Is Hilton Head for you?

Header-image-StephenBy Robert K Stephen

(HILTON HEAD, SC) – Many Canadians have time shares in Hilton Head, SC. Many others drive umpteen hours from Ontario to descend upon Hilton Head. What are the pluses and minuses of Hilton Head?

Hilton Head is Discrete

Gaudiness is to be deplored. Chain stores like Walmart or CVS are hidden by a thick canopy of trees. The flash and trash is there but it is well hidden. You rather wonder if it exists at all.

And all said and done, it’s very much of a plus if you like nature or at least the appearance of nature. The downside is that by hiding itself one never really feels a sense of community.

It’s as if everything is hidden and disguised. Where is the real Hilton Head?

You’ll be car dependant

Being a Europhile, I find it difficult to survive in Hilton Head. Want a bag of chips, milk, groceries, and the like. Hop in your car and drive.

Great food

I have had some memorable food in the Southern US particularly in New Orleans and Charleston. Hilton Head gets off to a good start at The Caroline Room in the Westin Resort.

The smoked duck salad is tremendous and the two versions of stuffed Carolina trout are ingenious. The prices are Toronto but the portions double to the point where you might want to say don’t even bother thinking about dessert.

For a tremendous view of the marshland on an outside terrace and take it easy on offseason where you don’t have to use a pager for your table stop in at the Old Oyster Factory near the Port Royal Plantation. It’s gringo heaven even in the off season.

For a rustic and spicy meal the Low Country Boil full of spicy sausage, potatoes, shrimp and corn will get your motor running in a crude Creole way. And the complimentary hush puppies are some of the best the South has to offer.

Overrated Beach

Yes Hilton Head has a 12 mile stretch of sandy beach. The sand is hard and grey and the water a muddy brown at least in April when I was there.

The beach at Hilton Head is grey

The beach at Hilton Head is grey and hard and the water a muddy brown.
Photo by Robert Stephen.

Look out for the jellyfish too!

Great for walks but no Caribbean with light white sand and crystal clear waters.

Parallel to the beach is a walk through the grasslands which gives you a totally different perspective of the seaside.

Limited Accessibility

With only a small airport direct flights from Canada do not exist which means you’ll most likely have to arrive in Savannah, GA, and rent a car to drive 45 minutes to get to Hilton Head.

There are eight flights a day from Charlotte and one flight from Washington to Hilton Head.

Hopefully you like driving as without a car in Hilton Head you will be marooned wherever you are staying. That may not always be a bad thing if you just want to stay put and play golf and tennis at your resort, but if you have rented a timeshare or condo you’ll need a car to pick up your groceries.

Home of the Filthy Rich

The longer one stays in Hilton Head the more one realizes that this is the domicile of the rich. Lots of old rich people and lots of upper middle class types from the eastern USA and Canada about.

When my contact at Hilton Head Wine and Spirit Shop (32 Shelter Cove Plaza) tells me his top selling wine is a $32 Chardonnay, you immediately know if you drink Fuzion you don’t belong here in Hilton Head.

The homes, the greenery, and the prosperous, grey-haired, rickety set are somewhat repetitive and unrealistic. The whole place looks like a gigantic plantation without any poverty I can see.

This wealth shows its happy head in more than liquor stores. Take a stop at Shelter Cove Harbour with its yachts and low key Disney resort on the marshes. Everything is simply perfect. A marina full of beautiful yachts and a perfect little village with a wonderful promenade with a few Quebeckers yakking away in Quebecois-studded French at the local bistro.

In Shelter Cove Harbour wealth shows its happy head. Its yachts and low key Disney resort on the marshes makes everything seem simply perfect.
Photo by Robert Stephen.

This wealth shows its happy head in more than liquor stores. Take a stop at Shelter Cove Harbour with its yachts and low key Disney resort on the marshes. Everything is simply perfect.

A marina full of beautiful yachts and a perfect little village with a wonderful promenade with a few Quebeckers yakking away in Quebecois-studded French at the local bistro.

Head down to Harbor Town and Sea Pines. Upscale shopping and no end of wealth and prosperity. This is another Palm Springs.

Life can be so perfect if you have the dough. Although, the top restaurants seem located in shopping malls.

Off The Island

Just off the island lies the historic, quirky and artistic-centric town of Bluffton. It has an authentic 1860ish feel to it rather mixed in with a bit of Niagara on the Lake and Creemore, in Ontario. Don’t miss the church of the Holy Cross which was built in 1854. Better yet is Beaufort.

There are two Tanger outlets off the Island too. Considering the ravaged Canadian dollar perhaps there is no need to shop.

OK, all said and done I see no reason to visit Hilton Head unless you are a golf nut or a person escaping the cold. There is nothing unique other than a valiant attempt at disguising American commercialism. This is a dead place.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."Email Robert Stephen
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