Hilton Head Island SC: Shipyard Plantation and Harbour Town

Given its premier golfing opportunities, Hilton Head Island SC (South Carolina), has been one of my husband’s favourite destinations for some time now and late November or early December is a time during which we travel regular to celebrate his birthday away from the cold winters of Toronto.

After two days of driving we finally arrived in Hilton Head on November 24, 2012 and checked into our comfortable abode for the week – a townhouse inside the Shipyard Plantation, a Hilton Head resort area that has many vacation homes and timeshare developments. We were located right beside the 5th hole of the Shipyard Golf Course and had a convenient place to explore the island from.

Ever the curious traveller, I started my explorations of the island which has been a popular tourist destination since the 1950s. The name “Hilton Head” is derived from Captain William Hilton who explored the South Carolina coastline for the English King Charles II during the 1660s.  Cotton plantations were operated on this island during the 1700s and 1800s until Hilton Head became an important battle ground during the American Civil War.

The abolition of slavery in 1865 also brought an end to the wealthy plantation owners’ lifestyle and Hilton Head became a rural backwater until 1956 when local landowner Charles Fraser decided to create the Sea Pines Plantation, the first resort on Hilton Head Island. Soon, other upscale resort developments came on stream such as the Shipyard Plantation, Port Royal Plantation, Palmetto Dunes Plantation and the Hilton Head Plantation, all of which are gated resort communities that cater to golf and tennis enthusiasts. Every year, Hilton Head hosts the Heritage Golf Classic, one of the main golf tournaments on the PGA Tour.

Today the island is home to about 30,000 permanent residents, but this number multiplies many times during peak travel season during spring break and the summer months. After a brief bicycle ride around the Shipyard Plantation in the morning, I decided to take a drive and have a look at Harbour Town, a dining and shopping area surrounding this historic Hilton Head Lighthouse. Being located inside the Sea Pines Resort, there is a $5 entrance fee at the security gate.

Harbour Town is a very pleasant area with several restaurants, various boutiques, crafts and souvenir shops as well as a yacht basin that shelters countless expensive yachts. Then I drove a bit farther inside the Sea Pines Plantation and visited South Beach area, at the southern tip of Hilton Head, which is the location of the famous Salty Dog Restaurant.

My first introduction had given me a pretty good overview of why Hilton Head Island SC is so popular with so many travellers.

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