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4 Reasons to Visit Hilton Head Island in the Off-Season

4 Reasons to Visit Hilton Head Island in the Off-Season

Beach vacations don't only have to happen in the summer. Here are four reasons to visit Hilton Head Island, SC, in the off-season.


Nestled on the coast, between Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA, lies Hilton Head Island, SC, which offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday New York metro area life in an environment-focused getaway—there are no bright streetlights or brightly-painted buildings. The calming island offers a variety of activities for families, even during the not-so-busy off-season. And with direct flights from JFK to Savannah, GA, that are shorter than 4 hours, it’s an easy-to-choose destination for a family vacation. With almost 3 million visitors each year, here are four reasons to visit the island in the off-season (between Labor Day and Memorial Day).

Lodging is more affordable.

It is commonplace to find smaller crowds at destinations during off-season travel due to work and school commitments at home, and it’s no different here. Along with fewer tourists, many of the resorts, hotels, and inns offer more affordable packages to stay on Hilton Head Island. Sea Pines Resort and Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, for example, both offer family vacation packages with discounted rates on home and villa rentals that include extras such as kayak and bike rentals, use of fitness and tennis centers, resort credits and amenity discounts, and more. Plus, the homes and villas have full kitchens, so you can cook most, or all, of your meals during your stay.

The beaches are open, and weather is comfortable.

Hilton Head Island has more than 12 miles of beaches for frolicking in the surf, building sandcastles, and basking in the sun. And with fewer people visiting in the off-season, you’re guaranteed to find a good spot to set up the chairs and umbrella and dig in the sand without encroaching on your neighbor. Plus the weather is good and temperature comfortable year round. Locals have told us that the best weather options without the high-season crowds can be found during September-October and March-April.

There is always something to do with your kids.

Pickleball at Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center

The sport, the creation of which is credited to three dads whose kids were bored with the usual summertime activities, is “like playing pingpong, but you’re standing on the table,” says Mark Anders, the pickleball pro at Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center, part of Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. Pickleball is played with paddles that look like oversized pingpong paddles and softball-sized plastic perforated balls (think of a Wiffle-type ball) on a court that is one-third the size of a tennis court. As a game that has a short learning curve—there are no special hits like there are in tennis—and requires less athleticism than tennis, it’s fun for the whole family.


Coastal Discovery Museum

Housed in what was once a hunting retreat and private home, the Coastal Discovery Museum was recognized as a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2015. The museum tells the story of the Lowcountry and aims to develop an appreciation of the cultural heritage and natural history of the region through exhibits, tours, and hands-on and educational experiences for all ages, including animal meet-and-greets, learning to make indigo dye and tie-dying a shirt, nature walks, and salt marsh discovery. The museum also hosts an annual fine art and craft festival the last weekend of April.

coastal discovery museum hilton head islandCourtesy Coastal Discovery Museum

 Many of the trees on the Coastal Discovery Museum's grounds are covered in Spanish moss.


Pirates of Hilton Head

Have a little pirate-lover on your hands? The littlest landlubbers (ages 3-10) will learn to be pirates on the pirate ship cruise. Before climbing aboard Black Dagger and setting sail in search for treasure, kids will be transformed with pirate gear, face paint, and temporary tattoos, plus they’ll learn to walk and talk like a pirate. Little pirates will have to man the water cannons and defeat Stinky Pete to get the key to the treasure chest.

Dolphin Tour with H2O Sports

Among the plethora of watersport options H2O Sports offers—including paddleboarding, waterskiing, sailing, wake boarding, jet skiing, and kayaking—it’s dolphin tours allow you to get up close to native bottle-nose dolphins, plus the tour guides are knowledgeable and will share dolphin and local facts with you. Not long into the 1-hour tour, your guide will likely spot and point out a pod of dolphins—most of the dolphins spotted are locals and have names—and the pod may come close to the boat for great photo ops.

dolphins hilton head islandCourtesy Hilton Head Island Visitor and Convention Bureau

It is very likely that you'll see native bottle-nose dolphins on a dolphin tour in Calibogue Sound.



