Drawn by miles of Atlantic beachfront, a host of world-class golf and tennis facilities, and a wide choice of hotel and vacation rental options, families have long found the island to be an alluring vacation destination.
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With over 12 miles of sandy shore to explore, it's no wonder beach-loving families love Hilton Head. Note that while the island's beaches are public, access is often limited. The solution is to choose a resort with beach access or head to one of the public beach parks. Favorites include Coligny Beach Park (access off Coligny Circle), Driessen Beach Park (access at the end of Bradley Beach Rd.) and Folly Field Beach Park (access off Folly Field Rd.).
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Take a cruise with the Island Explorer and you'll see plenty of dolphins frolicking in the water as well as herons and other wildlife. This company offers personalized dolphin and nature eco-tours specializing in groups of 12 or fewer, so it's perfect for families (Marshland Rd. (behind Old Oyster Factory Restaurant).; 843/785-2100)
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Easy, flat and paved bike paths criss-cross the expansive Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, taking you under namesake palmettos, to the beach, over wooden bridges, past golf courses and along lagoon waterfront. You can rent bikes for the whole family from Hilton Head Outfitters. (80 Queens Folly Rd.; 866/380-1783)
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Even preschoolers will be able to manage the 114 steps to the top of the 90-foot-tall Harbour Town Lighthouse, one of the most beloved landmarks on Hilton Head Island and a focal point of Harbour Town's waterfront enclave of shops and restaurants. Note: Harbour Town is located inside the gated Sea Pines Resort, which requires a $6 day pass to visit. (149 Lighthouse Rd., Harbour Town, Sea Pines Resort; 866/305-9814)Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Bring your nature-loving kids to the Coastal Discovery Center, which offers fun and informative animal "meet and greets," a butterfly exhibit, scavenger hunts, and tons of ways to learn about Low Country wildlife. In the summer, check out the popular series of three-hour morning kids' discovery camps, which require advance sign-up. (70 Honey Horn Dr.; 843/689-6767)
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Hilton Head is blessed with several fantastic ice cream shops but none is more beloved than Hilton Head Ice Cream, the island's first micro-creamery, which has been serving delicious home made ice cream since 1982. Along with the choice of over three dozen flavors, kids will love the colorful decor and life-size pirate dummy hanging from a rope. (55 New Orleans Rd.; 843/842-6333)
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Ranked number 3 in the world by Tennis Resorts Online for its junior tennis programs, Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center offers lessons to kids as young as 4 from March through Labor Day and over the holidays. Sessions are tailored specifically to the player's interests, ability level and schedule, with options such as the Short Shot Clinic, Super Shots Clinic, Junior Grand Slam, Junior Stroke of the Day, and more. The adult program is awesome, too. (Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, 4 Queens Folly Rd.; 866/380-1778)
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Got toddlers or preschoolers? Your little one will love checking out the hands-on fun at The Sandbox, an interactive children's museum with plenty of role-play and dress-up exhibits designed for kids 6 and under. Highlights include a construction zone, kitchen, pirate ship, climbing wall, and spaceship. (18A Pope Ave.; 843/842-7645)Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Get up close and personal with nature on a scenic ride through an 11-mile inland lagoon system at Palmetto Dunes. Along the way, you may spy herons, egrets, turtles and maybe even an alligator. A variety of kayaks and canoes is available from Hilton Head Outfitters. (80 Queens Folly Rd.; 866/380-1783)
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If your family loves golf, you're spoiled for choice on Hilton Head, ranked number 10 on Golf Digest's list of the world's best golf destinations. You'll find world-class quality golf courses, both public and private, with a variety of experiences including oceanfront and parkland courses, and championship courses designed by notable golf architects including Robert Trent Jones Sr., Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus.
At Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, kids can learn to play at one of the resort’s three golf courses through the Little Swingers program for ages 4-7. The Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy also offers a variety of junior instructional programs for ages 6-18, and families can learn the sport of golf together as part of Family Golf School. Additionally, kids younger than 10 play golf free after 4 p.m. when accompanied by a parent paying regular rate at all three courses. The Robert Trent Jones course also offers permanent junior tees, and the George Fazio course has... markings of 150 yards or less.