Let’s explore!

Maximizing the Hilton Head outdoor experience.

Story By Kerry Peresta

Batting their way through hordes of blood-sucking mosquitoes, no-see-ums, sand gnats and flies during warm weather months, Hilton Head Islanders acknowledge that living in paradise has its challenges. In the spirit of optimism and helpful outreach, we would like to offer a few little-known secrets that will enhance enjoyment of the natural beauty of the Island.

Armed with these insights (and plenty of activity-appropriate repellant), we wish everyone a happy, healthy Island exploration.

Maximizing the Kayak Experience


Exploring the Island waterways by kayak is a quiet, peaceful undertaking with the added benefit of upper body strength training. Gliding peacefully through the marshes via the inland waterways, one may see an amazing array of wildlife. The splish-splash of the paddle soothes. The marsh grasses gently part as the kayak noses through. All is right with the world until a knobby, rectangular piece of wood surfaces. And it has eyes. At this point, in-the-know visitors or residents-in-the-making understand that a kayak paddle doubles as an effective ‘gator repellant when used appropriately. If the ‘gator gets aggressive or too close, just relax and paddle on. They’re more afraid of you than vice versa. Do not, under any circumstances, jump out of the kayak into the water.

Maximizing the Bike Ride

Cyclists abound on the Island, and one must be prepared for zig-zagging of angry drivers who don’t feel they should share the road and pedestrians that simply don’t CARE that the cyclist needs room to go around them on streets or the Island’s ubiquitous biking trails. Be vigilant. Wear overly bright clothing that screams “avoid me.” If only pedestrian and vehicular repellant were such a thing.

Maximizing Beach Exploration

Late spring and early summer visitors or residents-in-the-making might scratch their heads over the hundreds of dead jellyfish that show up on the typically pristine Island beaches. Walking through a minefield of dead jellies can be daunting. We suggest keeping on the flip-flops and holding the nose. The temporary jellyfish bloom (a group of jellies and isn’t “bloom” the loveliest metaphor?) is almost entirely composed of cannonball jellies, which are harmless. The jellies soon disappear, scooped up by the waves and plunged to their eternal, watery graves. On the sand, hungry seagulls and crows often dive bomb unsuspecting beach explorers, especially if they expect food and find what has been extended is a single, lonely, bright orange Cheeto. This frustrates them, and they may grow more aggressive. In rare instances, pelicans have been known to assist. We suggest a sturdy straw or leather hat to ward off concussion. And lest we forget, the biting sand fleas, no-see-ums, and all manner of microscopic insidious biting insects flourish on the beach in warmer months. Bug spray ensures a bite-free beach romp.

Maximizing the Nature Trail Experience

Oh, the grand, historic live oaks sheathed in Spanish moss! The jutting, hundred-year-old pines! The myriad varieties of palm trees, saw palmettoes and all manner of tropical plants! It is truly wondrous to hike the trails of Hilton Head or Pinckney, Daufuskie, and beyond; to observe families of deer, shorebirds of every variety, eagles, hawks, and the like. It is a lovely thing until the “Beaufort slap” comes into play, the local tongue-in-cheek reference to what happens when one forgets the bug spray. We recommend keeping this stuff everywhere — in the car, the pockets, the purse. The backpack, the beach bag, the kids’ beach bags. Tie a small canister to the family dog. Put one in the fanny pack (do people even wear these anymore?). At any rate, bug spray in the Lowcountry is required. During spring and summer, many local women refuse to wear perfume and instead, opt for bug spray (commonly referred to as ‘Eau de Bug’). Why doesn’t someone invent a feminine-scented bug spray line cleverly disguised as perfume? Beaufort County alone could support it.

Maximizing the Golf Experience

Marshlands and lovely lagoons abound within the Island’s 24 championship golf courses. Though beautiful, be aware that entire families of alligators lurk there. Alligator etiquette on area courses is a well-kept secret that sets the unsuspecting tourist apart from an in-the-know resident. And now, valued reader, you are privy to the secret. When an alligator creeps cautiously out of a lagoon or marsh, locals pause the game immediately, cast their clubs aside, break out a cold drink and focus on the gator’s journey. If the gator is over 12 feet long, a reverential silence is in order, perhaps the removal of hats and slight dipping of the head. Simply observe and wait until the gator is entrenched in its intended destination. Play then resumes. On a side note, the swarms of coyotes that are gaining ground on Island courses have not earned the same respect. Play through in spite of sightings. The coyotes will slink off into the pines. Do not be alarmed at the occasional prolonged coyote wail, which adds a charming, primal nuance to the game.