Planning a trip to the Hilton Head or Beaufort area this summer but unsure of what to do with the kiddos while there? After a recent trip to the area with her family, Kristina put together a list of 14 fun things to do with family while in the Hilton Head-Beaufort-Port Royal area. You’re sure to find the perfect activities for your next family trip to this area of the Lowcountry!
A family trip to the beach is the ultimate summer getaway but besides the beach, what else can you do there? I wanted to find out so I recently took my two kids (ages 7, 3) to the South Carolina coast right after school got out because it was take the trip or cry about how fast my kids are growing up.
Having moved to the Upstate four years ago, I had yet to venture to any of the South Carolina beaches but I had always heard about Hilton Head Island. Friends of mine would go every summer and loved it. I know lots of families feel the same who live here in Greenville. I started researching that island, as well as others nearby. I ended up finding a more reasonable AirBnb at Port Royal, about an hour outside of HHI but really close to Hunting Island State Park and Beaufort.
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What to do in the Hilton Head, Port Royal and Beaufort
So you know there’s the beach, but what else is there to do in that particular Lowcountry area? Turns out, you can stay pretty busy! We were there for three days and explored as much as we could. Here are 14 things you can do in the Port Royal area of the Lowcountry:
Port Royal is a small island with access to rivers and salt marsh estuaries and the enormous Port Royal Sound. The Sands and Boardwalk at Port Royal is the best place to get your feet wet though. There is a long boardwalk, a three-story tower to climb and watch the sunrise or sunset, and lots of places to cast your line if you like to fish (we saw a fisherman catch baby black tip sharks). The beach is a small area where you can drive your car onto, which makes it easy when you have more than a few beach toys and chairs to lug around. And this beach is known for it’s shark teeth, which kids and adults love to find.
Sands Beach Road, Port Royal
South Carolina’s most popular state park, Hunting Island is a beautiful oasis of palm trees and beaches. There is a lighthouse, the only publicly accessible one in the state, that you can climb ($2/pp) and a free nature center to visit with the kids. Camping is also available at this state park.
2555 Sea Island Parkway, Hunting Island
Admission is $5/adults, $3/ages 6+, free/kids 5 and under
This restaurant only takes cash and has a limited, but tasty, menu. Their star item is the shrimpburger. It is amazing. Go and get it. This place is only five minutes from Hunting Island.
1929 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island
Summer hours are M-F 11 am – 3 pm, Saturday 11 am – 8 pm
This is a great playground with a replica of a Spanish Galleon ship that has slides, swings, including a couple for kids with disabilities, and a tire swing. There is also a skate park on site, which, if you’re a fan of American Ninja Warrior, looks more like a bunch of warped walls. My kids made good use of those. The park has walking trails and lots of shade and is right on the main drag through Port Royal.
Ribaut Road, Port Royal
Hours are dawn to dusk
Charming and quaint, Pluff Mudd Coffee offers excellent coffee, a great atmosphere for families with a play kitchen and coloring books, and bike rentals on site. They are located on the way to the Port Royal Sands and in the heart of town. This became my go-to coffee place and where we attempted to rent bikes. It’s also right next to the Cyprus Wetlands trail, which you can walk while you drink your morning coffee.
1632A Paris Avenue, Port Royal
Bike rentals are $5/hour, $15/day and includes a child trailer if needed, helmet, and bike lock
Pretty much off the beaten path in Hilton Head Island, this park leads right to the beach, which was a lot less crowded than surrounding beaches. It was beautiful and you could park for free on the road leading to the beach and next to the park (there were maybe a dozen paid parking places close to the entrance, which you needed quarters to pay). There are also beach chairs and umbrellas for rent at this beach. We loved it here.
11 Castnet Drive, Hilton Head Island
The only kazoo factory that imprints kazoos (like for companies, events, fundraisers) and one of only two in the entire country. They make around 5,000 kazoos per day! You can take a tour of the factory and then make your own kazoo. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the instrument that dates before the first World War. The tour is really neat – they show you all kinds of different kazoos and whistles (my kids loved this part) and a short video about the history of kazoos. Then you get to see the inside of the small factory and then, of course, make your own kazoo.
12, 4290, John Galt Rd, Beaufort
$9/adult, $7/kids, ages 3 and under are free
Tours are Monday-Friday 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2 pm
A half mile boardwalk trail raised above the marshes where you can see birds, frogs, and even alligators, this is a great way to spend some time in Port Royal. The Spanish Moss trees are gorgeous and you just never know what you’re going to see. We saw an alligator grabbing his morning breakfast and tons of bird congregating around their nests. The trail is located in Port Royal next to the Pluff Mudd Coffee shop.
1700 Paris Ave, Port Royal
Word is that Tom Hanks used to love to come to the Chocolate Tree when he was filming Forrest Gump in Beaufort. This chocolate is heavenly. The scent alone when you walk into the shop is delightful. We grabbed a few pieces and headed to the historic Beaufort Waterfront to enjoy the treats. Most chocolates are $19.95/pound but they also sell gift baskets and other things.
507 Carteret St, Beaufort
With a view of one of the last bridges in the state that open for larger boats, this waterfront park in Beaufort is gorgeous. It has swinging benches, a walkway along the water, shaded areas for picnics, and a children’s playground.
Bay St, Beaufort
This place was not on my original list of things to do but as I was browsing Instagram, I came across a local explorer who had posted a photo of these ruins and decided to go check it out. The old church was burned twice – once during the Revolutionary War and another during the Civil War. An old graveyard is on site as well. The Spanish Moss trees make this place seem otherworldly. I loved it and my kids really enjoyed checking it out as well. It’s about 30 minutes from Beaufort and a unique experience. Park across the street from the ruins in a gravel lot.
Old Sheldon Church Rd, Yemassee
A totally free aquarium sits on the Port Royal Sound and features all kinds of fish, baby alligators, turtles and a vast amount of really neat history behind the surrounding waters. It’s not that big, which is great for the smaller kids, but is packed with interesting exhibits and a little area where kids can color.
310 Okatie Hwy, Okatie
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
Bonus Things to Do
These were on my list of things to do but we just weren’t able to get to them.
Ride the Spanish Moss Trail
We actually tried renting bikes from Pluff Mudd Coffee in Port Royal but I overestimated my oldest child’s bike riding abilities and we had to bail. The Spanish Moss Trail is comparable to the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville. It’s built along an old railroad and is paved and runs through all the cute parts of town. At Pluff Coffee, bike rentals are $5/hour or $15/day. They have child trailers and bike locks, which are included.
HWY 21 Drive-In Movie
The reviews on this place were enough for me to want to try it out but it wasn’t meant to be for this trip. They have a double-header every Friday and Saturday night for just $7/adult, $3/kids 5-12, free/4 and under. You can’t bring your own food but they have concessions available for purchase, which are cheaper than actual movie theaters.
55 Parker Dr, Beaufort
Visit their website here.
What’s your favorite thing to do when visiting this area of the Lowcountry?