Hilton Head has long been known as a family-friendly vacation destination, and now more than ever families are choosing to stay and play with their four-legged family members in tow.
Boasting dog-friendly beaches, an abundance of dedicated walking paths, endless outdoor activities and a variety of pet-friendly restaurants, Hilton Head’s dog-loving community might sway you to want a dog if you don’t already have one.
“Many island hotels and restaurants are rolling out the welcome mat for visitors who travel with their pets,” said Charlie Clark, vice president of communications at the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. “These services and amenities only add to the attraction of our destination and provide another great reason for them to choose Hilton Head Island.”
Teeming with dog lovers, Hilton Head welcomes pet owners and their pups with a variety of activities and pet-friendly businesses. There are several outdoor shopping areas where dogs are welcome, while many Hilton Head restaurants and businesses welcome dogs with water bowls and treats.
At Bistro 17, a charming French restaurant at Shelter Cove Marina, dogs are treated like family.
“I’m a dog lover, so I think you should be able to take your pet to dinner or lunch,” said owner Jim Buckingham. “When they are sat at the table, immediately a water bowl is brought as well as dog cookies. We have a dog-specific menu that includes grilled chicken and a choice of vegetable, brought out on a plate of parsley. Of course, the dogs love it.”
Many restaurants on the island see a steady flow of regulars who frequent their establishments because they are able to bring their dog with them. Restaurants such as Charbar, Bomboras and Captain Woody’s are known for their dog-friendly atmospheres.
Julie Mariotte grew up on Hilton Head, having called it home for 36 years. She enjoys the countless outdoor activities Hilton Head has to offer pet owners and their furry friends.
“There are so many different places on Hilton Head to explore with your dog. My dachshund, Lily, loves that she can go with me to a variety of restaurants, to dog parks and to our beautiful beaches for our morning runs,” said Mariotte. “A stroll around Harbour Town Yacht Basin is a pleasant outing with your dog as well, to see the yachts and lighthouse. There are also several forest preserves and bikes trails to enjoy walks.”
Hilton Head’s 12 miles of beach are dog friendly year-round with seasonal restrictions in place. Dogs are invited to enjoy the beach before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day.
During shoulder seasons, leashed dogs are permitted on the beach from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 1 through the Thursday prior to Memorial Day as well as the Tuesday after Labor Day through Sept. 30.
During the off-season pups are welcome to run around, enjoy the surf and chase tennis balls leash-free as long they obey commands with positive voice control.
If your pup enjoys socializing, there is a fenced dog park at Chaplin Community Park, where both locals and visitors bring their dogs. The park is open from sunrise to sunset and includes a separate area for small and large dogs.
“The Visitor and Convention Bureau website HiltonHeadIsland.org gives visitors a list of pet-friendly properties, restaurants that allow dogs, special pet menus and details on town regulations so they can enjoy the beach together,” added Clark. “It’s a major resource for them when planning their stay.”