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Beaches

Hunting Island State Park. This secluded park 18 miles southeast of Beaufort has 4 miles of public beaches—some dramatically eroding. The light sand beach decorated with driftwood and the subtropical vegetation is breathtaking. The state park was founded in 1938 to preserve and promote the area's natural wonders, and it harbors 5,000 acres of rare maritime forests. You can kayak in the tranquil lagoon; stroll the 1,300-foot-long fishing pier (among the longest on the East Coast); and go fishing or crabbing. For sweeping views, climb the 167 steps of the 1859 Hunting Island Lighthouse. Bikers and hikers can enjoy 8 miles of trails. The nature center has exhibits, an aquarium, and lots of turtles; there is a resident alligator in the pond. Amenities: none. Best for: solitude; sunrise; swimming; walking. 2555 Sea Island Pkwy., off St. Helena Island, Hunting Island, SC, 29920. 843/838–2011. www.southcarolinaparks.com. $5. Park: Apr.–Oct., daily 6 am–9 pm; Nov.–Mar., daily 6–6. Lighthouse daily 10 am–4:45 pm.

Biking

Beaufort looks different from two wheels. In town, traffic is moderate, and you can cruise along the waterfront and through the historic district. However, if you ride on the sidewalks or after dark without a headlight and a rear red reflector, you run the risk of a city fine of nearly $150. If you stopped for happy hour and come out as the light is fading, walk your bike back "home." Some inns lend or rent out bikes to guests, but alas, they may not be in great shape and usually were not the best even when new.

Lowcountry Bicycles. If you want a decent set of wheels, contact Lowcountry Bicycles. Bikes are $8 an hour or $25 a day. 102 Sea Island Pkwy., Beaufort, SC, 29907. 843/524–9585. www.lowcountrybicycles.com.

Boating

Beaufort is where the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers form the A.C.E. Basin, a vast wilderness of marshes and tidal estuaries loaded with history. For sea kayaking, tourists meet at the designated launching areas for fully guided, two-hour tours.

Barefoot Bubba's. Less than 1 mile from Hunting Island, Barefoot Bubba's rents bikes and kayaks and will deliver them to the park or anywhere in the area. 2135 Sea Island Pkwy., St. Helena, SC, 94574. 843/838–9222. barefootbubbasurfshop.com.

Beaufort Kayak Tours. Owner-operators Kim and David Gundler of Beaufort Kayak Tours are degreed naturalists and certified historical guides. The large cockpits in the kayaks make for easy accessibility and the tours go with the tides, not against them, so paddling isn't strenuous. The tours, which cost $50 per person, meet at various public landings throughout Beaufort County. SC. 843/525–0810. www.beaufortkayaktours.com.

Golf

Most golf courses are about a 10- to 20-minute scenic drive from Beaufort.

Dataw Island. This upscale island community is home to Tom Fazio's Cotton Dike golf Course, with spectacular marsh views, and Arthur Hill's Morgan River Golf Course, with ponds, marshes, and wide-open fairways. The lovely 14th hole of the latter overlooks the river. To play you must be accompanied by a member or belong to another private club. 100 Dataw Club Rd., 6 miles east of Beaufort, Dataw Island, SC, 29920. 843/838–8250. www.dataw.org. $69–$120. Cotton Dike: 18 holes, 6787 yds, par 72. Morgan River: 18 holes, 6657 yds, par 72.

Fripp Island Golf & Beach Resort. This resort has a pair of championship courses. Ocean Creek Golf Course, designed by Davis Love, has sweeping views of saltwater marshes. Designed by George Cobb, Ocean Point Golf Links runs alongside the ocean the entire way. This is a wildlife refuge, so you'll see plenty of animals, particularly the graceful marsh deer. In fact, the wildlife and ocean views may make it difficult for you to keep your eyes on the ball. To play, nonguests must belong to a private golf club. 2119 Sea Island Pkwy., Fripp Island, SC, 29920. 843/838–3535 or 843/838–1576. www.frippislandresort.com. $75–$99. Ocean Creek: 18 holes, 6643 yds, par 71. Ocean Point: 18 holes, 6556 yds, Par 72.

