Things To Do in Sea Pines on Hilton Head
It’s not surprising that the best examples of all fun that makes this America’s favorite island, year after year, are the things to do in Sea Pines on Hilton Head. After all, this is where the dream began. It was a grand story, and it is still unfolding.
The founders could remember a world in which an every-year vacation was not taken for granted. Vacation was something families did when they got around to it, or when money was particularly flush. The chance for leisure time rose steadily all through the 20th century, and the starting point was pretty low. Even by the 1950s, people were talking and writing about the new leisure, the rise in time-off. What would people do with all this spare time? And what effects would that have on society, the economy, and the world?
Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser had a lot to do with discovering those answers, and the evidence is all around us here at the Harbour Town Lighthouse on Hilton Head Island, with all the things we are able to do.
Golf was already a prominent sport, both for spectators and participants, and it was breeding its second generation of household names with Jack Nicklaus, who helped Charles invent the Harbour Town Golf Links here, and Arnold Palmer, who won the first Heritage Classic Tournament, right in the shadow of the Harbour Town Lighthouse. Tennis, once considered essentially upscale only, was broadening in its popularity. Those two examples of the many things to do in Sea Pines were natural conclusions, even in the earliest days of Hilton Head Island’s storied history.
Visionary and Practical
What has always stuck in our minds, though, is that Charles somehow had the foresight to give us the very best things to do when he started building on Hilton Head Island what became 16 miles of leisure paths, where walkers, joggers, and bicyclists immerse themselves in the semi-tropical surroundings of Sea Pines. Like so many things, the paths seem normal now, but that’s only because Charles Fraser’s vision was so influential. His vision of Hilton Head Island generally – and Sea Pines specifically – and the things to do here became the norm for world-class resorts, but it wasn’t that way in the beginning.
To appreciate the context of those active leisure paths, consider that Charles, in 1959, was addressing a world in which sitting perfectly still was considered the greatest luxury. For a generation that came of age in the Great Depression, and had only recently come back from saving the world in WWII, the ideas of “leisure” were by no means as active as we see them today. People had paid the price to sit still. In this light, the leisure paths we enjoy today in Sea Pines – which are on many people’s Hilton Head Island “things to do” list, were a typically Fraser-like blend of visionary and practical. They were what people might, just might, discover they enjoyed – and they were a relatively low-cost attraction, a vital factor in the beginning.
What’s the Idea?
The fundamental influence that was so powerful that it seems expected today, is Charles’s devotion to preserving and showcasing Nature. From very near the beginning he set aside a forest preserve of 605 acres, the largest plot of undeveloped land on Hilton Head Island, for people to enjoy in all its original beauty. Those winding leisure paths, of course, are another ahead-of-their time example; and a stable where horse lovers continue – or begin – their passion for the view from the saddle is one of the favorite ways to explore the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.
Importantly, Charles used his legal training to craft agreements about what things and how things would be built here. Until Sea Pines, even world-class resorts started by scraping the landscape and starting from scratch. Showcasing Hilton Head Island nature as he found it and developing a litany of extraordinary things to do in Sea Pines without harming the natural beauty, was much harder than it might seem – especially given people’s expectations at that time. It had to be a labor of love because it was such a big change from how things had been done before Sea Pines.
A Surprising Path to Take
Our faithfulness to nature has a curious story behind it, and the story goes like this. Charles Fraser’s father was in the lumber business. To him, Hilton Head Island was a lush stand of trees, timber to be harvested.
When Charles graduated college, he travelled up and down the East Coast paying attention to the things people enjoyed, that attracted them to visit, the things that “brought people pleasure.” When you look at Charles’s itinerary, you imagine that anyone else would have concluded that the answer was water, beaches, or coastline. The answer that Charles came back with, though, was, “trees.”
With a view that was the opposite side of his father’s coin, Charles Fraser set to work preparing from modest beginnings what would become America’s favorite vacation island, and he did it by saving as many trees as possible.
Made in the Shade
In the giant, leafy glade that was created by this overall vision of Hilton Head Island, the number of things to do in Sea Pines have flourished in their abundance. The sheer variety of things to do in Sea Pines – considered by most to be the premier community on Hilton Head Island – is so wide that it has been called “superb, yet not specialized.”
Yes, this has been called golf Island, but it’s not for golfers alone. People find here a particular gift for everyone, something to engage and satisfy nearly every kind of interest. Somehow, Sea Pines accomplishes this while achieving excellence in them all.
From shopping – to get settled or for the sheer enjoyment of it – visitors and residents alike find The Shops at Sea Pines Center hard to beat. In the epicenter of Harbour Town, the shops there, too, in the shadow of our lighthouse, are lively and fun to wander, too. Around the bend, in the other direction, South Beach is the home of the Salty Dog, where people drink, dine, and remember, thanks to the famous t-shirt that’s become an international symbol of “been there.”
Hilton Head Island’s No. 1 Thing To Do is in Sea Pines
Maybe Charles Fraser was foreseeing the effects of this variety when he dreamed up the Harbour Town Lighthouse. With so many things to do on Hilton Head, Sea Pines needed a landmark, a focus, both a symbol and an experience to mark the spiritual center.
The experience of the lighthouse is just about whatever a person wants to make it. Some are engulfed with the possibilities of the keepsakes on the first floor. Many like to peruse the history of Hilton Head Island on every landing as they ascend the 114 spiral stairs. Others find what they’re looking for in The Shoppe at the Top. The chosen few go all the way and experience a view that has no equal in the sea islands, at any time of day, from the gallery that surrounds the very top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse – from the legendary 18th green of the Harbour Town Golf Links to our Savannah neighbors on Tybee Island to the western sky above Calibogue Sound and the shores of Daufuskie Island, which many call “the paradise beyond.”
Whatever your selections from among the things to do in Sea Pines, we invite you to make the Hilton Head Island’s Harbour Town Lighthouse one of the high points. As a fitting beginning, a breathtaking end, or a happy diversion anywhere in between, we welcome you.