It was nearly 18 years ago that my husband and I discussed potentially relocating from Lexington, KY to Atlanta, GA. There were many things we liked about Atlanta, and one of them was it’s location: You can drive to the Atlantic Coast in around 5 hours, and down to the Gulf of Mexico in about 6. And there’s a huge international airport that can fly you to pretty much anywhere else.
When the kids were young, almost all of our trips were to Florida, both the Gulf side and the Atlantic side. It’s an easy getaway for families, and there are so many different things to explore, we rarely did or saw the same thing twice. We have also travelled to the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in Alabama a few times, both much like the Gulf destinations in Florida. Besides Florida and Alabama, we’ve also hit up the Savannah, GA and Tybee Island area, as well as Charleston and Folly Beach areas in SC.
We had only been to Hilton Head Island once before, and that was in January last year. We had been in Augusta, doing some work at my parent’s rental house and decided instead of going straight home, we’d head over and check it out. Because it was the off-season, most of the “touristy” stuff was closed, and it was too cold to sit out on the beach. But we did enjoy a nice walk on the beach as well as some good meals at local restaurants.
This time around we were heading up to watch a friend perform in the local production of Saturday Night Fever, put on by the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. Originally, we planned on going up on Friday, but Thursday arrived and we had nothing else to do, so we decided to go a day early. There wasn’t a lot to choose from for last minute accommodations, and the Airbnb that I had reserved for Friday and Saturday wasn’t available Thursday. We ended up at the Park Lane Inn. It’s not the fanciest hotel on the island, but it sufficed for one night. The front desk area is nice, and the grounds were nicely kept, but the rooms are a bit old, with a kitchenette area, and a tiny bathroom. All of the rooms are suites and have a little balcony (ours looked out over the parking lot). There were several families enjoying the pool area and it’s a dog-friendly place. The hotel provides breakfast in the morning, but we did not eat there as we wanted to head to the beach.
For the next two nights we stayed in an Airbnb at Seaside Villas II which are located right next to Coligny Park Beach. This is a perfect area as you can walk to shops, restaurants, and, of course, THE BEACH. The other nice thing is this is a gated community with an attendant out front, so you don’t have to worry about not finding parking and it is somewhat secure. The building itself is fairly old, but the unit we stayed in was in very good condition. It definitely was not fancy or high end, but for a casual beach weekend it worked out fine. This complex also has a pool, but we did not visit it. There is a lovely path from the parking lot out to the ocean. We took a walk on the beach each evening while we were there and it was absolutely beautiful in the moonlight. You can find rentals on VRBO, Airbnb, and other vacation rental sites.
On our previous visit in January the year before, we stayed at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa, which was nice. Their ocean front pool area is beautiful and it was lovely to see the sunrise over the ocean from our balcony. I posted an Instagram picture of our view, and the resort even re-posted it! I recall the room being spacious and having a very comfy bed. We did not dine at any of the on-site restaurants, but I believe there were a few.
As far as the beaches go, they have nice, soft sand and are in good condition. I liked being at Coligny Beach because there are restrooms and showers as well as several restaurants and shops. If you are not at a resort or hotel that provides chairs and umbrellas, there are plenty of them set up on the beach for $35/per day. Just grab any that do not have someone’s name or say “reserved” and someone will come to you to collect payment. The umbrella was well worth the cost, as it was so hot while we were there; the umbrella provided nice shade and a cooler area in which to relax. Many people bring their own chairs and umbrellas, especially families with kids but if you don’t want the hassle, rent them while you are there.
There are also lots of places to rent bikes, and lots of bike riders out and about (so be cautious when driving!) You can also rent all the other typical beach stuff: kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis, etc. as well as go on tours, cruises, and ziplines. This was a very short little weekend trip, so we did not do any of that, but plan on some of these activities for our next trip up there.
We did visit the Harbour Town Light House. It’s less than $5 to go in and climb the stairs to the top. All along the ascent, there are pictures and artifacts to look at and read about, so it’s really like a little museum. The view from the top is beautiful and there is (of course) a gift shop. Harbour Town is actually in the Sea Pines Resort, and there is a small fee to get in, but there are several boutiques, shops, and restaurants all over as well as activities. We watched a pirate cruise depart as we were having lunch at a dockside restaurant (more on that below).
For evening activities, we enjoyed music at The Jazz Corner on Friday night. They do serve dinner there, but we had already dined elsewhere, so we just had cocktails and dessert. It was only $15 per person to get in, and the drinks were of average price ($8-$12). We did not have a reservation and were lucky enough to get the last available table which was right next to the stage. The music was fabulous – I definitely recommend stopping here, but you might want to get a reservation. And, it really is in the corner – of the strip mall. It took us a minute to find it, as it is sort of tucked away. The cool thing is they have outdoor seating with a large TV so you can see the show from the patio.
