Coastal Discovery Museum

By:Kerry Egan


Amidst the beautiful resorts and great restaurants and shopping on Hilton Head Island, there's a different sort of place to visit, one that feels like an altogether different time. Just driving down the winding road that leads to the Coastal Discovery Museum makes you feel like you've stepped back 100 years.

The Coastal Discovery Museum is dedicated to preserving the cultural and natural history of Hilton Head Island. It preserves a snippet of the island as it was, before it became one of the best vacation destinations in the world.

The museum is located on 68 acres called Honey Horn and is housed in 19th century buildings. Live oaks dripping with Spanish moss surround the building, and marsh grasses stretch off to tidal streams in the distance. Marsh Tackies, heritage breed horses used by the Gullah people to farm this land for centuries, swat away flies with their tails in a nearby pasture. The Marsh Tackies aren’t on public display, but can be visited on a special tour.

Inside the main building, the Discovery House permanent exhibits tell the history of Hilton Head Island, beginning with the days when enslaved people on plantations produced Sea Island cotton and rice. These exhibits depict life during the early 20th century before the bridge to the island was built. Isolation of the island encouraged the Gullah culture to thrive and grow, to the mid-20th century when the resort-building boom reshaped Hilton Head forever.

Natural history exhibits explore the flora and fauna of the island, from seashells to alligators. Rotating exhibits showcase art and photography. The Kids’ Zone, also located in the Discovery House, offers little children their own spot to explore and discover.

Outside, there is another world to explore. Nature trails lead through the marshes and the fantastic Camellia Garden explodes with blooms in season. Make sure to ask at the front desk for the scavenger hunt brochure, which encourages kids to hunt throughout the grounds to find where the photos in the brochure were taken.

The Coastal Discovery Museum has not only fascinating permanent exhibits and breathtaking grounds; it's also a great jumping off point for many different tours and programs. These include tours like the Sweetgrass Basketmaking and a Blue Crab Exploration Tour. It's still Hilton Head Island, yet it feels like a whole other world.

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