With gently lapping ocean waves and 12 miles of sugar-white sand, the beach is naturally the starting point for family fun on Hilton Head Island. A shovel and pail, a couple of boogie boards and you’ve got countless hours of entertainment — and a lifetime of happy memories.
But playing in the surf and sand is just one of the pleasures this coastal treasure has to offer. The Lowcountry’s rich tidal marshes, moss-draped maritime forests and pristine rivers serve as the venue for all kinds of outdoor activities.
Hop aboard a pirate ship or dolphin cruise for an exhilarating adventure in the green waters of the Atlantic. Go horseback riding in the woods, paddle a kayak along a quiet creek or join a sing-along in the shade of an ancient live oak.
The island also offers miles of biking trails, playgrounds and community parks to enjoy the area’s many natural attractions.
At the Coastal Discovery Museum, you can learn more about the Lowcountry ecosystem and the wildlife that call it home. You’ll find a host of talks, tours and programs that will answer all of your kids’ questions, like why fiddler crabs have one big claw or what critter makes those tiny holes in the sand at the beach.
Along with the eco-activities are lots of popular kid-friendly attractions, including miniature golf courses, arcades, a children’s museum, batting cages, a skate park and bowling center. It’s no wonder Parents Magazine has named Hilton Head Island No.1 on its list of the 10 Best Beach Towns for Families.
Pirates of Hilton Head is a particular favorite of children ages 2 to 10. On this sea-bound adventure, your kids will be transformed into the crew of the Black Dagger, a pirate ship sailing Calibogue Sound in search of a sunken treasure chest. But before they can claim their share of the booty, they’ll have to blast rival pirate Stinky Pete with water cannons to keep him from getting to the loot first.
The little ones also will love Coligny Beach Park’s interactive fountain featuring 26 synchronized jets that spray water up from the ground. Parents can watch the aquatic antics from the comfort of park benches placed just out of splash range around the circular fountain.
For the thrill-seekers in your group, there’s Zipline Hilton Head/Aerial Adventure Hilton Head. This treetop challenge course will have your little daredevils crossing swinging bridges, jumping through hoops and climbing Lowcountry-themed obstacles. It includes 50 activities of varying levels of difficulty, making it fun for everyone from super jocks to children as young as 5.
When you’re ready to get out of the sun, take the kids to The Sandbox, an interactive children’s museum where they can trek across a rock challenge course, fly a plane and sail a ship as they explore the museum’s imagination stations. If they’ve got energy to burn, try the new Island Playground, an indoor recreation center with inflatable slides, winding obstacle courses, brightly colored bounce houses and a separate toddler exploration area.
Several of the island’s vacation resorts offer more family fun with kids’ camps and special family events scheduled throughout the summer. At Palmetto Dunes, the recreational options include: golf and tennis clinics, fishing cruises, crabbing expeditions, surf camp and a family ski day. You can also rent bikes to ride on the beach and kayaks to paddle in the resort’s canals.
Need a little down time? Leave your tikes at Commander Zodiac for Kids Waterfun Day. While you’re off on your own, they’ll go crabbing and sailing, take a boat ride to see dolphins and play water balloon games.
And the fun doesn’t stop when night falls. In the summer months, Sea Pines Resort presents free evening concerts under the old Liberty Oak tree in Harbour Town. The festivities include: face painting, puppet shows, scavenger hunts and crafts.
You’ll also want to catch HarbourFest at Shelter Cove Harbour, a free summer-long celebration featuring live music, the shenanigans of Cappy the Clown, arts and crafts, and a special Tuesday night fireworks show.