Our last night there was to see our friend Mary Beth in the Art Center’s production of Saturday Night Fever. The venue is very nice, and there didn’t appear to be a bad seat in the house. We were in the center balcony and had a perfect view of the stage. The facility seems newer and the staff and volunteers working are all very nice. The show was fantastic! I recommend checking out their website to see what shows are playing during your stay and purchase tickets in advance for popular shows like this one.
FOOD AND DINING
OK, to be completely honest, one of our favorite things to do while traveling is eat. We love finding restaurants with quality food and good cocktails. And a good dessert is always nice, too. We received lots of good recommendations from friends, but unfortunately we were not able to try them all! They are on our list (as well as listed at the bottom of this post) so we can try them out next time.
Our first meal was probably our favorite of the trip. We did our usual thing: checked in to the hotel, laid on the bed and looked at Yelp for about a half hour to decide where to go. This place had an interesting menu, cocktails that sounded like they were right up our alley, and lots of good reviews. We did not have reservations, so we sat at the bar (which, honestly, we prefer). We started with the fried chicken skins and a couple cocktails. The chicken skins were good – salty and crispy, but we only ate half of them to save room for our entrees. The lady next to us had a salad and the deviled eggs, and said that both were very good. I tried one of their draft cocktails – the Old Brooklyn which was comprised of Larceny bourbon, a Luxardo maraschino cherry, Averna (an Italian sweet and slightly bitter liqueur), Dolin dry vermouth, Solerno blood orange, and Angostura bitters. It was so good, I had two. My husband ordered a craft cocktail, that he said was fantastic. For our entrees I had a shrimp and rice dish that was very good, and my husband had the Fish and Beans, which was a crispy trout on a variety of beans including limas and field peas. He devoured it! We ordered coffee and the flourless skillet brownie for dessert but only ate half of it because we were so full. The bartenders were awesome and so was the food. Highly recommend.
The next morning we decided to check out of the hotel to explore the beach and get a bite to eat. We found parking at Coligny Beach Park and wandered around the shopping area until we overheard someone recommending Skillets Cafe to another couple. There was a 20 minute wait, so put in our name and wandered around for bit. The hostess and servers were very nice. My husband can’t do dairy, so he asked if he could have the seafood omelet dairy free with no cheese or sauce. She checked with the kitchen to be sure, and determined that was fine. I wanted a crepe, as they had several on the menu but they all had scrambled eggs in them. Since a crepe is already made from eggs, and my stomach can’t handle very many, I asked for the veggie crepe with no scrambled eggs and a side of potatoes. We also ordered some french toast, even though neither of us can really have it, we each wanted just a taste. Well, apparently our special order was too confusing for the kitchen because the manager came over, sat down, and tried to understand our order. Once we made her understand that there weren’t any allergies – just digestive issues – and explained again what we wanted, she seemed satisfied. When the food arrived, my husband’s omelet was exactly as ordered, the french toast was fine, but my “crepe” had no crepe – it was simply a plate of veggies with a side of potatoes. The server was going to have them re-do it and I said no, just bring over a plain crepe and I can assemble it with the veggies I had. That said, even though the order was confusing, the service was very friendly and prompt. As far as breakfast food goes, I’d say it’s pretty basic – nothing special but if you want eggs or pancakes or whatever the standard fair is, you’ll do just fine.
After breakfast, we hit the beach, then checked in to our Airbnb at 3:00. After unpacking and showering we decided to head over to the Old Oyster Factory. They did not have any reservations available before 8:30 (it was 5:00 on Friday) so we decided to just risk it, head over, and hopefully sit at the bar. It’s in a beautiful location overlooking the marsh, just 20 minutes northeast of Coligny Park. They have a large parking lot with attendants directing traffic, so there was no problem finding a spot. It’s a large building with outdoor and indoor dining and a sort of rustic feel. The bar area had huge floor to ceiling windows, so you could look out over the wetlands. There were lots of families dining together, as well as couples. The drinks and food were very good, but they had a feeling of “mass production” to them – quality food but without any special touch. We started with some cocktails, raw oysters, and fried green tomatoes. The oysters were very fresh and good, and the fried green tomatoes were delicious, with some sort of tomato sauce on top. Before serving our entrees, they gave us a basket of hushpuppies that were to die for – but we didn’t want to fill up on them so we only ate a couple. I had an almond crusted mahi-mahi served with parmesan rice and green beans. It was very good, but the fish was a little over cooked and tough, not flakey and moist as I would have expected. My husband had the pecan crusted grouper, also served with the parmesan rice and veggies, but this dish had a nice peach beurre blanc sauce with an onion jam on the side. I liked his fish better than mine, as it wasn’t as dry and had better flavor. We skipped dessert, deciding to get that somewhere else later. All in all, a good meal, but there are definitely better places to eat.
