Best Summer Ever

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND SHINES IN WARM WEATHER

It’s finally summer — the season kids and local business owners have been waiting for all year. It’s during these months that visitors and locals take to our beaches and waterways in pursuit of the ultimate summer fun.

It’s also crazy hot, so most will want to stay close to the water, if not immersed in it. Ready to make some waves?

GET OUT ON THE WATER

Kayaking is the most popular water sport on the island. Paddle local waterways with a guide to learn more about the Lowcountry’s ecology; you might also spot wildlife like jumping shrimp, oysters, ospreys and more. Many companies offer kayak tours of Broad Creek, Jarvis Creek, Skull Creek, and the salt marsh around Pinckney Island.

Stand-up paddle boarding is a little more challenging than kayaking, but most people will be able to master it after a few minutes of instruction. It’s a great workout, and it’s easy to slip in the water for a swim to cool off. Operators are located at South Beach Marina in Sea Pines and several other locations.

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If speed is your thing — or your kids’ thing — you’ll go fast and get wet on a banana boat ride leaving from Harbour Town Marina. Personal watercraft rides and water skiing — including tubing and wake boarding — are favorites for older kids and college students.

In the past few years, Hilton Head has seen a new way of taking to the waves. Two-person boats called “creek cats” or skiffs are tiny watercraft captained by a guide in single-file lines, buzzing around the island at speeds up to 30 mph. Several operators offer them from Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort and Marina, and Skull Creek Marina. They sit low in the water, giving you the same intimate connection to the sea as a kayak, but without all of the laborious paddling.

For amazing views and the sensation of flight, try parasailing. Several companies offer the chance to fly hundreds of feet in the air over the brilliant Atlantic. Or learn more about local wildlife on a dolphin tour, where naturalist guides and charter captains talk about the habits of bottlenose dolphins. These intelligent mammals are present in Hilton Head’s waters year-round. For true nature aficionados, there’s even an alligator tour in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, where participants learn about the reptiles that live in lagoons and ponds all around the island.

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Nature tours are good for all ages, but if your crew includes kids ages 8 and youger, a pirate cruise will be an unforgettable day on the water. The crew provides kids with pirate costumes and pirate lessons before setting sail in search of treasure. Kids will be highly engaged with water cannons, a battle with an evil pirate and a bit of history.

There are a few spots on the island where the waves sometimes get big enough for real surfing, but beginners can learn on the island’s gentle swells. Burkes Beach and North Forest Beach are where you’ll find locals when the surf’s up. Native Son Adventures and J.T.’s Surf and Cycle rent equipment and offer lesssons. Their specialized boards are perfect for taking your first paddle out.

But most of the island’s waves are better suited to the more low-key pursuit that is boogie boarding. These foam boards are available nearly everywhere you look during summer and are great for testing your skills on the smaller waves at beaches like Coligny. Or try a thin wooden skim board to hydroplane along the tide at the spot where water meets sand — but beware, it’s easy to trip up on them.

And, of course, Hilton Head is one of the country’s top charter fishing destinations, so have your rod and reel ready. Tarpon arrive in the summer in Port Royal Sound as well as the backcountry creeks that surround Hilton Head. Summer is also a good time to catch flounder, and fishing for trout is exciting in June and July. No boat? No worries. Shark fishing is legal on the beach outside of designated swimming areas.

ON THE BEACH

For some people, it’s enough to simply enjoy the beach, relaxing on the sand with the waves crashing and a gentle breeze cooling you while you bake to a golden bronze.

For others, the beach is the world’s most enjoyable stadium, a playing field where champions are crowned. There are several events best suited for Hilton Head’s white sands; combine them for your own island Olympics.

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Start with the team sport of KanJam, ideally suited for the sand since you can play it with a drink in your hand — not that anyone enjoys an adult beverage on the beach; after all, it’s prohibited, of course. Players face off over a pair of plastic barrels, flying discs in hand, and try to score points by landing your disc inside the can. Then move on to single events with a rousing round of bocce, a sport generally played on a crisply manicured lawn but easily adapted to hard-packed sand. Finally, get the kids involved and let them put their beach shovels to good use digging out a personalized beach mini golf course. Just remember to fill in any holes you create. Baby turtles have been known to fall into them as they make their way to the sea.

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