Hilton Head Lighthouse| iStock

Hilton Head Island is one of the closest, kid-friendly beach towns to Atlanta. Its soft sand beaches are popular with families, and there’s plenty to do around the island if the weather isn’t cooperative. Between new favorites and classic spots, we’ve rounded up some not-to-miss HHI experiences beyond the beach for your next trip.

Harbour Town

Explore the Harbour Town Lighthouse, climbing more than 100 steps to take in the view and learn about Hilton Head’s history and culture. Play at the nature-inspired Gregg Russell Playground, which features a huge tree house around a live oak and plenty of play areas. Stroll the shops and grab a bite at The Quarterdeck before settling in for an outdoor concert under the iconic Liberty Oak. Part singalong, part family reunion, Gregg Russell’s kid-friendly music shows have been going on for more than 40 years.

The Sandbox

Check out the local children’s museum, with hands-on experiences, an art room, a play construction zone, and boat, plane and sandcastle play areas.  Select Friday evenings offer free family admission, with additional activities planned. Beyond exploration of permanent exhibits, kids can create special crafts, enjoy outdoor playscapes and grab a refreshment.

Adventure Cove 

While there are plenty of regular golf courses for adults, two well-kept mini-golf courses at Adventure Cove provide some non-sandy entertainment. Inside, the largest arcade in the area is a hot spot on rainy days.

Daufuskie Island Sandbar | Dalia Faupel

Commander Zodiac Excursions

Hit the intercoastal waters on a boat cruise in search of dolphins, explore the salt marshes and hunt for shells on the disappearing Daufuskie sandbar. On our trip, playful dolphins swam close to our boat. Once on the sandbar, we found numerous crabs, shore birds, shells and sand dollars while looking at the patterns waves had carved in the sand usually far underwater!

Butterfly Habitat | Coastal Discovery Museum

Coastal Discovery Museum 

Commune with butterflies, stroll trails lined with live oaks and gardens, explore natural history and get up close with low country animals. The 68-acre property offers dozens of hands-on and interactive experiences to learn about the nature and cultural heritage of South Carolina. Don’t miss the friendly alligator!

Sea Pines Shell Ring

The oldest known archaeological site on Hilton Head Island is a circular deposit of hundreds of thousands of oysters, clams and mussels. The 4,000 year-old ring is one of about 50 known shell rings found along the coasts of South Carolina. It may have indicated a settlement or a place for special ceremonies and is fascinating for those with an interest in history.

Coligny Plaza

Filled with shops, restaurants, sweet shops, movie theater and live entertainment make Coligny “the” downtown Hilton Head destination. Shop for toys, groceries, mementos (Piggly Wiggle tees!) and hang out during special events and concerts. At the kiosks, kids can get temporary airbrush and henna tattoos, hair braided, and all types of personalized items to bring home.

Lawton Stables

Take the kids (ages 2-7) on a pony ride, then visit the petting farm to feed and touch  goats, sheep, chickens, turtles, cows and alpacas. Horseback trail rides are available for riders 8 or older. Fees are required for all horse and pony rides but the petting farm is free.

Where to Eat

The Salty Dog Parrots | Dalia Faupel

The Salty Dog 

The iconic restaurant of HHI offers great water views and seafood, plus the fascinating story of “the” salty dog, Jake. Hush puppies, Grouper “dogs”, and shrimp po’ boys are must-try items. Salty Dog memento shops are close by to get that hat, tee or cup. And, don’t miss meeting the Salty Dog parrots in their outdoor or indoor habitats.

Duck Donuts

Treat the family to freshly made doughnuts that they can coat, top and drizzle with their favorite flavors. Choose your combinations and watch them being made!

Broad Creek Fish Camp

If you have to wait for a table, the kids won’t mind! Play backyard games on grounds overlooking the creek that links HHI to the main land. Then, settle in for a low country seafood boil.

Street Meet

Sports fans love this cozy, family-friendly pub that imports traditional hot dogs from NYC. Go healthy with veggie-based bowls or traditional with burgers. Either way, save room for a fried Twinkie or Oreo dessert.

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