Sanctuary Golf Club at Cat Island. This is a semiprivate club, so members get priority. Its scenic course is considered tight with plenty of water hazards. Cat Island, 8 Waveland Ave., Beaufort, SC, 29907. 843/524–0300. www.sanctuarygolfcatisland.com. $40–$80. 18 holes, 6673 yds, par 71.

Beaches

A delightful stroll on the beach can end with an unpleasant surprise if you don't put your towels, shoes, and other earthly possessions way up on the sand. Tides here can fluctuate as much as 7 feet. Check the tide chart at your hotel.

Alder Lane Beach Park. A great place for solitude even during the busy summer season, this beach has hard-packed sand at low tide, making it great for walking. It's accessible from the Marriott Grand Ocean Resort. Amenities: lifeguards; showers; toilets. Best for: solitude; walking; swimming. Alder La., off South Forest Beach Rd, South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928.

Burkes Beach. This beach is usually not crowded, mostly because it is a bit hard to find and there are no lifeguards on duty. Amenities: none. Best for: solitude, sunrise, swimming, windsurfing. 60 Burkes Beach Rd., at William Hilton Pkwy., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928.

Coligny Beach. The island's most popular beach is a lot of fun, but during high season it can get very crowded. Accessible from the Beach House Hilton Head Island and several other hotels, it has choreographed fountains that delight little children, bench swings, and beach umbrellas and chaise longues for rent. If you have to go online, there's also Wi-Fi access Amenities: lifeguards; food and drink; parking; showers; toilets. Best for: windsurfing; swimming. 1 Coligny Circle, at Pope Ave. and South Forest Beach Dr., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928.

Driessen Beach. A good destination for families, Driessen Beach is peppered with people flying kites, making it colorful and fun. There's a long boardwalk to the beach. Amenities: parking; lifeguards; toilets; showers. Best for: walking; sunrise; swimming. 43 Bradley Beach Rd., at William Hilton Pkwy., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928.

Folly Field Beach Park. Next to Driessen Beach, Folly Field is a treat for families. It can get crowded in high season, but even so it's a wonderful spot for a day of sunbathing and swimming. The first beach cottages on Hilton Head Island were built here in the 1950s. Amenities: lifeguards; parking; toilets; outdoor showers. Best for: swimming; sunrise; walking. 55 Starfish Dr., off Folly Field Rd., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928.

Mitchelville Beach Park. Not ideal for swimming because of the many sharp shells on the sand and in the water, Mitchelville Beach Park is a terrific spot for a walk or beachcombing. It is not on the Atlantic Ocean, but rather on Port Royal Sound. Amenities: parking; toilets. Best for: solitude; walking. 124 Mitchelville Rd., Hilton Head Plantation, North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926.

Biking

More than 50 miles of public paths crisscross Hilton Head Island, and pedaling is popular along the firmly packed beach. The island keeps adding more to the boardwalk network as visitors are using it and because it's such a safe alternative for kids. Bikes with wide tires are a must if you want to ride on the beach. They can save you a spill should you hit loose sand on the trails. Keep in mind when crossing streets that, in South Carolina, vehicles have the right-of-way. For a map of trails, visit www.hiltonheadislandsc.gov.

Bicycles from beach cruisers to mountain bikes to tandem bikes can be rented either at bike stores or at most hotels and resorts. Many can be delivered to your hotel, along with helmets, baskets, locks, child carriers, and whatever else you might need.

Hilton Head Bicycle Company. You can rent bicycles, helmets and adult tricycles from the Hilton Head Bicycle Company. 112 Arrow Rd., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/686–6888 or 800/995–4319. www.hiltonheadbicycle.com.

Pedals Bicycles. Rent beach bikes for adults and children, kiddy karts, jogging strollers, and mountain bikes at Pedals. 71A Pope Ave., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/842–5522 or 888/699–1039. www.pedalsbicycles.com.

South Beach Cycles. Rent bikes, helmets, tandems, and adult tricycles at this spot in Sea Pines. 230 South Sea Pines Dr., Sea Pines, South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/671–2453. www.south-beach-cycles.com.

Canoeing and Kayaking

This is one of the most delightful ways to commune with nature on this commercial but physically beautiful island. Paddle through the creeks and estuaries and try to keep up with the dolphins.

