With a strong desire to be somewhere else and our Covid-19 vaccinations wrapped up, we decided to relocate to Hilton Head, S.C. for the last two weeks of March. A number of people we know from our golf club have been going there in March for several years, so we opted to follow the crowd.
We had visited the island once previously, but it was 25 years ago so this was effectively like visiting for the first time. The availability of multiple golf courses on or near the island was one of the motivators for us, as was the possibility of milder weather than in our home state of New Jersey. The addition of water views, which we find soothing, helped to seal the deal. It’s still spring on the East Coast, so weather is always a bit of a mixed bag, and over our two weeks there were some chilly days, one very rainy day, but some very pleasant and warm days especially towards the end of our stay. Just prior to our arrival was especially nice, we were told, but it’s all about timing.
We drove down and back in straight shots. The outbound trip to S.C. was without incident, but it took 12 hours with stops for restroom breaks and a picnic lunch that we brought along in our well-stuffed vehicle. The return home wasn’t as much fun. Add an hour due to miserable traffic in Washington D.C. We got through the area early on the trip down, but hit it mid-afternoon on the return. Anyone who has driven in the D.C. area knows it has some of the worst traffic in the country.
The main attractions of Hilton Head are basically the golf courses, the beach and boating. If you aren’t into one of those then you could find it a pretty boring place. The beach is wide and flat and is ideal for walking. There also are a number of paved walking trails that we took advantage of. We could walk from our condo in Shelter Cover to the beach if we wished; it was about 2.5 miles each way through the Palmetto Dunes enclave.
The island isn’t all tourists, though I’m sure in the summer months in particular it is quite jammed. The island is large enough that there are a number number of year-round residents, and the sizable year-round population means you aren’t subjected to the resort-town “tax” of overpriced groceries and/or liquor. We found prices at the nearby Kroger to be similar to what we where used to at home. There are multiple grocery stores on the island, from high-end like Whole Foods and Fresh Market, to Bi-Lo and the aforementioned Kroger.
Our condo had two bedrooms and two baths and as is evident from the photos, the required water views. It was comfortable and in a good location. We did have an issue with being interrupted by some work being done at the building involving the HVAC systems; the owner refunded $300 of our rent for the disruptions and for the fact the heat was spotty until the work was completed. We thought the refund was fair.
March is a shoulder season. The weather is nice enough that there was a pop in the number of people around from Thursday evening into Sunday; Sunday night through Wednesday it was quieter. It was evident at the restaurants, but also the golf courses. We ate breakfast at our condo as well as some dinners. When active we tend not to be big lunch eaters. When we did go out, even though fully vaccinated we remained respectful of Covid and stayed outdoors save for one occasion, and in that instance we were in a spot where air flow from the outside was notable.
South Carolina, like many Southern states, is squishy on mask requirements but not as hostile as Florida. Mask use was mandated indoors and in crowds in HH when we were there. People by and large were compliant. We saw the usual person here and there wearing their masks like chin straps, but it wasn’t any more common than what we have observed at home. We decided before the advent of vaccines that when out walking we would keep a mask handy but don’t as a rule wear it full time if not in a crowd. We decided long ago the risks were low in just passing somebody on the street.
As for the restaurants, we found all of the places we dined at to be generally good, but most had fairly similar menus. It was heavily seafood oriented as one might expect, and we did indulge in a lot of seafood. It was all very fresh, no complaints on that front. We didn’t go to any restaurants that were trying to be more “high end,” so can’t comment on those. There was one next door to our condo, called ELA’s Grill, that looked very intriguing but for multiple reasons we were never able to make it there. Maybe another time.
Of the places we did visit, Crazy Crab was a nice surprise. The setting was quite lovely. Also very relaxing and a nice setting was Skull Creek Dockside. For scenic views Old Oyster Factory and Fish Camp were standouts. The latter makes a good Bloody Mary. Each was across Broad Creek from our condo, which isn’t really a creek. It’s a salt marsh that flows out to the Intracoastal Waterway and ultimately the Atlantic. We observed high and low tide from the condo.
We also went to two well-known places that are local institutions of sorts. At the north end of the island is Hudson’s. Been around for years and is run by a family that dominates the local oyster industry. (Oysters were good there and pretty much everywhere.) Salty Dog is at the other end of the island in Sea Pines Plantation. Again, in both cases the food and service were good enough, but we could probably pass on each in the future. Hudson’s is too crowded and Salty Dog doesn’t seem different enough to pay the $9.00 surcharge to enter the Sea Pines area. But if you go down there to check out the area, home to the famous but fake lighthouse visible from the PGA tour stop, by all means check it out.
Finally, on our one really dreary and rainy day we were able to get in the requisite souvenir shopping at Coligny Plaza and later that day stopped at the Island Winery near the airport for a tasting. Those who know us know it’s a frequent pastime. We didn’t expect much but the red wines the winery made from grapes purchased from California were actually quite good. The winemaker still has to be skilled at the practice and whoever made the wines there did a good job. We were told they usually get grapes from Chile also, though they didn’t make it this year due to Covid.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on golf as there are many better ways for those interested to research what is available. One of our Yardley CC friends handled most of the arrangements; all we had to do was show up and play, so it was easy. For the record (and our future recollections), we played Oyster Reef, the Country Club of Hilton Head, Golden Bear, Hilton Head National, Dolphin Head, Old South, Palmetto Hall Cupp Course, and Palmetto Dunes Arthur Hills Course. The last two were the most challenging; playing them at the end of a two-week vacation maybe wasn’t the smartest move. The Cupp course wasn’t a favorite, but the others we liked for different reasons. The Palmetto Dunes course was the prettiest and probably our favorite. We may try the Trent Jones course there on another visit.
Additional pictures from the trip follow.