Traveling to Hilton Head Island with your family? We came up with a list of the best activities on the island to ensure an awesome family trip. From dolphin watching to becoming a pirate to playing mini-golf to secluded beaches and enjoying ice cream, there are no shortage of fun things to do on the island.
Admission and tickets were provided to Kidding Around for some of the activities but all opinions are those of the author.
I had heard of Hilton Head Island long before I even moved to South Carolina and wanted to go. I heard it wasn’t as commercialized as other beaches, that the pace of life is slow and enjoyable, and that the beaches were pristine. Having spent a week there with my family, I can confirm that my expectations were exceeded. While we enjoyed the beach immensely, we also did a ton of other activities that really made our time there spectacular. Here are my favorite things to do on HHI.
If you need a list of things to do on HHI if it’s raining, here you go!
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Things to Do on Hilton Head Island
Having never been on a pirate ship before, I couldn’t wait to do this with my kids. It’s one of the most highly-rated activities on the island and one that our readers most enthusiastically recommended as well. Pirates of Hilton Head did a fantastic job of coming up with a storyline that even younger kids could follow – learn to talk like a pirate, find the treasure, get the keys from Stinky Pete by blasting him with water from canons on the ship. They really engage the kids in the fun, starting before you even board the ship with face paint, a pirate name, a tattoo, and a pirate vest and sash. It was so much fun. The season runs from March to November with the multiple cruises per day during summer. Read my full review of Pirates of Hilton Head to get the whole story.
149 Lighthouse Road, Hilton Head Island
Vanishing Island Dolphin Tour
I love, love, love dolphins. Fortunately, they are everywhere in the Lowcountry islands and salt marshes and dolphin cruises are offered everywhere. I’ve gone on a dolphin cruise with Island Explorer before and really wanted to do their Vanishing Island tour because not only do you get to see dolphins but you are taken by boat out to an island only visible during low tide and get to hunt for sand dollars. Island Explorer is the oldest dolphin tour company on Hilton Head and the Vanishing Island tour is a favorite because it’s so unique and enjoyable. I’d highly recommend this tour if you’re looking for something unforgettable – read all about it in my review of Vanishing Island Dolphin Tour.
101 Marshland Road, Hilton Head Island
Adventure Cove Mini Golf & Arcade
We passed several miniature golf courses on Hilton Head but really loved Adventure Cove because there are two courses – Paradise Falls and Lost Lagoon, the latter is the harder course. There are waterfalls everywhere and fun holes, especially where you have to climb stairs to do a couple of them. My kids loved the two holes that are in a little cave on the Paradise Falls course. They have clubs for all ages as well, making this a great place for the whole family. After you golf, be sure to get a bunch of tokens for the arcade, which has lots of games, like my all-time favorite: skeeball! I may have sneakily grabbed a few tokens from my kids to play that game. We were lucky and won 500 tickets on one of the games so my kids were thrilled when they got to choose two little unicorns from the prize table. We only planned on spending maybe an hour here but ended up leaving after almost three hours because it was so much fun!
A single round of 18 holes of mini golf is $12/adult, $10/ages 12 and under and kids 3 and under are free. Unlimited golf for the day is $19/adult, $17/ages 12 and under. Birthday party packages start at $169 for eight kids.
18 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island
Kayak Hilton Head
Kayak with dolphins and other wildlife on a Dolphin Kayak Tour with Kayak Hilton Head.
Kayak Hilton Head
18 Simmons Road, Hilton Head, SC
Mermaid of Hilton Head Boat Tour
Mermaids exist in Hilton Head Island and you can see one on a mermaid cruise on a Mermaid of Hilton Head Boat Tour. While you’re searching for a mermaid, you’ll learn a lot about ocean creatures and how to protect them!
