Hilton Head Island Beaches
Hilton Head Island offers roughly 14 miles of white sand beaches. Most of it is contiguous as it follows the Atlantic coastline or sounds where offshore islands protect the waters near the coast. While technically all beaches are public, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is public access, and parking can be limited where there is. Because of the relatively flat slope of the shore as you wade out, you will find that in most cases you can walk out quite a ways without getting in over your head. This flat slope additionally means pretty small waves – not great for surfing but very kid friendly. There are also very dramatic tide swings – on the average of around seven feet difference between lot tide and high tide. You need to be mindful of the fact that the beach that was wide at the beginning of the day will be narrower at high tide, and some paths may disappear altogether.
Other general items you should know about Hilton Head Island beaches: Most public beaches (meaning public access) are manned with lifeguards between Memorial Day and Labor Day. There are some restrictions for certain activities in “designated swimming areas” such as playing Frisbee, flying stunt kites and fishing because they could endanger beach goers when it is crowded. Also, there is no alcohol allowed on any beaches at any time. Beach bike riding is very popular because the sand is hard packed and makes riding relatively easy, but beware the breeze. Going down wind is great but coming back can be a lot of work! There are also boats and water trikes available for rent at the more popular beaches.
Here is a quick run down of the various beaches starting from the southern end of the island and heading north/east:
Alder Lane is the southern most of the public beach access locations on South Forest Beach Rd. at Alder Lane. There is metered parking across South Forest Beach Rd. This is a nice wide beach that is comparatively uncrowded. Amenities include restrooms and a drink vending machine. It’s an easy bike ride from most south end locations. This beach also is equipped with the mats that make it wheelchair accessible.
the next beach up is Coligny Beach, located at Coligny circle at Pope Avenue and South Forest Beach Drive. It is definitely one of Hilton Head Island’s most popular (and busy) beaches. There are volleyball nets are available and one of the only beachside bars (Tiki Hut) is located behind the volleyball courts at the Holiday Inn. There are rest rooms, changing rooms, water fountains, sand showers and other amenities. Life Guards rent beach equipment, Hobie Cats, recumbent bikes, sand trikes, umbrellas, etc. Wheelchair accessible mats to the beach are available at this location.
Parking is available at the town parking lot at the corner of South Forest Beach Drive and Pope Avenue. The entrance is on Pope across from the Exxon gas station. There is also parking closer to the beach, on Coligny Circle on the North side, but it fills up quickly. Coligny Plaza, which is adjacent, offers great shops and restaurants.
Burke’s Beach is located off William Hilton parkway (278 Bus.) at Burke’s Beach Rd. Parking is limited and there are no amenities or life guards but it is technically the next beach up the coast.
Dreissen Beach Park
Dreissen beach is also off William Hilton parkway, at Bradley Beach Rd. It has Life Guards, plenty of parking, rest rooms, sand showers and vending machines, a playground and a few picnic tables but the boardwalk to the beach is quite long and requires healthy legs. If you park here, note the number of your parking space and go to the machine by the restrooms to pay. Wheelchair accessible mats to the beach are available at this location.
Folly Field Beach
Folly Field beach is next up the coast and is located on Starfish Road off Folly Field Road. Parking is limited. Amenities include restrooms, sand showers, water fountains and Life Guards are on site during the season. Folly Beach is is popular with swimmers and surfers. Wheelchair accessible mats to the beach are available at this location.
Islander’s Beach Club
Islander’s Beach Club is intended primarily for locals because parking is only available only for those who purchase annual permits, which are limited to Hilton Head property owners. But it is open to the public and you can always get dropped off or go by bike. Amenities include restrooms, changing rooms, playground, soft drink machine, sand showers and a few picnic tables. It’s located off Folly Field Road.