Okay, gather round closely, because I’m going to say something controversial here. Are you ready for it?
We went to Hilton Head Island, and we didn’t love it.
It was fall, so it was off season, which may have affected our experience. But y’all I don’t know what all the hype is about.
We stayed at the Marriott SurfWatch property, which really couldn’t have been nicer. We had a really nice room with a view of the ocean. The rooms are actually more like condos, with a full kitchen and living room area. I think they would be great with a family. The resort had really nice pools and a beautiful beach area. Even in the fall we found that the water was still warm enough for the outdoor pool. There was a beach bar with good drinks and decent food. The resort is also conveniently located to grocery stores and other things on the island. I think our mistake was leaving the resort property. We like to go out adventuring and check out the local restaurants when we visit somewhere new, and this is where things went downhill.
We headed out to see the famous Hilton Head lighthouse. The lighthouse is in the Sea Pines Resort community. We didn’t realize we couldn’t just drive right up, the community is gated, and they charge an $8 dollar (cash only) fee for a day pass. They advertise this as a luxury gated golf resort, and while there were some gorgeous homes it was mostly condos that were built in the mid 80’s and nothing special.
We finally made our way to the lighthouse and found a bunch of kitschy t-shirt shops all selling the same thing in the area. For an additional $4.25 per person you can climb the 90 foot lighthouse and take in the view (and another t-shirt shop at the top). We opted not to do this, instead walking around and checking out the scene. We drove around the resort area and checked out several different shopping spots and restaurants hoping to find something less cheesy, but no such luck. We did make our way onto the beach here, and it is beautiful. The beach is wide with plenty of room for running and playing, so that’s a pro!
We ended up having lunch at Fishcamp on Broad Creek after leaving the Sea Pines area and doing some driving around the island. This was probably our best find of the trip. The atmosphere was great, we sat outside, the weather was perfect and the food was good.
Based on the recommendations of several people we made a dinner reservation at Il Carpaccio. I’m not going to go into to much detail about this place, because some people clearly love it, but we left. After they served our bottle of wine and salad. We paid for it and wasted a full bottle of wine. I have never ever left a restaurant after placing my order. EVER.
We found ourselves in the parking lot of the restaurant starving and with no plan for dinner. OKKO, a hibachi restaurant was close and seemed like a safe choice, so we went for it. The food was standard hibachi, good but nothing special. The family at the table with us were locals and they told us about the Purple Cow Bakery next door, so we picked up a slice of cake on the way back to the hotel. We figured we had earned it. It was really good cake, which we obviously ate for breakfast the next day.
After returning to the hotel, we discovered what was probably the best part of the trip. The island has what appears to be very strict lighting codes, so when you’re out at night it is super dark. When we ventured out onto the beach at night, we realized this made for the BEST stargazing. We sat out on the beach for a long time enjoying the fact that we could see so many stars.
The next day we ventured out looking for some other things going on on the island, and mostly found more t-shirt shops. We decided to abandon looking for the fun spots on the island and head back to our resort to just hangout. We rented bikes from the resort and rode down the beach and had a great time. We spent the afternoon at Sea Salts, the resorts beach bar, watching college football and eating. We had planned to venture out for dinner again, but after striking out so many times, we decided to order Carraba’s take-out, because it was right at the entrance to the resort, and at least there would be no surprises.
While the beaches at Hilton Head were beautiful this really just wasn’t our scene. We loved the resort, and had we gone in with a different mindset of just hanging at the resort and relaxing instead of trying to explore somewhere new, this may have been an entirely different experience.
Here’s the thing… I think if you planned to golf all day there may be a lot for you here. If you have a family and you plan to stay in and cook, there were plenty of nice resorts with big pools and beach access and you would never have to leave. Sometimes hanging at a nice resort and stargazing is just what you need, so it definitely isn’t all bad.
However, there really is not much in the restaurant scene, which is probably one of our top things about going on vacation. Hilton Head is VERY commercial with all the chain restaurants you can imagine and a huge outlet mall with ALL the stores. Obviously, this sounds perfect to many people, or it wouldn’t be such a popular spot. So to each their own I guess.
Have you been to Hilton Head? What did you think? I’d love to know!