Paradise. Dictionaries define it as a place of extreme beauty and delight; a place of peace, happiness and complete bliss. While many people consider paradise an otherworldly place, existent only in their dreams, I have a more earthly view. You see, I found paradise the day I moved to Hilton Head Island. It has been 27 years since my dream came true, and not a moment passes that I don’t thank my lucky stars for guiding me to this special place I call home.
Welcome to my world.
It’s no accident that Hilton Head Island entices. As one of the world’s first “eco-planned” communities, it has become an international model for environmentally sensitive planning and design. That’s because visionary, Charles Fraser, founder of Sea Pines, had the foresight to develop the land thoughtfully with a goal to preserve and enhance its natural beauty. Thanks to his steadfast commitment and the wisdom of our Town leaders hence, land development is closely monitored to control growth and protect our precious resources. Buildings and signs must meet strict design standards to blend with the environment (Yes, we have a Wal Mart here, but it is not visible from the main highway.); and instead of obnoxious billboards and gaudy neon signs lining our streets, we have moss-draped oaks, towering pines, waving palms, and a year round floral parade. No wonder so many visitors declare love at first sight!
But to me, paradise is much more than a place of beauty. It’s a feeling. No matter where I go-to dazzling cities, historic landmarks, foreign lands, exotic islands and other world class resorts-when I return home and cross the bridge to Hilton Head Island, I am immediately enveloped by a sense of peace. Ask any islander and he or she will tell you the same: There is an indescribable serenity to life here that must be experienced to be explained.
What makes Hilton Head Island so special?
Many of the amenities that make Hilton Head Island a great place to visit also make it a fantastic place to live. Obvious draws include pristine beaches, manicured golf courses, immaculate tennis facilities, full-service marinas, fabulous shopping and a vast array of dining options. But what you may not know is that Hilton Head Island is also blessed with an amazing group of people. It is a myth that this is mainly a retirement community. While some people have moved here to retire, just as many are here to work and/or raise their children while enjoying a lifestyle unfound in suburban America. In fact, 70 percent of the population here is under 60 years of age, the largest segment (18.2 percent) under 18 years of age. The median age is 35.4 years. This is a community where generations mingle and blend seamlessly, making for a unique mix of thoughts and ideas but with a singularity of purpose: to enjoy life.
A mecca for intelligent, talented, resourceful people, Hilton Head Island is not a typical Southern town. A melting pot of sorts, almost everyone is from somewhere else, meaning status is not measured by legacy or length of residency. With a permanent population of approximately 39,000, a spirit of mutual cooperation, generosity and joy prevails-a neighborliness almost unheard of in today’s hustle-and-bustle world. Even considering the seasonal influx of visitors, Hilton Head Island continues to maintain a small town feel. I see familiar faces on a daily basis. Waiters, store clerks and bank tellers know me by name; and friends of all ages from all places enrich my life with their diverse backgrounds, interests and skills.
A reason to come.
So why have so many wonderful people chosen to call Hilton Head Island home? It’s no secret that people flock here for the beach. Imagine having it at your doorstep each and every day. Take a morning stroll and enjoy a glorious sunrise over the ocean; dip your toes in the cool Atlantic waters; or catch the gentle breezes from a catamaran, kayak, canoe, wave runner or fishing charter. These are not merely summer vacation options, but year round choices for Hilton Head Islanders. Have you ever watched the full moon rise over the sea? This is a breathtaking experience that never fails to thrill. Carefully considered lighting regulations make Hilton Head Island the perfect venue for moon watching and stargazing-a favorite activity among islanders who frequently gather at the beach for an evening of free entertainment.
Beyond the beach and nature’s beauty, the most frequently cited motivation to move here is the subtropical climate. While we do experience all four seasons, the changes are subtle. With an average daytime temperature of 75 degrees F. and average rainfall at 4.12 inches per month, it’s a rare day when we can’t be outside. We wear cotton sweaters in the wintertime; hats are for sun protection and gloves for working in the garden. Over the course of more than a quarter of a century here, I can count on one hand the number of times Jack Frost has nipped at my nose. I think I have worn a coat a dozen times at most, and that is only because I’m a Southern girl with thin blood by birth.
Many reasons to stay.
While the beach and the climate are terrific reasons to come here, you’ll find a million other reasons to stay. Here’s a smattering of what you can look forward to when you choose to become a Hilton Head Island homeowner:
Conveniences. If sand, surf and sunshine are not enough to convince you that this is paradise, consider the conveniences. Need to go to the grocery store, mall, dry cleaners, auto repair shop, hardware store, health club, day spa, beauty salon, bank or post office? You won’t be fighting traffic for hours or feeding a parking meter. From my central location at Palmetto Dunes, I can be anywhere I want to be in five to 15 minutes. It’s just that simple. In addition, I have access to fantastic shopping and some of the finest restaurants in the Southeast within a five minute drive from my home. Even if I choose to go off-island to Bluffton, my travel time is no more than 20 minutes. What’s not to love about that? Virtually everything you need is right here: schools, medical services, places of worship, movie theaters, all within an easy drive no matter where you live on the island. Did I mention 23 golf courses and hundreds of tennis courts?
Arts and entertainment. Located in the center of the island at Shelter Cove, the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina is a world class facility that provides a unique entertainment venue. Offerings include professional theatre, art exhibitions, star performances, cultural festivals, community events and youth programs. This amenity sets us apart from every other island along the East Coast. Easily accessible from all area locations, you won’t have to maneuver through traffic jams or jockey for a parking space. I once left my house seven minutes before performance time, parked, picked up my ticket at the box office and was in my seat two minutes before curtain. Life is just that easy here.
Parks and recreation. The Town of Hilton Head Island has wisely invested in a strategic land buying program, funded by the real estate transfer fee, to eliminate overbuilding and congestion and preserve open space for parks and natural beauty. Hilton Head Island currently boasts 21 public parks (seven beach parks, one exclusively for island property owners; six recreational parks providing sports opportunities for children of all ages; and eight community parks, including Honey Horn, home of the Coastal Discovery Museum and the Shelter Cove Community Park, home of the Veteran’s Memorial and a popular venue for concerts, festivals and a variety of special events) plus two public boat landings. Whether you want to pack a picnic, fly a kite, play ball, toss a Frisbee, dance under the stars, walk your dog, go fishing, or sail away into the sunset, it’s all here for the taking. How many communities with a population of only 39,000 have 21 parks for the enjoyment of residents and guests?
Bicycle and recreational pathways. The Town of Hilton Head Island provides nearly 50 miles of public pathways and nature trails by which cyclists and pedestrians can enjoy the diverse destinations and activities on the island. In addition, there are more than 50 miles of pathways and shared roadways within the private developments. Do you know of another community with such an interconnected system? It’s possible to actually cycle or walk almost the entire island. What a way to go!
Easy access. For those times when you wish or need to travel and for the convenience of your guests, Hilton Head Island is easily accessible by car or plane. Quite frankly, I don’t venture beyond the bridge without putting up a fuss and/or packing a lunch; but when I find the need to fly, both the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and the Hilton Head Island Airport offer first class facilities, just a hop, skip and a jump from my driveway. The island also offers four marinas, all located on or near the Intracoastal Waterway for easy island access. When I get my yacht, perhaps I will choose the friendly seas over the friendly skies. Until then, I’ll drive, or better yet, stay put! After all, when you live in paradise, there’s no place like home!
*Special thanks to Bill Baldwin, DMG’s director of marketing and sales, for statistical information and inspiration.