Hilton Head Day Trips

Photo by Liz Mitchell

Lowcountry culture, history and art in small towns and scenic drives off Hilton Head Island

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Hilton Head offers a diversity of day trips beyond the usual activities. Visitors often choose to spend every day on the beach or golf course with evenings in restaurants plus some interspersed shopping expeditions. However, the true story of the South Carolina Lowcountry predates Hilton Head Island itself. It is best viewed with a day trip or two off the island to the north and west where history is on display. You may choose to stay in an upscale resort on Hilton Head, but plan to schedule a few days off island.

One Day in Bluffton

Bluffton is older than Hilton Head and holds stories of the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. Boutique and art shopping easily fill a day in the small river town.  Begin with the Heyward House museum. Then take a self-guided walking tour through the old town. Don’t miss the Bluffton Oyster Company, the only one remaining in South Carolina, and nearby the Church of the Cross. Dozens of unique local dining choices in Bluffton are inviting.

One Day North of the Broad

The Broad River runs through the middle of the county, and many of the historic sites are north of the Broad. From Hilton Head drive north to Beaufort via US 170 to SC 802. The museum on Parris Island offers much more than military history. It’s the military installation where U.S. Marines are trained, and it is welcoming to the public.

Nearby, the small town of Port Royal boasts history predating the recognized settling of America. Take a quick walking tour through old town. Enjoy architectural gems from the late 1800s. For a true nature walk, enjoy the Cypress Wetlands. This includes displays of more than 200 species of birds along with indigenous plants and trees. You will find it most colorful during spring and summer.

Beaufort is a quaint town on the Intracoastal Waterway. Beaufort’s entire downtown is designated a historic district. Also, 90 individual historic sites include cemeteries, bed and breakfast inns, private homes, churches and other buildings which also are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Cemetery,where 14,000 veterans are buried, is one of six established in 1863. It is a unique wheel-shaped design. A horse-drawn carriage tour or walking tour with an expert guide is the best choice to get an overview of the history.

Visit the Santa Elena History Center downtown and learn about the Spanish settlement in Beaufort County which was more than 40 years before the English settled Jamestown, Virginia.

A stop downtown offers fresh local seafood on the waterfront, maybe at Plum’s for lunch or Saltus for dinner.

Second Day North of the Broad

Drive a few miles farther south outside Beaufort to Frogmore, a tiny rural community. It’s near the Martin Luther King Road which leads to Penn Center, the Brick Church, the Chapel of Ease ruins and Fort Freemont at Land’s End.  Stop for a shopping experience at Red Piano Too.  Enjoy one of the largest collections of folk art creations by many Gullah artists. You might recognize international masters such as Jonathan Green and James Denmark. A weekend brunch at Foolish Frog (yes, it’s in Frogmore) will be memorable too.

Optional Day Inland

Yemassee is another drive for a separate day trip if beautiful country views and historic sites are appreciated. It’s a few miles from Hilton Head and a world apart in style. The primary feature is the stately ruins of the Old Sheldon Church. This church was burned by the British in the 1779. Then it was rebuilt and burned again during Sherman’s march in 1865. Nearby, visit Harold’s Country Club outside Yemassee. Get a beverage  and a whole new definition of country club.

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