The Hilton Head Lighthouse is the landmark of the island. I have been hoping to visit Hilton Head Island all year and I’m so happy that I finally made the trip south. The day before my 23rd birthday, my daughters and I set off to visit Hilton Head and its famous lighthouse. When it comes to how to see the Hilton Head Island lighthouse, you may be a bit surprised, I sure was.
Getting To The Lighthouse
The William Hilton Parkway is the road that takes you on to the island. This road is also called Business 278 and turns into The Cross Island Parkway on the island. The lighthouse is located in the southern part of the island in Harbor Town.
In order to get to Harbor town you will have to go through a toll booth that charges $1.25 for entry. Once you drive a few more minutes south you will come to the entrance to The Southern Pines Resort. Harbor town is actually the shops, restaurants, etc. surrounding the yacht basin that is a part of the Sea Pines Resort. In order to enter Sea Pines and Harbor Town you will drive up on a little booth where you have to purchase a general day pass to that costs $8.
I was a little annoyed when I first saw signs for a toll booth, but hey it was only $1.25 so it was no big deal. Then, when I came up to the Sea Pines Resort I actually told the person manning the booth that I had taken a wrong turn. He showed me how to get back on the main road and as I kept checking my maps, I learned that the only way to get to Harbor Town is by entering the Sea Pines Resort.
I had no clue that you had to pay to get into Harbor Town and consequently to see the lighthouse. All in all you will be paying $10.50 to get in and out of Harbor Town. (Yes, you have to pay another $1.25 to get out) It may be annoying and unexpected, but your money isn’t wasted.
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Exploring Harbor Town
The parking for Harbor Town is easy to find. You can just put Harbor Town into your GPS and you will pass free parking lots. We parked beside the Gregg Russell Playground. Parking by the playground is great because it’s just a short walk to all of the attractions.
We started our evening in by walking around the yacht basin and enjoying the views of the lighthouse. Surprisingly it was never used for navigation. It was the first lighthouse built on Hilton Head since 1863 and has more to offer than just walking to the top. It’s a museum filled with artifacts and photos that tell the history of the low country in South Carolina.
Next, we walked out on the Harbor Town Pier. You have a good chance of seeing dolphins while you are out on the pier, the area around Hilton Head Island is the natural habitat of the Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin. There are several boats that give dolphin tours leaving from Harbor Town.
At the end of the pier we sat and had a snack at a picnic table at the end of the pier. Like always, everyone seems to be drawn to two little toddlers running about. In typical Roberts fashion they befriended two grandmothers and had them packing them around the pier and they searched for dolphins together. It’s always so nice to meet people when you are exploring a new place. I love hearing peoples stories, who they are, what they do, why they are traveling — it makes a trip all the better.
When it comes to taking a boat tour that leaves from Harbor Town, the most popular option is a Vagabond Cruise. They have a dolphin cruise, sunset dinner cruise, historic Savannah cruise, as well as a shrimp trawling expedition.
You can take a dolphin cruise, climb the lighthouse, take your kids to the playground, and take a walk out on the pier, shop, and grab a sweet treat — but a trip to Hilton Head wouldn’t be complete with out a dip in the ocean or a walk along the beach.
After a couple hours of walking around the town and exploring the beach, it was time to eat dinner. There are several restaurants to choose from and you can hear live music playing through the whole town. Performers standing behind their keyboards were singing slow versions of popular songs. It was very welcome, it really sets a relaxing mood throughout the whole town.
We ended up grabbing a bite to eat at the Crazy Crab. We had a couple typical southern dishes for an appetizer — hushpuppies and pimento cheese dip. I grew up with both of those, but hadn’t had pimento cheese for like 10 years until this summer. As a little girl we would have pimento cheese sandwiches with our chili. This year, I’ve seen it served as an appetizer in a few restaurants in the Carolinas. It comes as a dip and is served with either pita chips or tortilla chips.
After dinner, stop by Cups and Cones for a sweet treat. You can sit under the Hilton Head Lighthouse in rocking chairs and eat your ice cream.
After dinner, the sun was starting to set and I was excited to get some pictures of the lighthouse while the sun was going town. There isn’t a single view of the lighthouse in Harbor Town that is bad. There are so many different places and ways to enjoy the sunset.
Sunsets in Hilton Head really are magical. If you only have a day to spend on the island, I really recommend you stay to see the sunset and what Harbor Town looks like once the sun goes down.
The lighthouse and the restaurant below it, Quarterdeck, lights up and you can hear music all through out the town. It’s really a different place at and after sunset. The dark seems to awaken some creatures in the yacht basin. If you walk around the marina at night, you can see wildlife jumping up to the surface of the water.
Settling Down For The Night
Once the sun went down, it was time to find a hotel for the night. Even in the middle of September, Hilton Head hotels seem to be super full. The first hotel I called had no vacancy. I then called The Grand Hilton Head Inn who told me they were booked in house but that Booking.com had a few rooms left.
Luckily, we snagged THE LAST room available on the site. We got a lovely room with a seriously impressive shower that made it easy to shower both my 2 and 3 year old. Our room also had a balcony which I loved because I could step outside at night without actually leaving my kids. We booked the room for only $88/night and it’s free breakfast buffet was to die for. It was like a huge restaurant buffet with everything you could want.
The Grand Hilton Head Inn is just a 13 minute drive from Harbor Town. I was really impressed with the hotel and will recommend it to anyone visiting Hilton Head. You can check out their rooms, HERE.
We had a blast on Hilton Head Island. It was a great way to start my birthday trip. The next morning we packed up and headed to spend the day exploring Savannah’s Historic district.
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