HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Getting to this popular island in South Carolina’s “Lowcountry” just got easier for Canadians now that Air Canada has begun daily direct flights (2-hrs-15-mins) from T.O. to Savannah, Ga. From there, it’s a 45-minute-drive to the charming southern island on the smooth sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
Here are some highlights of what I got up to on a recent three-day visit:
Room with a view
After arriving at my ocean-view room with a balcony at the newly renovated Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa, I run out to put my toe in the Atlantic. Sadly, the beach rentals are separate from the hotel so you have to dish out $35 for day-long rental of beach chairs and umbrellas ($20 after 1 p.m.). Before dinner, I have a 50-minute “aspire” massage at the Westin’s Heavenly Spa — courtesy of the angelic hands of Gabriel — then take a quick dip in the whirlpool before jumping into one of three outdoor pools.
Seeing the light
This morning, I head off to Hilton Head’s iconic red-and-white striped Harbour Town lighthouse. The community’s founding father — Charles E. Fraser — is buried nearby, under the so-called Liberty Oak tree; a bust of Fraser marks the spot. In the 1950s, Fraser spearheaded eco-minded development of Hilton Head with an emphasis on earth-toned, low-rise buildings and plenty of oak trees.
My scheduled tennis clinic with 1971 U.S. Open and 1972 Wimbledon champ Stan Smith — the touring pro at Sea Pines Racquet Club since 1971 — falls through because he’s out of town.
Instead, I do an hour-long clinic with Smith’s tennis director, Netherlands ex-pat Job De Boer, who takes one look at me and quips: “If it’s not Dutch, it’s not much.” Not only is De Boer funny but he’s a real thinker on the court, which makes me think, too. Tennis magazine ranks the 30-court Sea Pines No. 2 in the U.S. for instruction for good reason.
A feast awaits at the lively, lovely Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks, where we dine outside on a gorgeous spring evening. A bluegrass band plays as the sun sets over Port Royal Sound. The standouts are oysters, barbecued shrimp and stone-crab claws. Almost as if owner Andrew Carmines planned it for effect, an oyster boat arrives to unload its catch. (Turns out it has a broken part.) It was like a scene out of a Pat Conroy novel.