The Town of Hilton Head comprises virtually all of Hilton Head Island’s 69-square-miles and has permanent population of over 37,000, according to census data; however, the summer population soars to 150,000. The Chamber of Commerce says that 2.5 million people visit Hilton Head Island annually. [While Windmill Harbour is seemingly on Hilton Head Island and lies south of the HHI bridge, the development is technically on 15-acre Jenkins Island. It is not governed by the Town of Hilton Head, but by Beaufort County.]
The island is shaped like a sports shoe with the toe pointing southwest toward the Savannah River with 12 miles of beach facing southeast.
While middle class accommodations are available on the island, the dozen private "plantations" provide grounds for lavish residences, some rising well into the millions. For instance, on Sea Pines Resort [created as Sea Pines Plantation] -- the oldest and one of the most exclusive private enclaves -- home regularly sell for over $1 million. The average single family home price in the fall of2015 on the island was nearly $950,000. The average list price for a condo was almost $400,000 [source].
Encompassing 31,000 square miles, South Carolina’s economy emerged from an agricultural base during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, South Carolina's total non-farm employment reached slightly over 2 million individuals. The state's leading employers represent the healthcare industry and the federal government with two Air Force bases located in the state. Manufacturing technology newcomers to the state include BMW Manufacturing Company and Boeing Aircraft.
The population of South Carolina is 4.8 million with 15.8% of that number being 65-years-old or older, compared with 14.5% for the USA overall. About 68% of the total population is white (77% USA); 28% black (13% USA); and 5% Hispanic or Latino (17% USA).
Clean, neat and well maintained, Hilton Head is dominated by gated, exclusive and expensive communities often called "plantations," and enhanced by dozens of golf courses, forests and marshlands, the intra-coastal waterway and tidal Broad Creek -- all dotted with yacht-filled marinas. The New York Times says Hilton Head “exudes both natural beauty and upscale-suburban affluence,” but quotes a long time resident as saying, "This is not a snooty place."
The private plantations that dominate the island exude exclusivity with names such as Sea Pine Resort (renamed "Resort"), Wexford Plantation, Spanish Wells Plantation, and Palmetto Hall Plantation, among others. About 40 percent of the island’s homes and 70 percent of its condominiums (called "villas") are second homes.
A part of the Hilton Head experience -- yet distant -- is the legendary Daufuskie Island, which is accessible only by private boat, ferry or water taxi.
Daufuskie Island offers a glimpse into the past, when residents were native islanders and descendants of freed slaves. They bring forward the traditions of the Gullah Geechee cultures, many of whom locally have made their living oystering and fishing for decades.
This area -- from southern North Carolina to the St. John's River near Savannah -- is home to one of the country’s most unique cultures, and traditions first shaped by captive Africans brought to the southeastern United States from the primarily rice-producing regions of West and Central Africa. That culture continues today by their descendents, known as Gullah Geechee people.
According to the Cultural Heritage Corridor, "Gullah Geechee people developed a separate creole language and distinct culture patterns that included more of their African cultural traditions than the African-American populations in other parts of the United States."
Hilton Head Island activities are dominated by golf, tennis and occupying sandy beach real estate. The area is legendary its virtually unlimited choices of public and private golf courses as well as its excellent tennis facilities.
On the broader family front, relaxing at, walking on or biking on the beach is a top attraction. Surrounded by water, fishing, boating/kayaking and paddle boarding are popular.
Other activities include art galleries, a museum, a performance center, a symphony orchestra, an international piano competition, as well as day trips to Charleston, Savannah and tours of real colonial American "Plantations" of the Carolina Low Country.
Dining is a major daily activity on Hilton Head Island and among the plantations. And with over 250-more-or-less restaurants on-island — from the very pricey and elegant to the barely passable — there is no shortage of opportunities to satisfy all manner of gastronome.
But, as The Times quotes a resident, "this is not a snooty place," and the dining shows it. Some of the best and freshest fish is found on the island is at the the concrete-block-elegant Sea Shack where nothing on the chalkboard-on-the-wall menu is over $12. The place is one of those "locals eat here" finds and one of favorites.
Then, of course, there are the linen table cloth "event" dining establishments both locally owned and at the likes of the Westin Hotel.
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