By Megan M. Seckman
No one let me in on the secret, but now I know.
Every year I search and search for an easy, affordable beach getaway for my family and either come up empty-handed or disappointed. At last, I think I’ve found my beach. Hilton Head has satisfied all my family’s yearnings: it’s close enough to drive without everyone killing each other in transit; the pristine beach is expansive enough that you don’t feel like one in a herd of colorful, greased seals vying for your square of sand; and the planning and development of the island make it so you don’t have to work very hard to have any of your needs met.
From Louisville, it took my family of four around 12 hours to reach our destination — but that included a quick visit to an outlet mall for my tweenager and two leisurely meal stops. Traversing the Appalachian Trail, Asheville, and both the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains, the drive itself was beautiful and relaxing. No traffic killed our vibe, and our roundtrip travel only cost $200 — a bonus for our budget.
Typically, we are campers (not golfers, just so we’re clear) and plan adventurous trips in the great outdoors. But since the opening of my husband’s business, his only request was “something easy. I just want to sit.” So, I scoured the internet for an affordable resort and found The Hilton Omni for around $120 per night. The beachfront hotel included three pools, bike rentals on site, sand volleyball and basketball courts for the kids, firepits, restaurants, a spa, and more. Perfect for families, there was really no need to leave the property at all. In order to save money, we bought groceries and had breakfast and lunch in the room (each room had a small kitchenette) and ate fresh seafood in the evenings. Our tree-hugging needs were met, however, because the whole island is filled with palm trees and live oaks and covered in bike paths.
|View of adult and family pools.|
The island is made up of many gated communities and shopping centers, but the aesthetic is so well thought out that you never feel the commerciality of it all — well, maybe not never, but every building is cast in an earth tone so the development seamlessly blends into the natural landscape. Even though you see every big-box store along the main drag (including not one, but two outlet malls), the lack of neon and skyscraping billboards make you focus on the expansive sky and landscaping. Emerald sodded golf courses and nature preserves pepper each block, allowing you to forget you just passed a Hardee’s.
|Each day, the housekeeper would fold the towels in a cute kid-friendly shape.|
Our stay was only four nights, but we left rejuvenated after days spent lounging, frolicking, or doing yoga on the beach, and an epic day of beach bike riding. Since this was April, the Atlantic was a bit cold and the days were windy, but it was nothing a sweatshirt over your swimsuit couldn’t cure. The overcast skies helped to deter the sunburn, and you could literally stay outside all day.
At night, there are a multitude of restaurants to choose from. The highlight of our dining was at the Skull Creek Boathouse, a seaside compound complete with marina and pelicans. We waited two hours for our table (and I never wait two hours for anything), but I have to say it was worth it. Melt-in-your-mouth tuna sashimi, oysters on the half-shell, and the hushpuppies were to die for (as were the cocktails in those two hours).
I will go back and hope to visit more of the nature preserves on my return trip. I see why everyone I’ve talked to says they used to vacation there for family reunions. It is the perfect, quiet beach getaway for rekindling family bonds over ice cream cones and escaping the rat-race of life without having to leave behind any modern conveniences.
|Megan with her husband Billy and their kids Will and Nadine.|
What to Pack
- If you forget something, every store you need is there.
- A sweatshirt and leggings for the wind or for morning walks on the beach.
- A good pair of sport shoes for biking, hiking, and beach walking.
- Casual clothes, dress-casual for dinner (the look of the island was very “country club chic”).
- A beach bag, swimsuits, and multiple coverups.
- A hat or visor for keeping the sun off your face when biking.
- Binoculars for catching sight of dolphins, alligators, and birdwatching.
Where to Stay
- Resorts tend to be in gated communities and range in price and amenities from adults only to Disney-owned.
- Beach rentals for larger families line the shoreline and town, but often don’t have a pool. Great place to gather a group, cook your own food, and relax.
Not to Miss
- Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a motor-vehicle free marshland full of natural wildlife to encounter by bike or kayak.
- Bluffton has a vibrant art scene.
- 60 miles of bike trails.