I mentioned previously that we went here to listen to some music for our evening entertainment. They do have a full menu and serve dinner, but since we already ate dinner, we decided to just have drinks and dessert. By the looks of what the folks around us were eating, they have a good menu. We ordered some cocktails – I had a French 75 (a gin and champagne drink) that was tasty; I can’t remember exactly what Chip ordered, but it had egg whites in it and was served in a coup glass – and it took a little longer for him to get his drink because, as the waiter told us, “it’s a labor intensive drink.” We had the mini pineapple bundt cake for dessert, which pretty good, but nothing spectacular. What was great about this place was the performers.
The next day we met up with our friends to have lunch at the Sea Pines Resort. We ended up at The Quarterdeck which is in Harbour Town next to the lighthouse. We sat outside, overlooking the water. Even though it was quite hot out, there was a little breeze coming off the water, and there were several fans from the roof of the dining area. We each enjoyed a glass of white sangria, which was good but nothing special. I had the crab cake BLT sandwich and it was fantastic. I think I inhaled that thing in record time. The other folks all had the catch of the day sandwich. The sandwiches were all served with a pickle and fries. The fish was fresh, and we decided we’d like to go back sometime to try their dinner menu.
Hinoki came highly recommended from several people, all claiming it was the best sushi in Hilton Head and possibly some of the best sushi they’ve ever had. I 100% agree that the sushi was very good, but it’s not the best I’ve ever had (I’ll have to write a post on my favorite sushi places one of these days). We met our friends there and were promptly seated at a standard table. They also have seating at the bar as well as tables on the floor – we considered it for a moment but decided to stick with the standard table. They have a nice wine selection and our server was fairly knowledgeable about the wines and made some good suggestions. We started with edamame, vegetable tempura, and a half order of ramen. The tempura had a nice texture and the veggies were huge. The ramen broth was delicious and the noodles nice and chewy – I think I would have liked to have a whole bowl of it for my entree, but I was there for the sushi. We ordered a variety of rolls as well as their Tuna Three Ways. I also ordered some nigiri – white tuna and mackerel, my two favorites – but sadly they did not have the mackerel ready for the evening, so I had to choose an alternate and went with yellow tail. The fish in the rolls and nigiri was all very fresh, tender, and clean tasting. The sushi came out on a large platter for sharing, which was nice. It seemed like a lot of sushi, but we devoured it! They also offer several cooked entrees, teriyaki, and for lunch they serve bento boxes. If you like sushi and are in Hilton Head, check out Hinoki. I know I’ll be back one of these days!
Our or way out of town on Sunday morning, we headed over to the Hilton Head Diner. The place was packed! Fortunately, our friends had called ahead and secured a table for us. It is your typical diner with all the normal stuff you’d expect for breakfast. There also had some wonderful sounding specials, like Oreo pancakes and an Italian sausage and eggs plate. Unfortunately, after a weekend of indulging in delicious food and drinks, my stomach just could not handle another heavy meal. I settled for some hash browns and fresh fruit, but looking around me, everything that was being served at the other tables looked good, and the folks in my group all enjoyed their breakfast. And, if the crowd was any indication, it’s a pretty popular spot.
The Places We Didn’t Get To
So, there were lots of recommendations from a variety of friends, but since it was a quick weekend trip, we just didn’t have time to get to them all. I compiled a list of all the recommendations below, and hope to try them out some day. My husband and I both agree that a trip back in the fall would be nice, when it isn’t quite as hot.
Skull Creek – Recommended by several people, so I’m bummed we didn’t make it there. The menu looks fantastic, and they are supposed to have amazing seafood as well as good lunch and dinner specials. Outdoor bar tabletops are first come first serve, and the sunsets are spectacular.
Black Marlin – Besides good food for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, the Hurricane Bar is supposed to be a fun place to hang out, and there is live music. Check their event schedule online.
Red Fish – This is the “sister restaurant” of the Old Oyster Factory. It’s award-winning and has an extensive wine list and a retail wine shop with over 1000 bottles. We’ve heard this place is fabulous for dinner, but be sure to make a reservation.
Vine – This place is highly rated on Yelp, and was recommended by a few friends. Very nice, and good for a “kid-free” meal. Definitely on the “next time we go” list!