Exploring Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

We were selected for a house sit on beautiful Hilton Head Island. I have always wanted to visit here - I've heard so much about it but never managed to travel to the area ... until now! It was an easy 5.5 hour drive from home. (Anything is better than flying these days! Plus, it gets expensive with the whole family flying to a location we can simply take the car).

Anyway, the drive was easy soon enough we made our way to the island. As soon as you get off the highway, it's clear to see why people love the area. The area is beautifully green, ample open space (not crowded from homes or buildings) and a lot of the architecture seems fairly recent. We paid the toll (cost $1.50), crossed over the bridge and got to the island. The person we were housesitting for provided awesome directions that got us to the Sea Pines Visitor Center. We picked up our pass and headed on to find her beautiful home and two little furry friends: a cat and a dog. 

Hilton Head Island has that wonderful Southern Charm feel to it and smells AMAZING! Jasmine is grown all over the island where we stayed. The pace is slow, people wave, rocking chairs and Adirondack chairs are in abundance, people are out walking ... it seems like a great place to live but it's most certainly a wonderful place to go on holiday.

Jasmine all over the property and Hilton Head Island.
Smells beautiful!

My littlest one making herself at home at our house sit. 

Walking around the neighborhood. The house owner had a wagon
in her garage so I had the girls in it ... and also my oldest one
wanted to pull it around the neighborhood.  

My littlest one enjoying spending time with the senior puppy
of the house. He was very old and a bit blind but they (my girl and
the puppy) got along so nicely. Very peaceful and patient with each other.
The pup would let her sit close -- both seemed to like it a lot. 

Evenings on the back patio of the home. Such a lovely home and
a beautiful view!!!

The owner of the house where we stayed was a kind older lady who was widowed. Her home was exquisitely decorated - it was comfortable and tastefully decorated. Seriously, her home looked staged for a magazine shoot. She mentioned a family member of hers was an interior decorator. It's obvious that professional taste helped fill the rooms!!!! 

We got a chance to spend the evening with her learning about the house and pets. Some people just send some notes and leave a key while others want a chance to chat and spend a few hours together. Whatever works for the owner is what works for us. Personally, I thought it was nice to spend a few hours in the evening with her chatting about things and getting to know her, her house and her pets better. 

We traveled all over Hilton Head Island while we were house sitting for the week. Here are some wonderful places that are great for singles, couples and are also family friendly ...

We visited (and I recommend) all of the places listed below. 

The Harbour Town Lighthouse: 

Located at 149 Lighthouse Road, this is a super cute family friendly area that has restaurants, shopping (clothing and keepsakes), ice cream shops, and is situated on a marina, which is where you'll find the lighthouse. The lighthouse has a store at the base of it and also at the top. The walk to the top is fairly easy (it's not a very tall structure) and has an observation deck that gives you a great view of the water and the town. Veterans get in for free (YAY!) and there is a minimal expense for all others who are (I believe) over the age of 6 years old. 

A view of the marina from the top of the lighthouse. 
Red rocking chairs all along the marina. So comfy and inviting!
From the inside of the lighthouse. As you climb the stairs,
there are historic photos and historical info about the tower
and the area. Very cool!!
My oldest checking out the area from the top of the
light house. 

The Harbour Town Children's Playground: 

As Florida residents we value playgrounds with shade because the summers get hot and it limits the time kids can play on playground equipment. This large park is nestled underneath a bunch of trees that offer shade. Yay!!! There is a play area for young kids who are between 1-2 years old, another playground that's good for 2-4 and another that's awesome for older kids. There is also trees to climb, swings and plenty of space to run. My older daughter became friends instantly with a boy her age named Warren. They ran and played and climbed and jumped all over the place. I love how easily children befriend one another!

There is a tree that has grown so low to the ground
that children are able to climb it (fairly) safely. 
Nearby the playground is a giant tree with a swing. Love it!
Behind her (above) is a cool platform that's a bit
like a tree house. 

You'll notice in the background is one of the younger
kids' areas. 

The playground is HUGE and has different areas
for younger kids and older kids. 

