The Lowcountry has a calming effect. It soothes your spirit and calms your mind. The environment here moves a little bit slower, and makes things a little less stressful. Worries are washed away with salt water and sand.
Here, life truly imitates art. Spanish moss draped across live oaks, sunsets against salt marshes and canopies of trees brimming with wildlife; it’s a little more lyrical, a little less corporate and, for those who live in this undeniably special place, it’s home.
For many, Hilton Head Island and Bluffton have provided an alternative from the fast pace of metropolitan areas, offering friendly, familiar faces and a strong sense of community. The way of life and pace here is relaxed, casual and easy.
The draw of Hilton Head has lured many visitors to trade their yearly one-week visit for a lifelong vacation. The activities and diversions the Lowcountry offers are endless.
Living in paradise certainly doesn’t eliminate commutes, deadlines and Monday mornings, but it does offer happiness and fulfillment outside of routine; it keeps the focus centered on what is important in life.
It simply takes a quick trip to another city to return with a renewed appreciation, strong sense of gratitude, and a friendly reminder of what it was like the first time we visited.
Here are a few reasons why we call the Lowcountry home. What is your reason?
FOR ACTIVE ADULT LIVING
Retirement is no longer about trading in one’s career for a rocker in front of the TV. For many of the retirees who move to the Lowcountry, retirement is another chapter in their lives that began innocently enough with a vacation to the Hilton Head area.
With more than 14,000 residents and dozens of groups to join, Sun City Hilton Head is like a small town.
The Cypress, with nearly 430 residents, and TidePointe, with about 300 residents, are much more intimate, offering first-class independent living along with different levels of continuing care, nursing care and assisted living on the grounds.
The Seabrook of Hilton Head is a nonprofit independent living retirement community with more than 200 residents. The Seabrook's 21-acre campus includes the Fraser Health Center, a 33-private bed skilled nursing facility.
FOR THE BEACH
A gentle underwater slope makes swimming in Hilton Head Island waters a pleasant experience — seldom do swimmers have to deal with dangerous undertows and crashing waves. And small tidal pools at the edge of the ocean are welcoming to children and non-swimmers.
Amenities such as well-tended restrooms and showers, a lengthy boardwalk to save feet from burning sand, rentable chairs and umbrellas, and shielded benches and swings make Coligny Beach a must-stop for families.
Research shows that the island’s natural beauty, enhanced by environmentally sound development and regular beach replenishment, make it a popular destination, year in and year out.
There are seven beach access points along the island’s 12 miles of sand that are accessible to the public, one with free parking, others with sticker parking for residents and hotel, rental or condominium guests, and metered or street parking.
All have restrooms and outdoor showers located in shady areas surrounded by natural beauty. Several of the island’s beach parks are handicapped accessible; two have picnic facilities, and one has a playground. Even before you get to the beach, the approach to them is worth the trip. Some have charming winding streets and pathways that are overgrown with lush foliage and shaded by majestic live oak trees hung with moss.
FOR THE BEAUTY
Many are attracted to the Lowcountry for its natural beauty and lack of commercialism. That’s the way Town of Hilton Head officials want it to feel. While Mother Nature created it so beautifully, the town has made significant efforts to keep it beautiful.
The town’s Land Management Ordinance provides many of the regulations that help to maintain Hilton Head’s reputation for preserving the natural environment. Ordinances regarding natural resources, the establishment of buffers along the roads, signs and the review of all development along major corridors all lend themselves to this reputation.
The town’s Design Review Board ensures proposed buildings and site improvements are in line with the design guide for the island. The design guide directs the board and developers what natural materials to use in development, what native plants should be used for green spaces and other design elements.
FOR THE CULTURE
Consider the typical visitor, on the island for a quick getaway and often intent on chasing golf balls, surviving beach bike rambles and maybe savoring an evening libation or two listening to Jimmy Buffett cover tunes at some torch-lighted island eatery.
Cool. We can do that. And very well, thank you.
But, as so many of can attest, today's tourist often becomes tomorrow's year-round resident, and once they get past “Margaritaville” they discover local musicians playing original rock, blues and electronic dance music in venues that are off the beaten path and bear no artistic connection to Mr. Buffett or the hormone-fueled Barmuda Triangle.
World-class musicians work nightly at The Jazz Corner, serving up swing, traditional jazz standards and rhythm and blues for more seasoned locals and visitors, but if you're in the mood for much older classics, track down the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. There's also the well-regarded Hilton Head Choral Society and the well-attended International Piano Competition that draws some of the world's finest young players to First Presbyterian Church. And the Hilton Head Dance Theatre further bolsters our cultural credibility.
The RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, a PGA Tour event, remains our biggest tourist (and traffic) draw. Visitor counts for productions at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina have pushed that venue firmly into second place.
The Art League of Hilton Head, which shares space with the Arts Center, displays a variety of paintings, jewelry and artwork on a rotating basis, and there's a growing roster of smaller galleries scattered about the island and in Old Town Bluffton. Our museum scene is anchored by the pastoral Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn, and financing continues to grow toward creating a full-fledged Gullah museum that truly celebrates our diverse culture.
