Don’t just experience Hilton Head Island on its white sand beaches, soak in all of the natural beauty the island has to offer by jumping on a kayak and heading out on the waters. Whether you’re looking for some family fun on a guided tour or a rental to take out on your own, there’s no better way to explore the outdoors like kayaking.
If it’s dolphins you’re looking for on your kayaking trip, then head out to the Calibogue Sound, the ocean channel that extends up to the top of the island and has several creeks branching off of it. Dolphins swim through the sound and eat the fish on their way to breed. You might even see manatees, horseshoe crabs and cannonball jellyfish. The abundance of marine life has made Calibogue a very popular kayak destination. Stay closer to shore for smoother waters, because the combination of boat traffic and windy weather creates choppy water and makes for a tougher trip. You don’t have to worry about boat traffic too much, because they tend to travel in deeper waters away from kayakers. H2O Sports offers guided tours through the sound, as well as Outside Hilton Head.
One of the most popular places to kayak on the island is in Broad Creek. It’s is the largest creek on the island and extends from Calibogue about seven miles in, with marshes and streams snaking out from the creek. It’s a great place to get see cranes and herons and venture through marshlands. The water flows in and out with the tides, so the best time to travel these waterways is at the peak of high tide, but the water can still be a bit choppy because boats travel these waters too. If you want to see dolphins in Broad Creek, you’ll have to head out to the southern end, near Calibogue, where they like to hang out. Kayak Hilton Head as well as Water-Dog Outfitters both operate out of Broad Creek and offer kayak rentals and guided tours.
If you’re looking for a smooth, easy trip, then grab a kayak at Jarvis Creek Watersports and head out to Jarvis Creek. This small creek runs through the top of the island and dead ends at Honey Horn Plantation. It doesn’t have any of the boat traffic you’ll see on Broad Creek, which makes it the perfect place for beginners and families with children to explore. If you want to see more wildlife, then head out at low tide, when the waters get so low that you can even get out of your kayak and walk around. But if you’d rather do a more exploratory trip in your kayak, then go out at high tide when there are more waterways to explore. Check with guides to find the perfect time to get out, because if you plan it just right, you’ll be able to float with the tide. Wildlife is common in the marshes and there are several channels to explore in your kayak.
Palmetto Dunes Lagoon Channels
Another area suitable for beginners is the Palmetto Dunes lagoon channels. The waters here are very calm and away from the boat traffic in the bigger waterways. The 11-mile lagoon system offers very easy kayaking for families. These saltwater waterways snake throughout neighborhoods and golf courses of the resort, offering a very scenic view. Fishing is allowed and welcomed, just be sure not to tip over while reeling in the big one. Hilton Head Outfitters operates out of the Palmetto Dunes Resort and offer rentals and tours of the lagoon.
The best kayaking up on the north side of the island is in Skull Creek, which leads out to the Port Royal Sound. It’s a great place to see dolphins and all kinds of wildlife, especially if you head over to Pinckney Island, a national wildlife refuge just north of Hilton Head Island. Birds and other animals love to spend time in the salt marsh, so keep an eye out for them. If you already have a little bit of kayaking experience, then this is the trip for you! It’s a little bit tougher than trips and tours out on Broad Creek and a great adventure for a few hours out on the water, so go grab a kayak at Live Oac Adventures and head on over to Pinckney!
If you’re a pro and want a kayaking journey that’s much more challenging, then take a trip across the Calibogue Sound to Daufuskie Island. Watch out for boat traffic and beware of the strong tides! This is a trip for the best of the best, only the top notch, experienced kayakers should venture out on this journey. If you’re not up to that challenge, then you can always go to Daufuskie by boat or ferry, then rent a kayak at Outside Daufuskie and travel the smoother waters by the shore.
If you don’t mind going a little bit out of Hilton Head to for a kayaking trip, then head over to Bluffton for an exploratory trip on May River. It branches off the channel from Calibogue Sound and extends west, leading up to Bluffton. On a journey through May River, you can paddle near the shore to see all kinds of wildlife and take a lunch break on a secluded sandbar. Outside Hilton Head offers kayaking on May River.