Be mindful of the traffic
The surrounding areas of Hilton Head have really been developing for the past decade. I remember in '91 I could make a trip from Hilton Head to Beaufort SC with little worries, unfortunately it's not the case now.
If you're doing any traveling to the near-by areas (Beaufort, Savannah, Charleston, etc.) avoid going off island (HWY 278) 4 to 6PM M-F. Traffic can really get congested, especially on a Friday during the summer. And if it's raining I guarantee a fender bender will delay you along the way. The morning hours 8 to 10AM coming on island can get congested in the Bluffton Area.
Travel between North to South end can be shortened by using the 278 By-pass, costing $1.00. You can get to the same place by staying on 278 business, just more stop lights and traffic.
Going to Sea Pines? If the Main Gate entrance at the end of 278 is backed up, go down Pope Avenue towards the beach. Head down to Coligny Circle and take the exit infront of the Holiday Inn. Leads you to the back (ocean) gate of Sea Pines. You can get your pass there ($5) and enter the plantation.
Be mindful of bikers, especially on the south end and within any plantation. Lots of families with kids roaming about in spring/summer. It's not uncommon for them to not see/notice the biker stop signs on the bike paths, so driving with them in mind is much appreciated.
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Reserve
We stopped here on our way out of Hilton Head. At the time we were there construction was going on for the expansion of bird habitat (photo 5). The refuge entrance is located on U.S. 278, 0.5 miles west of Hilton Head Island.
The refuge was established in 1975 and open to the public in 1985. Pinckney Island is the largest of four islands in the refuge, and the only one open to the public. In addtion to Pinckney, the 4,053-acre refuge includes Corn Island, Big Harry and Little Harry Islands, Buzzard Island and numerous small hammocks.
There are concentrations of white ibis, herons and egrets and wading bird rookeries and osprey nests can be found on the island. Two of the island's freshwater ponds were ranked in the top twenty wading bird colony sites of the South Carolina Coastal Plain during 1989 and 1996. Bald eagles are not an uncommon sight. Nearly 67% of the refuge consists of salt marsh and tidal creeks. A wide variety of land types are found on Pinckney Island alone: salt marsh, forestland, brushland, fallow field and freshwater ponds.
The island was once included in the plantation of Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a prominent lawyer active in South Carolina politics from 1801 to 1815.
The second photo has a sign which says:
" Inhabited for some 10,000 years, Pinckney Island was known as Espalanga Look-out and Mckey's prior to about 1775. Alexander Mackey received two Proprietary grants for land on the island in 1710. Charles Pinckney later owned the island and willed it in 1769 to his son Charles Cotesworth who became a successful planter here.
Day Trip to Beaufort, SC
Beaufort is not very far from Hilton Head. It makes a good day trip off the island.
First we went to the official visitor's center, and I got the official SC map. They had numerous tours available - little buses, little trolleys and walking tours. We didn't buy a tour, but we got the historic area map, and I took over 40 pictures of the buildings in town.
After lunch, we went back out via the National Cemetery, and then drove down to Port Royal because I had heard it was a nice little town. There was a sign saying that the speed limit in town was 21 1/2 mph, and another one saying that it was 15 mph for trucks. There is very little in Port Royal although there is a port which is off limits except to official visitors, a dry stack storage facility. and a boardwalk along the water with a tower at one end. Probably the museum tour of Port Royal would be the way to visit this town.
From there we crossed the high fixed bridge to Catt Island/Ladies Island. There was an airport on Ladies Island with all kinds of old planes. Then we turned south and went across the bridge to Dataw Island/St. Helena Island (one side of these islands has one name and the other side has another name - I presume that at one point they may have been separate islands).
Then we crossed the Harbor River to Hunting Island. This is a state park and the fee was $4 each. We went to the Visitor's Center (saw an alligator in the pond there, and saw the movie about the history and looked at the exhibits. Then we went and looked at the Hunting Island lighthouse and took some pictures.
2005-02 A Week at Hilton Head
"February 19-20, Saturday amd Sunday"
We got to Hilton Head after a long drive (when the car started to thump again - although Bob blamed it on the road), and checked in a bit after 5. This was a good thing because apparently in February, the office is only open until 6 in the evening on Saturday instead of 8 like it says in their literature.
The floors up on the fifth floor (where we were) in the 'hall' are concrete without any finishing to look like tiles on them. There were also old appliances out in the hall.
