June 2020

Landmarks: Unmistakable signs you have arrived on Hilton Head Island for your summer vacation

Author: Barry Kaufman | Photographer: M.KAT Photography

Everyone knows those familiar landmarks that signal you have arrived somewhere specific. A mountain view, a roadside attraction or seafood shack on the beach. No place are those sights more welcome than when you arrive at your favorite vacation spot.

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Cross Island
We’re taking a different perspective on it, but do you recognize our first Hilton Head Island landmark? Since its opening in 1998, the Cross Island Parkway bridge has given travelers stunning views of Broad Creek, but the scenery is just as beautiful at ground level. Here, sheltered from the sounds of traffic, the marsh grass still grows through tidal waters as it did when William Hilton first arrived on our shores. With the shopping, dining and resurgent marina just down the shore, this bucolic hideaway represents the quieter, more tranquil side of one of the island’s most famed landmarks.

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Harbour Town Lighthouse
What would Hilton Head Island be without its famed lighthouse? For visitors the world over, the iconic red and white stripes of this majestic (if strictly ornamental) lighthouse have served as visual shorthand for a vacation destination par excellence. For locals, it’s a point of pride to see our lighthouse broadcast to the world during the RBC Heritage every year. Built as the first tournament was underway, the lighthouse was called “Fraser’s Folly,” due to the fact that, well, it was a lighthouse that didn’t actually function as a lighthouse. Time eventually made fools of all the naysayers, and the Harbour Town Lighthouse became an indelible symbol of the island.

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Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina
There are few greater pleasures on the island than strolling along the gangplanks and walkways of Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina. Here, tucked along waters that glisten and change with the tides, where the eye takes in kayakers and native wildlife splashing and soaring among the chop, majestic natural views are just part of the attraction. Wind your way along the waterfront and add a few gorgeous watercraft to your wish list, then spend the day among the shopping, dining and excitement of Shelter Cove. In fact, you might need more than one day.

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South Beach Marina
If Harbour Town was Charles Fraser’s take on an Italian port town, then South Beach is his open-air love letter to the fishing villages of New England. Nestled along the shores of Braddock Cove, South Beach Marina offer a waterfront experience that has drawn visitors for generations. Maybe it’s the salt air. Maybe it’s the live entertainment drifting down from the Salty Dog, or the exotic birds that greet you out front. Maybe it’s the wealth of shopping. There’s no sense trying to figure out the appeal when you could simply dive in and enjoy it.

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Do you recognize this piece of public art? Consider it a landmark within a landmark. Located within Coligny Plaza, this mural graces the side of Piggly Wiggly Coligny, one of the many attractions found within Hilton Head Island’s downtown. Since Norris and Lois opened the island’s first supermarket here, Coligny Plaza has served as the true heart of the island. The Richardson family still oversees all the shopping, dining and excitement to be found just steps from the beach, among a sprawling complex filled with unique finds and hidden treasures (like this mural) seemingly around every corner.

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Palmetto Bay Marina
Avast, ye scurvy dogs! If it be adventure on the high seas ye be craving, then get pressganged into service aboard the Black Sparrow, flagship of the Pirates HHI fleet. One of the island’s most eye-catching attractions, the Black Sparrow is anchored at Palmetto Bay Marina, an attraction all its own. One of the earliest landmarks on Hilton Head Island, this dockside mix of great restaurants and unique shops has recently emerged from a few transformative years with renewed beauty and energy. Visitors, if you want to know where all the locals go, this landmark is it.

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The famous King Neptune statue doubles as a larger-than-life sundial in Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina.

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