Lowcountry thrill rides



You’re eight stories up, standing atop a platform resembling a fire watchtower that you’d seen out west. You’re dressed in active gear, wearing a helmet and a climbing harness. And you’re about to jump.

Hilton Head Island is no longer just attracting people to play tennis and golf. Today’s eco-friendly destination traveler is searching for adventure.

The staff of ZipLine Hilton Head and Aerial Adventure is counting on it.

Your certified adventure guide has taken you through ground school and given you a run of the basics. You’ve even worked your way through some confidence building turns. Now it’s money time. You’re clipped into your pulley system and are ready to go.

Looking above the trees you have an unobstructed view from mid-island at Shelter Cove to the top of the Harbourtown Lighthouse. Your two-hour tour through the trees has taken you from tower to tree platform to suspended sky bridge. It’s been a thrilling eco-adventure on eight inter-connected zip lines, including dual cable racing finale across a run 900 feet long.

Reaching up, you cup your gloved right hand over the pulley, and then clench your left hand over the top. Later, you’ll reach a flat left palm above your head directly onto the wire and the friction will slow you down. But now, you take a deep breath and tuck your feet into a cannonball and rocket away from the launch.

Picking up speed across the chasm, time slows down. You remember checking your harness and trusting it completely, letting it take your weight as you catapult through a green-streaked tunnel of leaves. Still gaining speed, you begin to focus on the next tower.

You strain to listen for sound of the waves or a boat horn far below, but you can’t hear anything but the wind. The journey is as peaceful as it is exhilarating. And before you know it you’re raising your left hand onto the wire and your speed has started to slow. 

thrillrides2At the platform you bend your knees and time the stop perfectly to finish balanced and ready for more. Your heart races faster and you try to remember the last time you’d thought it was so great to be alive.

That’s the thing with adventure sports. The adrenaline rush is addictive, and activities from parachuting to parasailing to paraboarding are all the rage from coast to coast. A new attraction added at ZipLine Hilton Head this spring is the Aerial Adventure Theme Park, a ropes course playground in the sky.

Fifty in-the-trees challenge activities on six different ability courses offer safe, guided adventure for people of all ages. Novice climbers will build agility and confidence negotiating swaying tunnels, logs and bridges on the beginner level, while intermediate and expert level climbers jump through hoops and nets and traverse military training walls.

As golf and tennis continue to drive the Hilton Head Island tourist economy, other retailers are learning that our vacation paradise has much more to offer. Visitors enjoy our bicycle paths and single-track. A visit to the beach will find Fat Tire bicycles cruising along the many miles of hard-packed sand.

Other eco-travellers will find plenty of opportunity to raise their heart rates by parasailing, scheduling a dolphin kayak tour or renting stand-up paddleboards.

At Outside Hilton Head on Shelter Cove Marina, guests participate in custom private adventure,s including sunset outings, a fireworks cruise, cast netting lessons, family tubing and dolphin watching. Other tours from Shelter Cove Marina offer options for stand-up paddle boarding, beachside yoga, group destination management and children’s programs.

The company flagship store in Shelter Cove Plaza has anything you need to gear up for a kayak fishing tour. Utilizing the newest in pedal drive technology, the Mirage system offers simple, paddle-free propulsion while still enabling novices the ability to maneuver the boat into little nooks and crannies of fishing holes. Below the surface the secret is revealed as underwater flippers that mimic the swimming motion of a penguin are connected to the pedals. It’s just as easy to back up and turn, as it is to gather considerable speed.

thrillrides3Maybe the coolest adventure tourist business to open on Hilton Head Island this year is HHI Jetpack. The new business launched from Shelter Cove Marina this April.

“It’s a jetpack where you can fly on water,” said Taylor Whitehead. “The water propels you forward while you’re completely weightless in the air.”

The thrill-seekers flight experience offers a pre-flight training session with a certified instructor and a fitted life vest with a 5-point safety harness. The pre-flight briefing puts your fears at ease when you learn that the fitted helmet includes a state of the art two-way radio that will keep you in touch with your flight instructor the entire flight.

First time pilots experience the thrill of flight while your certified instructor controls the throttle remotely. “We’ll also have someone on a Sea Do at all times monitoring safety by ensuring that there are no boats in the area and everyone is safe at all times,” Whitehead said.

On the dock, you’re your guide makes final adjustments for a custom fit on your seat and arms, then the water propelled jetpack is started and you’re flight begins. With a little practice you can walk and skip your feet on top of the water, then shoot up to thirty feet in the air.

“This is the ultimate water toy,” Whitehead exclaims. “There’s nothing else like it!”

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