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Dock and Dine: Hilton Head Island

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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The Fishcamp on Broad Creek is a linger-worthy hub of island dining pleasure.

South Carolina’s impressive stretch of coastline is a boater’s paradise. What makes a day on the water so much fun isn’t limited to reeling in the big one or spying dolphins. For plenty of seafarers, working up an appetite is a key part of the experience. When it comes to feeding the multitudes of folks navigating our coastal waterways, SC restaurant owners have things covered. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers and desserts are all on the menu for your nautical outing.

In the vacation mecca of Hilton Head Island, seaworthy vessels regularly tie up at the area’s many marinas and docks. Here are a few to try next time you decide to dock and dine. While some establishments offer complimentary docking, others are situated at or near marinas where you can dock for a fee. Call ahead for details.


Broad Creek Marina 

Docking: This scenic marina on Broad Creek has 53 wet slips, two of them able to accommodate 100-foot vessels.

The Fishcamp on Broad Creek boasts a special place in Hilton Head Island history. It operates in the same building where the late Charlie Simmons, a Gullah sailor who transported visitors to and from the island, established Simmons Fishcamp back in 1955. It is a lively place with beautiful water views and plenty of delicious options, from Lowcountry boil to seafood towers to fresh fish dinners. The new kid at the marina, Up the Creek Pub & Grill, has a growing following who boat in for indoor and deck dining. Burgers, wings, fish sandwiches, cold drinks and even a doggy menu keep them coming back for more. You can also cool off with an Italian ice or enjoy a waterfront breakfast from their food truck, Paddles, located near the Broad Creek Marina pier.

When exploring Harbour Town, fuel up with delicious eats and cold drinks at Harbourside.

Harbour Town Yacht Basin

Docking: Designed in 1969 with Italy in mind, this world-class docking hotspot boasts 100 slips and easy access to The Sea Pines Resort. Call ahead to reserve dockage.

Once you tie up, enjoy whiling away the hours in Harbour Town. In addition to myriad recreational, shopping and entertainment options, you will find lots of restaurants that cater to a variety of appetites. For a white-tablecloth experience, CQ’s guarantees an intimate evening with a menu brimming with seafood, steaks and other dishes infused with regional flavors. Casual al fresco eats are the draw at Harbourside, an outdoor seasonal operation serving up burgers, dogs, steamed seafood, brew, kiddie mocktails and more. The Crazy Crab is said to have the island’s best snow crab legs. You can also get a taste of the Lowcountry specialty, she-crab soup, and indulge in a crab boil, steam pot and more.  


Hilton Head Harbor Marina

Docking: This marina has 101 slips and 126 feet of transient docking on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Settle in at the marina, then head to Sunset Grille, a celebrated Hilton Head standard known for exceptional bloody marys, shrimp and grits and a thoughtfully curated wine list. Pasta, steak, lamb and more make for refined waterfront dining. For Sunday brunch, diners swoon over crab cake benedict, beef tip hash and Belgian waffles. The stunning sunsets and views of Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge are memorable as well.


Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks

Docking: This restaurant offers complimentary onsite dockage to diners along with commanding views of the Port Royal Sound. 

The views. The seafood. The views. The seafood. When considering what makes Hudson’s so special, it’s tough to choose between the two. The fact is that people come from across the Lowcountry to experience both the fabulous waterfront sights and the fresh seafood that arrives via the restaurant’s own fishing fleet. Seating is first-come, first-served, so zip on over and tie up at Hudson's dock.

Black Marlin and Carolina Crab Co. are two of your choices when you dock at Palmetto Bay Marina.

Palmetto Bay Marina

Docking: The oldest marina on Hilton Head Island, this tie-up spot on Broad Creek has 400 feet of space for the dock-and-dine crowd.

Solid options for tasty island dining await landlubbers and seafarers when docking at this marina—no charge for restaurant guests. Black Marlin and the Black Marlin Hurricane Bar both offer fresh seafood, steaks and more in a fun, waterfront atmosphere. Seafood and Southern delights fill the menu at Carolina Crab Company, a casual, modestly priced gathering place. The breakfast, brunch and lunch bunch should try Palmetto Bay Sunrise Cafe. Quiches, benedicts, stuffed French toast, biscuits and gravy—grab those life jackets and zip on over to start your day the island way.


Shelter Cove Marina
(Dockage fees apply; call for availability)

Docking: The largest of the island’s deep-water marinas, Shelter Cove has 178 slips and offers convenient access to Palmetto Dunes Resort.

There are several restaurants accessible when you dock here, and all have gorgeous views of Shelter Cove Harbor. Ela’s on the Water is an upscale bistro that may require you do a little sprucing up after a ride on the water. Pack a hairbrush and nice sandals to change into, then indulge in fresh seafood and steaks that pair perfectly with the views and artsy decor. Cruise on over to San Miguel’s for award-winning cocktails, burritos and more. This Mexican eatery has been serving up fresh, flavorful dishes for more than three decades. And everybody knows that margaritas taste better when sipped on the water. Can’t get enough fabulous SC seafood? Then plan a stop at Scott’s Fish Market, an island institution known for pasta, steaks, decadent desserts and, of course, fresh seafood dishes. For dessert, do your sweet tooth a favor and experience the yumminess of Hilton Head Social Bakery. Pain au chocolate, fruit tarts, Napoleons, macarons, layer cakes—you get the drift.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.