We’re back from another extended weekend, a perfect mini-vacation at Hilton Head Island thanks to our son and daughter-in-law (aka “the kids.”)
There’s always something special about driving the bridge into the island. Perhaps it’s the salt air or cool breezes drifting in from the ocean, or maybe it’s the quiet marshes or graceful Spanish moss dripping from the live oaks. Or it could be just the feeling that we, as a family, will be sharing memories again.
Now, just a bit of island history to share with you. Back in 1663, Captain William Hilton, an English sea captain sailing from Barbados aboard the Adventure in search of tropical lands to establish English plantations, landed on the island. And, of course, he named the island after himself.
A couple of centuries later during the Civil War the island was one of the first places to fall to Union troops and hundreds of former slaves fled to Hilton Head. Today, the island is till home to many of the slave descendants known as the Gullah, who have held onto much of their ethnic and cultural history.
Fast forward now to modern times; throughout the years, Hilton Head Island has emerged into a relaxed, easy-paced environment, home to almost 40,000 residents and a preferred vacation destination to more than two million visitors annually. And 2013 is a banner year for the island as it celebrates its 350th anniversary of the sighting by Captain Hilton.
What’s the big draw? Well, the 12 miles long and 5 miles wide island is packed with things to do for the young and old. By the numbers: some 200 restaurants of every imaginable cuisine from casual to high class white tablecloth establishments, 200 shops with everything imaginable both to the budget conscious and to those where money is no object, 24 golf courses, 350 tennis courts more than 100 miles of bike and nature trails and, of course, public and private beaches. I could go on, but you get the picture.
We, just like many other visitors, continue to be in awe of the island’s beauty, both natural and man-made. Trees, live oaks, bald Cyprus, Carolina pines and, of course, palms of every size and shape are everywhere you look. Every home or building is set back from the road or street, shrouded in greenery, with only a discreet ground-level sign announcing what’s behind the foliage, whether it be a hotel, condominium, bank, restaurant, store or even a gas station.
And as typical vacationers, we relaxed by the pools, walked the white sands of the beach, ate some mighty fine meals, and above all were grateful for the time together.