We got our stuff up to the room, and I tried to figure out how to log onto the internet, but I wasn't getting a dial tone. The only phone is on the wall between the kitchen and hall. So if I want to sit down and send email, I need to have a long cord.
Meanwhile Bob went down to see what was in the laundry room. There was a man there who was trying to check in after six and the answering service didn't answer, and then dropped his call. He was really annoyed.
We went to dinner - walked across the street to a place called Steamers. They were busy (Saturday night), so I asked if we could just sit at the bar and eat, and he said yes. Total bill was $35.75 after they applied the discount for being at Sea Crest.
Since then I have read several scathing reviews of Steamers - on one case the person was given soup and no spoon, nor could any spoons be found in the place.
Sunday Feb 20
We got up late, and I tried again to get logged onto the internet, and still didn't have a dial tone. I finally got dressed and went down to the car and got the other computer which had another phone cord in it, and that one worked.
Bob went to the Piggly Wiggly and got groceries, and also a new phone cord. Otherwise, we just sat around and watched TV. I wasn't feeling too well so I didn't have any ambition. I did put the rest of the numbers in my new phone.
For dinner, we started out again in the car. Bob complains that the signage doesn't let you know what's available. There are only small monochromatic signs - they all look like bank signs or something like that - no golden arches for Hilton Head.
I wanted to go out to one of the marinas - the one with the big fake lighthouse, but I found that there was an entrance fee to go out there. So we went almost all the way back to the entrance to the Hilton Head Diner. We had comfort food there and the dinner including tip was $18.84
"Feb 21st - Monday"
I did go to the condo association meeting on Monday at 10:00 to hear hints about the area, but I did not stay to hear about the Gullah culture. Both because I am not interested in that, and because the lady doing the initial hints gave the bogus explanation of the derivation of Daufuskie Island name which she said she got from the Gullah culture speaker. I don't need more misinformation.
We did a little better today, and got motivated after lunch, and went to the Coastal Museum. We looked at the exhibits, and then saw about a hour CD on the history of the island. Most of the places with Plantation in their names -- weren't. That's just a marketing ploy to make them sound exclusive. Hilton Head was actually the first place that freed blacks had their own town which they ran themselves.
When we went to the Coastal museum on Monday, I asked them about the trolley tour, and they said it didn't run Tuesday or Wednesday. So on Tuesday when I called to make a reservation, they assumed it was for Tuesday and hung up before I could say that I wanted to Thursday. When I called them back, they said it didn't run Weds or Friday. When I went onto the internet, the schedule said it ran every weekday. In any case I made a reservation for Thursday
I thought we might have dinner at the Sunset Grill at the Outdoor Resorts where we went on the way down in 2000. But it isn't the Outdoor Resorts anymore - the RV part is apparently a condo now, and the Sunset Grill is not open on Monday.
So I took some pictures and we went back to the Crazy Crab for dinner - the one that is next to the museum. I had a coupon for 20% off all the food. We were in time for the sunset, which we could sort of see behind some trees.
"Tuesday, Feb 22nd"
We got underway much earlier, to drive to Beaufort. I knew there was a walking tour of historic homes, and I also wanted to meet a guy from the liveaboard list that owns a pub there.
First, we stopped at a place that said 'Information and free maps' and it turned out to be a store called "For the Birds and Gardens". But he did give us a free map and also a lecture on why Beaufort retains all the old homes (no hurricanes like in Charleston). He said also that the Articles of Secession were signed in Beaufort and not Charleston.
I saw a cat with only a stub of tail walk into the shop, and we went in too, but this cat was very unfriendly, so we did not pet her. The lady inside said she lost the tail in a car accident. They have 13 cats which I think is a bit odd for a store with a lot of stuff for feeding birds.
Then we went to the official visitor's center, and I got the official SC map, which is really not nearly as good as the NC one. They were selling tickets to numerous tours - little buses, little trolleys and walking tours. But I expected to get a trolley tour when we went to Savannah the next day and I didn't think I needed one for Beaufort.
We drove down to the marina and I got out and took some pictures of the horses and carriages, but didn't take those tours either.
The historic tour map was not nearly as good as the one for Ormond Beach or other places that we've been in Florida. It didn't have the addresses, or drawings of the buildings to help you find them, and the numbers were in no discernable order. But I did manage to take over 40 pictures of the buildings in town.
Then we went down to the marina parking lot to park. A little boy came up to us and said if we parked in the parking lot his mom was leaving that we'd have half an hour left on the meter, so Bob did park there, although he put two quarters in and got another hour. There was a half an hour left on the meter when we left.