Mermaid of Hilton Head
43A Jenkins Road, Hilton Head Island
I had heard of Mitchelville Beach but didn’t know much, just that you kind of had to search around for it. It’s on the very northern end of Hilton Head Island and it takes a little navigation and time on a gravel road to get there. The beach is secluded because there aren’t resorts or beach houses nearby, just a sand dunes and a large expanse of water and shells to check out. It was perfect and beautiful. We went maybe an hour before dusk, the “golden hour” as photographers say because the light is ideal for stunning images, and it was beautiful. There weren’t many people there and I was able to grab some gorgeous shots while my kids explored the beach. Be sure to wear shoes though because there are a lot of shells and it’s easy to step on them and cut your feet if you’re not paying attention. There are bathrooms and an outdoor shower available.
124 Mitchelville Road, Hilton Head Island
I tried out a standup board (SUP) last summer and was hooked. The board is wider than shoulder width and long like a surfboard. You use a paddle to move around and either stand up or sit on the board. I find it relaxing and enjoyable to move at my own pace and put my feet in the water (or your whole body if you happen to fall in the water- which I almost did!). I went on the SUP tour with One HHI and it was a blast. Our tour guide was knowledgeable about the local creek and its inhabitants and the history of where we were paddling and the island itself. We got to paddle around Broad Creek, a salt marsh with hardly any wake from boats, so it was calm water. And we saw dolphins! One HHI also has creek cats, which only fit two people and are perfect for zipping around the marshes and checking out Daufuskie Island, the last island in South Carolina, and local wildlife, as well as kayak tours, dolphin tours, jet ski rentals, and another pirate cruise, which leaves from Palmetto Bay Marina. SUP tours are $35/person for an hour. I could have easily spent another hour on the water as it was so awesome.
86 Helmsman Way, Suite 101, Hilton Head Island
What’s a summer vacation without ice cream? We loved Hilton Head Ice Cream, right near Coligny Park, with its eclectic décor and delicious flavors like Chocolate Cayenne. HH Ice Cream has over 40 flavors, which are all made in-house and has been open since 1982. They won Best Ice Cream in South Carolina just a few years ago – quite the honor given the number of ice cream shops in the state! HH Ice Cream also offers ice cream to go so you can bring the goodness to go. Make sure you hit up the bathrooms at HH Ice Cream because it’s totally bedazzled and full of mermaids.
55 New Orleans Road, #114, Hilton Head Island
The Sandbox Children’s Museum
My kids (ages 8 and 5) absolutely loved this hands-on children’s museum right in the heart of the island. Everything about The Sandbox invites children to use their imaginations and play freely. With two floors of more than 11 hands-on exhibits, plan to spend at least a couple hours here. They also have free family fun nights in the spring, fall, and winter and Parents Night Out during the summer months. My full review [this review was done before they moved to their new location on Nassau Street] of The Sandbox gives all the details on the indoor pirate ship, derby racetrack, and infant and toddler space.
80 Nassau Street, Hilton Head, SC
This brand new pirate ship themed park just opened in late 2020 and is a blast for kids. It’s right near Coligny Beach and there is parking nearby. The pirate ship is a lot of fun plus they have a water feature over the summer, a smaller play area for little kids, a big sandbox, and misters.
Coligny Beach Park
Coligny Beach Park is an awesome public beach on Hilton Head Island with outdoor showers, changing rooms, bathrooms, and splash pad. Free parking is available in the lot across the street from the beach and there are gazebos with Adirondack chairs and bench swings for relaxing. Lifeguards are stationed at this beach and you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas for all-day use. Perhaps my favorite part of this beach was the access mat from the park to almost the ocean – it allowed for us to easily carry out chairs and towels to the water, and for wheelchairs to get to the beach and for people with wagons to also get all their stuff to the beach easily.
1N Forest Beach, Hilton Head Island
Date Night at Rockfish Restaurant with Built-In Babysitters
The owners of Rockfish Restaurant and the Art Cafe came up with the genius idea of Kids Night Out so parents could have a date night at the restaurant while kids painted pottery upstairs and had dinner at the Art Cafe. We tried it out and it was a huge hit! Here’s our review.