Hilton Head Island has 60 miles of public leisure bike trails, bike racks to lock bikes at almost every location, and 12 miles of beach—the beaches on Hilton Head Island are made of hard-packed sand, so it’s easy to ride along the shore—that make it easy to get where you want to go without the trouble of finding parking.

mother and child biking
Courtesy Hilton Head Island Visitor and Convention Bureau
You can bike to almost anywhere you need to go on Hilton Head Island.


Hilton Head Outfitters

Hilton Head Outfitters has the gear you need for outdoor adventure on Hilton Head Island, including bike, kayak, and canoe rentals, as well as beach chairs and umbrellas, paddle boards, surf boards, jogging strollers, and fishing gear. It also offers surfing lessons and fishing charters. Situated on an 11-mile lagoon inside Palmetto Dunes Resort, it offers a calm waterway for kayaking and canoeing. You might even see alligators on your journey!

family canoeing
Courtesy Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
A family canoes on the 11-mile lagoon on which Hilton Head Outfitters is located.


Sea Pines Resort

Whether you stay at Sea Pines Resort or another resort on the island, you can spend a day exploring Sea Pines, especially if you decide to go on the pirate cruise or the dolphin tour (they are both based out of Harbour Town Yacht Basin, which is located in the confines of the resort). You can explore Harbour Town, which features more than 20 boutiques, shops, and galleries and a playground; Lawton Stables, which offers a petting zoo, pony rides for kids, and horseback riding tours of the area; Sea Pines Forest Preserve, a 605-acre preserve with hiking, fishing, picnicking, and wildlife-viewing opportunities, plus a 4,000-year-old Indian Shell Ring that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and Stoney-Baynard Ruins, the only tabby ruins of a main plantation house on Hilton Head Island, which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While at Sea Pines Resort, make sure to stop by South Beach Marina Village, which offers a variety of family entertainment, and is home to The Salty Dog Café.


Since 1961, when the first golf course was built on Hilton Head Island, the island has become No. 10 on Golf Digest’s list of the world’s best golf resorts. With 24 public and private courses, golfers can find various experiences, including oceanfront courses and traditional parkland courses.

ZipLine Hilton Head

For the more adventurous, you can take a tour of the area surrounding Broad Creek via zip line. In the 2-hour eco-adventure, you’ll soar through the massive oaks and loblolly pines and look for sights of wildlife that frequent the surrounding marshlands and forest canopy. ZipLine Hilton Head also offers an aerial adventure and kids programs, such as Adventure Squad and Rascal Ropes, a low ropes course for younger explorers.

The seafood is delicious year-round.

From local caught fare to some of the best fish and shellfish from around the country, you can’t help but order seafood for most of your meals. Some can’t-miss restaurants: Coast, located within Sea Pines Resort, specializes in fresh, local sea fare; The Old Oyster Factory features innovative seafood meals with one of the best panoramic views of Broad Creek; and Skull Creek Boathouse serves up seafood and American favorites with a twist. Oh, and wherever you dine, don’t forget the hushpuppies—crisp-fried cornbread balls usually served with honey butter.

skull creek boathouse sunset
Courtesy Skull Creek Boathouse
You can’t beat the mealtime views! Inside tip: Check the forecast for when the sun will set during your visit, and make dinner reservations for just before that time. The sunsets are so spectacular that words won’t do them justice.

Main image: An aerial view of Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on Hilton Head Island, SC
Courtesy Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

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Katelin Walling

Author: Katelin Walling is the editorial director for NYMetroParents. She has been writing about parenting, health, finance, education, fun things to do in NYC and the surrounding area, and more for nearly 10 years. She also has 20+ years of child care experience and was a babysitter in NYC for 8 years. Katelin graduated from the University of Maine in 2011 and attended the NYU Summer Publishing Institute during the summer of 2011. When she’s not learning about the latest parenting trend or kid-friendly NYC attraction to write about, she can often be found reading, knitting (or general crafting), or whipping up a vegan treat—all with a cup of coffee nearby. See More

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