10 Things to See and Do for Free on Hilton Head Island
Author: Kent Thune
The best things in life are free. And in a resort paradise like Hilton Head Island, there are many places to go and things to see that are extremely valuable but have no monetary cost. We could probably list over 100 outstanding things to see and do for free on Hilton Head Island, but we can easily share 10 with you here.
Coastal Discovery Museum: Explore natural history and cultural heritage of the Lowcountry on the 68-acre Honey Horn property. Inside the Discovery House, you’ll find permanent exhibits, including an interactive touch screen exhibit, that will introduce you to Hilton Head Island’s history and environment. Outside the museum, you can enjoy trails, gardens, live oaks, and Marsh Tacky horses, to name just a few of the fun experiences you will encounter during your visit. And don’t miss the native butterflies from May through October in the Karen Wertheimer Butterfly Habitat, a Venus Fly Trap and other plants that trap insects in the Carnivorous Plants Bog Garden, 30 plant species with historical Lowcountry relevance in the Heritage Garden, and over 120 varieties of camellia plants in the Camellia Garden. The museum is located at 70 Honey Horn Drive.
Island Bike Paths: The best way to explore the island is by bike. According to The Town of Hilton Head Island, there are nearly 60 miles of public pathways and nature trails on which pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy the sites and scenery around the island. In addition, there are more than 50 miles of pathways and shared roadways within the private developments. So if you are a resident, or a guest with a gate pass, you can also take a relaxing ride in a plantation such as Hilton Head Plantation, Sea Pines or Palmetto Dunes. According to mapmyride.com, there are 7,845 different routes bikers can explore, which means that almost any destination on the island, including beaches, shopping, and restaurants can be reached by bike path.
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge: Named after Charles Pinckney, who was the father of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a Revolutionary War General and signer of the United States Constitution, this gem of an island located between Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, includes 10 miles of hiking trails where visitors can take in the beautiful water scenery of Skull Creek and diverse wildlife that includes white-tailed deer, white ibis, herons, egrets, American alligators, flatwoods salamanders, nine-banded armadillos, bald eagles, and wood storks. The refuge is accessible from the HWY 278 Bridge or by a brief canoe trip from Hilton Head Island, launching from Squire Pope Road.
Shelter Cove Towne Centre: A wonderful combination of park and shopping area, the Towne Centre at Shelter Cove offers some of the best free things to do on Hilton Head Island. Enjoy simple pleasures such as a beautiful sunset over Broad Creek, along with live music and activities for kids. It’s also a great place to find your own space on the waterfront lawn and catch the Shelter Cove Harbour fireworks, on display every Tuesday night during the summer season. Go to sheltercovetownecentre.com for more details and event schedules online.
Arts Center of Coastal Carolina: While there are often amazing performances going on at the Arts Center that require purchasing a ticket to attend, there are plenty of free things to do and see year round. In February, you’ll want to catch the Taste of Gullah Festival, which is an annual event showcasing the cultural heritage of West African descendants in coastal South Carolina. In March, there’s the Youth Arts Fest, which features dance, theater performances, and arts and crafts for kids. In the last week of November, watch for the annual Christmas tree lighting. And in collaboration with the Art League of Hilton Head, you can come see artist exhibits that change monthly. The Arts Center is located at 14 Shelter Cove Lane.
Picture This Gallery: Featuring the art of longtime Lowcountry resident, Mira Scott, this 500-square-foot gallery, located at 26 Palmetto Bay Road, can be a wonderful way to spend time relaxing and taking in Mira’s warm, whimsical and visually appealing art. You can also enjoy one of her hosted events that feature noted artists, student art shows and local authors. She is also the author of a published adult coloring book, Between the Pages. For a sampling of her art, you can visit online at picturethis.server265.com or at miramirastudio.com.
Mitchelville Freedom Park: Before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 and at the height of the Civil War, a group of escaped slaves began creating their own living space on the grounds of the former Drayton Plantation on Hilton Head Island. Union General Ormsby Mitchel helped them to create an actual town, instead of the more prevalent camps of the time. This new town of freedmen was built with orderly streets, simple but accommodating wooden homes and a church. Mitchelville became the first community in the history of the United States where former slaves were free to govern themselves. The park is located at 229 Beach City Road. Be sure to visit nearby Mitchelville Beach, an amazingly beautiful and well-preserved natural beach located at 120 Mitchelville Road.
Jarvis Creek Park: Located at 50 Jarvis Creek Road, just off of William Hilton Parkway on the north end of Hilton Head Island, you’ll be rewarded by a visit to this small but beautiful park, complete with trails, a fishing dock, a large grass meadow, grills, a picnic pavilion, a playground, and clean restrooms. Enjoy a day of food and fun with family and friends or just drop in for a jog or scenic walk around the fitness trail that overlooks a large pond.
Crossings Park: Located at 4 Haig Point Circle off of Arrow Road, Crossings may be the best park for non-beach recreation on the island. There, you can use and enjoy baseball fields, open meadows, a soccer field, a playground, a concrete hockey rink, a skate park, and plenty of trails, including a few moderately challenging bike trails complete with small hills, berms and plenty of tight turns. You’ll also find a picnic pavilion and restrooms at the park.
The Beaches: You can’t have a complete list of the best free things to do on Hilton Head Island without a mention of our gorgeous beaches! Just to name a few of the best public beaches on the island, with plenty of free and metered parking, you’ll want to check out Burkes Beach on the north end, located at 60 Burkes Beach Road, and Coligny Beach on the south end, located at the end of Pope Avenue off Coligny Circle. Both beaches have outdoor showers and restrooms. In addition, Coligny has beach matting for handicapped access, seasonal life guards, seasonal rentals, and Wi-Fi.
Now go and enjoy paradise for free!
Kent Thune, CFP®, is a money manager and the owner of a Hilton Head Island investment advisory firm, Atlantic Capital Investments. He is also a freelance writer and is currently working on a book to be published later in 2016. You can follow his musings on mind, money and mastery of life at TheFinancialPhilosopher.com or on Twitter @ThinkersQuill.