March 2013

Behind the Gates: Hilton Head Lakes

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr.

This month, Behind the Gates ventures outside the confines of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton for the first time. Our first stop as we cross over into Jasper County is Hardeeville’s Hilton Head Lakes, which is kind of like making two stops, because Hilton Head Lakes is actually two separate and distinct communities operating as one.

Traveling approximately 15 miles west on Highway 278 from the bridge to Hilton Head Island, you’ll come upon the familiar towers standing at the entrance to Hilton Head Lakes North on your right, and the serene waterfall entrance to Hilton Head Lakes South on your left. The waterfall drops a subtle hint to the community’s signature feature, a 155-acre private, navigable freshwater lake that serves as the heart of Hilton Head Lakes’ amenity offerings. “Lake Living” is what differentiates Hilton Head Lakes from other area private communities according to broker-in-charge Matt Peebles.

“It does,” Peebles said. “In 1999, our company started this “boatable” lake concept in Myrtle Beach, and it was really the first community in the area that wasn’t revolved around golf. That in itself makes our community very different than most of them.” The same is true of Hilton Head Lakes in the Lowcountry. “We think that this is the wave of the future.”

Hilton Head Lakes South, or, the lake side, is the original development bearing the name Hilton Head Lakes. It is the site of the community’s namesake body of water, with 90 percent of the homesites enjoying water views. The Lake Club recently opened to serve as a hub for the Hilton Head Lakes social life, providing residents with a clubhouse, fitness center, pools, tennis courts and other amenities.

Across the road, Hilton Head Lakes North, or the golf course side, occupies the property formerly known as Tradition Hilton Head. It features an 18-hole Tommy Fazio designed championship track with practice facilities and a 6-hole par 3 course.

Hilton Head Lakes North is also notable as the only community in South Carolina with a reclaimed water plant to irrigate the golf course and residents’ homesites. “That’s a big money saver for people,” Peebles said.

The Lake Club is situated right on the lake shore, adjacent to a boating ramp, community day dock and beach area, to facilitate and maximize residents’ enjoyment of the water. The pool area, currently under construction, will feature a large resort style pool and infinity pool as well as a splash zone, lazy river and waterslide for the kids. Lighted tennis courts, a basketball court and a playground also occupy the Lake Club’s grounds. The building itself is home to meeting rooms and a ballroom with a catering kitchen, a game room, an expansive second floor porch overlooking the lake and a spacious sun deck.

Residents enjoy venturing out from the Lake Club in kayaks, canoes, pontoon boats and other small watercraft, but they can also set off on foot to explore over 12 miles of walking nature trails—with seven of those miles along the lake system—and a 453-acre nature preserve teeming with indigenous flora and fauna.

According to Peebles, a community concept de-emphasizing golf and bringing other features and amenities to the fore is how Hilton Head Lakes meets the demands of a changing real estate market. “We’ve had a chance to adapt, and the affordability of this community is kind of our shining star after people move in,” he said. “Folks are becoming more and more wary of paying high dues. So the two things that we’ve done to make our community different, besides the boatable concept, is the fact that we’re not going to run the golf course as a private country club. It’s going to stand on its own. A lot of our customers play a little bit of golf, some don’t play any golf and some play a lot, so we’re not going to burden them and we’re not going to put a full-blown restaurant on the site. Most country clubs, if not all of them, lose money in the food and beverage and that, in turn, is passed along to the people who live there. We can run our community right now for $100 a month, which is a super low number.”

Jim Milo would be one of those who plays a lot of golf, and he’s quite satisfied with the arrangement. Milo and his wife, Rose, are currently building a home on the golf course, and for them, the total package of a new, well-managed community, outstanding amenities including world-class golf without the high cost of a private golf club is the perfect fit. “We looked at pretty much everything on the island and off the island, and we liked everything about Hilton Head Lakes,” Milo said. “It fits everything we like in our lifestyle.” Avid a golfer that he is, Milo also cited the Lake Living concept as a considerable attraction. “Sure, I can see myself getting a canoe or something and putting it in the lake one of these days,” he said.

The majority of current property owners in Hilton Head Lakes would fall into the baby boomer category; however, as one of the newest communities in the area and years from build-out, it would be incorrect to label it a retirement community. First of all, that’s not the intention. There is no age restriction and its amenity package and location make an attractive option for all ages and family situations. “There are very few pieces of property where you can do a continuous lake system like we’re doing. It’s a neat concept,” Peebles said. “We know that people love water. Most people can’t afford to go down on the island and get something on the ocean or on one of the rivers, but just about everybody can afford something that we have here.”

Beyond the amenities and lifestyle considerations, Hilton Head Lakes strives to make the whole process of finding and purchasing a home or homesite as simple and seamless as possible. You can buy a lot and hold it for as long as you wish without being pressured to build before you’re ready. When you’re ready to build, a model park featuring the models offered by Hilton Head Lakes’ preferred builder, Citizens Homes, helps you visualize your future home in context, and relationships with five other builders widens the range of options.

On the golf course side, homesites start in the high $40,000s and range into the low $100,000s. Sites with homes range from the $200,000s up to the high $300,000s. On the lake side, homesites start around $70,000 and go up to the $150,000s. Homes with homesites range from the $300,000s to the $700,000s. “We take a lot of pride in offering a wide range of products and price points so that we can find a shoe that fits for just about everyone,” Peebles said.

In terms of proximity to most of what is considered important and desirable in the Lowcountry, Hilton Head Lakes is difficult to beat. Both main entrances are just minutes from greater Bluffton’s shopping, dining and services as well as the beaches of Hilton Head Island. Downtown Savannah, Georgia and the Savannah Hilton Head
International Airport are 20-minute drives, as is historic Beaufort, South Carolina. Future commercial development planned for nearby tracts promises to make the location even more attractive.

Hilton Head Lakes is located at 356 Lakeside Boulevard, Hardeeville, SC. For more information, call (866) 396-3230 or visit online at

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