Hilton Head Island is a small island in the U.S. state of South Carolina that is known for its beautiful Atlantic Ocean beaches and golf courses. Its a perfect place to visit especially if you are a nature lover, since the Savannah Wildlife National Refuge as well the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge are within an hour of a drive. Needless to say, we did visit them along with couple of beaches and our experience was nothing but fantastic!
We started at around 0730 hours from Atlanta and reached our 1st destination – the Savannah Wildlife Refuge by 1230 hours. The visitor center was closed on account of Christmas holidays, hence we decided to do the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive which is a 4 mile loop that provides wildlife viewing opportunities. It wasn’t the best time of day to observe wildlife although we did get to see a fair amount of activity and spent around 90 minutes at this place. We sighted Red-tailed Hawk & Northern Harrier, American Alligator, Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Ducks, White Ibis, Tricoloured, Snowy & Little Blue Egrets, Buffleheads and Turkey Vultures. Here are some of the images we captured here.
It was lunch time already and after a quick lunch we headed to Fish Haul Creek – a park with walking trails, an observation deck & beach access. From the observation deck, we managed to see a huge group (over 100s) of Black Skimmers gathering and settling on the beach. We couldn’t figure the beach access from the park hence we decided to access the beach from Mitchellville Beach Park which was not more than a mile away. The beach was buzzing with a variety of birds. We sighted Willets, Dunlins, Least Sandpipers, Herring & Ring-billed Gulls, Sanderlings, Forster’s Terns and the star of the beach – the Black Skimmer. What an amazing sight it was to see so many Black Skimmers at once!
After experiencing the beautiful sunset at the beach, we headed to our hotel – Holiday Inn. After getting fresh we stepped out for dinner when we experienced a very unique thing about Hilton Head Island – NO STREET LIGHTS! We had read about it on Trip Advisor during planning our trip although experiencing it was something different. The light pollution is almost none and the calmness of the place is amazing. Do note that if at all you will be walking onto the streets at night, do carry a torch. A unique experience for sure.
Next day started with an early breakfast and a drive to the Hilton Head Island Beach. Again for some reason, Google Maps couldn’t guide us to the Hilton Head Island Beach so we drove to the Folly Field Beach Park and walked to the Hilton Head Island Beach. It was nice to walk on the beach early in the morning, we only wished the weather was not as overcast and windy. There were a fair number of people on the beach and good number of birds as well – Ring-billed Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Forster’s Terns, Sanderlings and a lone Royal Tern. We also sighted two flocks Brown Pelicans and a flock of Double-crested Cormorants flying just above the ocean.
Soon it was time to head to our final destination of the trip – the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. The place is absolutely beautiful with numerous trails in an island comprising of Maritime Forests, Salt Marshes and Fresh Water Ponds. We were short on time so did a 3 mile loop trail where we sighted White Ibis, Buffleheads, Hooded & Common Mergansers, Semipalmated Plovers, Common gallinules, Eastern Bluebirds, Pileated Woodpeckers, American Creeper, Cedar Waxwings, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Carolina Wrens and Great Blue Herons.
And that was it, time to head back to Atlanta. It was a short and sweet trip filled with unique experiences. Talking about experiences, due to Christmas holidays the roads were very much deserted with no traffic and I just managed to overspeed by 3 miles and in no time had an officer behind me with the blazing lights. I got worried for a moment as this was the 1st time I got a ticket in the U.S. but the experience was very different. The officer was very calm & friendly, checked my licence and explained the process on how to pay the ticket – all in span of 10-15 minutes. Not the perfect end to the trip but a good experience.
Coming to Hilton Head Island, its a quaint and calm island. For anyone who enjoys the calmness of nature, this is a good place to spend couple of days or more.
Signing off until next time, ciao 🙂
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– Rudraksha & Shraddha
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