As we settle into the pleasures of fall here on America’s favorite island, we look back for a moment at a summer season during which we welcomed more visitors than ever, here at Hilton Head Island’s iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse. In fact, on one Wednesday in midsummer, more than 1,500 visitors climbed the 114 steps to the top of the Lighthouse, making our incomparable view a feature of their memories of a lifetime.
Moments of inspiration such as these carry with them a timeless quality. It’s easy to imagine that the lighthouse has always been like this. The true story is that even though the tower was completed half a century ago, the interior that visitors enjoy today has been here for only the last 20 years.
A Walk Through Time
Mark King, founder of The Club Group, a long-time Hilton Head Island property management firm in charge of the Harbour Town Lighthouse and other Sea Pines properties, thought it would be fun for people to learn something as they made the climb to the top. Mark commissioned Porter Thompson, a local historian, to create interesting and informative displays on each of the nine landings of the lighthouse nearly 20 years ago. The exhibits are constantly being changed, as more stories are told.
In one of these evolutions, the lighthouse was recently designated an Official Coast Guard Museum. The display features a 1:5 scale model of the “Eagle,” a historic 295-foot cutter that serves as a seagoing classroom for Coast Guard cadets. The ship’s original plans were used in the construction of the 16-foot, hand-built model, a truly amazing work of art.
In addition to the Coast Guard “Eagle” model, the Lighthouse Museum features a Daufuskie Island display consisting of artifacts and a taste of the curious, mystical story of Daufuskie. From the pottery of prehistoric civilizations to the refined, sea island sensibility of Haig Point, from Native Americans through Spanish explorers through the tenacious families who stayed on through thick and thin to enjoy the beauty of life on this “paradise beyond,” the Daufuskie Island display in the lighthouse is a trip worth taking.
A visit through the lighthouse has become an interesting and informative climb through the history of Hilton Head Island, from pre-history and native peoples to the life and times at Sea Pines over the years. There’s something fun to learn on every landing. And there is a state-of-the-art webcam on the top so you can call your friends and family wherever they are, have them link up to the lighthouse website, and see you live on the observation deck.
The View and the Inspiration
Rewarding the visitor at the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse is not only the island’s most distinctive store, “the Shoppe at the Top,” but also an unforgettable view and – for many – a life-changing inspiration.
The view from this extraordinary setting has made Harbour Town Lighthouse a popular venue for weddings. Over the years it has been the site of countless first kisses, engagements. and marriages. Brides who seek an occasion no one will forget often find their way to the lighthouse. The experience and connections of the lighthouse staff make the arrangements not only memorable, but also remarkably easy. The lighthouse is available for private parties and events, too.
Stories People Love to Share
And there is more. Where there are lighthouses, there are ghosts, and this lighthouse is no different. On certain evenings – and even during the day – there are occasional footsteps, and faint voices. On rare occasions, things have been found moved about in the shop when no one was around. Some of the most popular exhibits along the 114 steps are tales of spirits, told for generations in these parts.
Our Harbour Town Lighthouse has become a part of the story people take home with them; an essential symbol of the dreams that have come true here. No matter how often you come to Hilton Head Island, the Harbour Town Lighthouse is a must-do experience.