FOR THE FAMILY
Blessed with natural beauty, white sandy beaches and temperate climate, Hilton Head Island has earned a reputation as one of the most family-friendly vacation destinations in the United States. At the top of many must-visit lists is a climb to the summit of the iconic lighthouse in Harbour Town.
Visitors will learn about the island’s rich natural history and are rewarded for their climb with spectacular views of Harbour Town Golf Links, Harbour Town Yacht Basin and Calibogue Sound.
Active families enjoy eco-kayak or stand-up paddleboarding tours through salt marsh estuaries, where naturalists and photographers enjoy frequent sightings of bald eagles, hawks and osprey.
Thrill-seekers will enjoy a visit to ZipLine Hilton Head for an adventuresome canopy tour. Dolphin sightseeing tours, sailing trips, parasailing, waterskiing and tubing are especially popular.
A custom pirate ship is outfitted for a pirate adventure tour. Sport fishing charters, night shark trips and a catamaran sunset cruise are also available.
A boat trip to Daufuskie Island offers a glimpse of what other Sea Islands were like before bridges and causeways opened them to development. Most native residents of the island are descendants of freed slaves, who have made their living oystering and fishing for decades.
Family-oriented singer and songwriter Gregg Russell can be found performing beneath the famous Liberty Oak six nights per week throughout the summer season.
At Lawton Stables, a guided trail ride through the scenic Sea Pines Forest Preserve is offered. Young children will treasure a visit with Callie, the island’s pet deer.
A visit to Coligny Beach is an open invitation for people-watching, where the flip-flop–tapping rhythm of steel drums and Jimmy Buffet songs sets a casual mood.
Thousands of families annually enjoy Harbourfest at Shelter Cove, where Shannon Tanner has entertained audiences for the past 25 years. Live entertainment, bouncy houses, food, arts and crafts, and evening fireworks display are featured.
Many families also enjoy championship caliber golf, tennis, cycling and miniature golf. Others relax during a game of bocce or by flying a kite. A children’s museum, video arcade, bowling alley and several movie theaters are also available.
FOR THE HEALTH CARE
Hilton Head Island is expected to have excellent beaches, shopping, and cuisine. What seems slightly more surprising for such a rural, off-the-beaten-path hamlet is its top-quality health care options.
Excellent health care is a key determinant of where people decide to visit or retire. Because the island is a world-class destination, Hilton Head Hospital has been successful in attracting great physicians and nurses.
Hilton Head Regional Healthcare includes Hilton Head Hospital, Coastal Carolina Hospital, the Bluffton-Okatie Outpatient Center and the Bluffton Medical Campus.
That’s a lot of top-notch health care facilities for an area whose population hovered around 23,000 just 23 years ago.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital is a Duke Medicine affiliate in heart and cancer care. Its Keyserling Cancer Center participates in national clinical trials, offering patients access to some of today’s most promising cancer treatments.
Beaufort Memorial was the first medical center in the area to offer robot-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomies. Surgeons are now performing leading-edge, single-incision gallbladder surgery, kidney-sparing cancer surgery and laparoscopic prostatectomies.
Just across the state line, St. Joseph's/Candler combines high-impact technology, breakthrough clinical treatments and time-honored compassionate care to create "smart medicine" — an innovative approach to health and well-being. St. Joseph’s/Candler offers health care services across the entire continuum, including local and regional primary care, specialized inpatient and outpatient services at two anchor hospitals, home health care services, as well as a wide variety of community outreach and education efforts throughout the region. The hospital's faith-based, holistic approach to healing encourages individuals to become more knowledgeable about their personal health, while providing advanced, comprehensive treatments and state-of-the-art medical technologies.
Also in Savannah, Memorial University Medical Center is an award-winning 610-bed academic medical center that serves a 35-county area. For those seeking even more specialized care and clinical trials, the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville are both a relatively easy drive.
FOR THE FUN
Yes, “water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink” as Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote more than 200 years ago in the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” but we don’t care about drinking water as long as we can always enjoy it by boating, sailing, fishing, casting, paddleboarding, kayaking, charter boating and everything else.
For locals and tourists alike, the abundant wildlife and the area’s creeks, rivers, sounds, ocean, lagoons, ponds, salt marshes, wetlands and maritime forests provide a bounty of outdoor adventures for people of all ages.
The water is calm and fresh. Fishing is good. Shrimp, crab and flounder in Broad and Jarvis creeks often wind up in nets. Elsewhere, shark, redfish, trout, black drum and bluefish abound.
There are a lot of places that are still untouched, natural areas like Pinckney Island. You can find some pretty nice little nooks and crannies for fishing.
Pinckney Island is also a favorite destination for birders. Egrets, herons and ibises are common sights there.
If you don’t have your own resources, check in with a local outfitter for dolphin and nature boat cruises, fishing and sailboat charters, kayaking, sport crabbing and shrimping, parasailing, waterskiing, tubing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, power boating, guided nature tours and hiking and biking along miles of pathways.