We went to Hemingway's to have lunch, but unfortunately our friend was not there. I had the quiche of the day (bacon mushroom) for $6.95, which came with a little cucumber salad, and Bob had a turkey club. Total with tip was $16.80, plus 50 cents for the meter.
We went back out via the National Cemetery (which the guy at For the Birds said was started during the Civil War and so it had a lot of Yankees buried in it), and then drove down to Port Royal because I had heard it was a nice little town. There was a sign saying that the speed limit in town was 21 1/2 mph, and another one saying that it was 15 mph for trucks. Didn't get a picture of either one.
There is very little in Port Royal although there is a port which is off limits except to official visitors, a dry stack storage facility. and a boardwalk along the water with a tower at one end.
From there we crossed the high fixed bridge to Catt Island/Ladies Island. There was an airport on Ladies Island with all kinds of old planes. Then we turned south and went across the bridge to Dataw Island/St. Helena Island (one side of these islands has one name and the other side has another name - I presume that at one point they may have been separate islands). Here we passed a sign that proclaimed it was the Gay Fish Company.
Then we crossed the Harbor River to Hunting Island. This is a state park and the fee was $4 each. We went to the Visitor's Center (saw an alligator in the pond there, but we are pretty blase about alligators now), and saw the movie about the history and looked at the exhibits. Then we went and looked at the Hunting Island lighthouse and took some pictures.
We drove back up across the Harbor River and across St. Helena and Ladies Island (passing by the Ladies Island Marina) to the Beaufort River where we crossed the ICW swing bridge to Beaufort. Bob stopped on the way out of town to get fuel at a Hess station. Fuel was $2.279 in Key West on the base (cheaper than in town), $2.189 on the west coast of Florida, $2.059 in Ocala, and was $1.849 in Hilton Head. This fuel was $1.939, but Bob felt that since it was Hess fuel it was worth the extra amount which only amounted to 88 cents.
We had dinner at the Smokehouse - it was across the street from our condo.
"Feb 23rd - Wednesday"
As we were leaving, we saw some woodpeckers, and titmouses (titmice?) in the tree in the parking lot next to the car. We left via Bluffton on SC 46, and we went via the Squat and Gobble which according to the lady here at Sea Crest is famous and does wonderful chicken. Because the SC map wasn't that good, we turned the wrong direction on 170 and went around two sides of a triangle before we got to US 17 and went across the bridge to Savannah. This bridge is somewhat like the one in Brunswick and Jacksonville - a triangular suspension bridge.
The first exit off the bridge has two of the three tour companies - one is the Old Town Trolley tours (with the orange and green trolleys which also are in other cities). They advertise that they are the only ones that do the whole length of the waterfront. The one not here is at the official visitor's center is the Greyhound tour. The other one was the Old Savannah Tours, and I decided on the spur of the moment to go with that one. The price per person was $21, but I asked for, and got a $2 per person discount. The $21 price allowed us to get off and get back on. I think she gave us the discount because the $19 price did not allow us to hop off and I said we were only going to get off to have lunch.
We got a really good and entertaining driver, and today I took 187 photos (yesterday it was only 180). Unfortunately I sat on the left side of the trolley and this was the wrong side as most stuff that I wanted to take a picture of was on the other side-like some fancy ironwork and Juliette Low's birthplace (which is not open on Wednesday).
They gave us a map with the stops on it but it did not have the route taken, but I think we saw all the main attractions of Savannah and he also told us which movies were filmed at various locations (which didn't mean a thing to me as I don't watch movies).
We got off at the City Market where the horse and carriages were and had lunch at Belfords outside under the awning.. Bob had a bowl of she crab soup and a salad, and I had a cheeseburger with fruit instead of fries. The total with tip was $18.44. The bathroom was non-handicapped accessible - down a flight of stairs. We got back on the next trolley that came by and this driver was not nearly as good.
From here we went down to the waterfront down a steep cobbled street, and by Factor's Row. We saw the waving girl statue, and the little Olympic flame statue (they did some of the sailing events from the Atlanta Olympics here). But mostly this section of the tour went by various hotels. I did see a big powerboat at the docks here like we often see on the ICW.
Then we got into the car and drove out to Fort Pulaski. (A National Landmark - another stamp for the passport, and of course free admission.) We saw most of the film about the fort history. In the Civil War, R.E.Lee made the mistake of removing the men from Tybee Island. The northern commander used the new rifled cannon which had better range and power and just knocked down the wall which gave him a clean shot at the powder magazine. When the Confederate commander realized what that would mean, he surrendered the fort.