Coligny Beach Park:

Google Forest Beach Parking which is southeast of Coligny Circle when you head to the beach. It's basically across the street from the beach on the south side of the circle. It's an easy walk but we definitely didn't realize there wasn't a parking lot on the beach for this. This beach is insanely accommodating to guests and encourage loitering.  haha Seriously, the set up of this basically says, "Come here, stay here - spend the day, bring the kids. We love you all."  So, as soon as you cross onto the beach side, there is a splash pad for kiddos. Who doesn't love a splashed?! The large walkway (basically the width of a boardwalk) has swinging chairs and adirondack chairs all along the sides. There are changing stalls that are adorable looking and convenient. There are bathrooms. There are showers to rinse your body or feet. As a mom, I appreciate how generous the space is and the variety I have for cleaning up the kids after beach time.

The beach is also lovely. It's a long beach so there's a bit of a walk from the entry of the beach until you get to the sand. We were there during low tide so there were tidal pools on the beach that was fun and safe for them to play. I'm not certain if dogs are permitted there but they sure are there. Cute dogs and their humans ran along the water playing fetch (the dogs, that is ... not the humans). The water was still too chilly to enjoy but the tidal pools were warm from the sun.

We realized that the beach also had a bunch of Marine families. They were decked out in their red shirts that claimed their relationship status to their marine. Marine Mom, Sister, Brother, Wife, etc. I guess it was a graduation weekend for some Marines and the families comes here for a mini-holiday. And, regular (non-graduating) Marines are also there in abundance as well. They are so easy to spot -- the haircut, the way they walk ... it's funny to us. After all, we are both Veterans (me in the Army and him in the Marines) so we notice a bunch of things like this and it makes us laugh.

My oldest running through one of the tide pools on
the beach. Fun and safe! 

A super walking-friendly pathway from the parking lot
to the beach. Wide walkways, flat surfaces so it's easy for everyone. 

I love when beaches lay this out so you don't have to walk in
sand. This makes it much easier on long beaches!! 

Dogs everywhere!!! Everyone enjoyed the tide pools on the beach!

The splash pad as you enter the beach area. On the right and left
are rest rooms, changing rooms, benches and more.
Very family friendly and convenient!!

A view of me (hi!!) and behind me is the street with a small
drop off and pick up area which is fantastic for families
leaving the beach with tons of gear!! 

Sandbox (indoor learning and fun for children):

We have a play space like this in Jensen Beach, Florida, that we love. The interior space is divided into different learning / play areas that are best suited for children under 8 years old. There is also a comfortable play space for crawling and walking little kids that we used briefly but my older one wanted to explore more so we stuck with her. I should note that Hilton Head Island doesn't have generous signage so you'll want to google it. The location is 18 Pope Avenue but primarily you'll probably find it easier to drive toward Andrew By the Sea Methodist Church. It's a more noticeable location and uses the same small street to get to it (Pope Ave).  Now, back to the play space, there is an entry fee but if you stay a few hours it's totally worthwhile. No food or drink inside so if you plan to eat on their porch, I suggest bringing a cooler and keeping it in the car. There is an art space, a food shopping area complete with a checkout scanner and shopping carts, an airplane / spaceship. The upstairs area also has more options for kids as well - there is a dress up, a reading area, another art station and a race track (angled slope) for kids. Basically, there is a LOT to do in this building. The space is small and, a local mom told me that the workers definitely don't like "wild" kids and expect kids (or parents) to clean up the space after their kids play. Because of the small space, I can see why they are particular about cleaning. If it's not well organized, it would get to be a crowded mess. There is also a gate at the top of the stairs in second floor play space but kids kept opening it so it was a hazard. I also tried closing the gate but it wasn't easy or it was damaged. Room for improvement for sure. Anyway, I mention that because if parents have kids who are young and not comfortable around stairs, you'll want to keep a close eye on them. 

Fly a spaceship!!!! Very cool. 

The room designed for the youngest guests. 

A cool light box. Push these cylinders into the holes
and it will glow! Make patterns or chaos.
All is beautiful. 

Lawton Stables and Petting Zoo:

We stayed on the Sea Pines Plantation so right around the corner was a super cute area we had to check out. We didn't realize until we got there that a portion of the stables is dedicated to a free (no paid admission) petting zoo. There were pigs, cows, goats, chickens and more. I love when my girls get to see animals up close! There is also a building next to the petting zoo that you can go in to ask about horse riding lessons, the petting zoo and whatever else you'd like to know.

One of the happy little horses (ponies?) at the stable. 
My littlest one checking out a goat. 

