Hilton Head with Kids: 20 Best Things To Do in Hilton Head, South Carolina

6/17/23 - By Jackie Jones

With 12 miles of gorgeous beaches, great restaurants (especially for seafood lovers), and a relaxed southern vibe, Hilton Head Island, SC is the perfect destination for a family retreat. Located 45 minutes outside Savannah, Georgia, Hilton Head boasts white sand, salty sea air, and plenty of kid-friendly attractions should you tire of the ocean.

My family recently spent a week in Hilton Head and came home refreshed and recharged, with some wonderful memories. If you are looking to relax while connecting with your kids, I highly recommend this low-country resort town.

Here are 20 of our favorite things to do in Hilton Head, South Carolina with kids, including the best Hilton Head hotels and restaurants for families. For more family vacation ideas in the sunny South, visit our Southern States Vacation Guide.

Best Things To Do in Hilton Head, South Carolina with Kids

1. Hit the Beach

I'm not exaggerating when I say the beaches in Hilton Head are special. And while they are all technically public beaches, access to them is often not. If you're not staying at an oceanfront resort, you'll need to find an entry point.

Locals and visitors alike love Coligny Beach Park. There's a ton of free parking, restrooms, and showers, as well as a fun splash pad for kids. Parking at Folly Field Beach is more limited and is metered, but the boardwalk and beach matting is especially convenient for rolling coolers or strollers. Families also flock to Driessen Beach Park, which has grills, a playground, and a reputation for being less crowded than other beaches. Parking there is metered.

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Hilton Head with Kids: Dolphin & Nature Tour
See dolphins, blue herons, and other wildlife on a Dolphin & Nature Tour.

2. Take a Cruise

What better way to take in all the sights of Hilton Head than aboard a boat? There are many day cruises to choose from. My kids and I took the Dolphin & Nature Tour with the promise of seeing cool wildlife. Boy, did they deliver. We got very close to a pod of dolphins and saw some gorgeous blue herons and cormorants.

Pirates of Hilton Head offers a fun adventure for families aboard the Black Dagger ship. Not only do kids get pirate-y makeovers, but they work together to defeat a bad guy and get back the pirate treasure.

If mermaids are more your child's thing, they will love meeting Mermaid Nina aboard the Mermaid Encounter Tour. Kids get to see Nina swim and take part in an escapade to help save her magic, all while cruising the beautiful Hilton Head salt marshes.

3. Harbour Town Lighthouse

You can't beat the view atop the Harbour Town Lighthouse. Located within the Sea Pines resort (where many of the island's best attractions are located), the iconic red-and-white-striped lighthouse is also a museum. As you climb the 104 steps to the top, you'll pass by 10,000-year-old pottery from the area's first inhabitants, artifacts from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and photos from Hilton's Head most eccentric residents.Kids 5 and under are free.

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Hilton Head with Kids: Coastal Discovery Museum
Check out cool fossils at the Coastal Discovery Museum.

4. Coastal Discovery Museum

This free museum focuses on the area's unique wildlife and environment. The small indoor center has a cute kids' room with live animals like horseshoe crabs and turtles, as well as children's books and puzzles. But the real draw is the 68 acres outside where you can walk the boardwalks, see carnivorous plants, and visit a butterfly garden (open May through October). My daughters were fascinated by an old graveyard on the museum's grounds, dating back to the 1800s. Be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt form for older kids—they can win a small prize!

5. The Sandbox Children's Museum

There are tons of interactive exhibits inside this play space, which is geared toward the 10-and-under crowd. Kids can sculpt in the kinetic-sand table, display a block creation on the LEGO wall, or get their pretend play on in the mini grocery store, vet clinic, and cafe. A highlight is the two-story sandcastle playground right in the middle of the museum. There's also a cute patio where kids can climb a rock wall and walk through a pool-noodle forest. Bonus: The Sandbox is located next to an amazing outdoor playground.

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Hilton Head with Kids: Lowcountry Celebration Park
Enjoy the pirate-ship playground at Lowcountry Celebration Park.

6. Lowcountry Celebration Park

Kids can get their wiggles out aboard a giant pirate ship that's adjacent to the Sandbox. This awesome playground has got it all: multiple slides, climbing nets, swings, and a separate play area for toddlers. And to beat the Carolina heat, there's a wading pool. Opened in 2020, the park is immaculately clean, with nice restrooms, picnic tables, and plenty of free parking.

7. Adventure Hilton Head

Zip-line through the trees, race on a Go-Kart track, or take on an aerial ropes course at this outdoor family fun park. The zip tour (for ages 10 and up) includes seven zip lines with spectacular views and a 900-foot-long dual racing finale. Meanwhile, kids 5 and up can challenge themselves on one of six different ropes courses with varying degrees of difficulty. My daughters and I opted to go Go-Kart racing, and it was a blast. The electric cars go much faster than we were expecting, and our turn on the track felt like a generous amount of time.

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Hilton Head with Kids: Gregg Russell Harbour Town Playground
Kids of all ages love Gregg Russell Harbour Town Playground.

8. Gregg Russell Harbour Town Playground

If you do make it over to the Sea Pines Resort (perhaps to climb the Harbour Town Lighthouse), be sure to stop by this sweet playground. It has all of the apparatuses that kids of all ages love: swings, slides, climbing structures, and sand. Plus, the playground is built into a giant live oak, so it has a cool tree house feel to it (as well as some natural shade).

9. Play Mini Golf

Since Hilton Head Island is known for its professional golf offerings, it's no surprise that there are some great mini golf courses, too. Adventure Cove has two 18-hole courses with lovely lagoons and fountains, as well as an indoor arcade. Pirate's Island Adventure Golf boasts cool caves, cannons, and a treasure chest on its two 18-hole courses. Be sure to check both websites for daily specials and coupons.

