Hilton Head Island’s ocean views and wetlands look stunning in the dwindling light of sunset — linger later and you'll have a pure view of the moon, thanks to the island’s strict lighting rules.
Though you may trip over your feet in the darkness, learn about why Hilton Head has implemented these rules, and you’ll appreciate the darkness rather than think of it as an inconvenience.
Light pollution is real and can greatly affect the area. When Charles Fraser came to the island to begin early development, he emphasized good design in relation to the island’s history and environment.
When Charles Fraser came to the island to begin early development, he recognized that good design in relation to the island’s history and environment was important. The Hilton Head Island design guide declares that “development shall exhibit a harmonious relationship with the natural environment by blending the principles of sensitive site planning, skillful architectural design, and an emphasis on landscaping that preserves and enhances the native vegetation,” all part of an effort to preserve the island’s character.
The island is known for its character, and a big part of that character comes from its scenery. Developers must ensure that lighting adds to the visual quality of the property and does not distract from the beauty of the night sky. The town also requests that any lighting uses low wattage to add emphasis but not overbear the night sky. The beauty of seeing a sky full of stars truly is rare in this day and age, so take the time to look up while you are here.
Of course, one of the most important reasons Hilton Head dims its lights is to help its wildlife. Sea turtles, which are endangered, lay their eggs on the beach, and when those eggs hatch, the newborn turtles are guided by the light of the moon to the ocean. If nearby lights are too bright, the turtles become disoriented and never make it to the ocean, dying of dehydration or from attacks by predators.
To help the hatchlings make their way to the safety of the ocean, From May 1 to Oct. 31, homeowners and renters must shade windows that face the beach at night and all outside lights must be turned off after 10 p.m.
The limited lighting on the island is not an inconvenience but instead enhances the beauty of the island. Embrace it and take time to look at the stars.