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WHIRL Magazine, “WHIRL Travelers: Our Top Travel Spots for Summer Getaways”

Hilton Head Island

By Liz Petoniak | Photographs from the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, Sea Pines Beach Club, Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks

Most travelers come to Hilton Head Island, S.C., a popular destination for Pittsburghers, for a relaxing beach retreat or a golf getaway. Yet, this idyllic island presents much more to be discovered for first-timers and frequent visitors alike. Fortunately, Allegiant Air just began offering seasonal nonstop flights from Pittsburgh to the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, making it easier and more affordable than ever to visit the island. We hopped on our first flight ever with the airline and jetted down to the island for a long weekend in paradise.

Where To Stay

Although many seek out vacation rentals, the island’s hotel and resort options have received major makeovers in the past few years, bringing forth a number of conveniences and amenities that make for an uncomplicated stay in a beautiful space. One such resort to note, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, recently underwent a $30 million renovation. Upon immediate entry into the lobby, decked out in chic furnishings in a beachy color scheme, a live plant wall, and large windows looking out to the resort, we felt at ease. The rooms exude a relaxing, spa-like feel with sleek surfaces and a spacious bathroom highlighted by a large, set-in shower. Ours featured an ocean view and an adorable little patio space, where we enjoyed the in-room Starbucks Coffee every morning. Outside, three pools surrounded by palm trees beckon to be enjoyed, as does the beach. The Westin offers direct beach access to a calm (read: not over-crowded) stretch on the northern end of the island, an ideal spot to watch the waves roll in, swim, go for a sunrise run, or ride bikes, which are available for rental onsite.

Where To Eat & Drink

When it comes to dining on Hilton Head Island, proximity to the water and availability of fresh, local seafood are its crowning qualities. However, its restaurant scene prides itself not only on fish and hushpuppies — though we’ll admit to ordering the Lowcountry staple at every opportunity. One of the oldest restaurants on the island, Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks, overlooks Skull Creek for a scenic spot to catch a bite as the sun sets. We recommend the many preparations of shrimp, fresh off the boat docked just a stone’s throw away, and when in season, oysters cultivated by General Manager Andrew Carmines. For eats right on the beach, the newly revamped Sea Pines Beach Club inside The Sea Pines Resort is the most breezy, beautiful spot to cool off from sunbathing with a frozen cocktail on the deck. And, its two stylish restaurants, Coast and Ocean Lounge, boast breathtaking ocean views paired with fresh, trendy coastal cuisine. The island comes alive during the nighttime at the “Barmuda Triangle,” a grouping of bars with a shared courtyard. There’s something to suit every vibe — craft beer, Irish pubs, dance floors — and many of the bars feature live music. And finally, for when you need a break from all of the delicious, in-your-face seafood, we recommend Vine, a cozy candlelit restaurant with major foodie appeal and an impressive wine selection, and Ombra Cucina Rustica, a standout, white tablecloth Italian spot where traditional and contemporary fare intersect. We were also impressed by the offerings at The Westin Resort, including the small plates and cocktails at View 32 amidst panoramic views of the pools, palm trees, and ocean, as well as the resort’s healthful breakfast options. Dining out constantly on vacation can prompt the feeling of being weighed down, so the selection of smoothies and fresh juices felt like a blessing.

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