Hilton Head Island is a Lowcountry town located in Beaufort County, South Carolina. It is 20 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia, and 95 miles southwest of Charleston. The island was named after Captain William Hilton, who in 1663 identified a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, which he named “Hilton’s Head” after himself. The island features 12 miles of beachfront and is one of America’s most popular vacation destinations. In 2016, an estimated 2.6 million visitors visited this beautiful island. The year-round population is approximately 40,500.
The island has a rich history that started with seasonal occupation by native Americans thousands of years ago and continued with European exploration and the sea island cotton trade. It became an important base of operations for the Union blockade of the southern ports during the Civil War. Once the island fell to Union troops, hundreds of ex-slaves flocked to Hilton Head, which is still home to many “native islanders,” many of whom are descendants of freed slaves known as the Gullah (or Geechee) who have managed to hold on to much of their ethnic and cultural identity.
The town of Hilton Hilton Head Island incorporated as a municipality in 1983 and is well known for its eco-friendly development. The town’s natural resources division enforces the land management ordinance which minimizes the impact of development and governs the style of buildings situated amongst existing trees. As a result, Hilton Head Island enjoys an unusual amount of tree cover relative to the amount of development.
Hilton Head Island offers an unusual number of cultural opportunities for a community its size, including The Arts Center Of Coastal Carolina, the Hilton Head Choral Society, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, and many other annual community festivals. Hilton Head also annually hosts the RBC Heritage Golf Classic; a PGA tour tournament played on the Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines Resort and The Concours D’ elegance held at Port Royal.