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Hilton Head’s Wonderful Wildlife

Hilton Head has preserved more of its wildlife than almost any other resort destination on the East Coast.

Hilton Head Island’s alligators are a prosperous lot, and, in fact, the South Carolina Department of Wildlife and Marine Resources uses the island as a resource for repopulating state parks and preserves in which alligators’ numbers have greatly diminished. The creatures represent no danger if you stay at a respectful distance.

Many of the large water birds that regularly grace the pages of nature magazines are natives of the island. The island’s Audubon Society reports around 200 species of birds every year in its annual bird count, and more than 350 species have been sighted on the island during the past decades. The snowy egret, the large blue heron, and the osprey are among the most noticeable.

Other animals include deer, bobcat, otter, mink, and a few wild boars. At the Sea Pines Resort, on the southern end of the island, the planners set aside areas for a deer habitat back in the 1950s.

The loggerhead turtle, an endangered species, nests extensively along Hilton Head’s 12 miles of wide, sandy beaches. Because the turtles choose the darkest hours of the night to crawl ashore and bury their eggs in the soft sand, few visitors meet these 200-pound giants.

Ever present is the bottle-nosed dolphin. The water off Port Royal Plantation, adjacent to Port Royal Sound, is a good place to meet up with the playful dolphins, as are Palmetto Dunes, Forest Beach, and all other oceanfront locations. Barring that, consider participating in either of the kayak tours as described under “Kayak Tours,” above.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.