The South Carolina Lowcountry is famous for its unspoiled coastline and endless natural beauty. However, one sea island stands out among the rest. On Hilton Head Island, man and nature find the perfect balance; the result is pristine beaches, sparkling waterways, and some of the most beautiful wildlife viewing opportunities on the coast. Read on for a local guide to the wildlife of Hilton Head. And, if you are looking for more ways to get to know our island community, take a look at our free 7-Day Guide. Our guide has helped so many people plan the ultimate Hilton Head Island vacation. Use it for restaurant recommendations, guided tours, beach destinations, and more!
Your Complete Hilton Head Wildlife Guide
Bottlenose dolphins are one of Hilton Head Island’s friendliest residents! Whether you are boating on the Atlantic Ocean or simply enjoying the views from the shore, you’ll likely catch a glimpse of their fins dipping in and out of the water as they play in the surf. One of the best places to see Hilton Head Island’s dolphins is on the water, so we recommend taking a guided cruise. For an active adventure, try Saltmarsh Paddle Tours: both kayak and SUP tours are available. For a boating excursion, we recommend Dolphin Discoveries. Their guided boat tours are perfect for the entire family!
Although the dolphins may tempt you, please remember that feeding them is illegal.
May through October is loggerhead turtle nesting season on Hilton Head. During this time, baby turtles use the moonlight to navigate their way to the ocean. The best way to catch a glimpse of these sea turtles is by booking an oceanfront home. You are most likely to see these sea animals on the beach before dawn or just after twilight! If you’d like to learn more about our island’s sea turtles and their journey to the ocean, we recommend visiting Coastal Discovery Museum. Here, you’ll uncover the mysteries of these beloved sea animals and discover what you can do to protect them!
Keep in mind that during nesting season, houses and buildings that are visible from the beach must turn off their lights and close their drapes at night. The use of flashlights is also discouraged.
Visitors are often surprised to learn that manatees call the waters of Hilton Head Island their home. These sea cows are always a special treat to see, and you’ll need to plan a day on the water in order to catch a glimpse of them. They are most commonly spotted at Shelter Cove Harbour and the Marina during the summer.
Remember that these sea animals are a threatened species. Interacting with them, including touching, watering, or feeding, is illegal.
Hilton Head Island is a birding paradise as birds make their homes in so many places: in the ocean, marshes, lakes, and trees! Egrets and the great blue heron are frequent visitors of the marshes, and you’ll often see them patiently waiting for the opportunity to scoop up their next fish dinner. Flying over the sea, you’ll also likely see pelicans flocking in small groups, sometimes diving gracefully into the water.
If you are passing by any of the island’s lakes or ponds, lookout for the Anhinga Anhinga, commonly referred to as the “snake bird.” This bird earns its name from its swimming technique, as its body completely submerges underwater with only its neck and head showing from the surface! In the trees, you’ll also find cardinals, blue jays, robins, and more. Remember to look out for our state bird, the Carolina wren.
No list of Hilton Head wildlife is complete without the American alligator. These reptiles are native to South Carolina and are often spotted in the summer, sunbathing by the water. They make their homes in many of the island’s waterways, including lakes, lagoons, marshes, and rivers. You may even see one waddling across one of the island’s golf courses! For your safety, please remember to never approach or feed alligators.
Stay Near the Best Activities & Places for Wildlife Viewing
The Sea Pines Forest Preserve, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Mitchelville Beach are among the best places for viewing wildlife on Hilton Head, and you can stay near it all when you choose any of our beautiful vacation homes.
If you are looking for easy access to the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, then you will love our Sea Pines homes and villas. These gorgeous vacation rentals feature exclusive beach access to the beach at Sea Pines, a complimentary amenities card, and proximity to the island’s famous candy-striped lighthouse. If you are ready to plan your next island getaway, check our seasonal specials and book your stay. We can’t wait to welcome you to the South Carolina Lowcountry’s most beloved sea island!
If you are looking for more fun ways to explore Hilton Head Island, remember to download your free 7-Day Guide.