Long before golf courses, tennis courts, sprawling resorts, and rows of beach umbrellas turned Hilton Head Island into a premier vacation destination, something perhaps even more special was woven into the island’s fabric: rich history and a unique culture that still endures.

Hilton Head’s cultural past has not only survived but has become a valuable asset for an island whose economic lifeblood is tourism. And like other places blessed with colorful history, Hilton Head increasingly looks to “cultural tourism” as a resource important to the island’s prosperity.


When Hurricane Dorian ravaged The Bahamas in early September, a pair of Lowcountry residents reacted swiftly and decisively. 

The two — Hilton Head Island resident Jane Janiak and state Rep. Bill Herbkersman of Bluffton — had watched uneasily as the devastating storm raked the islands. After seeing what was left behind, they resolved to help the recovery.

SeaWorld Orlando and Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute helped rescue a distressed manatee in Palmetto Dunes Resort on Hilton Head Island in November. The 856-pound manatee had minor skin abrasions and was underweight. She was taken to SeaWorld Orlando for treatment and rehabilitation before being evaluated for return to the wild. 

Beaufort County Council member Steven Baer started a petition in November aimed at halting plans underway for widening bridges and causeways to Hilton Head Island. The petition, which urges the Hilton Head Island Town Council to reject all six proposals being considered by the S.C. Department of Transportation, quickly got 800 signatures.

MarksFormer Gov. Mark Sanford dropped out of the presidential race on Nov. 14, saying the focus on impeachment made it difficult for his campaign to gain traction. Sanford had focused his campaign on warnings about the national debt. When he launched his presidential bid over the summer, some questioned whether it was a publicity stunt. Sanford, 59, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s, then two four-year terms as governor before an extramarital affair marred the end of his second term. He won a special election to his old House seat in 2013, and was re-elected twice before his criticism of Trump led to a 2018 primary loss. 

In a controversial decision last month, Beaufort County Council Chairman Stu Rodman eliminated the public comment period previously held at the beginning of council meetings. The decision ends the council’s practice of allowing residents to speak for three minutes about issues on the agenda and for three minutes at the end of meetings about other issues. With the change, those who want to speak about agenda issues will have to wait until the issue is brought up by the council or until the end of the meeting. Rodman was accused of erecting barriers between local government officials and citizens. In June, Rodman recommended that transparency be removed as one of the council’s priorities. 

Beaufort County voters overwhelmingly approved a $344 million school bond referendum on Nov. 5. Nearly 70 percent of voters approved the measure, the largest bond referendum in the school district’s history. The Beaufort County school board now must select a financial adviser to guide the district’s issuance of bonds. A committee of community volunteers also will be selected to oversee how the money is spent. A website will be set up to allow citizens to track the progress of all referendum projects and review regular reports by the monitoring committee. 

Former Beaufort County Council member Jerry Stewart is being investigated following allegations that he lived and voted in another state during his term on council, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. In October, The Island Packet & Beaufort Gazette reported that Stewart cast votes on county issues and in a South Carolina primary despite living in North Carolina.The newspapers also reported that Stewart was registered to vote in both states — a violation of N.C. law — and had his Beaufort County Council payments mailed to his N.C. home. 

Generosity is one of the best things about the Lowcountry. Has your business or organization given back to the community? Submit your photos to for this section. Space is limited.


Hilton Head Island fishing captain Michael Perry, owner of “Papa Bear Fishing Charters,” was injured in a hunting accident in November when he fell from a deer stand in Tennessee. The 44-year-old father of two was impaled by a tree and rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for multiple surgeries. 


Beaufort County residents won’t find many items on the ballot when they go to the polls Nov. 5, but the issues they’ll vote on have high stakes. 

The most notable item on the ballot is the Beaufort County School District bond referendum, which includes funding for a comprehensive list of projects that will impact schools throughout the county. Residents of the towns of Bluffton and Port Royal will also cast ballots in municipal elections. 

Both from Hilton Head Island, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Brett Sylvia and Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) William “Bill” Green Jr. were officially promoted in separate ceremonies. Green was a graduate of H. E. McCracken High School. He now serves as deputy chief of all Army chaplains at the Pentagon. Sylvia graduated from Hilton Head Island High School. He now serves as 1st Calvary Division deputy at Fort Hood, Texas. 

Hilton Head Island Airport has announced that American Airlines will begin offering nonstop service to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport starting March 7, according to a news release. 

The flights will be seasonal, but the airport has not announced when they end. The announcement comes after a 236 percent increase in passengers in 2019. 

The Palmetto Ocean Conservancy is attempting to break a world record for the largest bottle cap structure and most plastic bottle caps recycled in one year. The nonprofit group has been working with local schools and businesses to collect plastic bottle caps since March and has amassed more than 400,000. The bottle caps will be used to create multiple murals throughout Beaufort County, each depicting an endangered or vulnerable species native to the Lowcountry. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, and Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP have announced a settlement in their lawsuit challenging the city of Beaufort and the town of Bluffton’s unconstitutional practice of depriving lawyers to poor people facing incarceration if convicted in municipal court. Under the settlement agreement, both municipalities will implement changes to their municipal court policies and practices. 

James Thomas Bramlette and Anthony Hartman, former owners of Melrose Resort on Daufuskie Island, were indicted on fraud charges in October. According to the indictment, they raised more than $10 million from private investors for renovations on the resort without disclosing to investors that they had defaulted on a previous $700,000 loan for the property. The Melrose Resort is now owned by Odeon Singapore Ltd.