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but the Parks
All you can do without visiting the theme parks
Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort
Friday, April 27, 2001
What's a Disney resort doing in South Carolina?? When Disney builds one of its resorts, a major part of its appeal is proximity to a theme park. However, there exist two Disney resorts that are exceptions, located far from the hustle and bustle of the Florida and California theme parks. Today's column focuses on one of them: Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort.
The second Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort to be built outside of Walt Disney World and the first to be built outside of Florida, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort is on Hilton Head Island, off the coast of South Carolina and just north of the Georgia border.
Hilton Head Island consists of 42 square miles of golf courses, tennis courts, and beautiful surroundings. There are 12 miles of gorgeous wide beaches on one side, and an intercoastal waterway on the other side. Despite its small size, the island has well over 200 restaurants in all price ranges. And because the island has strict rules regulating appearance, even fast food places have signs and buildings that are more attractive than in other locations.
The Disney resort is located on 15-acre Longview Island within the island complex, with a 3.5-acre beachfront site on the main island. Original plans called for a 1940s hunting lodge theme. However, concerns over whether shooting animals was very "Disney" resulted in a switch during the design and construction phase to a fisherman theme. The only changes made were with decorative items the color scheme and designs remained the same. Fishing-related items and images of fish appear throughout the resort.
Like Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, large advertising signs on each building honor those who were involved in building and opening the resort. The buildings themselves were carefully built around several tall pines, palmetto, and 100-year-old oak trees. The marsh is full of oysters and crabs, and many species of birds call the island home.
The colors used in the resort are darker than many WDW resorts, but have been likened to the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, another of Disney's Vacation Club resorts. The main colors used are dark green, burgundy, navy blue, and cream. The darker colors seem to fit the theming well, and makes for an attractive villa. I've stayed in or visited all of the units, and they did not seem too dark to me.
As of today, the resort has not yet sold out its space with DVC members, so non- members may still have a relatively easy time booking a stay (provided you don't try to visit during peak summer season). Once space is sold out, you may only be able to book a villa at the last minute, when spots become available due to cancellations or changes.
With only 102 rooms, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort is the smallest Disney resort. Compare that to the almost 2,000 rooms of All- Star Movies in Orlando! The majority of rooms (70 if memory serves me) are 2-bedroom/2-bath villas that accommodate up to eight persons. There are five 3-bedroom/4-bath Grand Villas, which accommodate up to 12 persons. The remaining rooms are 1-bedroom villas and studios, each accommodating up to four persons. These can be rented separately or as 1-bedroom/studio combinations that create 2-bedroom villas.
The studios have mini-kitchens with a half-size refrigerator, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, sink, and generous counter space and cabinets. The larger villas include complete kitchens with full-size appliances, as well as washer and dryer. Those staying in studios may use the complimentary laundry room near the main building.
The resort is made up of 20 buildings, all located on Longview Island. Because the resort is built on Carolina low-country, none of the units are on the ground floor. Guests staying on the first floor are actually up a half flight of stairs, and the second floor is up one and a half flights of stairs. The main building and the one next door are connected to each other, and house the resort's only elevator.
Also on Longview Island is the Big Dipper, one of two resort pools. It's fairly large, with a requisite water slide and Jacuzzi, as well as Little Dipper, its kiddy pool. The Big Dipper is in the center of the resort, which houses a shop, community hall, fitness center, bike rental stand, arcade, campfire pit, 300-foot pier, and a take-out food window.
The resort is full of pathways for walking, biking, in-line skating, and scootering. The main building, called Live Oak Lodge, is home to the check-in area, pool table and sitting area called Big Murgie's Den. Under the lodge is a covered parking area.
About a mile away is the 3.5-acre site of Disney's Beach House. Although the main attraction here is its beautiful beach, there are other features, including swimming pool, game room, locker rooms, snack bar, playground, and a great big room in which to watch TV or play games.
The beach house is modeled after a station for the U.S. Life Saving Service, predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard. Back in the mid-1800s, more than 200 life-saving stations were built along the Atlantic coast in places considered to be hot spots for shipwrecks, with crews living there and waiting to make their next rescue.
Disney stocks the beach house with books, ship models and artifacts for guests to enjoy.
Guests staying at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort can keep busy or just relax all day and the majority seem to focus on relaxation. One benefit of a small resort is that after a few days, you start recognizing guests and being recognized in return. This is a big contrast to being surrounded by thousands of unfamiliar faces all day long. Last December was our third Christmas week staying at the resort, and we noticed several families that we had met previously.
Unlike other timeshares, Disney does not require you to buy a specific week. However, this is the kind of resort that makes you want to return often. If you are driving down from up north, it's a logical stopover on your way to or from WDW. For those like me who live in Florida, it's a worthwhile destination on its own perhaps with a stopover in Walt Disney World along the way!
What to expect in future columns: I will talk more specifically about what there is to do at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, for adults, families, and kids/teens, along with some of our favorite non- Disney things to do there. Stay tuned!
Contact Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MousePlanet's Disney Vacation Club Trip Planning guide has information on the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and how it works.
There's some great information on Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort in the guide.
You can even see how many DVC points it takes for DVC members to stay at the resort by referring to this chart.
A list of Hilton Head Island Resort trip reports that are archived here on MousePlanet:
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.
You can contact Sue here.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park Update: Walt Disney World.
MousePlanet® is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available at www.disney.com. This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary, editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change. Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.