Hilton Head Island is a year-round destination spot for golfers and beach lovers. In the winter months, it offers cool, sunny weather for the golf enthusiasts escaping the cold northern temperatures. Beach bums can get an early start on their tan in the winter. Guests getting away to Hilton Head are looking to bask in the glorious coastal sunshine during winter, spring, summer, and fall. Hilton Head acts as a perfect jumping off point for exploring the South Carolina and Georgia coastlines. With many islands peppering the shoreline, there is ample opportunity to explore beautiful beaches, wonderful restaurants, and fascinating cultural heritage. Our list of nine fantastic day trips from Hilton Head offers visitors to explore the area beyond this haven of world class golf and beautiful beaches.
Many of these destinations can be easily reached in about an hour from Hilton Head. Some will require 2 hours, but are definitely worth the drive. We present these day trip options for your enjoyment and exploration in no particular order.
1. Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
A short half-hour boat ride from Hilton Head brings you to Daufuskie Island. Boating is a must since there are no land bridge connections. Made famous by Pat Conroy’s novel, The Water Is Wide, Daufuskie Island remains similar to the way the lowcountry’s islands were in the past; beautifully wild.
There are several hundred full-time residents on the island, many descendants of the Gullah people who fled to the island after the Civil War. Today, you will still find some Gullah descendants, but most of the island’s inhabitants live in new, oceanside communities.
Tour companies like Daufuskie Difference offer ferry tickets to and from the island. You can also pre-book a golf cart for a self-guided tour. At the top of your list should be stopping by the Bloody Point Lighthouse, then follow the Robert Kennedy Historic Trail, explore the rich history of the island, and enjoy the fresh catch of the day.
The artists who make up the fine crafters community on Daufuskie Island will enchant you with their exquisite pottery, painting, woodworking, and more. If you want to return home with a one-of-a-kind art piece, shopping on Daufuskie Island should be on the top of your list.
Pro Tip: If you book the afternoon ferry, you will have more time to explore the island and enjoy lunch at Daufuskie Crab Co.
2. Tybee Island, Georgia
The pretty Tybee Island is a short hour-and-a-half-drive from Hilton Head Island. The laid-back, “I’m on vacation” vibe is evident as soon as your feet land in the soft sand.
Exploring the island is perfect on a golf cart. You will love putting around town with a rental from Bree’s Carts. You can navigate the local roads with ease and get everyone in your vacation party out and about with their four and six seater carts. Bike rentals are another fabulous mode of exploration transportation that comes with the added benefit of some physical activity.
Fort Pulaski National Monument is a beautiful spot for hiking and biking along the Savannah River. Try the easy rated Historic Dike Trail to stretch your legs. This 2.2-mile loop trail offers a great view of the fort area.
If you are planning a day trip to Tybee Island, check out our destination guide for some great ideas on where to eat, stay, and play.
Pro Tip: There is no public ferry from Hilton Head to Tybee Island, this is definately one of those “pack up the car and head out for the day” type of trips.
3. Jekyll Island, Georgia
Jekyll Island is a Georgia barrier island that is just over a 2-hour drive from Hilton Head Island.
Jekyll Island State Park is a maritime forest with over 10 miles of shoreline and marshes. For a nominal fee, you can take a park ranger-led walk to explore the flora and fauna of the island. A haven for birds and home to an active bald eagle nesting site, birders can enjoy the privilege of viewing our national symbol in its natural habitat.
The beautiful Jekyll Island Historic District is home to a few summer “cottages” of America’s wealthiest families. When you visit, take one of the Golden Isles guided tours for a peek into the lives of the historically rich and famous.
Our Jekyll Island destination guide is a great source of information to get your day trip off on the right foot.
4. Savannah, Georgia
The beautiful city of Savannah is well worth the hour drive from Hilton Head Island. Spend the afternoon wandering the Historic District exploring the monuments and charm of this port city. The seaport is a mix of architecture. You will find historic stone buildings cobbled together creating a stone patchwork that sits next to modern hotels where guests can easily explore River Street and beyond.
More than just a pretty port, there are restaurants, river cruises, and plenty of unique shops to entertain you. When you are ready to explore this charming southern bell, check out our Savannah destination guide for some great ideas to get you planning your trip.
Pro Tip: Be prepared to climb several flights of historic (dare I say ancient) stairs down to the river; they can present quite a challenge. Alternatively, you can wander through the lobby of one of the waterfront hotels and access interior stairs for more stable footing.
5. Beaufort, South Carolina
The beautiful city of Beaufort is a short, hour-long-drive from Hilton Head Island and a fun spot to explore on a sunny afternoon. Home to many filming locations for the movie Forrest Gump, you will adore this charming community.
The activities in Beaufort are seemingly endless: Fishing, boating, beaching, and hiking are just a few of the wonderful outdoor activities for you to explore. Take a drive and explore the old mansions across the city, or book a carriage ride with a local guide to learn more about the fascinating people of Beaufort.
Our Beaufort destination guide offers some interesting options for your trip. You can plan your activities before you set out to explore.
Pro Tip: Blackstone’s Cafe is the best spot for a classic southern breakfast. Their shrimp and grits is the best in town. You will love reading their “school banner” decor; you may even find your own alma mater.
6. Charleston, South Carolina
Set out on a day trip to the big city and explore this town’s storied history. Charleston is about a 2 hour drive from Hilton Head Island and is the quintessential southern city.
Plan a plantation tour to immerse yourself in Charleston’s Antebellum days. Boone Hall Plantation and Magnolia Plantation tours are just two fabulous tour options offered by Adventure Sightseeing.
Our Charleston destination guide is the perfect way to get your Charleston experience started.
Pro Tip: Enjoy an evening of fine dining at Charleston’s Circa 1886. This award-winning restaurant takes seasonal products and transforms them into elevated southern-inspired cuisine. This is the perfect spot for a very special vacation dinner.
7. St. Simons Island, Georgia
Beautiful beaches, challenging golf, and exciting fishing expeditions are some of the wonderful activities to explore on St. Simons Island. A 2-hour drive from Hilton Head Island will land you on this gorgeous island paradise.
A playground for summer getaways, St. Simons Island will have you basking in the #IslandLife; never wanting to return to the real world.
If you are considering a visit to St. Simons Island, check out our destination guide for some great ideas for your visit.
8. Saint Helena Island, South Carolina
Saint Helena Island is next to Beaufort and just a short hour’s drive from Hilton Head. The island is home to the Penn Center, a small museum packed with information dedicated to preserving the island’s African-American culture and history.
The Penn Center was notably one of the first schools to educate freed slaves and is the home where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his “I Have A Dream” speech. This is a must stop for any historian who wants to delve back several hundred years in time.
9. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Luxury is the best word to describe Kiawah Island. Situated about a 2-hour drive from Hilton Head Island, you will love what Kiawah brings to the vacation stay. Everything you would desire in a gorgeous getaway destination can be found here.
Private golf courses, fine dining, secluded beaches, hiking, birdwatching, and any other outdoor island-focused activities you could want. Our Kiawah destination guide has all the information you need to plan this fabulous island getaway.
Day Trips From Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is a beautiful spot to spend an extended getaway and is a wonderful jumping off point to explore this charming southern coastal area. Of course, while you are on Hilton Head, you will find great golf, fabulous beaches, and delicious seafood. Our Hilton Head destination guide will keep you busy while you are on the island. When you are ready for a day trip off the island, you can choose from historic cities, active adventures, and fabulous culinary treats.