July 2008

Outside Hilton Head: The Ultimate Lowcountry Day

Author: Paul deVere | Photographer: John Brackett

They have arrived on their annual journey to your beautiful home in the Lowcountry. Your grandchildren/your grandparents/your parents/your brothers/your sisters/their families are always more than welcome. But you’ve noticed over the years that by the fourth day of their stay, you’re a little frazzled.

You also know from experience that the golfers will be sore, the beach goers will be “beached out,” and the shoppers will start maxing out their credit cards. But because you’re smart (you live here and they don’t), you’ve planned ahead. You figure it’s about time your family got to know the real Lowcountry. You want them to see it beyond the green fairways and tennis courts, beyond the beach and the nice restaurants. So, on the fourth day you want them to get up close and personal with, say, pluff mud.

“I could swear you said ‘pluff mud.’”

“I did. We’re all going on a little adventure.”

“I just did my nails!”

Ignoring the young lady’s pout, you line up your little group and off you go on what is possibly one of the coolest “things to do” in your neighborhood: a custom designed day exploring the waters, marsh and small islands that surround Hilton Head. Outside Hilton Head calls it the “Ultimate Low Country Day.” It’s a private, guided, interactive tour of the natural wonders that we usually see from afar (unless an alligator decides to visit your back porch).

Outside Hilton Head, which started out as a windsurfing school back in 1979, is now the foremost “outfitter” in the Lowcountry. Other than jet skies and parasailing, if it has anything to do with water, including fishing, Outside Hilton Head probably has it covered. Kayaking, beachcombing, dolphin tours, tubing, water skiing, paddle boarding, boat rentals, you name it. The company even has its own island (actually a 30-acre chain of eight islands) called Page Island. Mike Overton, Outside Hilton Head founder and president said, “We usually describe it to folks as if they were arriving at a location for the Survivor show.” Located along the backside of Daufuskie Island, it is truly “back of beyond,” a popular destination for the “Ultimate Day.”

Overton said, “It’s a great place to get together for fun and games. There are shelters, campsites, restrooms. On the dock, we go shrimping, crabbing and fishing.” Page Island is also the site of Outside Hilton Head’s corporate and group team building programs.

The “guided” part of the Low Country Day is critical. All Outside Hilton Head guides go through extensive training, including a two-day seminar with famed naturalist Todd Ballentine. Ballentine is the author of Tideland Treasures, an extremely popular illustrated guide to Lowcountry flora and fauna. “He’s a great nature and wildlife interpreter and really focuses on taking what they just see and making it real. Todd could walk up to a bush and entertain you for an hour,” Overton said, laughing.
Creating the “Ultimate Day” with one of Outside Hilton Head’s specialists is part of the fun. First of all, it’s just you and your group, your USCG licensed captain and guide and your boat. It is a very private affair. Backwater boating takes you out into the rivers and creeks that run through the marsh where your nearest neighbor will probably be a beautiful blue heron, looking for lunch. In more open water, there is a good chance a bottlenose dolphin will eye you curiously from a few feet away.

“We go to islands you can only get to by boat. We can go to Daufuskie (we keep a fleet of golf carts there) and tour the island. The kids like to head for beach,” said Overton. “It’s great for beachcombing.”

The “Ultimate Day” also brings families and friends closer together: the authenticity, the chance of discovery, the simple pleasure of tubing on a tidal creek, spending time in an environment unlike any other you have experienced with those you love.

At the end of the day you won’t be frazzled anymore. The golfers and shoppers and beachgoers will have become beachcombers, shrimpers and wanderers. The young lady’s nails might be chipped from the sea shells she collected on the beach, but after the “Ultimate Day,” that just won’t seem important.

To learn more about the “Ultimate Low Country Day,” visit www.outsidehiltonhead.com or stop by Outside Hilton Head’s outfitters shop at the Plaza at Shelter Cove.

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