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Hilton Head with Kids: ride bikes on Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is among the best places in the US to go biking.

10. Ride Bikes

According to the American League of Bicyclists, Hilton Head Island is among the best places in the country to go for a bike ride. Whether you ride on the beach or on the 60 miles of multi-use trails, you'll be surrounded by natural beauty while getting your workout in. If you don't have your own set of wheels, there are nearly 30 rental companies on the island to choose from. Hilton Head Outfitters has bike rentals for adults and kids, as well as kayaks and paddleboards. Need a stroller while on vacation? Lowsea Bike, Beach & Baby Rentals offers baby gear including strollers, cribs, and high chairs, along with bikes of all kinds.

11. Lawton Stables

Animal lovers will enjoy a visit to this small farm, known for its horseback rides, located within the Sea Pines Resort. Older kids and adults can take a one-hour guided trail ride around the 600-acre forest preserve. Shetland pony rides, which last about 10 minutes and include two laps around the farm, are available for children 7 and under. Our family enjoyed visiting with the Lawton Stables goats, pigs, alpacas, and other farm animals. It's free to see the animals, and if you want to feed them, a machine on the front porch gives you a handful of food for 50 cents.

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Hilton Head with Kids: Quarterdeck
Enjoy fresh seafood at the family-friendly Quarterdeck.

Great Restaurants for Families in Hilton Head, SC

12. Quarterdeck

My family liked this restaurant so much, we ate here twice on our trip. Located next to the Harbour Town Lighthouse, the table-side views are spectacular. So is the fresh fish, including local shrimp, grouper, and redfish. Don't worry if your kid shies away from seafood, though—the children's menu has burgers and pasta. The restaurant is also connected to a market that sells ice cream, should you desire some dessert. Bonus: After your meal, talk a stroll on the Harbour Town Pier for some stunning sightseeing.

13. Salty Dog Cafe

This casual, waterfront restaurant is so popular, it has its own radio station—for real! Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the Salty Dog has a seafood-heavy menu for adults, a "little treasure hunters" menu for children, and plenty of in-house entertainment. Most nights feature live music, and during the summer months, the cafe hosts kid-centric performers like jugglers and musicians. No wonder so many people sport Salty Dog t-shirts from the restaurant's gift shop.

14. Skull Creek Boathouse

This waterfront restaurant on the north end of the island has awesome sushi and seafood, as well as a "little shuckers" menu that includes quesadillas, corn dogs, and a kids' surf-and-turf special. After dinner, families can play corn hole on the restaurant's giant lawn or hit its small playground. Most nights, the Skull Creek Boathouse offers live music, too. FYI: This eatery is very popular and does not take reservations. Go early if possible.

15. Hilton Head Social Bakery

Get your coffee and breakfast fix at this French bakery where everything is made from scratch daily. Watch your child's eyes pop out as they take in the dessert case, filled with treats like chocolate croissants, eclairs, and fruit-filled pastries. Lunch offerings include savory sandwiches and quiches. The bakery recently opened a second location on the island's south side. Its original spot is in Shelter Cove Harbour, across from Disney's Hilton Head Resort.

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Hilton Head with Kids: Marriott's Grande Ocean
Marriott's Grande Ocean offers lots of fun activities for families, including a great pool.

Top Hilton Head Hotels for Families

16. Marriott's Grande Ocean

I was very impressed with this beachfront getaway, where my family stayed during our time in Hilton Head. The south side location was ideal (a short drive to Sea Pines and the children's museum), and the property was very clean and modern. Best of all was the friendly recreation staff at the Grande Ocean; they had tons of fun activities lined up each day. We saw a magic show, added to a giant chalk mural, and attended a bubble party. The resort is currently building a lazy river that is expected to open this year—I guess that's just a reason to go back!

17. Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort

Disney fans love this resort on the beach, where daily activities include roasting marshmallows around a campfire, playing bingo, and watching Disney movies under the stars. Families also enjoy the resort's three heated pools—especially the one with the twisty water-tower waterslide. In summer 2023, the resort is scheduled to begin renovations to modernize its 123 guest rooms. (And in case you're wondering, the hotel is a five-hour drive from Disney World in Florida.)

18. Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island

The grounds at the Sonesta Hilton Head are really stunning, with a lagoon-style swimming pool, fountains, a walking bridge, and the Atlantic Ocean at your feet. The resort is very family-friendly, too—there are on-site bike rentals, ice cream socials, a zero-entry pool for little ones, and a kids' day camp in the summer (half and full days are available). Visitors also note the convenience of the resort's three on-site restaurants. Bonus: Kids 10 and under eat breakfast for free at the Sonesta.

19. Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

Located within the Palmetto Dunes community, this gorgeous resort boasts the largest oceanfront rooms and suites on the island. All have mini kitchens with microwaves and small refrigerators (a necessary amenity for some families). There are multiple pools on site, including a family pool with an adjacent splash pad. A camp for kids ages 4-13 runs during peak travel times, too. Rooms at the Omni are a bit pricey, but the resort is quieter than others and pure luxury.

20. The Sea Pines Resort

Traveling with a large group? There are more than 400 homes and villas for rent within the Sea Pines Resort, some with up to seven bedrooms and private pools. The best part is that you will be steps away from many of the island's best attractions and restaurants, as well as a short walk or drive to the beach. A fancy and more intimate hotel is also located within Sea Pines.

Photos by the author

Places featured in this article:

Pirate's Island Adventure Golf of Hilton Head, SC