Story by Luana M. Graves Sellars + Photo by Maddie Terry
About the Beach
Burkes Beach on Hilton Head Island, SC, is a beautiful stretch of serene beachfront. Located between Port Royal Sound and Port Royal Plantation, Burkes Beach is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. With miles of sandy beaches and tranquil waters, it is the perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing, or simply taking in the stunning views. The area is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including sea turtles, dolphins, and a variety of shore birds. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, such as paddle boarding, kayaking, and fishing. There are also many restaurants and shops nearby, making it a great destination for a day out with family or friends. Burkes Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a peaceful and beautiful beach experience.
Regular Hours: Monday through Sunday, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Winter Hours (DST Ends): Monday through Sunday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Beach matting
- Some metered parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional parking is available at Chaplin Community Park
- Outdoor shower
- Restrooms at Chaplin Community Park
- Seasonal lifeguards
Dogs are allowed on Burkes Beach, but only during the below times and following the below rules.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., from the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., from April 1 through the Thursday before Memorial Day
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., from the Tuesday after Labor Day through September 30
Must be on a leash or under voice control at all other times
Registered service dogs are allowed on the beach but need to follow the same guidelines. They will need to be leashed or harnessed.
As traffic flows down Highway 278 on Hilton Head, one can’t help but notice the street names that pop up along the way. Most of the streets, particularly on the north end of the island, trace back to their Gullah namesake; whether an individual or a family.
That’s especially true as you drive mid-island. Each beach not only has a history, but a Gullah family with several generations behind its name. Hilton Head’s Burkes Beach is no different.
Prior to the bridge, around 60 acres of beachfront property was owned by brothers James and Henry Ford, and Henry’s wife, Nancy Burke Ford. It stretched from the ocean to Highway 278 and through Chaplin Park. Held by the family for generations, the land was eventually divided up into lots between their nieces and nephews as well as portions sold to the town.
Today, Hilton Head is well known for its beaches that run along the east coast of the island. However, in the 1950s when segregation was at its peak, there weren’t a lot of places along the coast where blacks were allowed to go to the beach. Most of the island’s waterfront became a destination for local Gullah and blacks who came to the island by the busload from Savannah and surrounding areas.
Burkes Beach was made famous by The Hideaway, a local juke joint that opened daily to families who were looking for good music and food. Betty Burke Days remembers, “We didn’t know who they were, but they came back every year. Everyone who came got served.”
People “partied all day and night on the beach and went from one pavilion (on the beach) to another, depending on which one was jumping,” says Days. “It was a place to take the whole family until it was time for the children to go home.”
Derived from the Gullah word, “joog,” which means disorderly, juke joints became a common source of daily adult entertainment on the island. The first Hideaway was a small pavilion that was run by Daniel and James Burke. Eventually, the pavilion was moved to a street that was once called Hideaway after the popular location.
Accurately described in detail in the book “Gullah Cultural Legacies,” by Dr. Emory S. Campbell, Burkes Hideaway was on the site of the present day Surfside Marriott. “(It) was a long concrete block building tucked away in a grove of sea pines fronting a marsh flat that extended to the dunes of the beach. Its long dance floor was perfectly suited for the “Continental” a 1960s line dance similar to today’s “electric slide.”