Hilton Head FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years we have had many questions about Hilton Head – the Hilton Head FAQ.  If you don’t see an answer to a question of your own on this page please contact us and we will see if we can do some research. For science.

What are those big things I see way out on the horizon?  What are those lights I see way out at sea at night?
Hilton Head sits just north of Savannah, home to one of the busiest ports in the United States.  What you see are actually very large ships that have business in the port.  Some will sit offshore for days, and some are so far out that you usually can’t even see them when you are down on the beach.  Most of these are cargo ships and sit around 12 miles from shore.  FYI, for a 6-foot person the horizon is about 3 miles offshore.  From our balcony, which is about 50 feet above sea level, the horizon is 9 to 10 miles.

Visiting the Port is very interesting.  Click HERE for the port’s website that has a list and schedule of all the ships that are docking.  And MarineTraffic.com is a fantastic site to get information on (and track) all of the shipping in the world.

With binoculars, I can see what looks like a small city way down the beach to the right.  I also see lights down there at night.  What is this?
This is Tybee Island, which is actually in Georgia and is at the mouth of the Savannah River.

Can I visit Savannah from Hilton Head?
It is about a 1-hour drive from Hilton Head to Savannah, but a far more interesting way to get there is to take a cruise.  Several boats will take you down to the waterfront of Savannah where you can spend a very enjoyable afternoon.  The water route will take much longer because the boat will take the intercoastal waterway instead of going out into the Atlantic.  Expect to spend about 1 hour and 45 minutes each way.  But the scenery is beautiful, and there is a very good chance you will see wildlife such as dolphins, eagles, and alligators.

If I swam straight out from shore where would I end up?
The beach at Palmetto Dunes does not run exactly north/south.  If you come out at night you will be able to see the North Star behind you over your left shoulder.  So, surprisingly, when you look straight out to the ocean from the beach you are actually looking at the southernmost tip of Africa.  If you were to swim due east (about a 45% angle to your left from the beach) you would be able to take a break at Bermuda before finally ending up in Morocco around Casablanca!

I just saw a splash way out on the water.  Is that a whale?
While not impossible, it is extremely unlikely.  The whales that visit Hilton Head are Right Whales, and they generally stay more than a mile out and are rarely seen, even by locals.  That is why you don’t see any “whale watching” tours on the island.  The splash was most likely a pelican, which are quite common right off the beach.  The pelican is a very large bird that dives to get its food and hits with a very large splash.  If there is a fairly strong wind, the spray can travel a while before you even notice it, so by the time you focus on the area you don’t even see the bird.  They will sometimes sit on the water for a minute or more before they take off again.

What is to the left of Captains Walk?
This is the beach portion of Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, located on the other side of Shelter Cove.  There is a shuttle that takes guests from the resort to this beach pavilion, which includes a swimming pool, game rooms and a small fast-service outside restaurant.  Anyone can visit the restaurant (they have pineapple soft-serve ice cream!) but you need to be a guest of the resort to enter the pool area.

What are the other buildings also on this beach?
If you were to walk to the left (north) up the beach to the Dunes House and then start walking back south (with the ocean on your left) you would pass the following places in the following order:
  1. Dunes House (restaurant)
  2. Marriott Resort
  3. Villamare Villas (condo)
  4. Beach House (Disney)
  5. Captains Walk (this unit)
  6. Omni Resort
  7. Hampton Place (condo)
  8. Windsor Place (condo)
  9. Barrington Arms (condo)

Where can I exercise while I am staying at Captains Walk?
As you exit Palmetto Dunes at 278, turn left.  About a quarter of a mile on the left will be Lava Fitness.  This is an excellent gym with exercise equipment and a huge variety of classes.  Pay for a week or just pay by the class!  If you want to walk or run, the easiest options are the road right in front of the unit (Ocean Lane) or the beach.  If you exit the parking lot and head left you will find a sidewalk that will take you to the back entry gate for Lemington.  It is almost exactly a mile from the parking lot to the gate.

If you decide to run or walk on the beach, notice the mile marker signs up near the sand dunes.  They are numbered in tenths of a mile.  So, for instance, the distance between marker 79 and 80 is 1/10th of a mile.

Tell me more about those beach mile markers
There are little white signs with red letters up near the dunes all along the beach.  These are to let rescue workers and the Beach Patrol identify specific locations along the beach.  Many visitors may not know what property they are in front of, but they can all read the signs.  They are about 1/10th of a mile apart, except for special locations right in front of some access points – like the one in front of our unit – which are marked with an ‘A’.  Our unit is located at marker 79A and is between marker 79 and 80.  Click HERE to read more about the markers.

Can you surf at the beach in front of Captains Walk?
Maybe, sometimes, for a few seconds.  The surf is usually very calm, sometimes looking like a lake.  While this makes it great for children swimming, it is not at all useful for surfers.  We have seen surfers get up and ride for 5 seconds or so, but it is rare.  Children can do better.  But on most days the waves are perfect for body-boarding.  Waves are bigger during storms, but these are frequently accompanied by strong currents that make it unsafe to be in the water.

Why doesn’t the moon rise at the same place as the sun?
In the winter you can see the sunrise from the balcony of Captains Walk but not the moon rise.  In the summer, the sun rises too far to the left as you face the ocean to actually see it come up over the water, but you can enjoy a spectacular moon rise from the unit.  That is because the moon and sun travel in the same plane, and in the summer the earth is tilted with the northern hemisphere closer to the sun (so the sun rises farther north) but at night the moon rises farther to the south.  The opposite is true in the winter.