Chad Myers Photograph

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Located at the bottom corner of South Carolina, on the border with Georgia, lies one of the best vacation spots in the United States. Hilton Head Island is 42 square miles of pure vacation experience with over 12 miles of beaches, over 200 each of shops and restaurants, 20 public golf courses, and a myriad of outdoor activities.

The first thing that comes to mind about Hilton Head is the golf. It is reflected in a lot of the restaurants and bars, due to the sheer # of top notch golf spots and professional tournaments that take place here on a yearly basis. Harbour Town Golf Links is probably the most well known of the numerous courses that dot the Hilton Head landscape as it is one of the best in the world. The 18th hole overlooks the ocean, and the Harbour Town Lighthouse, which is the signature of this Island. Hilton Head National is also a favorite, with it's 27 holes of woodlands and beautiful wetlands without the distraction of real estate. If you're coming here for the golf I also recommend playing Davis Love III designed Eagle's Pointe, and it's sister course , designed by Arnold Palmer, Crescent Pointe. These courses rank among the best in the area and usually provide a great rate for playing both. Nearby Daufuskie Island, which can only be reached by boat, provides two of the most beautiful courses in the US with Bloody Point, and The Melrose. Both provide views of the ocean on some holes and make it well worth a day trip to the Island to check them out. Don't worry ladies, while the men are golfing, there is plenty of shopping to be done on the Island.

With over 200 quaint shops, 2 outlet malls, an indoor mall and your normal assortment of chain stores including Target and Ross, Hilton Head offers something for everyone's shopping experience. Coligny Square, located right across from S. Forest Beach, has numerous shops and restaurants all within a short walking area. Some of my favorites are Loose Lucy's, a Grateful Dead inspired boutique with a VW microbus inside, and the Hemp Seed, with clothing and assessories made right in front of you. The Art Café is also worth a look as you can buy pottery and decorate i right in the store as you sip on a beverage. Harbour Town provides it's own unique experience with the Lighthouse, the 18th green of the Harbour Town Golf links, and the various yachts. It also has numerous shops and restaurants, as well as live music, which provides a full day of fun for the entire family. For the high end shopper the Village at the Wexford has all your shopping needs. For the cigar afficionado, check out the Smoke Stack, a 3000 square feet indoor humidor. Quite simply, there is something for everyone when it comes to the shopping. So bring your credit card enjoy yourself...

For the outdoor enthusiast Hilton Head is a Mecca of unspoiled wildlife, sandy beaches and numerous activities. Pickney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a 4000 acre preserve with no human residents, but with daily guided eco-tours, as well as bike and hiking paths. Many other parks and preserves dot the island and provide the sanctuary for the numerous and diverse wildlife. Numerous companies across the Island offer everything from sailing on the former America's Cup Winner "Stars and Stripes", to kayaking and canoeing through one of the many waterways throughout the interior Island. Anything you can think of that has to with water can be done here. The surf is even descent for the East coast, so bring your board. For the novice, there are 4 different beaches totaling 12 miles that provides plenty of room for the family to picnic, swim or work on their sun tan.

After all the shopping, golf, and outdoor fun it's time to get something to eat, and Hilton Head has every type of restaurant you could want. Obviously the first thing you want to do is find some good seafood and there is plenty around. I recommend the Old Oyster factory and the islands finest seafood restaurant Charley's Crab, but you can find great seafood here in almost any restaurant. Aunt Chiladas, the Beachwalk Café, and The Salty Dog Café provide a relaxed atmosphere and great food. Hit Tony Roma's and The Smokehouse if you are a lover of ribs. Harbour Town also offers my favorite restaurant on the island The Quarterdeck. Located right beside the lighthouse, it combines great food with an excellent view of the ocean. Another favorite is The Big Bamboo café because of it's affordable food and walls made of bamboo adorned with World War II memorabilia. Some other favorites are Del Vechio's for Italian, and New York City Pizza if you're on the go and just want some good pizza. These are only a few, there are simply too many good restaurants to name, so bring your appetite and sample the many diverse and delicious eateries on the island.

For nightlife the first place to hit is Hilton Head Island's own South Beach. Modeled after a New England style fishing village, Jimmy Buffet fills the air at the numerous bars and restaurants that dot the marina. The Lodge boasts a walk in humidor, billiards and big screen TV's providing plenty of entertainment as it tries to prove it's claim as "the best place for singles to meet." The King's Wharf has the largest dance floor on the Island and plays host to many live music acts including the annual Beach & Soul Music Festival. Other places to find weekly live music is Monkey Business, Jazz Corner and Club Marisol. Riders Lounge is definitely worth a look as well with live music, comedy acts and monthly theme parties.

There is so much to do on Hilton Head Island that you could keep busy for months, if you have the money and a place to stay. Quite simply it is one of the best vacation spots in the US. From the golf, shopping, beaches and outdoor activities there is simply something for everyone and we didn't even delve into the history and tours. If given the opportunity, visit Hilton Head, SC, you will have a great vacation.

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