Hilton Head, South Carolina

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Hilton Head, South Carolina offers far more than breezes off the Atlantic Ocean and a temperate climate year round. An island shaped like a boot on tiptoe on the Georgia state border, its history stretches back 10,000 years. Visited by the Spanish in 1525, the island was surveyed by William Hilton in 1663 and claimed for the British crown. Its first settlers, however, were French Huguenots, who arrived about 17 years later, shortly after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

Hilton Head, South Carolina Today

After 150 years of plantation agriculture followed by the Civil War, the island spent nearly 100 years isolated from the mainland and reverting to forest and wetland. In 1956, however, a bridge was built across the narrow Intracoastal Waterway. Hilton Head, South Carolina then began its life as a resort, swept with ocean breezes, teeming with wildlife, and crisscrossed by lagoons, wetlands, fairways, and hiking trails.

Encompassing 42 square miles, the island stretches about 12 miles long and five miles wide. All told, this amounts to 29,000 acres of salt marshes, villa communities, freshwater wetlands, wide beaches, and salt marshes. About 4,000 of those acres are laid out into 24 golf courses that snake their fairways amidst creeks and inlets and forest. Marinas, tennis courts, and racquetball facilities are also popular activities. Wide beaches beckon both residents and vacationers, whether for walking, swimming, or para-sailing.

The oldest and largest of the Hilton Head, South Carolina communities is Sea Pines, which stretches across the entire toe of the boot. Other private, gated communities include Hilton Head Plantation, Windmill Harbour, Palmetto Dunes, and Indigo Run--each with its own personality. For the vacationer there is no shortage of hotels, villas, and restaurants.

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