In the midst of Upstate New York moving into Phase 1 of re-opening after the COVID-19 outbreak and making sure that we self-quarantined at home for the mandated 14 days, my boyfriend and I decided that we finally felt comfortable with traveling again (and seriously, don’t come at me, I like didn’t ask). With friends in the area and restrictions on beaches and restaurants loosened, we decided to take the fourteen hour drive down to Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Hilton Head is an island on the southernmost tip of South Carolina, near the border of Savannah, Georgia. The island is covered in lush marshes, ocean-side beaches where you can see dolphins jumping from the water, and a food scene that is deeply inspired by the local marine life and traditional southern comfort cuisine. This east coast paradise is the perfect place to relax for a long weekend (or forever, who am I to judge?) with a margarita and enjoy the southern hospitality. Here is how to spend your next vacation in the Low Country:
Where to Stay:
We stayed in an Airbnb in the Folly Field neighborhood and found the area to be really centrally located, close to restaurants, grocery stores, and other local attractions. With private beach access, multiple pools, tennis courts, and neighborhood bars & restaurants, this gated community is the perfect base for your trip to Hilton Head.
What to do:
Have a beach day
There are multiple beaches around the Hilton Head area, however we frequented the Folly Field Beach as it was close to our accommodations. If you’re staying in the residential community, there is private access to the beach that is further from the crowded public area, however, public parking is also available. Some other beaches on the island include South Beach, Forest Beach, and Driessen Beach.
Take on the ocean
One of my favorite activities we did while in Hilton Head was taking a private boat cruise through Shelter Cove Marina. The tour took us around the island, allowing us to swim, dolphin watch, and stop at Daufuskie Island for a drink at the Daufuskie Crab Co. In addition to renting a boat and captain, they also offer an array of nature boat tours, fishing charters, party boats, and sailing cruises. You can also go smaller by renting paddle boards, kayaks, and two-person catamarans.
Get your drink on
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to visit the Island Winery along with the neighboring Hilton Head Distillery and Hilton Head Brewing Company, but the experience came highly recommended to us by friends who had been staying in the area.
When driving through Hilton Head, it’s impossible to ignore how important golfing is to the island’s culture. With over thirty courses, there are plenty of places to choose from, including Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines where the RBC Heritage is hosted.
Don’t feel skilled enough to take on a Hilton Head course? Try adventure golf at Pirate's Island Adventure Golf.
Take a horseback riding tour through Sea Pines with Lawton Stables! This hour-long tour takes you around the Sea Pines forest preserve, giving you a up-close experience with Hilton Head's nature and wildlife. Make sure to make reservations online beforehand and keep in mind that there is an $8 fee to enter the Sea Pines preserve that must be paid in cash.
Where to eat:
Located on Daufuskie Island (easily accessible by boat from Hilton Head), the Daufuskie Crab Company is a lively bar/restaurant with an outdoor tiki-style bar, lawn games, and live music. Coming from the ghost town that is currently New York State, I was shocked to see how crowded this restaurant was; drunk sorority girls parading around in jean shorts and bikini tops, drinking moonshine out of plastic cups. In a way, it was comforting to know that somewhere on a small Island in South Carolina, people were still living.
While you’re there, try their famous “Scrap Iron” Cocktail.
This was one of my favorite restaurants we went to while visiting Hilton Head. I’m such a sucker for a restaurant with good ambiance and Fishcamp knows exactly how to deliver with a back patio strung up with fairy lights overlooking the marshes on Broad Creek.
I recommend the crab cakes (to die for) and their seafood risotto, but be prepared to wait a while if you don’t have a reservation.
We happened upon this restaurant by accident, but we're so glad we did. With fire-pits, live music, and a fun and unique garden decorated with mason jars and metal work, this place serves some of the best traditional southern fare I’ve ever had.
I very strongly recommend the Fried Green Tomato BLT made with homemade ranch - which you can buy bottled.
My experience traveling during COVID-19:
In regard to traveling during the COVID-19 epidemic, I want to make it clear that we were respectful of the current situation and took it very seriously, listening to the CDC considerations and guidelines. Me and the person I traveled with had been quarantining together and had minimal contact with anyone else for more than two weeks before traveling. We continued to wear masks in all public areas during our travels until we made it to South Carolina where they were not required. In addition, we followed social distancing recommendations when in restaurants, grocery stores, beaches, etc. We made a personal decision together that as our state and country began to reopen and allow travel, we felt we were able to take this trip in good coincious.
As for what we saw, I was shocked at how unaffected Southern America seemed to be by this virus. While New York State seemingly shut down for countless months, mandating a stay at home order, South Carolina seemed to be in full swing by Memorial Day. Their beaches were open, and although people separated themselves from others, seemed to be flooded with vacationers. Restaurants and bars were also open inside and out, with what seemed like no capacity limitations. While masks weren't required (or common) in public places, stores did place six feet social distancing marks on the ground for shoppers to abide by. Overall, I was extremely surprised coming from New York by how relaxed locals and tourists were in the midst of this global pandemic, but understand that certain parts of the country and world experienced and handled this differently, thus having different outcomes.
Where are your favorite Memorial Day travel spots? Let us know in the comments below!