There’s an iconic image you can’t miss when you visit Hilton Head Island. You’ll spot it everywhere: printed on book covers, cast on bronze plaques, even represented as a life-sized statue. First published in 1962 as a photo in the Saturday Evening Post, the tableau features the island’s visionary developer Charles Fraser, Yale-educated and dapper, strolling with an alligator.
It’s a fitting symbol for Hilton Head, where high society has reveled in unspoiled wilderness since the 1950s. This is a place where the pleasure has always been in the paradox and terms such as “rustic elegance” make sense. Sea Pines, the island’s original resort, echoes this dichotomy. Spanning 5,000 sweeping oceanfront acres—including three golf courses, stables, and the famed Harbour Town shopping plaza—it’s perhaps most beloved for its stunning 600-acre wildlife preserve.
Craving rejuvenation and a nature fix, I treated myself to a solo getaway at the resort, which just completed an eighty-million-dollar renovation. Sea Pines was exactly what this Birkenstocks-loving, traffic-hating mom needed: a sparkly destination moonlighting as a forest primeval.
I spent much of my time walking the pearly beach and meandering through Sea Pines Forest Preserve. Trails wind for miles beneath moss-laden live oaks; bridges and boardwalks cross lakes and ponds. Deer peek around bushes, birds streak by. Rumor has it there are hobbits in these woods. Occasionally, I spotted a private home in the distance and marveled at its understatement. Fraser believed architecture should be subordinate to nature (hence regulations such as the one mandating all homes be painted in earth tones), but when nature is this spectacular, “subordinate” is hardly shabby.
Instead of renting a vacation home, I stayed at the Inn & Club at Harbour Town, the resort’s signature hotel. There’s nothing fussy about the place, yet I felt fussed over throughout my stay. It was the little touches: the friendly concierge who walked me to my room, the handwritten welcome note. I took full advantage of the soaking tub, the plush robe and slippers, and the tiny milk chocolates placed on my pillow at turndown.
One evening, I strolled over to Links, the restaurant at the new Harbour Town Clubhouse, where I enjoyed excellent salmon and a lively chat with the bartender as he shook up an elderflower-infused Tom Collins. The next evening, I dined outdoors at the renovated Beach Club’s restaurant, Coast. As the sky blushed over a tourmaline sea, I nibbled shrimp nachos and savored my own personal paradox—just another unreformed Earth Mother, settled into a comfy chair with a good glass of Chardonnay.
32 Greenwood Drive, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina • (866) 561-8802 • seapines.com
July 4th Parade
Show off your patriotism at this Sea Pines tradition. Decorate your bicycle, wagon, pets, or kids and parade around Harbour Town. Prizes will be awarded to participants who display the most American spirit. 8:30 a.m. (registration and supply pickup); 9:30 a.m. (lineup)