5 Things I Love about Visiting Bluffton/Hilton Head Island

A few easy-to-use *favorite* makeup products!

A little photo dump from our most recently trip down to Bluffon, SC. . .

I’ve shared that we visit my folks in South Carolina pretty often and it is not lost on me how much of a treat it is that they live in such a beautiful place.

I grew up outside of Chicago, Illinois, and both of my parents are originally from that area. I was the first one of my family to move away (first to college in Michigan, and then a transfer down to a college in North Carolina) but now my parents spend most of the year in South Carolina, and my sister and her family now live in Raleigh as well! I just need to continue working on trying to get my brother and his family down south and then we will be all near each other!

I moved to North Carolina without knowing a single soul (though I met Justin shortly after I moved here. . . read our love story here) but I was sort of familiar with the area thanks to visiting South Carolina with my family for trips throughout the latter part of my youth.

Since my parents have lived in South Carolina for many years, we have made that our go-to spot for a scenery change and vacation. While we spend a lot of time at their home since that tends to be the easiest with little kids, we do have a few favorite spots to eat and explore so I’ll share those below! I truly feel like we’ve just scratched the surface when it comes to exploring the area, so while this certainly isn’t a comprehensive round-up, it’s a few of our favorite go-to spots!

One. Palmetto Bluff. I can’t remember the first time we wandered around Palmetto Bluff, but I fell in love with it the second I set foot in the tiny downtown area within the property. And when Justin and I got engaged in 2008 and were trying to decide where on earth to get married (he’s from Virginia and I’m from Illinois), we pretty swiftly landed on a small, family-only destination wedding at Palmetto Bluff. It was a dream. I love that we have that memory to re-live every time we visit.

Two. Old Town Bluffton. It is the most charming, quaint little downtown spot that has been newly revitalized with a plethora of restaurants, shops, and businesses. It’s seated amongst huge live oak trees with moss hanging on them. A handful of the shops are in buildings that look like old homes. The charm is unmatched. The Wright Family Park is one of the newer developments that is a beautiful little grassy area with a short path and a dock and pier to get closer to the water.

Three. Coligny Beach. If we’re going to drive onto the island and go to the beach, we always go to Coligny. They’ve recently added a pretty awesome park with a larger parking lot and the area right before entering the sand is updated with swings, bathrooms, and even a tiny splash pad for kids.

Four. Shelter Cove Marina. This is a beautiful spot to walk around and take in the beautiful yachts and boats that are parked at the marina. There are a few restaurants (including our favorite Mexican spot, San Miguel!) and shops but we mostly just walk around the marina after having more than our share of chips and queso for dinner.

Five. Kids Activities on Hilton Head Island. There are a lot of little pockets of shops and restaurants on Hilton Head that we sometimes explore. We’ve been to a few of the mini-golf spots, which my boys absolutely love, and have tried a handful of restaurants in those areas as well. This isn’t a really specific favorite, I know, but in general, I find Hilton Head Island to be really kid-friendly, casual, with a lot of things to do besides going to the beach.

When it comes to restaurants, find our favorites below:

Truffles Cafe – American Restaurant  – fun fact, Justin and I had our rehearsal dinner here!

Giuseppi’s Pizza – the calzones are where it’s at!

Okatie Ale House – classic pub food.

San Miguel – fantastic Mexican food on the island.

The Pearl Kitchen and Bar – A refined, small restaurant with incredible food.

The Bluffton Room – A fancy steak place.

Local Pie – Delicious pizza, get the local margarita.

Fat Patties – A great burger joint.

P.S. If you liked this post, you may like reading about the 10 things I love about living in Raleigh, NC! 


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Lori says · 04.30.21

Hi! We live in the Winston area not to far from you! Have you ever ventured to Downtown Beaufort or Hunting Island area? My husband is from Beaufort, SC and we love visiting all year round. It really is an awesome laid back area. We were married on the beach at The Hilton Resort at Hilton Head Island over 10 years ago. It’s our happy place other than Disney of course. His family has lived in FL for over 20 years now and they are only 30 minutes from Disney! 😃 Thanks for sharing all the restaurants we will have to check some of them out when we go next time. Love your blog we have so many things in common.

Sheila says · 04.30.21

@Kate – You really do need to take the kids to Hunting Island. So fun! The kids will love it. I would go off-season, though. My daughter lives and works on Fripp Island. I love vacationing in that area.

Kim says · 04.30.21

I never heard of Bluffton before seeing you post about it, and it’s now my husband and I’s annual summer vacation spot. We’ve been going for the past 3 or so years, and we absolutely love it! All thanks to you! I’m always curious to hear other people’s favorite restaurants – you hit a couple of our faves as well (love love The Pearl!). We’ve been trying to find a good Mexican spot around there, so we will definitely be trying out your recommendation on HHI on our trip this summer. Thanks so much for this post!

