On The Water: 7 Ways to Get on the Water
Author: Special To C2 Magazine
May is a great time to get out and enjoy what island life has to offer. For locals, it is that brief reprieve between the craziness of April (Heritage and Easter) and the influx of summer guests coming between June and August. If you happen to be a visitor reading this, then congratulations; you picked a good time to come. The temperatures haven’t topped out in the high 90s yet, and you beat the crowds. Which means it is an excellent time to go paddle boarding in South Beach, kayaking in Broad Creek, or floating in a tube down the May River. We present seven ways to get in (or around) the water.
Kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding
Nature-based kayaking and, more recently, stand-up paddle boarding, both combine a workout with peaceful exploration of the island’s nooks and crannies. Several outdoor outfitters on the island offer guided kayak tours and introductions to paddle boarding, or you can rent a kayak or paddleboard and go it alone. The best way to learn—especially paddle boarding—is to take a lesson, which is why you’ll see a lot of beginner paddle boarders navigating the waters on their knees at first and then graduating to the upright position where the core exercise really happens. In addition to Outside Hilton Head and H2O, kayak rentals are available at Kayak Hilton Head, Waterdog Outfitters, Live Oac, Palmetto Dunes Outfitters, and Marshgrass Adventures in Bluffton. This truly is the most eco-friendly way to see local flora and fauna.
Maybe you would like to enjoy the water from a short distance. If you aren’t afraid of heights and would like a bird’s eye view of the island, this could be the ticket for you.
Parasailing is being pulled behind a powerboat at a high rate of speed with a parachute keeping you aloft. And you have choices. You can go high (about 800 feet) or low (about 400 feet); you can go alone or in tandem with a friend/family member or frenemy. The views are stunning, and you’ll have plenty of chances to take in miles of shoreline, the surrounding landscape and the Harbour Town Lighthouse, of course. Sky Pirate Parasailing, located at Broad Creek Marina, offers comfortable seating for 12 on their boat, and should you want to be even more adventurous after seeing the water from the air, they also offer water-skiing and tubing.
Guided tours of the area’s beauty, especially behind the scenes in secluded spots like Page Island or Bull Island near Daufuskie, have become very popular, particularly when dolphins are involved. But the key is an informed and experienced guide/narrator, who can anticipate what you’ll be seeing and point you in the right direction. It’s best to book a trip that allows enough time to settle into the pace of island time—two or three hours at least. Some excursions include photo tours, with a knowledgeable photographer in the lead. These experienced professionals know where to look for bald eagles (more common than you might think) and alligators, where a telephoto lens is strongly recommended. Mike Overton and Outside Hilton Head have been setting the standard for outdoor adventures in the Lowcountry for over 30 years, and you can’t go wrong with a trip booked through this well-respected company. Harbour Town Adventures is another long-standing local company offering tours to get you up close and personal with wildlife.
Wind power is a peaceful power that puts you in touch with the very essence of Hilton Head Island, and the best way to relax is to put the captaining responsibility in the hands of a seasoned veteran. If you’ve been missing the boat up to now, head down to Palmetto Bay Marina and catch a gentle breeze via the Pau Hana or the Flying Circus, the Lowcountry’s most popular catamarans. Whether it’s daytime cruising, dolphin watching, sailing lessons, taking in a fabulous sunset or checking out the Tuesday night fireworks, your ticket awaits. Join the crowd on the 53-ft. long, 26-ft. wide Pau Hana, USCG certified for up to 49 passengers, or opt for a private cruise on the Flying Circus, which accommodates a maximum of six. Captain John, sailing area waters for over 25 years, and first mate Jeanne, Pau Hana host for 15 years, add personality and buzz to your tranquil trip. Catamarans are especially family-friendly, because they’re much more “beamy.” They’re an elegant way to discover Hilton Head Island waters.
May is a favorite month for local fishermen who eagerly await “cobia season” in the Lowcountry. A coastal species, cobia can be found year-round at offshore reefs. Starting in April and early May, the fish migrate up the coast and into estuaries, particularly in the Port Royal sound. Cobia are sold commercially and command a high price for their firm texture and excellent flavor. Redfish is also a sought after catch in the area, and these fish can generally be found closer to shore and in ponds throughout the island. The Internet is a great resource for booking the fishing trip that is right for you. By navigating through local websites and reviews of captains, you can hand pick the boat and time frame that suits you and your family.
The most relaxing, easily accomplished sport on the island requires very little equipment. Beach bathing takes no skill, requires very little space and can be accomplished in minutes or hours, depending on available quantities of sunscreen.
Beach amenities include restaurants nearby, a famous Tiki Hut, fountains and sprays, bicycle pathways leading to the beach and bicycle parking when you get there, comfortable and clean restrooms and, in some instances, changing facilities. The beach experience on Hilton Head Island is not your usual craziness. It’s somehow more refined, but not exclusive by any stretch—just relaxing, rejuvenating and refreshing.
Outside Hilton Head
With locations from Shelter Cove to Palmetto Bluff, there really isn’t much Outside Hilton Head doesn’t offer. If you can do it outside, you can do it with Outside Hilton Head. Some of their offerings include; guided kayak tours and kayak rentals, Stand Up Paddle boarding instruction and rentals, boating trips with customizable options like beachcombing, fishing, tubing and eco tours. They also offer many options for Kids Camps should you and you spouse choose to pursue your own adventure for the day, like their popular four-hour tour of neighboring Daufuskie Island.
Don’t let the name fool you. Even though they specialize in parasailing trips over Broad Creek, that’s not all they do. In addition to parasailing packages, tubing and water skiing and cruises, they also offer boat rentals. Plan a fun-filled day of activities with Sky Pirate Parasail and give your family something to remember and talk about for years to come.
This adventure company specializes in nature tours by bike or by kayak. Depart from and explore Broad Creek, Pinckney Island, the May River and New River. If you are looking for something a little slower, WaterDog also offers a guided tour of Pinkney Island, lead by an interpretive naturalist who will point out and discuss many of the finer points of this pristine island.
Whether you want to explore, relax or go fast, you can do it at Harbourtown Adventures. Zip around the lighthouse on a Yamaha wave runner, sit back and relax on a guided Dolphin Tour or explore Daufuskie Island for the day.
Pau Hana & Flying Circus
Let Captain John and First Mate Jeanne take you on a sailing adventure in the waters of Broad Creek Marina while you enjoy cocktails & snacks and keep an eye out for friendly dolphins. With two catamarans suited for small or large parties, this is a sailing adventure you will remember for years to come.