FOR THE RECREATION
With more than 20 public courses and numerous other private tracks in the Hilton Head area — many of them championship quality layouts designed by the biggest names in golf course design, such as Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones — it’s no wonder Hilton Head has earned the nickname of the “golf island.” Many of the area’s pristine communities boast at least one course within their gates, and several have two or more.
And the island alone claims more than 350 tennis courts and boasts an extremely active USTA league that makes it easy for adults to play competitively against opponents of their skill level.
The recreation opportunities aren’t limited to adults, either. One of the biggest reasons families move here is for the recreational resources in the area. Some of the top tennis and golf academies are based here.
FOR THE SCHOOLS
A critical component of the Lowcountry’s appeal is the quality of the schools. Although children and young adults comprise a smaller percentage of the population on Hilton Head Island than they do in Beaufort County (only 25 percent), they represent the long-term future of the community, as well as the nation. With several outstanding public and private schools to choose from, the island offers an excellent variety of learning environments to meet any student’s educational needs. Notable factors that differentiate the schools are the rigor of academics and faculty training; athletic and arts programs; educational philosophy; spirituality; social life and class size.
The Town of Hilton Head Island’s public schools are part of the Beaufort County School District and include Hilton Head Island High School, Hilton Head Island Middle School, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, Hilton Head Island Elementary School, and Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center. The island offers two distinctive public elementary programs for students: Hilton Head Elementary, an International Baccalaureate School, and the School for the Creative Arts.
Awarded “Palmetto’s Finest,” making it one of the top public high schools in the state, Hilton Head High boasts demanding academics and faculty training; competitive athletic programs; the arts; and volunteer opportunities.
Private schools that serve elementary and secondary students continue to grow and include Hilton Head Preparatory School, Sea Pines Montessori Academy, Hilton Head Christian Academy, St. Francis Catholic School and Heritage Academy.
Hilton Head Preparatory School is the oldest school on the island. In 1965, the “founder” of Hilton Head Island, the late Charles Fraser and his Sea Pines Company, shouldered 80 percent of its start-up costs. Today, Hilton Head Prep offers a mixture of rigorous academics, athletics, and performing arts, plus individualized learning opportunities for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Sea Pines Montessori Academy offers innovative educational programs for children from 18 months to eighth grade. What differentiates Sea Pines Montessori is a project-based, customizable curriculum allowing students to advance in subject areas depending on their needs and inquiry.
Parents who choose Hilton Head Christian Academy (K-12) or St. Francis Catholic School (pre-K-8) often do so because of the Christ-centered community that encourages students to achieve their spiritual as well as their competitive academic and athletic goals.
With a New River campus in Bluffton, the Technical College of the Lowcountry prepares graduates for transfer to senior colleges and universities or careers in technology, business, health, and public service. The University of South Carolina Beaufort is a senior baccalaureate campus of the state's largest public university. USCB provides degree programs in the arts, humanities, professions and social and natural sciences. Both schools offer small classes with individualized attention.
FOR THE WEATHER
Weather in the Lowcountry typically comes in threes. There’s a long tropical-like summer, sandwiched in between a long spring and a long autumn. A touch of what one would call winter is usually in January and February, with nighttime temperatures flirting in the 40s and 50s with daytime highs in the 60s. Daytime temperatures on Hilton Head Island average 60 degrees in January, 75 degrees in April, 89 degrees in July and 77 degrees in October, according to the Weather Channel.
Hilton Head and the surrounding Lowcountry area are blessed with temperate weather for several reasons. The region is 110 miles north of Florida and on a similar latitude as west coast weather standouts such as San Diego and Los Angeles.
It often gets warm weather moving northeasterly from the Gulf of Mexico in the southeast or the warm Gulfs Stream waters off the coast of Florida when winds are moving westerly.
South Carolina is like a sandwich in the middle. When storms generate from the west, Alabama and Mississippi usually get the brunt of the moisture. When a storm comes from the ocean, the cooler water temperatures near the coast help delay the path and intensity of the storm. Like much of the tropics, newcomers should always expect and be prepared for possible late-day storms.
ADDING IT ALL UP
When you take everything into consideration, the Lowcountry certainly offers residents a high quality of life. And we’ve got the awards to prove it.
Hilton Head Island was named the No. 1 Island in the Continental U.S. and No. 8 in the world by Travel + Leisure Magazine readers in the 2016 World’s Best Awards. It has also been named among the “World’s Friendlies Islands,” “America’s Favorite Towns” and “America’s Favorite Beach Towns” in Travel + Leisure. Hilton Head is also listed among Trip Advisor’s “Top 10 Islands in the U.S.” and USA Today Reader’s Choice “Top 10 Beaches on the East Coast.
Forbes magazine named Bluffton one of the “Best Places to Retire in 2016.” The Huffington Post named Bluffton its #1 destination for its list, “Ten Amazing Non-Beach Alternatives for a Summer Getaway.”
Many other awards and honors have come over the years, reaffiring many residents’ decision to call the Lowcountry home.