Frequently Asked Questions - Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island sits off the southern tip of South Carolina. This part of SC is known as the "low country" which is quite different from the mid state "sandhills" region or the far northwestern area known as the Blue Ridge region. The island is named after Captain William Hilton, who explored there in the mid-1600s on behalf of King Charles II.
The closest major airport is Savannah, which is about 45 minutes to the south of Hilton Head Island. Charleston Airport, to the north, is about two hours away from Hilton Head Island. Hilton Head Island also has its own airport, but flights are limited and more expensive than flying into Savannah. The resort is right in the middle of Hilton Head Island, which is about 50 minutes directly off I-95 at the southern end of South Carolina.
The island is boot-shaped and has about 42 square miles of land, just a bit smaller than land Walt Disney purchased in central Florida. Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort has its main resort in the middle of the boot. Disney also built an oceanfront Beach House for daytime usage. It is about one mile directly east of the main resort and offers direct beachfront access, a pool, snack bar, parking, a community room, arcade room, among other features.
The resort itself sponsors a full slate of daily activities run by a huge team of Cast Members. Upon check-in, guests receive the weekly schedule which often runs from 9:00 a.m. through 9:00 p.m. Activities include arts and crafts, age-appropriate games, off-site excursions (like kayaking and dolphin tours), scavenger hunts, magic shows, late night ghost stories, evening campfires and sing-a longs, teen night out and kids night out, island tours, nature walks, etc. One signature event is the Star Spangled Tuesday (SST) which occurs every Tuesday during the peak summer weeks. On these days, there is an afternoon of raucous pool games, a resort-wide barbecue ($29/adult), evening pool games and pool deck dances and nighttime fireworks. I have attended SST for eight years and never miss it. It is a great, fun-filled, family oriented event in true Disney spirit.
There are no characters at the resort, though HHI has a resident golden retriever named Shadow who visits often and draws a huge crowd who want their picture taken with Shadow.
The resort itself has a half-court basketball area, shuffleboard and horseshoe pits. Folks rent bikes at the resort, can fish off the pier, and arrange for kayaking on site as well. At the beach, guests can rent boogie boards, wind surfers, and small three-wheeled trikes that kids like to pedal along the surf, all from the public lifeguards.
There is a pool at the beach house, and at the main resort there is a pool with an enclosed, twisting slide, a hot tub and a kiddie pool.
The beaches are public and operated by the town of Hilton Head. There are lifeguards, but they also fill the role of concierge, renting out umbrellas and chairs, boogie boards, mini-beach tricycles, etc. They are not really watching the surf or controlling the swimming areas, but they are in contact with beach patrols via radio if serious held is needed.
Being a well-established community, there is a beautiful public park about two miles north of the resort, Chaplin Community Park, that offers basketball and tennis courts, playing fields, a playground, restrooms, a dog park, outdoor showers, beach access, etc. The island is obviously known for its golf and the resort can help arrange tee-times at a number of fabulous courses. In Palmetto Dunes, a tennis center offers clinics year-round.
All 1, 2 and 3 bedroom villas have washer and dryer set-ups. Studio guest can use the free washers and dryers in building 12, right near the main check-in desk in Live Oak Lodge. The room is also right next to Big Murgies Den, so you can relax in there, watch TV and play pool while your using the washers and dryers.
Each studio also has a small fridge, microwave, and coffee maker. A few paper products will be supplied in studios as well. Each villa sports a fabulous balcony, the largest balconies in the DVC family. Even studios feature balconies that have two rockers and a small table. 2-bedroom and grand villas will have a balcony with rockers and a full size picnic table.
One issue that should be noted is the ‘ruggedness’ of the resort. It is simply not a resort where one sees many wheelchairs, motorized scooters, folks using walkers, etc. Like most barrier islands, it sits only 10 feet above sea level. Thus, all rooms begin one story above ground. The only buildings with an elevator are 11 and 12, which is the main Live Oak Lodge and one adjoining building, which is also where the handicap accessible rooms would be found. The Beach House is similarly built one story above the beach, with an elevator to the pool area.
Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort does not have a full service restaurant. The rumors are that this was intentional and that Disney was asked not to put in a full service eatery at the resort so guests would frequent the local places. The island has literally hundreds of places to get a meal, from five-star to fast food. A smart traveler will also learn some tricks, like taking advantage of early bird specials, or calling ahead for take out and bringing everything back to the villa, or even the beach house. Moreover, being a fully developed community, there are grocery stores, a Wal-Mart, and other shopping options if you want to cook in your villa.
When you arrive on the island, you might want to pick up one of the free Dining Guide magazines that you will see near all of the stores and restaurants. They can be very helpful in picking a place to dine.
There are more than 250 restaurants on Hilton Head Island, with many more just a short distance over the bridge on the mainland. No matter what type of food you're craving, you can find it. There are Italian, French, Indiana, Thai, Mexican, German, Asian and seafood restaurants. There are very formal and expensive dining rooms with tuxedoed servers, and there are extremely casual and affordable locations where you can sit outside at a picnic table.
Some seafood restaurants are:
Alexander's on Queen's Folly Road
Hudson's on Hudson Road
Marley's Island Grille on Office Park Road near Sea Pines
Old Oyster Factory on Marshland Road
The Sea Shack on Executive Park Road
Scott's Fish Market at Shelter Cove Marina
Shrimp Michael's at Port Royal Plaza
Breakfast places are:
Harold's Diner on Route 278
Hilton Head Diner on Route 278
Signe's Bakery on Arrow Road
Continental dining places are:
CQ's on Lighthouse Road in Harbourtown
Crane's Tavern on New Orleans Drive
Old Fort Pub on Skull Creek Drive
Sage Room on Pope Avenue
The Studio on Executive Park Road
Sunset Grill on Jenkins Road
Specialty restaurants are:
Kenny B's French Quarter Cafe on Pope Avenue
Shwe Myanmar on Heritage Plaza
Smokehouse on Pope Avenue
Sticky Fingers on Palmetto Bay Road
Tapas Restaurants at Northridge Plaza
Taste of Thailand on Route 278
Yummy House on Southwood Park Drive
Pizza places are:
Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers on Office Park Road
Giuseppi's Pizza at Shelter Cove Plaza (will deliver to DHHIR)
There is no central trash location. Throughout the resort there are regular trash receptacles. Guests use these to deposit trash from their villas. You'll find them outside every building and along the pathways.
DHHIR does not have a seperate recycling program. Cans, bottles and plastics are simply mixed in with the regular trash.