Explore the Beaches of Hilton Head Island
Author: Kent Thune
Chances are, since you’re reading this magazine, you have been to at least one of the beaches on Hilton Head Island. Hopefully you’re on the beach right now. But have you been to all of them? And if there are some you haven’t seen, do you know where they are located and why you might want to visit them? If the answer to any of those questions is no, you’ll want to keep reading.
Although the entire Hilton Head Island beach is public, access to the beach in many areas is private. Fortunately, for residents and visitors, the Town of Hilton Head Island provides beach access via some of the best beach parks in the country. Here are our favorites in alphabetical order:
Alder Lane Beach Park is the southern most of the beaches on the island and is located at 2 Woodward Avenue, off South Forest Beach Drive. For many of us, the beach is a place to relax, and because Alder Lane Beach is less crowded than most, you should have no trouble finding a quiet spot to soak in some rays and read that book you’ve been meaning to finish. The park provides handicap beach matting, outdoor showers, restrooms, seasonal lifeguards and metered parking.
Burkes Beach, located at 60 Burkes Beach Road, provides a handful of metered parking spaces, but there is plenty of additional free parking at nearby Chaplin Community Park. Walk a short distance to the end of Burkes Beach Road, and you’ll get to the beach via a sandy path. Once you land on the beach, for an added treat, you can turn right and walk a few hundred yards to a channel inlet that yields a large wading pool at high tide. At low tide, there are often smaller wading pools that are fun for the entire family, especially those who are a little worried about sharks. You’ll also find outdoor showers and restrooms. Burkes is the only public beach park without matting or boardwalk, so the beach is not handicapped-accessible.
Coligny Beach Park is located at 1 Coligny Circle, which is one of the busier parts of town, because it’s next to Coligny Plaza, a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. There you will find landscaped walking and biking paths, plus Wi-Fi, swings and beach-equipment rentals. So if you’re looking for a fun day in the sun with plenty of things to do and nearby shopping, restaurants and bars, Coligny is the place for you. Restroom facilities are also available, and you will find designated free parking across the street in the Pope Avenue parking lot.
Driessen Beach Park, located at 64 Bradley Beach Road, provides outdoor showers, playgrounds, restrooms, a picnic pavilion and walking paths through the vast wooded area that is covered by live oaks and pines. Even though this park is a little challenging to find, and the walk out to the beach is a bit long, you won’t often see crowds here; there is a boardwalk, and the final destination sure is worth it. The beach is wide and the ocean water is relatively shallow, which makes for great wading and swimming for visitors of all ages. Parking meters accept cash and credit cards; beach pass parking is available for island residents.
Folly Field Beach, located at 55 Starfish Drive, is informally considered by residents and long-time visitors as a “locals” beach, but visitors are more than welcome to discover and enjoy this spot as well. The park itself is wooded and the beach is a short boardwalk stroll away from metered parking. Like most of the other beach parks on our favorites list, beach matting is laid down at the end of the boardwalk seasonally, making the route to the shore handicapped accessible. The park also provides outdoor showers and restrooms.
Islanders Beach Park, located at 94 Folly Field Road, was named by Coastal Living magazine as one of the top 21 beaches in the United States. With a playground, shady picnic pavilions, grill, restrooms and sand showers, it’s easily one of the best places to bring the whole family or a group of friends for a long day at the beach. As its name suggests, this beach is loved by locals, because it’s less crowded than most, and the gentle underwater slope makes it swimmer-friendly. Metered parking is available along with plenty of parking for islanders with beach passes.
Mitchelville Beach Park, located at 124 Mitchelville Road, is unique in that the beach there is the most natural setting of any of the other public beaches in Hilton Head Island. There may not be as many amenities, but this wonderful beach is one of the more hidden ones—you have to drive down a dirt road just to get there. But that’s part of the charm of this little-known gem. So if you want to see more nature and fewer people, head to Mitchelville Beach. Mornings and evenings are best for beautiful views of sand, sea grass and ocean.
Whether you want to see a natural beach, play in the white sand, bask in the warm sun, frolic in the surf, or walk along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Hilton Head Island has over 12 miles of some of the best beaches in the United States. It’s no wonder that our little Lowcountry island has been recognized as one of the top family beaches in the country and is widely recognized as one of the most relaxing vacation spots anywhere on the map.
Best of all, the beautiful beach parks, with their welcoming amenities make beach life even more amazing for residents and visitors alike. Now go explore the beaches of Hilton Head Island!
For information about annual beach passes, available to island residents only, call (843) 342-4580.