by Maggie Zeibak
South Carolina Monday tiptoed in with a slight drizzle and Tuesday swept out with a shoe-squelching storm. The oh-so-tall trees, draped with Spanish Moss, trembled from the lashing wind and rain, great targets for an errant flash of lightning. Strangers to this display of nature’s spring willfulness, we sat in our vacation condo, peeking out of the window while playing gin rummy, enthralled by something we don’t often see in San Clemente.
Not every vacation is sun-soaked, we agreed, besides we get plenty back home. Slowly we realized, as the sun emerged, there was this thing called humidity that awakened the fragrance of the damp earth and the stickiness of one’s underwear. So this is Hilton Head Island, SC, nuzzled up to Savannah, Georgia with a healthy dose of history on the side.
One of the most sought-after destinations for a vacation, this island of 35,000 permanent residents offers an array of activities for everyone. Divided into limited access “plantations”, ranging from 500 to several thousand acres, they are carefully monitored master-planned communities. Somewhere, someone is bashing a tennis ball enthusiastically while elsewhere, the call “Fore” echoes down the fairway as the hackers follow their ball from tee to shining sea. A short distance away, the wide sandy beaches at low tide provide a firm track for bicyclists and power walkers alike. Then there were the likes of us, who had no athletic agenda beyond a stroll or two to the restaurant, or a determined splash in the pool to snag a floating noodle before the kids and grannies.
Without question, this shoe-shaped island named for a sea captain, not a hotel chain, draws visitors from all over the world, mostly to play golf on the challenging courses – of which there are many. Names like Fazio, Trent-Jones, Player and Nicklaus are bandied about by consultants and designers, evoking a reverence usually reserved for the Almighty. Month after month, golf enthusiasts arrive ready to claim the bragging rights of having played one of the famous courses, and to rave about the spectacular views and plenty of hazards. Instead of just watching the PGA Tour on television each April, they can participate in numerous events throughout the year. Public courses on the island offer green fees and cart rental between $45 and $200, with afternoon play offered a little cheaper.
One of the beautiful golf courses on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina Budget vacations usually disintegrate as quickly as a card swipe, especially for those with children. With a little planning from the complimentary vacation guides, beach activities on the Atlantic Ocean can while away most of the day. Chairs and umbrellas can be rented from the lifeguard for $28 per day (cheaper by the week) but handy Target and Wal Mart stores stock all beach supplies (give ‘em away at the end of your stay) plus a great selection of gaudy towels and souvenirs.
Round up the family for a fishing expedition. There are snapper, grouper, kingfish, bluefish, swordfish and shark paddling around out there in the saltwater. Several boats offer special programs to give kids a “hands-on” experience including pulling up crab pots and throwing a cast net. Needless to say, surf fishing from the beach is just as much fun, and easier when the tide recedes leaving choice fish in the lagoons.
During the summer season, the endangered loggerhead turtles return to bury their eggs in the sand. Late night visits to the shore may provide a view of one of these 200-pounders, just be sure that you observe all the rules and regulations. The turtles are drawn back to the sea by the light of the moon so beachfront dwellers are asked to keep their lights off the beach between 10 pm and dawn. The Coastal Discovery Museum is a good place to start for information, they offer beach and nature walks, nest protection programs, historical tours and cruises through the local marshlands.
Not surprisingly, the Low Country offers up an amazing opportunity to view wildlife of a different sort. Whereas pelicans, swallows and coyotes are familiar to us on the West Coast, we got to stare at a sunbathing alligator, several armadillos on the road (unfortunately, deceased) and a bird that swims underwater. Fascinated by the black Ahingas, we watched her swim submerged then take up a perch on a tree. Slowly, she spread her wings to let the sun dry her as she remained in this stationary pose for the better part of our nap.
Although Hilton Head, the largest of the ocean-barrier islands, is one of nature’s perfect playgrounds, we roused ourselves to drive into Savannah for a taste of Civil War history. Crossing the bridge onto the mainland, the road sign bade us “Ya’ll Come Back” and as soon as we crossed the state line there was “We’re Glad Georgia’s on Your Mind” to greet us. Taking the easy way for tourists we parked the car in the free lot at Old Town Trolley Tours and took the Hop on, Hop Off option that allowed us to get off at scheduled stops to explore the intriguing parks, cemeteries and historic district. Catching glimpses of the house from “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”,
A Snowy Ingred on the watch Forrest Gump’s park bench location and $6000 homes ordered from the Sears catalog and delivered by the railroad, quickly took us into lunchtime. Having observed the long line outside the latest fad restaurant of TV personality chef, Paula Deen, we passed on The Lady & Sons, catching our breath instead along historic River Street to indulge in crab cakes and shrimp while overlooking the Savannah River. Southern cuisine is legendary and the smiles from the local folk made our trip memorable.
South Carolina may not be at the top of your “must see” places, but for San Clementeans it should be on “places to consider”. We live in a year-round vacation spot that is hard to beat, but every now and then we need to venture out and see how the other Coast lives. Both SC’s rate a 10 but you can include another one. So Cool.
Travel Tip: Before leaving on a trip ask the Post Office to hold your mail. Go to www.usps.com
and under the tab “Receiving Your Mail” click on ‘Hold Mail’ and complete the details.b