarily as we are expecting baby #2 in April. My brother lives on the west coast and I don’t know if we are ready to tackle the airport with a 2-yr old & newborn this upcoming summer.

      It’s one reason we like going to the beach. It’s only 6 hours from us & it’s more child-friendly than hiking in the mountains or spending all day in a museum. Things my wife & I enjoy and want to do again in a few years!

  2. Great tips for anyone visiting Hilton Head with a baby! I feel like when my wife an I have our first kid we will not want to take it many places, but when you think about it you will end up taking a baby to many places, including vacation (even if just for a long weekend). Good tips for people to keep in mind!

    • Life priorities definitely change with children. I was used to hitting the ground running on vacation and catching all the sights until it was time to go to bed. Now we plan around naptime and short attention spans. The beach is nice because it can be as slow or fast as you want it to be. If you can be just a few minutes away, mom & baby can slip away while the rest of the family still has a good time!

  3. Hey Josh, sounds like a really awesome place. I can’t say we’ll ever go to that place – we live a bit far away, but when we get a child we’ll love taking them to our local beach (10 mins walk away 🙂 ).

    Swimming and just walking on the beach is such a fun, nice activity to do. Who knows, maybe there’ll even be some ice cream.

    Tristan

    • I definitely wouldn’t recommend coming to HHI from Australia or if you have a beach so close. For us being 6-hours away is relatively close. There are always a bunch of people that drive from Ohio or other midwest states that drive 12+ hours to visit.

      Enjoy a cone for me!

  4. I grew up going to Hilton Head. While not the liveliest beach that I went to growing up I still have really good memories. Except for those monster mosquitos at night. I’ve never seen insects so large.

    After going on a cruise with our one year old. We will definitely be going to the beach next year with our son. Thanks for the tips and recommendations.

    • I do miss going some aspects of going to the Outer Banks, NC or the Pacific. We usually don’t do too much at night. Partially because of the mosquitos but for me it’s mostly the “no-see-um” sand fleas. In my experience, the mosquitoes up north (Wisconsin or Maine) or worse than down here. But anytime you are near a large mass of water there will be lots of biting insects.

      Glad to hear you have fond childhood memories of Hilton Head! Thanks for sharing.

  5. My kids have always loved the beach! It’s great entertainment for the whole family, relaxing and cheap too! Thanks for sharing – we’ve never been to Hilton Head, but put it on our list of potential travel destinations!

    • It’s one reason we like the beach as well. The largest expenses are gas & lodging. We usually go out to eat twice during the week, but stay in for the remaining meals. Hope you can make to HHI in the near future!

  6. Don’t have a family (yet) but this sounds like such a fun vacation. I’m not really a party person, and I love relaxing vacations. Next time you should post 2-3 photos of your holiday. I love seeing peoples vacation photos. =)

    • Photos is one thing I need to get better with as I never really take any. The ones we did take include our daughter & we try to refrain from posting photos of her for personal reasons.

      I want to include some pictures from previous trips, but they are on an old computer. Excuses, Excuses, but it’s something I want to do better at.

  7. This sounds like the perfect family vacation!!! We are toying around with visiting NC next year (my dad was based there while in the Marines and my brother and I spent the first years of our life there). Maybe we’ll stay at HH for part of the trip!

    • We went to the Outer Banks, NC when I lived in Virginia. My wife & I want to visit Wilmington once just to compare as her grandparents used to live there when her grandpa was in the service. Living inland, any beach is a good beach!

  8. I always liked Charleston a little more than Savannah. Being closer to Savannah I’d probably choose that before I went to Charleston. Both are cool places to spend a day in.

    • Both cities have something different to offer. There’s a lot of history in both. Charleston is more trendy & more to do as it’s larger, but Savannah is slightly more low-key. Perhaps not as much beach traffic for people wanting to go to Isle of Palms, Edisto, etc.?

  9. The Splash Pad at Coligny Beach is great for little ones!

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