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Everything but the Parks
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Sue Holland

Enjoying Hilton Head Island Resort – Just For Kids

Friday, May 25, 2001
Text and photos by Sue Holland, MousePlanet staff writer

Adults can find plenty of ways to have fun at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort. Although the stereotype for vacationers at Disney resorts is "families with young children," Hilton Head Island Resort is both beautiful, and very conducive to the simple joys that guests chasing after young children might miss. The details at the resort — from the Mickey Mouse imprint in the outdoor ashtrays or an elegant private dinner in your villa, to a round of golf or simply laying in a hammock with a good book — are so plentiful that I cannot imagine anyone not finding a way to have a wonderful vacation here.

Mickey's image even appears in unlikely places at the resort.
Mickey's image even appears in unlikely places at the resort.

Hilton Head Island is a bicycle rider's paradise with safe, wide, paved bike paths throughout. Rentals are available at the resort and through a number of private companies. Although Disney offers hourly and daily rates, Disney also offers a flat rate of around $25 each for one or two bicycles during the length of your stay, with additional bikes available at $10 each.

When traveling with a party of two, my experience has been that it's generally cheaper to rent your bikes off-property. These outside companies seem to offer free delivery and pick-up as well. For parties of three or more, I stick with Disney. The Disney bikes are nicer, and the convenience is unbeatable, so the relatively small savings may not be worth going to an outside company. Upon request, both Disney and off-property operations provide baskets, helmets & baby seats upon request.

In-line skating is another fun thing to do on Hilton Head Island, and a great way to exercise. Although the resort paths are generally smooth, the resort is so small it's hardly worth strapping on the skates. Instead, drive across the street and skate along the bike path for a much better experience. Round trip from there to the first traffic circle is a very easy five miles, much of it shaded and safely away from the road.

Golf and tennis are primary reasons why many go to Hilton Head Island. While the resort itself lacks golf courses or tennis courts, the front desk cast members refer guests to various nearby locations regularly. Since Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members receive substantial discounts on many golf courses, as a general resort guest you should make sure to ask for one yourself. I'm not a golfer or tennis player, so I cannot make any specific recommendations.

The fitness center at the resort was outfitted with new equipment last year, and it's a great place for a workout. The center is small, but being such a small resort it's seldom crowded. In my experience, it's rare to encounter anyone else in there at all. There are two treadmills, a stair stepper, a stationary bike, a Nordic ski (or elliptical wheel) machine, a weight machine, and a complete set of dumbbells. There's a TV set mounted in the corner to help pass the time. Towels are provided, as is a water fountain and restrooms.

The resort's fitness center was recently refitted.
The resort's fitness center was recently refitted.

A new offering that started last month is "A Private Affair", where you enjoy a grand evening experience in a grand villas (3-bedroom, 4-bathroom, with fireplace) with your very own private chef. You and the chef select your own menu and wines, after which you can either be waited on, or help the chef in preparing the meal. A cast member told me that one guest even went shopping with the chef to select the ingredients for her dinner. The cost is $120 for one or two guests, and $40 each for up to eight guests. One couple I met last said it was absolutely wonderful, and not much more expensive than a dinner a nice restaurant.

"Open House Coffees" are held twice a week.  At these open house events, the resort serves morning coffee and mini muffins in one of the grand villas. They are great opportunities to see one of the resort's five grand villas, as well as to meet other DVC members and guests. DVC representatives talk about what's new at the DVC without sales presentation pressure.

There's one tour that's identified as member exclusive, called the Behind- The- Ears Tour. Members sign up in advance at no charge for a one- hour walking tour of the resort led by the resort naturalist. The tour covers the history of the resort, how the theming was decided, and points out many details that would be otherwise overlooked. I've taken the tour a few times, and definitely recommend it. Anyone who loves behind-the-scenes tours will want to do this one.

Hammocks are a great place to relax, and they're scattered all about the resort.
Hammocks are a great place to relax, and they're scattered all about the resort.

There are other activities open to all guests, and most are suitable for adults as well as families. There's the Secrets of the Marsh, where guests don boots and go out into the marsh with the naturalist to learn more about the low country and its wildlife. The Trees of Longview Island walking tour focuses on the many species of trees at the resort, including the majestic live oak. The Pinckney Island Birding and Gator Adventure takes guests by van to nearby Pinckney Island, home of many birds and some alligators. All of these tours are free but require you to register in advance upon your arrival.

The "Secrets of the Marsh" tour takes you to learn about the area flora and fauna.
The "Secrets of the Marsh" tour takes you to learn about the area flora and fauna.

Other activities with a separate fee include Dolphin Discovery boat tours, kayaking trips, beach horseback riding, and fishing excursions. I have not been on these tours, since most of my visits occur when it would be too cold for me to be out on the water in a boat. There are also a couple of fee- based activities at the resort for adults, including the weekly Cooking With Matilda, and the Taste of Wine for adults 21 and over. Both of these cost $12 per member or $15 per guest.

There is a long list of things to do while you're staying at the resort.
There is a long list of things to do while you're staying at the resort.

Hilton Head Island boasts over 200 restaurants.  Since the resort lacks it's own full-service restaurant (although a limited counter service window, and a snack bar at the Beach House are available), having a car is a must. Of course, cast members are happy to recommend restaurants based on your likes and price range, and the front desk can probably provide a free book listing menus from many Hilton Head Island restaurants. If they are out, you can pick one up outside almost any shopping area, including the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store.

Our favorites include the Hilton Head Diner — an excellent 24- hour eatery with a wide variety of dishes, located less than a mile from the resort — as well as Big Bamboo Cafe in the Coligny area, which has menu variety, food quality, reasonable prices, and fun theming. There are several restaurants within walking distance, in Shelter Cove right across the bridge from the resort. When you check in, be sure to get the list of which restaurants are currently offering Disney guests a 10% discount.

Even when you're not eating, or engaged in some tour or form of exercise, there are still more things to do at the resort:

  • How about sitting in one of the rocking chairs on your porch and watching the birds and occasional guest go by?

Enjoying the quiet ambience of the resort is a relaxing pastime.
Enjoying the quiet ambience of the resort is a relaxing pastime.

  • Take a dip in one of the pools, or relax on a lounge chair.
  • Sit in the hot tub and talk to other guests. Even when the weather is downright cold, there are people in the hot tub!

The resort's pools are a natural meeting place for guests.
The resort's pools are a natural meeting place for guests.

  • Take a nice walk along the beautiful beach.
  • Go shopping — there must be dozens of shopping areas to occupy your time (and tempt your wallet), including two outlet centers just off the island (one of which has a Disney Catalog Outlet).
  • Play a game of horseshoes — horseshoe pits are scattered throughout the resort.
  • Play a game of pool at Big Murgie's Den.

After one trip to Disney's Hilton Head Island resort, you'll be eager to start planning your return trip. It's Disney quality and service without the Disney crowds and frenetic pace of the theme parks.

These are the luggage carts guest use to get tote their luggage to their villa.
These are the luggage carts guest use to get tote their luggage to their villa.

Contact Sue at sue.holland@mouseplanet.com.


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 Holland - Dec. 2000

Kathy Kula - March 2000

Julie Price - Nov. 1999

Donna Sharick - June 1999

Cora Armenio - June 1999

Julie Price - Feb. 1998

Patti Pozella - Dec. 1998

Sue Holland - Dec. 1998

Jim Kimball - Nov. 1998

Bill Speicher - Sept. 1996

Holly Franklin - June 1996


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.”


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