Outside Hilton Head. Boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards are available for rent. The company also offers nature tours and dolphin-watching excursions. Shelter Cove Marina, 1 Shelter Cove La., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/686–6996 or 800/686–6996. www.outsidehiltonhead.com.

Fishing

Although anglers can fish in these waters year-round, in April things start to crank up and in May most boats are heavily booked. May is the season for cobia, especially in Port Royal Sound. In the Gulf Stream you can hook king mackerel, tuna, wahoo, and mahimahi. A fishing license is necessary if you are fishing from a beach, dock, or pier. They are $11 for 14 days. Licenses aren't necessary on charter fishing boats because they already have their licenses.

Bay Runner Fishing Charters. With more than four decades of experience fishing these waters, Captain Miles Altman takes anglers out for trips lasting three to eight hours. Evening shark trips are offered May to August. Shelter Cove Marina, 1 Shelter Cove La., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/290–6955. www.bayrunnerfishinghiltonhead.com.

Capt. Hook Party Boat. Deep-sea fishing tours are available on this large party boat, which sells concessions as well. The friendly crew teaches children how to bait hooks and reel in fish. Shelter Cove Marina, 1 Shelter Cove La., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–1700. www.hiltonheadisland.com/captainhook.

Fishin' Coach. Captain Dan Utley offers a variety of fishing tours on his 22-foot boat to catch redfish and other species year-round. 1640 Fording Island Rd., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/368–2126. www.fishincoach.com.

Gullah Gal Sport Fishing. Fishing trips are available on a pair of 34-foot boats, the Gullah Gal and True Grits. Shelter Cove Marina, 1 Shelter Cove La., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/842–7002. www.hiltonheadislandcharterfishing.com/.

Integrity. The 38-foot charter boat Integrity offers offshore and near-shore fishing. Harbour Town Yacht Basin, Mariners Way, Sea Pines, South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/671–2704 or 843/422–1221. www.integritycharterfishing.com.

Palmetto Bay Charters. This company offers a wide variety of charters on various size boats. Palmetto Bay Marina, 86 Helmsman Way, South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–7131. www.palmettobaymarinahhi.com.

Palmetto Lagoon Charters. Captain Trent Malphrus takes groups for half- or full-day excursions to the region's placid saltwater lagoons. Redfish, bluefish, flounder, and black drum are some of the most common trophy fish. Shelter Cove Marina, 1 Shelter Cove La., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 866/301–4634. www.palmettolagooncharters.com.

Golf

Hilton Head is nicknamed "Golf Island" for good reason: the island itself has 24 championship courses (public, semiprivate, and private), and the outlying area has 16 more. Each offers its own packages, some of which are great deals. Almost all charge the highest green fees in the morning and lower fees as the day goes on. Lower rates can also be found in the hot summer months. It's essential to book tee times in advance, especially in the busy spring and fall months; resort guests and club members get first choices. Most courses can be described as casual-classy, so you will have to adhere to certain rules of the greens. The dress code on island golf courses does not permit blue jeans, gym shorts, or jogging shorts. Men's shirts must have collars.

The Heritage PGA Tour Golf Tournament. The most internationally famed golf event in Hilton Head is the annual RBC Heritage PGA Tour Golf Tournament, held mid-April. There are a wide range of ticket packages available. Tickets are also available at the gate. Sea Pines Resort, 2 Lighthouse La., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. www.rbcheritage.com.

Golf Schools

Golf Learning Center at Sea Pines Resort. The well-regarded golf academy offers hourly private lessons by PGA-trained professionals and one- to three-day clinics to help you perfect your game. Sea Pines, 100 North Sea Pines Dr., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–4540. www.golfacademy.net.

Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy. There's something for golfers of all ages at this academy: instructional videos, daily clinics, and multiday schools. Lessons are offered for ages three and up, and there are special programs for women. Free demonstrations are held with Doug Weaver, former PGA Tour pro and director of instruction for the academy. Take advantage of the free swing evaluation and club-fitting. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, 7 Trent Jones La., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–1138. www.palmettodunes.com.

The Island Golf School of Palmetto Hall Plantation. This is a great place to learn golf, perfect your swing, or improve your overall skills. It's administered by qualified and experienced professionals. Palmetto Hall Plantation, 108 Fort Hollow Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/342–2582. www.palmettohallgolf.com.

