Many Footprints in the Sands of History
Not only has South Carolina’s beautiful, balmy Hilton Head island become one of America’s favorite golf, tennis, and beach playgrounds, it has also long attracted the attention of buyers of secondary and retirement homes. And this pristine piece of South Carolina’s “Lowcountry” is brimming in heritage. Native Americans, English, Spanish, and French colonists, pirates, African-Americans, and soldiers have all left their footprints throughout history. People lived here as far back as 1450 B.C., proved by the Indian Shell Ring in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That site proves that the oyster has been a staple of Lowcountry cuisine since ancient times. Explorer Sir William Hilton gave his name to the island in 1663. His enthusiastic report of the island’s superb farming conditions promoted British colonization. Hilton Head also played a role in early American history, from the Revolution to the Civil War to the Reconstruction.
Hilton Head is also rich with the history of the Gullah people, who were originally descended from African slaves who worked the plantations of the south. They are the most culturally distinctive African-Americans in the U.S. Their special language—a Creole blend of European and African tongues—distinct cuisine, and a unique culture based on folktales and superstitions shaped generations of families living on Hilton Head.
A foot-shaped barrier island off the Atlantic Coast, Hilton Head is 12 miles long and five miles wide and is about 45 miles north of Savannah, Georgia and 90 miles south of Charleston, S.C. The island is blessed with fertile salt marshes, networks of lagoons and creeks, forests of moss-draped oaks, magnolias, pines, and palmettos, plus 12 miles of sandy beaches. Nestled amid this semi-tropical geography are championship golf courses, tennis courts, fine restaurants, and luxurious hotels, resorts, and some 6,000 private villas for vacation rental. Average daytime temperature is 70 degrees because Hilton Head is warmed year-round by the Gulf Stream. While there are only 31,000 permanent residents, the island attracts 2.5 million visitors every year. The area is served by two airports—Hilton Head Airport and Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. There are more than 250 restaurants serving everything from fast food to gourmet cuisine and more than 200 shops from elegant boutiques and art galleries to an indoor mall with major
department stores and specialty shops. Hilton Head even sports three outlet malls.
The real estate market is strong and stable. The median price of a single-family home is currently $389,000, according to the South Carolina Association of Realtors. Of course, you can spend much more than this on a Hilton Head dream home. One current listing, for example, the 5,000-square-foot Sea Pines Plantation in the guard-gated community of Sea Pines is $2,785,000. It’s brand new, just steps to Tower Beach and South Beach Marina, and features unobstructed 180-degree marsh views, a gourmet kitchen, pool, and Brazilian cherry floors.
Story by Jacqueline Shannon.
Photos by Cindy Pelland and Kellie Clark.