O.K. so maybe in my wildest dreams I would have spent my last official spring break on a balmy beach in the greek islands, stuffing myself full of grilled fish drenched in olive oil and fluffy, fresh pita bread covered in tzatziki. I would have lounged in a horizontal recline all day long, and spent the warm spring evenings dancing to bad Euro-pop music. I would have have more or less re-lived the spring break trip I took to Greece last year minus the two days spent in hectic Athens and the plethora of cheap Ryanair flights suffered through in order to get from point A to point B.
My mother called instead and offered to fly me down to Hilton Head, South Carolina where she and my stepfather would be enjoying a little R&R for the week, playing tennis, fishing, tanning, and sight-seeing. An all expenses paid vacation in a climate much milder than my normal one, and a break from the routine that is life? Heck yes, bought and booked in under 1 hour.
Hilton Head Island, a mere 95 miles from Charleston, is located near the entrance of the Port Royal Sound on the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. The island itself is only 12 miles long and 5 miles wide, a tiny little stamp of land, but the variety of available activities here are vast. From golf, to biking, tennis, to surfing, fine dining, to casual eateries, outlet shopping, and a variety of bars for after hours, a day in Hilton Head can be as busy or as relaxed as you want it to be. Great weather, lush vegetation, and a helping of that good ole’ low country Southern charm will have you smitten in no time.
Best Vegetarian Friendly Menu
Roastfish and Cornbread
70 Marshland Road // 843.342.2996
Ask any local Hilton Head resident where to eat and they will immediately point you in the direction of Roastfish & Cornbread run by their beloved chef David Young. An eclectic and at times eccentric menu of fresh homemade Low Country cuisine is what’s cooking at Roastfish. Expect rich and bold taste, wild flavor combinations, and quality ingredients. Chef David’s signature sweet potato cornbread, a moist and supremely sweet southern bread, is reminiscent of a cinnamon coffee cake. Paired with spicy whole roasted tilapia, a grilled mango and veggie medley, and a fresh batch of fried hush puppies, this bread adds that needed sugary undertone. The vegan mama salad, a mixture of red leaf lettuce, crisp apple slices, raw walnuts, diced red onion, cucumber wedges, and carrots, is a lighter option for those looking to save a little room . The açai-pomegranate vinaigrette adds a nice acidic punch to the healthful ensemble, and is the perfect counterbalance to the salad’s penultimate cocoa powder dusting. For a batch of near perfect fish tacos this side of the border, try Chef David’s blackened tilapia fish tacos. The real hook here is the tortillas which are given a go-round in a buttered skillet, adding in a subtle crunch to the otherwise soft texture of this pleasant entree.
Best Tennis Facility
Van der Meer Tennis Center // Shipyard Tennis Facility
Whether your new to tennis or a seasoned pro, the Van der Meer Tennis Center locations in Hilton Head are sure to amp up your game. Pristine courts set against a gorgeous low country backdrop will inspire your game like never before. Try out one of the adult tennis clinics, taught by PTR certified professionals, for valuable and fun tips on how to enhance your game.
The Salty Dog Cafe
232 Sea Pines Drive // 843.363.2198
In Mexico, there is Señor Frog’s. In Florida (and Las Vegas and the Caribbean) there is Margaritaville. In Hilton Head, there is The Salty Dog. A trip to the island just isn’t complete without some serious bar food enjoyed al fresco, a little live musical entertainment, and a take-away tee shirt souvenir. One of the best places for a bucket of beer and a couple of orders of shrimp I have ever visited, and with such a name, you can bet your canine friend is welcome too. Sit back, relax, and enjoy is certainly the motto at The Salty Dog, and you can bet your bottom we did just that.
Best Date Night Dinner Spot
Sante Fe Cafe
807 William Hilton Parkway // 843.785.3838
For the past twenty years, Santa Fe Cafe has been delighting patrons through its SouthWestern-inspired adobe decor, rooftop cantina and expansive menu of New Mexican-inspired cuisine given a seafood twist. Live ranchero guitar players and the pleasant smells of the patio mesquite grill accentuate the bold flavors of the food in front of you, creating more than just a memorable meal. I ordered the shrimp and scallop ceviche alongside the grilled vegetable medley as well as queso, salsa, and chips. Chris had the Sante Fe Plato Combination, a fun sampling of tastes ranging from a goat cheese chili relleno to a wild mushroom and red chile cheese enchilada served atop a fresh corn tamale. We swapped bites of one another’s dishes before wrapping up the meal with a shared soufflé showcasing island-made coconut ice cream that was every bit as rich in flavor as the meal itself. Then we lingered listening to the sounds of the guitar because time doesn’t matter on vacation.
Best Outdoor Activity
This is a no-brainer. The best outdoor activity on Hilton Head Island is drumroll please the beach. Sprawling white beaches, gently lapping waves, and the caw of seagulls make for a picture perfect destination. Spend the day catching rays or take to the water for some paddle boarding or wind-surfing. How about a quiet afternoon beach stroll or an early morning sunrise? No matter your style of beach-dwelling, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for on Hilton Head’s stretch of seaside paradise.
Sarah Buchanan is a senior studying History and Creative Writing at NYU. When she is not hard at work on her honors thesis, she is most likely running around the city in search of the best artisan pickles or at home in her apartment sharpening her culinary skills.