Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (Turtle Lane Club)

Hilton Head’s Beaches go on for miles with tidal pools that are teeming with critters and that little ones love to explore. 

Our first family vacation to Hilton Head Island was in September 2013.  I wasn’t terribly keen on the idea at first.  It seemed to lack that flashy compelling reason to visit that was an immediately apparent part of most vacations we had either taken or considered in the past.  

But this was different.  My wife had been to Hilton Head several times as a child and teenager and when in any way prodded about it as a possible destination would flip in to what I call great-grandmother-mode:  “Did I ever tell you about the time we…?”  There was magic in that place for my wife.

And so I decided to accept my wife’s pledge that I would not be disappointed and that this vacation would be in her words, “magical.”  

Hilton Head is a place that resists being easily categorized as vacations go.  It is not a “beach vacation” but has some of the nicest, most alive beaches I have ever seen.  It is not a “golf vacation” however you’ll find that that one of the most famous PGA golf championships is played here annually.  It is not an entertainment vacation but Disney does have a resort here.   

So what is it, why visit?

Perhaps it’s what Hilton Head isn’t that is so amazing.  It’s never in your face pushing you to 'sign up for 11am volleyball', or stressing you with thoughts of whether you've made reservations for the on-site restaurant, or provoking darwinian thoughts of the last pool lounge chair being scooped by your neighbor.  

It is serene, it is calm, it is beautiful.  And it evokes all of this wothout feeling like you have plunked youself down in a retirement community.  The beaches are alive with sea life.  Star fish are everywhere, horseshoe crabs wash up regularly, dolphin pods swim by at close range every afternoon (yes, really).  The acitivity on the beach is an eclectic mix of newly-wed and nearly dead.   Families dot the beach everywhere with their umbrellas and sand toys.  Toddlers from different families strike up easy alliances as they swap shovels and buckets.

It all sounds a little ‘Leave it to Beaver' doesn’t it?  Almost like a beach scene outtake from the movie Pleasantville.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Hilton Head doesn’t need to try hard.  It isn't Pleasantville at all.  It has soul and it is this soul that makes people want to come back, again and again.  There is a complete absence of forced fun.    

Enjoyment is easily discovered here.  In fact if Hilton Head had a license plate slogan, it would be, "enjoyment easily discovered."

I’ll let you check tripadvisor or your favorite site for places to stay.  We stayed at Turtle Lane Club in a ground level ocean front condo.  It’s rented through a property management company - Destination Vacations.  Incidentally, my wife and I thought they were top notch to deal with.  The unit had easy access to the beach, right out the patio door, which made a big difference with our kids who were at the time both under 4.  

One quick note on the two major touristy areas that we frequented.  First, Harbor Town is a small village-like sea-side tourist hot spot.  It has a toy store for the kids and a great outdoor burger place - Harbourside Burgers and Brews.  We made it a special outting on two separate nights to go out for a burger and a to buy a small toy for the kids.  The burger restaurant staff were great and the simplicity of sitting outside and enjoying the summer evening ambience is charming.  If your are in Harbor Town in hgh season Greeg Russell is a fantastic children’s musical entertainer and is practically an insititution in Hilton Head.  He has nighlty performances some weeks.

Second, South Beach has a a great early evening scene.  It is just plain fun to take the kids here in the evening and grab an ice cream.  It has a borad walk and music playing and is just a good scene for kids to experience.

Finally, we highly recommend Hitlon Head in September.  It’s far less crowded and still has amazing weather.


© Paul-Sarah 2013