Places where this family eats and visits every year.
By Torie Temple

A world away from work and a hectic schedule is what vacationers are longing for as they pack their bags for a dream destination. But this attempt to escape from chaos often turns into an overloaded schedule of sightseeing and an occasional peek at e-mails.

It seemed farfetched to find a place where she could truly let go, but Jill Bell discovered a dream oasis in the slow-paced Southern Lowcountry that is the authentic definition of a vacation.

On the Intracoastal Waterway sits the foot-shaped island of Hilton Head. The Southern charm and pure natural environment enchanted Jill, and the island’s 42 square miles have become her stress-free getaway. “We have been going for spring break for many years,” she says. “It’s my favorite place to go because I love the pace of things. It is laid-back and family-oriented. You can ride bikes on the beach and around the island. I love the Lowcountry and can feel the stress melt away as soon as I get there.”

Natural Love
Hilton Head limits light pollution with strict development rules that allow only a little street lighting and no neon lights. For this reason, natural light takes center stage at night so that sea turtle hatchlings can find their way to the ocean. The development rules also allow for other sea creatures to live as naturally as possible, giving visitors an opportunity to get close to them before sunrise. “Every morning, we get up and head to the beach at sunrise,” Jill says. “You can see stingrays, jellyfish, beautiful shells, and the dolphins jumping. This is why spring is an amazing time to go to Hilton Head because you would be surprised at all the things you will find on the beach at sunrise.”

“Spring is the best time to visit Hilton Head Island,” Jill says. You will see stingrays, jellyfish, and shells
during your morning beach walk. 

Hilton Head has numerous beachfront accommodations from villas to luxury resorts, but it’s a timeshare that brought Jill and her family to the Marriott’s SurfWatch. “Our timeshare is right on the beach,” Jill says. “We have a three-bedroom condo there, and they have two wonderful pools with bonfires at night.” 

The SurfWatch is also home to the beachfront Sea Salts Beverage Company Pool Bar and Grill, along with The Marketplace Express for a quick snack and Starbucks coffee.

Favorite Eats

With more than 250 restaurants on the island, you would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, but Jill has done the research. “We tend to like the more casual restaurants,” she says. “Captain Woody’s is a real nice restaurant that has seafood and burgers. They also have a little shop where you can buy some of their products. There is a Louisville couple that owns a restaurant that primarily serves breakfast called Palmetto Bay Sunrise Cafe. Kenny B’s Cajun Seafood Hut is a fun New Orleans-style restaurant that is great for breakfast. The restaurant is decorated with a New Orleans style, and they serve Creole specials along with beignets.” Jill also recommends Salty Dog Cafe for good food, live music, and daily entertainment for kids such as magicians and storytelling. 

Jill is at the Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant, which serves seafood, Southern cuisine, 
and South Carolina moonshine.

Golf lovers will rejoice over the 24 public championship golf courses around Harbor Town on the island and may be able to catch one of the many tournaments played there. For those fresh from the beach and ready to shop, Hilton Head has more than 200 shops and boutiques, including those at Shelter Cove Marina, where travelers will find galleries and treasures to take home.

“There is so much to do, but it’s not like New York or Las Vegas, and you never feel rushed,” Jill says. “You can rent chairs on the beach, read a book, and listen to the kids play. It is so relaxing. You can feel the stress melt away.”

Have you ever been to Hilton Head? We want to hear about your experience in the comments. Can’t get away for a trip? You might try this colorful stress-busting technique you can do at home.