Bekah says · 04.30.21

We are from the Fox Valley area in Central Wisconsin and grew up going to Hilton Head as my grandparents lived right on the ocean! San Miguel’s is always a MUST for us! We just went back a few weeks ago, and agree the Lowcountry park in Coligny plaza is AMAZING! So happy to hear someone else has a special place for HH in their heart too! ♥️

Beverly Rockey says · 04.30.21

You mentioned all of our favorite places ! Palmetto Bluff is only allowing residents and guest at the inn right now ! We just had lunch at San Miguel

Becky says · 04.30.21

Love that area! We’ve being going to HHI since I was two (so, 36 years now!). It’s my happy place. Two restaurants to add to your list that we never, ever skip:

Santa Fe Cafe (slightly upscale Mexican/Southwestern, but still child friendly; bike-able distance if you stay on Palmetto Dunes–go at lunch)

Hudson’s Seafood on the Docks (def child friendly)

Oh, and Hilton Head Ice Cream! 😉

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog says · 04.30.21

Wow, seems like an amazing place! Thanks for sharing! ❤️✨

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

Holly says · 04.30.21

Hi Kate…..I live in Bluffton and have for over three years now. My parents have lives here for over 20 years and we have visited for that long before we moved here. If you have any questions about anything, please let me know. I’m sure your parents a very familiar with the area since they’ve lived here for quite some time as well. Love hearing when you talk about Bluffton. PS…….I’d love to run into you someday by chance when you are visiting!

Martha says · 04.30.21

I grew up going to HHI. My grandparents had a condo there for most of my life until they sold it in 2008. Truffles was my FAVORITE place to eat. The iced tea and Heath bar pie are both things I will never forget! We also always ordered Guiseppi’s Pizza.

Also the mini golf place that was Pirate Themed…so much fun.

Martha says · 04.30.21

Thank you for the little trip down memory lane!!

Leighann says · 04.30.21

You should give Sunrise Cade a try for breakfast when you are on the island. It is a hidden gem!

Abby says · 04.30.21

My husband’s family has been vacationing in HHI for over 25 years and now we go there too! We love Hilton HeadIce Cream Company! San Miguel’s has always been a favorite but we also love Holy Tequila. We never miss a chance to eat at Captain Woody’s either. Have you tried One Hot Mama’s? So good!

Kaitlin says · 04.30.21

One time I saw you at Coligny, but before I saw you I heard you and I was like that person sounds just like Kate! It was you 😂

Cherie Sette says · 05.01.21

You need to visit SeaPines!

Caitlin says · 05.02.21

Are there better times of the year to visit or times of year to avoid? From Southern California and east coast weather is a different animal!

Cherie says · 05.03.21

Summer is super packed. May and October are both still great weather and not as crowded. We often go in late March and the weather can be hit or miss. This past March we got lucky! Covid had made the entire area more crowded, however.

Dana says · 05.02.21

We just got back from HHI and went a day early specifically so we could spend a night in Beaufort! It’s the most precious little town!

Leslie Hertweck says · 05.02.21

My family and I just visited Hilton Head Island 2 weeks ago for 5 days/4 nights… not long enough! Being a So Cal transplant to Springfield, MO less than 2 years ago, this was my first EVER trip to the south/low country. We drove there. It is so beautiful there! My Dad could only recall his time in that area when he went to Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island and spent some time there before deploying to Vietnam. He told us it was mostly beach bungalows back in the late 60’s. We stayed at Marriott’s Barony Beach Club (we’re MVC owners). We DEFINITELY want to plan a week trip down there so we can explore more! The fresh Seafood, southern hospitality, soft sand and warm ocean waters are definitely calling us back! I’ve definitely fallen in love with the south!! Can’t wait until we can go back!!!

Kelly says · 05.03.21

HI Kate….I have been going to HHI since I was 3 years old with my immediate family. Now that I have kids of my own now, we have extended HHI trips with them; all in all my family and I have been going to Hilton Head for well over 30+ years. We love it down there; it is the most relaxing vacation ever. We sit pool side most of the day, and walk to the beach daily for some fun in the sun! I am jealous you live in the south; I am born and raised in Michigan, so we have a few things in common! thanks for always sharing great information. I love your cute family!

Karen J Ward says · 05.05.21

The next time you visit HHI, you MUST eat at Hudson’s Seafood. You won’t be disappointed!

Danielle says · 05.10.21

I’d love to know a hotel recommendation if you have one! We are going to make our first visit after seeing your post!

Michelle says · 12.28.21

Girl, you are spot on with the recommendations! The hubs and I moved to Bluffton this year…we’re having a blast exploring the area! We welcome you and the fam to LowCountry Community Church whenever you’re in town!

Leighann says · 12.28.21

Need to try Palmetto Sunrise Cafe for breakfast on HHI!

Emma says · 12.28.21

Ah, you are my spirit animal! Another HHI lover here. Please try Nectar the next time you go. I fell in love with this cute new spot and definitely try the cornbread/sweet potato cornbread appetizer.