If you are looking for clear turquoise waters, the beaches of Hilton Head Island might not be the place for you.
However, there is something incredibly special about the waters. While they may appear cloudy and grayish-brown, the beaches here still possess a unique charm. A lot of its appeal is because of these seemingly murky waters. But why does it look this way? Most beaches appear muddy because of a process known as upwelling.
Upwelling occurs in the open ocean and along coastlines. This process causes warmer surface waters to move out to sea, which causes colder water to move in. This colder water is often rich in sediments and nutrients, which makes the water appear murky. These murky waters are home to living organisms and fine particles of sand. Just because waters appear murky doesn’t mean they aren’t clean.
Sediment also plays an important role in the color of our waters. If fine, granular particles such as sand are present, they can cloud the surface and give it murkier tones due to their ability to easily travel when agitated.
Water that rises to the surface as a result of upwelling is typically colder and is rich in nutrients.
These nutrients “fertilize” surface waters, meaning that these surface waters often have high biological productivity. Therefore, good fishing grounds typically are found where upwelling is common. That’s because that murky water is typically home to more living organisms, including phytoplankton (algae) and zooplankton (jellyfish and other ocean-wandering animals), which in turn make the water appear cloudy.
The nutrient-rich waters surrounding Hilton Head provide a hospitable environment for numerous species of marine life. They act as an ideal breeding ground for many species, including the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. Additionally, bottlenose dolphin, otters, crabs, jellyfish and other smaller creatures call the waters around Hilton Head home, because of the food chain enhanced by upwelling.
The reverse process, called “downwelling,” also occurs when wind causes surface water to build up along a coastline and the surface water eventually sinks toward the bottom.
Fine sand makes our beach finer.
Hilton Head Island’s beaches consist of very fine, hard-packed sand. It’s even and wide surface begs exploration and peaceful enjoyment. Our wide beachfront and stunning provide the ultimate experience for biking enthusiasts. The smooth sand makes it easy to ride across without getting stuck.
The beautiful white sand is also perfect for building sandcastles and burying your toes in the powdery texture with each step. It’s even softer than what you’d find in the Caribbean! Although the water isn’t as clear, it’s special in its own way, with magnificent earthy hues of green and blue along the shoreline. Whether you’re there for an exciting beach day or just to relax and bask in the natural beauty, Hilton Head Island won’t disappoint.