Golf Courses

Arthur Hills and Robert Cupp at Palmetto Hall. There are two prestigious courses at Palmetto Hall Plantation: Arthur Hills and Robert Cupp. Arthur Hills is a player favorite, with its trademark undulating fairways punctuated with lagoons and lined with moss-draped oaks and towering pines. Robert Cupp is a very challenging course, but is great for the higher handicappers as well. Palmetto Hall, 108 Fort Howell Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/689–9205. www.palmettohallgolf.com. $145. Reservations essential. Arthur Hills: 18 holes, 6257 yds, par 72. Robert Cupp: 18 holes, 6025 yds, par 72.

Country Club of Hilton Head. Although it's part of a country club, the course is open for public play. A well-kept secret, it's rarely too crowded. This 18-hole Rees Jones–designed course is a more casual environment than many of the other golf courses on Hilton Head. Hilton Head Plantation, 70 Skull Creek Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/681–4653 or 866/835–0093. www.clubcorp.com/Clubs/Country-Club-of-Hilton-Head. $85–$105. 18 holes, 6543 yds, par 72.

Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run. Located in the upscale Indigo Run community, Golden Bear Golf Club was designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus. The course's natural woodlands setting offers easygoing rounds. It requires more thought than muscle, yet you will have to earn every par you make. Though fairways are generous, you may end up with a lagoon looming smack ahead of the green on the approach shot. And there are the fine points—the color GPS monitor on every cart and women-friendly tees. After an honest, traditional test of golf, most golfers finish up at the plush clubhouse with some food and drink at Just Jack's Grille. Indigo Run, 100 Indigo Run Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/689–2200. www.goldenbear-indigorun.com. $79–$99. 18 holes, 6184 yds, par 72.

Harbour Town Golf Links. Considered by many golfers to be one of those must-play-before-you-die courses, Harbour Town Golf Links is extremely well known because it has hosted the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament every spring for the last four decades. Designed by Pete Dye, the layout is reminiscent of Scottish courses of old. The Golf Academy at the Sea Pines Resort is ranked among the top 10 in the country. Sea Pines Resort, 11 Lighthouse La., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/842–1020 or 800/732–7463. www.seapines.com/golf. $215–$272. Reservations essential. 18 holes, 7001 yds, par 71.

Robert Trent Jones at Palmetto Dunes. One of the island's most popular layouts, this course's beauty and character are accentuated by the 10th hole, a par 5 that offers a panoramic view of the ocean (one of only two on the entire island). It's among the most beautiful courses in the Southeast, with glittering lagoons punctuating 11 of the 18 holes. Palmetto Dunes, 7 Robert Trent Jones La., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–1138. www.palmettodunes.com. $55–$155. Reservations essential. 18 holes, 6122 yds, par 72.

Bluffton Golf Courses

There are several beautiful golf courses in Bluffton, which is just on the other side of the bridges to Hilton Head Island. These courses are very popular with locals and can often be cheaper to play than the courses on Hilton Head Island.

Crescent Pointe. An Arnold Palmer Signature Course, Crescent Pointe is fairly tough, with somewhat narrow fairways and rolling terrain. There are numerous sand traps, ponds, and lagoons, making for some demanding yet fun holes. Some of the par 3s are particularly challenging. The scenery is magnificent, with large live oaks, pine-tree stands, and rolling fairways. Additionally, several holes have spectacular marsh views. Crescent Pointe, 1 Crescent Pointe, Bluffton, SC, 29910. 843/706–2600. www.crescentpointegolf.com. $70–$95. 18 holes, 6773 yds, par 71.

Eagle's Pointe. This Davis Love III–designed course—located in the Eagle's Pointe community in Bluffton—is one of the area's most playable. Eagle's Pointe attracts many women golfers because of its women-friendly tees, spacious fairways, and large greens. There are quite a few bunkers and lagoons throughout the course, which winds through a natural woodlands setting that attracts an abundance of wildlife. Eagle's Pointe, 1 Eagle's Pointe Dr., Bluffton, SC, 29909. 843/757–5900. www.eaglespointegolf.com. $52. 18 holes, 6126 yds, par 72.