A cold front went through and a dense fog rolled in. We could hardly see the other side of the fort. I had seen a small lighthouse outside the fort when we came in, and we could also see the Tybee Island light in the distance, but we couldn't see any of that now. We walked around the fort a bit . Then we got back in the car and tried to drive back to Savannah. We drove by the 6 mile Rails to Trails section again, and then we came to an intersection and turned left and ended up going over the fixed bridge in Thunderbolt and up the Truman parkway to get back to Savannah. This time we took 170 Alt which cut a good bit of distance off as it was the hypotenuse of the triangle.
We went through Bluffton again - I had thought I might get a shot of the Squat and Gobble sign, but I didn't quite do it and I felt it was still a little early for dinner there as it wasn't yet 5.
We had dinner at Fitzgeralds - the $12.95 Early Bird Special if you were seated before 6. I picked them rather than the Red Fish which also has specials because Bob said the seafood he'd had was doing bad things to his intestinal tract and I thought Red Fish would be mostly fish. And then he got the lobster anyway. I got the prime rib. We could also have had veal picatta or cornmeal encrusted salmon among other main dishes. We each got rice and broccoli/cauliflower with our meal.
It would have been a very reasonable meal, except we each got dessert. Bob got the Mini English Walnut Sundae for $4, and I got the Chocolate Fudge Crepe Sundae, which was the same thing (vanilla ice cream with walnuts and fudge) except that there were TWO scoops of ice cream which were wrapped in a crepe, and it was $5.95. I was vacillating between that and the bread pudding with peaches in it for $6.95. Total including tax and tip was $46.10.
"February 24, 25 and 26"
February 24 - Thursday
It was supposed to rain on Thursday (and it had been supposed to rain on Monday and didn't) so I was afraid we'd be rained out of taking pictures. But it didn't rain, and actually cleared up although it was a bit windy. Bob did the laundry (3 loads) and then we ate lunch and set out for the 1:30 tour.
The driver gave us a 10% discount on the tickets which made them $18 each. (I had a coupon.) He said he was a retired principal from Alaska who retired down there, and that he worked for tips.
He told us a lot of stories that I don't quite believe (he repeated the one about the name of Daufuskie Island, but he told us about the covenanted communities which certainly appeared true. There are restrictions on what colors you can paint your house (only 5-10 colors possible and no white window frames).
He said that Disney was allowed to built their units with a red roof, and the Red Roof Inn which had been constructed before it was the only one in the world without a red roof because it hadn't been allowed. They were POed about that.
The traffic circles are so that they don't have to have stop lights. US 278 is supposed to be one of the most dangerous highways in the country because people were so busy trying to figure out where they were that they wouldn't see traffic stopped in front of them.
He showed us a horse which he said was descended from the Spanish draft horses. He looked like a roan pony to me and his hipbones stuck out.
We went to Fort Mitchell which was a circular fort with a dry moat. He recounted some story about the soldiers being bored and putting palmetto logs up on the fort and discovering that the cannon balls just buried themselves harmlessly in the fort walls. That happened in the Revolutionary War at Fort Moultrie so I doubt that it was accurate history of the fort.
We saw the Neptune statue sundial (top photo) and went into Sea Pines (which has 60 miles of bike trails, but you can't ride your bike into Sea Pines - have to bring it in on your car or rent it there) to the Harbour Town Marina. Rates there are $1.90/foot per day and $8/day for utilities. You pay on the length of the slip or the length of the boat whichever is longer. Monthly rates are $16/ft, and from the first to the first only. We also passed the stables, and a lot of golf courses and tennis courts.
By the time we got to Harbourtown it was quite cold and very windy. So the driver put the plastic windows down and I couldn't take anymore pictures. We went back to the museum via the Cross County toll road. (The toll is $1)
Since we were at the Coastal Museum at the end of the afternoon, and we finally had a map with all the roads on it, we decided to drive around and check what was available without going all the way back to the unit. We ended up for dinner at Hofbrauhaus. The early bird special bill with 6% tax and 15% service charge was $34.05.
Feb 25th - today it really did rain, so we didn't do much. Bob did the taxes and now needs to find a place to copy them (When we asked in Duck, they said it would be $1, so he wants to find a place that's a more reasonable charge.)
Feb 26th - We checked out, and went to photograph the lighthouse, went to Pinckney Island Wildlife Preserve, and then drove to North Charleston.