All across Hilton Head Island, town officials have done a wonderful job of setting aside acres and acres of wonderful green space. From beach parks to historic parks and beyond, there is no shortage of places to put your toes in the grass or the sand, slather on the sunscreen and enjoy the beauty of the Lowcountry’s nature. It is difficult to play favorites when faced with such a wealth of open spaces, but we have weighed all the factors and come up with our definitive power ranking of our area’s many parks.
Beyond simply a sandy patch of land to lay down your blanket and rolling waves to splash in, our beach parks are cram-packed with amenities for a better beach experience. Some lean more toward a heavy visitor presence, some give you more of a rustic wilderness vibe, but each offers something unique. So which one led the pack?
Our Pick: Coligny Beach Park
We are going to lead with what might be our most controversial pick. Ultimately, Coligny gets the edge due to its proximity to the dining and shopping of Coligny Plaza, not to mention the world-famous Tiki Hut, plus the extensive work that has been done on its entrance. With ample parking just across the street, plentiful bathroom facilities, and paved entryway ringed with swing chairs and comfy sitting areas, Coligny offers a place where you can park the car in the morning and spend the whole day exploring.
Runner-Up: Driessen Beach Park
Driessen might be a little more off the beaten path, but it is no slouch when it comes to amenities. A picnic pavilion and playground give the family plenty of things to do besides the beach, while the rotating array of food trucks through the summer provide plentiful dining options.
Sometimes a park doesn’t need a beach beside it to offer up a day of family fun. After all, there is more to our area than just the beaches. Sometimes you just need some green space and an open field for throwing a Frisbee around, setting out a picnic blanket and enjoying some quality time. So who takes the top honor?
Our Pick: Jarvis Creek Park
Situated around a tranquil lagoon, Jarvis Creek Park is a multi-dimensional destination with a little something for everyone. Let the kids burn off some energy on the playground. Enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the pavilions. Enjoy some catch-and-release fishing off the dock. Or just take to the trails and explore the maritime forests that ring the lagoon. Whatever you’re into, you can do it here.
Runner-Up: Honey Horn
While the park itself is rather bare-bones, mainly consisting of open fields, the real jewel here is Coastal Discovery Museum. Here you can take to pathways that guide you through the forests of Honey Horn, with markers pointing out various plant life, or you can walk out over the marshes on a dock, visit with marsh tackies and check out the butterfly enclosure.
While most people might think the history of Hilton Head Island starts with the first golf course, it actually has a fascinating place in our nation’s history. From colonial plantation houses to occupation by Union troops during the Civil War, Hilton Head has a rich past that begs to be explored. Many of our area’s parks where built to commemorate landmarks that have played a role in this story. So which one took top honors?
Our Pick: Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park
Here you can view one of the most fascinating chapters in the island’s history. On this site, shortly after the Union army began their occupation of the island, a first-of-its-kind village was created specifically for freed slaves. With every amenity a town would need, from a school to elected officials, this marked a new beginning for African-Americans on the long march toward freedom. The remnants of the town have been lost to time and tide, but it’s still fascinating to walk the grounds and think of what was.
Runner-Up: Zion Chapel of Ease Cemetery
Located at the intersection of William Hilton Parkway and Mathews Drive, this small park is home to the Baynard Mausoleum and the final resting place of some of the island’s founding families. Plans are underway to develop this site into a “patriot park” with a learning center and historical markers.