Hidden summer sanctuaries

Great places for local ‘tour guides’ to relax, not too far from the summer fun

The Lowcountry is a popular place to be in July. With so many outdoor performances, festivals and events happening every day and night, many locals are thrust into the unwelcome role of tour guide for visiting family and friends. As we all know, summer crowds can be a bit overwhelming. If you or a member of your party needs a quick break from the action, take comfort in knowing a quiet sanctuary is just a few steps away from the action. 

Hot spot

Harbour Town

For many visitors, a trip to Hilton Head just isn’t complete without catching a Gregg Russell show under the Liberty Oak and climbing the steps of the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse. Harbour Town is also home to the new Quarterdeck restaurant, which offers stunning views. With many other popular restaurants, upscale boutiques and tour boats, the area is a magnet for summer crowds and is a must-stop for all groups.

Want to get away? Unfortunately, all of the rocking chairs at Harbour Town might be occupied until the end of September. For a quick break from the summer crowds, take a relaxing stroll down the picturesque pier behind the lighthouse. It’s an ideal place to see nerve-calming dolphins, birds and sunsets.

Hot spot

Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina

Nightly live performances from Shannon Tanner and fireworks on Tuesday nights make HarbourFest at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina the most attended gathering on Hilton Head each summer. If you have youngsters in your tour group, this is a must-stop. They can get their faces painted by Cappy the Clown and might be asked to go on stage to sing. Jimmy Buffett fans will want to check out Parrot Palooza on Thursday nights. 

Want to get away? If the heavy HarbourFest traffic has you feeling a little stressed, relax with an ice-cold beer and appetizer at ELA’S On the Water at the south end of the marina. We recommend the crab stack with a Westbrook IPA. The water and marina views at ELA’S are hard to beat. To get even further away, consider renting a boat by the hour at the nearby Outside Hilton Head post.

Hot spot

Old Town Bluffton

Something fun always seems to be happening in Old Town. When the white tents go up, B-Town shows up. With so many markets, parades, festivals, live music, good restaurants, shops and galleries, Old Town might be the surprise favorite for your tour group. Find a parking spot and make your way to the May River, stopping at several shops along the way. 

Want to get away? Even during the busiest festivals and events, you can usually find tranquility at a quaint beach tucked away at the end of Wright Family Park and the Calhoun Street Dock. Walk down the wooden stairs, take off your shoes and let the sand and waves work their magic.

Hot spot

South Beach Marina

You can’t let your tour group leave town without picking out a Salty Dog T-shirt and experiencing the magic of South Beach Marina. The local landmark is home to popular restaurants, unique shops, fun activities and live entertainment all summer long. The dock and pier are the perfect place for a group photo. 

Want to get away? Find one of the most secluded beaches on Hilton Head by walking across the street, through a patch of trees to South Beach. It isn’t a spot to swim or spend the entire day, but it’s the perfect place to walk and catch your breath during a busy day at South Beach Marina.

Hot spot

Waterfront Park

Much of the summer fun in Beaufort takes place at Waterfront Park, a stunningly beautiful plot of green space that borders some of the town’s best restaurants and bars. Many festivals, including this month’s 4th of July celebration and the Beaufort Water Festival, bring thousands of visitors to the park each week. Catch the Eli Young Band on July 16 at the park. 

Want to get away? Break away from the crowds at Waterfront Park by walking to the base of Woods Memorial Bridge and discovering a quiet little park with two cannons. It’s officially called Stephen Elliott Park, but locals call it Cannon Park. The cannons came off a British ship and have an interesting history. While in the area, take a self-guided tour past Beaufort’s most lavish homes.

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