5 Lagoon Road, Hilton Head Island
Get Local Seafood
When my family goes on vacation, we almost always stay in a rental home with a kitchen to save on eating out costs. For this trip, we wanted to take advantage of local seafood and cook up some Carolina shrimp. I was set on finding a roadside stand and came across Benny Hudson Seafood. We got shrimp and cocktail crab claws, which were delicious and made for an outstanding meal! They also sold swordfish, salmon, wreckfish, clams, mussels, crab, scallops, and oysters.
175 Squire Pope Road, Hilton Head Island
Coastal Discovery Museum
I visited the Coastal Discovery Museum on the end of our trip but I’d recommend visiting instead at the beginning because you can learn all about the local ecosystem and what you will be seeing on the island. They have a kids room with an adorable replica of a loggerhead turtle nest plus books, educational toys and fish tanks. There is an enclosed butterfly garden similar to the one at Roper Mountain Science Center except it’s freestanding and you can see the cocoons of various species of butterflies. There is a beautiful walking path that goes into the adjoining marsh, lined with oak trees and Spanish moss. Admission is free but they have several tours and events, like a Meet the Critters for kids, that do have fees associated.
70 Honey Horn Drive, Hilton Head Island
Eat & Play
Wherever we went on Hilton Head Island, it seemed like needs of children were taken into consideration. We found this especially true when it came to eating out. Because we were staying in a home with a kitchen, we didn’t eat out much, but when we did, every restaurant we chose had crayons and a coloring page for kids. Two of the places – Fishcamp and Giuseppi’s Pizza – had games outside for the kids to play. We saved money by going to restaurants during happy hour and looking at daily specials. Marley’s Shrimp Shack had $6 shrimp burgers on Wednesday, which was down from $8.50 regularly so we went there and it was delicious. Fishcamp on Broad Creek had $2 off their bar menu during happy hour so we ordered from there – again, so good – and the kids enjoyed Connect4 and corn hole.
Fishcamp: 11 Simmons Road, HHI; 843.842.2267
Marley’s Shrimp & Burger Shack: 35 Office Park Road, Suite #2, HHI; 843.686.5800
Giuseppi’s Pizza & Pasta: 50 Shelter Cove Lane, HHI; 843.785.4144
Located in Sea Pines, Harbor Town is a quaint little spot on the southernmost tip of the island where you can shop, get ice cream, and take all kinds of water tours or test your bravery parasailing. Fishing charter boats take guests out on the water to try their luck and guests can admire all the gorgeous yachts docked in the harbor and daydream about sailing the world. It’s also where the famous red and white striped lighthouse sits on the island (you can climb it for a fee). There are tons of events at Sea Pines There is a shaded playground and public restrooms plus parking, which gets crowded during the busy season. If you’re not staying at Sea Pines, you’ll need to pay for a daily pass ($8).
Ride a Bike
HHI is very bike-friendly with trails everywhere (plus you can ride on the beach) with plenty of easy parking around the island for two wheels. Most bike rental places will drop off bikes wherever you are staying and have kid bikes and trailers available, making this the perfect way to see the island without having to worry about parking your car. Pelican Cruisers is a good option but be sure to reserve your bikes ahead of time, especially during the busy summer months.
Free Family Entertainment
The Shannon Taylor Summer Family Show is a much-loved show for his entertaining personality and sing-a-longs. Shannon performs at Shelter Cove Harbor several days during the week over the summer at 6:30 and 8 pm. We got through half the performance and then got drenched by a surprise thunderstorm. But he was amazing and we had so much fun! Another popular family entertainment show are the Gregg Russell Summer Concerts at Harbor Town in Sea Pines under Liberty Oak from 8-9:30 pm every Monday-Friday during the summer months.
Workout on a Stand Up Paddleboard
I love SUP (stand up paddleboarding) and Fit Fusion offers the option to have fun working out while on vacation on top of a board. It’s a great way to have some time yourself if you can swing it while on HHI as well. Classes are $40/person and are held usually on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Other Fun Things to do Near 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
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
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.
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
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
What are you favorite things to do on Hilton Head Island?