Island West Golf Club. Fuzzy Zoeller and golf course designer Clyde Johnston designed this stunningly beautiful course set amid the natural surroundings at Island West. There are majestic live oaks, plenty of wildlife, and expansive marsh views on several holes. Golfers of all skill levels can find success on this succession of undulating fairways. There are several holes where the fairways are rather generous, while others can be demanding. This is a fun and challenging course for golfers of all handicaps. Island West, 40 Island West Dr., Bluffton, SC, 29910. 843/689–6660. www.islandwestgolf.net. $35–$45. 18 holes, 6208 yds, par 72.

The May River Golf Club. An 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course, this has several holes along the banks of the scenic May River and will challenge all skill levels. The greens are Champion Bermuda grass and the fairways are covered by Paspalum, the latest eco-friendly turf. Caddy service is always required. No carts are allowed earlier than 9 am to encourage walking. One caveat: The staff can sometimes be unresponsive. Palmetto Bluff, 476 Mount Pelia Rd., Bluffton, SC, 29910. 843/706–6500. www.palmettobluffresort.com/golf. $175–$260. Reservations essential. 18 holes, 7171 yds, par 72.

Old South Golf Links. There are many scenic holes overlooking marshes and the intracoastal waterway at this Clyde Johnson–designed course. It's a public course, but that hasn't stopped it from winning awards. It's reasonably priced, and reservations are recommended. 50 Buckingham Plantation Dr., Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29910. 843/785–5353. www.oldsouthgolf.com. $65–$95. 18 holes, 6772 yds, par 72.

Parasailing

For those looking for a bird's-eye view of Hilton Head, it doesn't get better than parasailing. Newcomers will get a lesson in safety before taking off. Parasailers are then strapped into a harness, and as the boat takes off, the parasailer is lifted about 500 feet into the sky.

Bay Parasail. You can glide 500 feet in the air over Palmetto Bay Marina and Broad Creek on a trip with Palmetto Bay Parasail. Palmetto Bay Marina, 86 Helmsman Way, South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/686–2200. www.parasailhiltonhead.com.

H20 Sports. You can soar above Hilton Head and can check out the views up to 25 miles in all directions with this popular company located in Sea Pines. 149 Lighthouse Rd., Sea Pines, South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/671–4386 or 877/290–4386. www.h3osports.com.

Tennis

There are more than 300 courts on Hilton Head. Tennis comes in at a close second as the island's premier sport after golf. It is recognized as one of the nation's best tennis destinations. Hilton Head has a large international organization of coaches. Spring and fall are the peak seasons for cooler play, with numerous tennis packages available at the resorts and through the schools.

Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center. Ranked among the best in the world, this facility at the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort has 25 clay and 2 hard courts (a total of six are lighted for night play). There are lessons geared to players of every skill level given by enthusiastic staffers. Daily round robin tournaments add to the festive atmosphere. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, 6 Trent Jones La., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–1152. www.palmettodunes.com.

Port Royal Racquet Club. The occasional magnolia tree dots the grounds of the Port Royal Racquet Club, which has 10 clay and 4 hard courts. The professional staff, stadium seating, and frequent tournaments are why it is ranked among the best in the world. Port Royal Plantation, 15 Wimbledon Court, Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/686–8803. www.portroyalgolfclub.com.

Sea Pines Racquet Club. The highly rated club has 23 clay courts, as well as instructional programs and a pro shop. There are special deals for guests of Sea Pines. 5 Lighthouse La., Sea Pines Resort, South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/363–4495. www.seapines.com.

Shipyard Racquet Club. Play on 4 hard courts, 3 indoor courts, and 13 clay courts at this club in Shipyard Plantation. 116 Shipyard Dr., Shipyard Plantation, South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/686–8804. www.vandermeertennis.com.

Van der Meer Tennis Center. Recognized for its tennis instruction for players of all ages and skill levels, this highly rated club has 17 hard courts, 4 of which are covered and lighted for night play. 19 DeAllyon Ave., Shipyard Plantation, South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–8388. www.vandermeertennis.com.

Zip Line Tours

ZipLine Hilton Head. Take a thrilling tour of Hilton Head on a zip line over ponds and marshes and past towering oaks and pines. This company offers eight zip lines, two suspended sky bridges, and a dual-cable racing zip line. Guests are harnessed and helmeted, and must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 80 and 250 pounds. 33 Broad Creek Marina Way, Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/682–6000. ziplinehiltonhead.com.