One of the striking things we see when hosting visitors here at the Harbour Town Lighthouse is the blend of far and near. Yes, it’s true that people come to the lighthouse from all over the world. Yet, on the very same day that we meet someone from Paris, we might also be welcoming a family from Atlanta, Charlotte, or Jacksonville. Clearly, one reason Hilton Head became America’s favorite vacation island is because a lot of people can get here pretty easily.
The Blossoming Region
The American Southeast became a magnet for migration during the years of Hilton Head Island’s remarkable entrance on the scene. Surely, there is a chicken-or-the-egg factor in this relationship, because while millions of families came to visit, tens of thousands decided to stay. Yet, remarkable as the growth of Hilton Head Island became, it was never out of control, thanks to two key factors.
First, we set aside large portions of our precious island to remain unspoiled. Sea Pines Founder Charles Fraser began in 1970 with 600 acres, designated the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. This practice was continued throughout the island by thoughtful civic officials who designated several spots as nature sanctuaries.
Second, the precedents set here in Sea Pines of blending the resort with nature became so influential that the rest of the island followed much of the Sea Pines example. In fact, the whole industry of resort development so thoroughly adopted this approach that it takes a historian – or someone who was there at the time, of whom we at the lighthouse are blessed to know a handful – to recall just how original the idea was in the beginning.
Everybody Moved Closer
It’s not much of an exaggeration, especially east of the Mississippi, to say that because Hilton Head Island became a vacation destination, Americans just moved closer. A leading factor in the sunbelt migration of the late 20th century was that people increasingly found careers that weren’t tied to a factory. As Baby Boomers reached retirement, their choice in millions of cases was to move to a kinder climate – and that meant south. And with the digital age, more and more people don’t even have to go to an office every day.
The net result is that millions more Americans are within an easy drive of the Harbour Town Lighthouse today than when we were completed in 1969.
Overlooking the Extraordinary
Those fortunate enough to have experienced it know that the view from the Harbour Town Lighthouse is unlike any other. The sky, the sea, the whole community of fun and relaxation that surrounds us all the way to the horizon presents a picture people never forget.
And yet, like many landmarks, we run the risk of being overlooked by the people nearest to us. Just as New Yorkers rarely go to the Statue of Liberty until someone comes to visit, Hilton Head Islanders sometimes forget to refresh their sense of inspiration and gratitude by coming back to the Harbour Town Lighthouse for another look.
Now that so many are so near, we wanted to offer this reminder to take advantage of a true treasure. Whether we are at your doorstep, or a day’s drive away, your welcome at the Harbour Town Lighthouse will be ready, and as fresh as ever.