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What to Do In Hilton Head, SC: 6 Can't Miss Experiences

Updated: Feb 13

Pelican flying over water on a dolphin tour
Pelican on a Hilton Head Dolphin tour

Hilton Head Island may only be twelve miles long and five miles wide, but every inch of the stunning vacation town contains memorable things to do, see, and enjoy. The hardest part of booking a trip might be deciding what to do in Hilton Head first!

If you're a returning visitor, finding fresh, engaging activities can be challenging. While we'd never turn down a relaxing day on Folly Field beaches, a nap at Burkes beach, or a walk at Coligny beach park but we have some suggestions for adding an extra touch of magic to your vacation.

It all begins when you step off the land and explore South Carolina's stunning salt marsh ecosystem. You may encounter mermaids, uncover shark teeth, greet friendly dolphins, or bask in a perfect Hilton Head sunset. Best of all, most of Hilton Head's most engaging aquatic experiences are entirely family-friendly.

Mermaid of Hilton Head offers some of the best things to do in Hilton Head South Carolina when you think you've already done it all.

We've created this guide to share the best-kept secrets for planning a unique trip. Read on to uncover the six experiences that will transform your Hilton Head vacation.

1. Charter a Private Pontoon

A visit to Hilton Head is a magical experience, but you can create your own magic when you charter a private boat and experience a guided tour of the local salt marsh. Mermaid of Hilton Head offers fully covered pontoon boat that sit low in the water, so you might come nose-to-nose with a dolphin or pelican!

Each boat can accommodate up to 24 guests, allowing for a private, romantic boat ride or a unique, high-octane experience for your next family reunion.

When you charter a boat through Mermaid of Hilton Head, you have your choice of three distinct, immersive tours:

  • The dolphin experience tour

  • The sunset cruise

  • The mermaid encounter

The dolphin cruise is perfect for wildlife aficionados hoping to come face-to-face with the most compelling members of the local ecosystem. The sunset cruise is a romantic and scenic journey. The mermaid encounter is a family-friendly, story-driven experience ideal for adventurers ten and under and their grown-ups.

2. Book a Hilton Head Dolphin Tour

Did you know that the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island are teeming with gorgeous, friendly dolphins?

When you travel to Hilton Head, be sure to book a Dolphin Tour so you can get up close and personal with these intelligent creatures.

Not only will your tour guide take you out to where you can see the local wildlife, but they'll also be able to introduce individual dolphins by name! You might even spot other creatures native to the local ecosystem, like manatees, sea turtles, sharks, and sting rays.

Each tour is a 75-minute educational experience, ideal for guests of all ages. Our experienced guides bring along plenty of props that inquisitive young guests can touch and explore. Bring along a camera for the many incredible photo opportunities.

Each pontoon boat offers shade from the sun, with bathrooms on board and a BYO snack policy, so even the youngest guests can cruise in comfort.

3. Experience a Hilton Head Mermaid Encounter

Have you ever wanted to meet a mermaid? You'll fall in love with the Mermaid of Hilton Head Mermaid Encounter, ranked the best marine wildlife experience and the best children's activity in South Carolina!

The family-friendly, 75-minute tour is fully interactive, with larger-than-life hosts that will guide your family through an immersive story, complete with props. Little ones will leave with temporary tattoos, wearing a magical name tag and as an official ocean ambassador.

Naturally, the tour concludes with a face-to-face encounter with a real, live mermaid!

It truly doesn't get more family-friendly than this experience, which will help create core memories for life. The boat has an accessible bathroom on board, and families are welcome to bring their own snacks and drinks. Older guests can enjoy the stunning views of the water and local wildlife and may even learn something new about conservation in the region.

4. Transform Into a Mermaid Yourself

It's one thing to see a mermaid. It's another thing to become one! When you sign up for a Mermaid Experience and photoshoot with Mermaid of Hilton Head, we'll provide everything you need to transform into the sweet siren of your dreams!

Depending on your preference, we'll either meet you on the beach or in our comfortable, fully-equipped studio. We'll provide a mermaid tail, a special keepsake hairclip, and all the nautically-themed props necessary to create the perfect shot. All you need to do is come dressed in your favorite bathing suit!

This experience is perfect for the whole family, regardless of age or gender, from the tiniest babies to grandparents with a dream. "Mermaid time" is part of the experience, so little guppies can enjoy splashing around in the tail. We're happy to photograph up to four mermaids per session.

We'll edit and retouch your images so that you can keep your favorite moments forever. You'll have access to your magical photos in as little as a week.

5. Pan for Real Shark's Teeth

When you go on any of Mermaid of Hilton Head's boat tours, you can add on a Shark Tooth Experience. We'll provide a bucket full of sand and shark teeth so you can hunt for souvenirs. You can expect to uncover a minimum of ten genuine teeth, which is a perfect way to keep little hands busy during any boat trip.

Are you traveling with a shark lover who hasn't grown their sea legs yet? You can enjoy the Shark Tooth Experience as a stand-alone activity when you visit our retail store in Tanger 2.

6. Explore a Shipwreck and Meet a Ghost

If you're planning a Hilton Head SC trip during October, you're in luck. Mermaid of Hilton Head offers a haunted, sixty-minute boat tour perfect for spooks of all ages! It's a seasonal spin on the popular family-friendly Mermaid Encounter, with a friendly ghost rather than a mermaid at the end.

Knowledgeable and engaging performers will lead the journey and interact in character, ensuring the tour never gets too scary for the little ones on board. Everyone will learn a bit about Dia de los Muertos as they meet the local wildlife up close.

What to Do in Hilton Head if You're Planning a Magical Trip

Hilton Head Island may be the perfect retreat for travelers of all ages, but truly memorable trips require an extra touch of magic. If you're still deciding what to do in Hilton Head on your next adventure, you can't go wrong with any of the interactive experiences offered by Mermaid of Hilton Head.

You might meet a mermaid or come face-to-face with a dolphin on the journey.

Are you ready to book the experience of a lifetime? Reach out today, then let the adventure begin! 2023 dates are already filling up, so act quickly for the best availability.

Also don't forget to bring your bike or rent one while on the island. Hilton Head Island won the Gold level bicycle friendly community award with its over 60 miles of bike trails and tall live oaks to provide some shade you will love to ride here.

If the trails are to easy for you, you can always enjoy some biking at the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, we will show it to you by water and then you can explore by land.

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