Are you planning a trip to Hilton Head Island over the 4th of July? My family has owned a condo there for 20+ years, so I've been spending time there since my early teens. It's a very family friendly vacation destination, so I wanted to share a couple things you can do in the area that are specific to the 4th of July weekend.
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Catch a Hilton Head Fireworks Display
There are beautiful fireworks island-wide, but our family always watches from Shelter Cove Harbour. Their fireworks display is spectacular! This event is really crowded, but they have shuttles and do a great job of managing the traffic.
Plan on arriving early in the day, wear your walking shoes, and grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in the cove (make those reservations ASAP). Then stake out a good spot where you can watch the fireworks. The most popular spots are claimed early in the day, so be diligent if you want a really good view!
Try to sit with a body of water directly in front of you so you'll see the fireworks in the air above and reflected in the water below. If you sit near the marshes closer to the parking lot, you can do so redneck-style and bring a lawn chair and a cooler. The fireworks originate from the river behind the Disney Resort, so I prefer to be out in that direction and much closer to the action.
Shelter Cove has a fireworks show every Tuesday night during the summer, so don't worry if you happen to miss it on the 4th. Two other great places to watch the fireworks shows are from Skull Creek Boathouse (a favorite dining spot for my family) and Sea Pines Resort (famous for the red & white lighthouse that's so synonymous with HHI).
Watch the Patriotic “Salute from the Shore”
Grab a picnic blanket, head down to the beach, and check out the 7th annual Salute from the Shore. This is a unique way to show respect for veterans and those currently serving in the military! Kids will love watching F-16s and vintage WWII aircraft flying low over the coastline.
The planes depart from Shaw Air Force Base and are scheduled to buzz the beaches of Hilton Head Island between 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. on the 4th of July. The planes fly by in batches, so you may see the F-16s first and then the slow lunkers (my personal favorites!) bring up the rear.
Enter the name and pertinent details of your own military hero so the rest of the world will know who you're saluting that day. Take a flag to wave so the veterans inside each plane can see your support from the air! How cool would it be if they looked out over a sea of red, white, and blue flags?! Just remember to be respectful and use proper flag etiquette. (And, speaking of being respectful, please don't take a Confederate flag.)
Check out this video to learn more:
SCE&G is the main sponsor for this event and my dad worked for them for approximately 30 years, so that's how I first came to hear about it. We watch it together from the balcony of our condo whenever possible!
Go on a Dolphin Tour
Hop on a boat tour to see wild Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin in their natural habitat. This is such fun for the whole family and is a relaxing way to view Hilton Head from the water. There are numerous tour guides, so search multiple listings for the busy July 4th holiday.
The sunset dolphin tours are my favorite! Not only do you get to see beautiful sunsets over the water, but it's also much cooler than cruising mid-afternoon. You may even get lucky and see some fireworks on your way in! The last tour I went on was with Vagabond Cruises and they did a great job, but I've also gone out on smaller boats where you can actually lean over and touch the dolphin if they swim close enough to the boat.
Pop Pop and Daisy on the lookout for dolphin!
Play Pirate for the Day
Argh Matey! What kid wouldn't love to be on a pirate boat for the holidays?! Sound off with your own (water) cannons and go on a hunt for missing treasure with real pirates. The tour begins on land, where kids learn “pirate speak” and have their faces painted. They also receive official pirate names and a tattoo!
Once they're in their pirate gear, they'll head off on the Black Dagger to defeat Stinky Pete the Pirate and locate his sunken treasure. The evening tours on July 4th sell out well in advance, so act quickly to reserve a spot!
The Black Dagger pirate ship, docked in Sea Pines Harbor.
Take Flight over the Water
For the more adventuresome, grab your GoPro and take a jetpack over the water to see just how high you can fly! This option isn't cheap, but it is unique and fun for teens.
Prior to leaving solid ground, a certified master trainer will walk you through all of the important jetpack maneuverability steps. While you're in flight, the same trainer will be available to guide you through an audio controlled helmet. The trainer is able to control the water flow in order to maintain safety. An additional trainer will be on a jet ski alongside you as a backup safety measure. That trainer will take video so you can prove to your buddies back home that you actually walked on water and then took flight!
Where to Stay in Hilton Head
If you're new to the island, I've listed a few family friendly resorts below that I recommend. For the 4th of July weekend in particular, the Disney resort would be my top choice!
Sea Pines Resort – Ranked #1 on TripAdvisor, Sea Pines is truly a beautiful resort. Employees have that Southern hospitality thing down-pat and the views of the red & white striped lighthouse are incredible. Golf enthusiasts will love the adjoining Harbour Town Golf Course. Rooms here are spacious and luxurious, and the property has a gated entry to maintain privacy.
Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort – This location is ideal for families, because there are activities planned throughout the day to keep the kids busy (the majority are free). The resort is centrally located on the island — adjacent to Shelter Cove — and is a great place to catch fireworks shows over the water, learn to kayak, or watch boats heading in & out for the day. The many hammocks strung from oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss make an ideal spot for guests to rest.
Omni Hilton Head Island – This resort is oceanfront and in a great central location on the island. There are multiple pool options on site if you tire of the ocean and one is for adults only. Just outside the resort you'll find numerous biking trails shaded with tall pine trees — perfect for afternoon bike rides. This resort implements “quiet time” after 10 p.m. to make guests stay more pleasant.
For more ideas about what to do for the 4th, I also suggest signing up to become a Hilton Head Insider. If you're going to be in the area, you may want to check out my travel guide to River Street in Savannah, too!
I hope this post helps if you're planning a vacation to Hilton Head this summer and are looking for unique things to do with your family. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.