My older one saying "hello!" to the goat 

Sea Pines Forest Preserve:

Walking in nature here is a must. We do lots of "jungle" walks in Florida where we live so visiting here meant we had to continue the nature walks. We found a spot to park and decided to walk around one of the lakes to check it out. We lucked out because a group of horse back riders were also walking this trail so my oldest daughter was stoked to see them. The path was wide enough for cars in some areas but the area was quiet - no cars were in the area while we were walking. We did see two alligators in the water. One was sunning and didn't move. The other saw us and was oddly interested in us and swam toward us in the lake -- that's freakin terrifying! But, it didn't get out of the water or come near us so I guess it just wanted a better look at us. I'm not sure. We are used to alligators in our bodies of water in Florida so we know how to exist in the same space safely and always be aware. For people who aren't used to alligators, I'm sure this would be a bit scary but basically ... don't stand near the edge of a body of water (especially kids or dogs leashed or unleashed). And, because there is a lot of foliage along the edges of the water, just assume there is an alligator hanging out there and keep space between you and the edge. Don't feed wildlife. Don't poke it with a stick. Don't get a closer look. Don't do a selfie and turn your back to wildlife only a few feet behind you. Don't let kids or pets wander without you .... and you'll be fine. Really, just keep a nice cushion of space between you and the areas where alligators hang out and you'll be okay. Oh, one last thing ... alligators do walk on land so if they aren't in the water or on the edge, that doesn't mean they didn't leave the water and go into the wooded area that's only a few feet away. I don't mention this to scare you but simply as a bit of awareness to maintain. Nature is beautiful but powerful. Being smart and respectful helps keep everyone safe.  =)   Anyway, so we walked around the lake and it was beautiful! The trees are beautiful here and because they are all different types, the color contrast and textures are simply gorgeous!!!!

Benches along the way to watch birds and look for alligators. 

Horseback riders who passed us while we walked.
One of the alligators we found while walking. 

Bridges are fun for kids and great for family photos! 

Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station's Annual Air Show

We lucked out because we were there during the annual air show in Beaufort. I figured the girls would love it. It was about an hour-long drive from where we were on Hilton Head Island to the Air Station. I used the app called Waze (I definitely recommend using it. It gives traffic updates, directions, lets you know the speed limits and any other delays that may occur). The drive there was easy but the parking took forrrrreeeeeevvvvvveeeerrrrrrrrrrrr. Goodness! The kids got restless from being in the car and parking was an insanely slow process and we ended up on a field that made using a stroller super tricky. Not fun.  Anyway, there wasn't an entry fee to the Air Show (awesome!) and there were many static displays (aircraft parked that you could walk around and walk through).  There were also some vehicles to check out as well.

So, the tough part was .... single parent + two kids + stroller + having to pee = ????
Clearly the set up was not family friendly for single parents with multiple kids. I snagged one of the nice old ladies at the USO booth to watch my kids as I hopped so fast into a porta-potty. What else would I do? Pack my two kids into the porta-potty with me and hope they don't touch anything gross? Gimme a break. Everything is gross and not having one of the buildings open to accommodate families was crazy. I was grateful, once again, for the USO.

The aircraft had pretty long lines filled with way more adults than kids who wanted to explore them. Silly adults. What's so fun about military aircraft inside? They aren't that interesting nor comfortable to fly in. LOL (Speaking from experience). But we waited in line with all of the adults so my oldest could walk through. We waited to explore two aircraft and then I had enough of the lines. She got to climb through a Sea Stallion and an Osprey.

After that, the girls were walking around and decided that a dirty puddle on the runway was way more interesting than everything else there. LOL!!! Kids.... goodness!!!

My girls having more fun in a dirty puddle on the air strip ... LOL!
Kids ... goodness!! 
She climbed up on that like a champ. The size of it
didn't phase her at all. 

This crew member on the Sea Stallion was so sweet.
He helped my girl get up and then let her play the role
of the gunner. My little badass baby girl!! =) 


Anyway, there are many other things to do in the area but we were there for a week. We loved our house sit and the island smelled so yummy because Jasmine was EVERYWHERE!!! The house was comfortable, quiet, and my girls loved it. Once again, I'm thrilled to have completed a house sit through Trustedhousesitters. How lucky we are!!!! Our next sit will be back in Coral Gables and then we are off to Scotland!!!

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