It took us over two days to drive to Hilton Head this past May, but it was well worth it. We booked the vacation almost on a whim while feeling cooped up and cold during the winter of the covid pandemic. Even though it was a long drive, we figured we could make it worth it if we stayed for over a week.
We planned to go for 10 nights, with stops in Occoquan, VA and Charleston, SC. All in all, the drive (14 hours without stops) was a success even with two small children. We broke it up into two days, leaving at 2:30am on the first day. We got all the way to Occoquan, VA by around 10am. Here we stopped for several hours to visit my brother who is building two free-standing town houses in the Historic District. My brother gave us a tour of the houses, we checked out the town, let the kids play in the park, and had lunch before hopping back in the car and driving to the northern part of North Carolina where we stayed the night.
The next morning we drove another 4-5 hours to Charleston, where I had booked a hotel in advance. We spent about 24 hours in Charleston, eating great food and soaking up the beautiful city. The following day we set off for Hilton Head, arriving in the late afternoon.
We rented a two-bedroom apartment through a vacation rental company in Palmetto Dunes. The apartment building was right on the beach, with two pools, an adult pool and a kiddie pool, and a boardwalk over to the beach. The entire community is connected with bike trails. Bike rentals were super easy. I called a local company and they delivered our bikes (two adult bikes and a kids trailer) without us needing to be present. They just dropped them off at the bike racks in the garage of the apartment building. They also picked them up at the end of our stay.
The apartment itself was nicely renovated and had everything that we needed. We had two bedrooms, two bathrooms (a luxury for us since we only have one at home), a laundry room, and an open floorplan with views from the kitchen to the dining area to the family room and open to the most incredible view out to the ocean.
We spent our days going from the beach to the pool, back to the apartment for lunch and naps and back out again in the afternoon. Because the beach and pool were right downstairs it was super easy to make trips down with our two kids, and we didn’t feel guilty if we only stayed for an hour or so at a time.
Sometimes in the morning or evening we would take bike rides throughout the community. The landscaping in the community was so beautiful. It was almost like being in Hawaii. We didn’t get tired of looking at all the tropical looking plants and gazing up at the hanging Spanish moss.
One night we rode our bikes to a restaurant in the community. The entire restaurant was located on a deck sitting on top of a sand dune overlooking the ocean. There was live music, two guys playing the guitar and the keyboard, which thoroughly entertained our kids, and a view of the beach as the sun went down. While the food was nothing special, the location, the atmosphere and music was perfect. It felt extra special being able to ride our bikes there and back.
Another night we went to A Low Country Backyard Restaurant for dinner. We arrived about 10 minutes before they opened for dinner. Our kids skipped their naps so we wanted to make sure we had an early dinner. It turns out that this was serendipitous as a line of people had already formed hoping to get a seat when they opened. If we were any later, we likely would not have been seated and would have had to wait for a table to open (on a Thursday night). When we left there was a long line of people waiting.
The restaurant also had a magic to it. The outdoor dining space was shaded, and there was live music with a guitarist playing country music. At one point he played Garth Brooks, Friends in Low Places, and the entire restaurant sang along. This is all not to mention that the food was outstanding. We ordered three different dishes: the Seafood Purloo, The Bischick, and the Shrimp and Grits. Each one was incredible. My favorite was the Shrimp and Grits.
I haven’t had grits except for at hotel breakfast buffets, which were never any good. The grits in this dish, however, were so creamy and savory and drizzled with an applewood bacon cream sauce that looked like it was perhaps cooked with sausage or with some additional spices. I couldn’t get enough of it and I would certainly order it again if we get the chance to go back. It’s also high on my list of dishes that I want to try at home. We ordered the key lime pie for dessert, which I loved so much that I have been experimenting with a recipe since we have been home (we’ve now had 4 of them so far… and maybe one more to finalize the recipe).
There was so much about this trip that we loved. Perhaps what I loved the most was the view from our apartment. After many months of being extra careful with covid, it was such a relief to just sit somewhere with such an incredible view of nature – of the ocean, the incredible flowers, and the palm and palmetto trees. After several days I started to be able to shake some of the stresses of pandemic life and feel more like myself.
The other thing that I loved was how easy the vacation was, from getting to and from the beach and pool to renting bikes and riding around the community. We were also able to rent some baby gear (a high chair and a booster) which after ordering, just arrived at our door the next day and was picked up after we left. Having what we needed to make life easy with the kids made the vacation that much more enjoyable for us. There were multiple grocery stores within a 10 minute drive, which also made life easier (even though we didn’t cook much).
We loved where we stayed so much that we didn’t end up doing much beyond enjoying what was available in our community. So the next time we go back there’s still plenty for us to explore. We definitely want to check out Coligny Beach and the Wildlife Preserve next time around, along with exploring more restaurants and areas of the island. If we have some extra help with the kids, we’d love to try our hand at Pickleball too.
Where We Stayed: Palmetto Dunes
What to Do: Beach, Pool, Bike Riding, Pickleball, Tennis, Golf, eat great food
Baby Gear Rentals: LowSea Bike, Beach and Baby Rentals
Bike Rentals: Hilton Head Outfitters
Where to Eat: A Low Country Backyard Restaurant
Groceries: Easy access to grocery stores including Whole Foods
What we want to do next time:
- Wildlife Reserve
- Coligny Beach
- More restaurants