Hilton Head Island, SC
Even on vacation, there are Hikes & Hops to be had! J and I made the long haul down to South Carolina for a week of relaxing at Hilton Head. But if you’re like me and need other things to do than just soaking up the sun, there are several hiking areas in and around Hilton Head Island. Since it’s so close to the shore, this hike was a completely different type of terrain for us. At Pinckney Island, expect to meander past saltwater marshes, ponds, beaches and more. This is a place to take it slow and let nature speak for itself. Bring plenty of water and be prepared for lots of bugs! I also highly recommend doing a kayaking tour on your visit to HHI!
THE HIKE: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 4.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 30 ft
Time: 1.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking, Biking, No pets
Parking: Large lot at trailhead
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is managed and maintained by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and is a protected natural area. It was established in 1975 on land that was once a revolutionary war veteran’s plantation. The entire refuge is over 4,000 acres and includes several islands, although Pinckney is the largest and the only one accessible by the public. The Refuge offers a unique environment for a wide range of wildlife. Expect to see salt marshes, forests, brushland, and freshwater ponds. The truly captivating part of Pinckney Island is the sheer amount of wildlife that call it home. There’s a huge population of wading birds, especially egrets, ibis, and heron, as well as eagles, osprey, and hawks. If you’re lucky, you might spy a pod of dolphins! As you’re walking, keep your eyes peeled for reptiles like alligators and snakes.
Although the refuge is open to the public, keep in mind that the Pinckney Island NWR is primarily a nature and wildlife preserve. Its main goal is maintaining an area of wildlife conservation, especially in a region of high coastal development. Pinckney Island is just one of seven protected refuges that make up the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex.
Accessing Pinckney Island NWR is easy from either Hilton Head Island or Bluffton on the mainland. There’s only one entrance right off 278 (Wm Hilton Pkwy) which leads to a large parking lot. Be aware that there are no bathroom facilities on the island so plan accordingly! Although we decided to walk the trails, the wide gravel and mown paths are great for biking as well. Biking is probably the best way to see the entirety of the island’s nearly 14 miles of trails. However, do remember that this is South Carolina so it’s likely to be hot, extremely humid, and very buggy. Please bring plenty of water!
We went on a pretty muggy day so we didn’t make it quite as far as we hoped. When first leaving the parking lot, there’s only one main road to take. This is a wide gravel path that is fairly busy with cyclists and families. This road leads to the Ibis Pond where, true to its name, there are hundreds of wading birds. After this pond, there are a few directions you can go and you will likely leave the crowds behind! We didn’t see another person until we came back to this main road.
My biggest complaint about this hiking area was the mown grass paths. When we went, the grass was quite high and it made me pretty uncomfortable despite my long pants. I was probably overreacting, but I didn’t like the idea of not being able to see critters in the long grass. So we did our best to keep to the gravel paths when possible. Despite the paths being quite flat, I was surprised how quickly we tired out. The heat and humidity is no joke! We wanted to make it to Shell Point Beach, but the distance was quite a bit further than I realized and we eventually turned around. Next time, I’d like to bring our bikes and try to see more of the island!
THE BEER: Side Hustle Beer Co.
Address: 144 Arrow Rd Unit A, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Distance from Trail Head: 9 miles, 13 mins
Food?: BYOF, Occasional Food Trucks
Details: Outdoor seating only, pets welcome
H&H Rating: 5/5
Side Hustle Beer Company is South Carolina’s smallest brewery! It’s so small in fact, that they don’t have an indoor seating area. It’s just a small counter where you can get draft pours and cans to go and then enjoy your draft on the outdoor patio. Honestly, with how gross and sweaty we were after the hike, it was probably for the best that we sat outside!
As its name implies, Side Hustle is a small venture between friends who decided to start a small side venture to bring good craft beer to Hilton Head. And man are they succeeding! We were pleasantly surprised by how good the beer was here! Everything was refreshing and well made, I couldn’t believe that it came from such a new and tiny company. I particularly loved the Porch Pineapple, it was probably the best summer beer I’ve had in a long time! We also loved the atmosphere. The patio was full of plants and games and it was delightful to see people swinging by on their bikes to pick up a six-pack. It definitely had the feel of a local favorite.
Upon researching for this blog post, I learned that Side Hustle has been acquired by a larger branding company that also owns some local restaurants and the popular Burnt Church Distillery. I hope that this is a good move for the business! They recently announced that they will be moving to a larger facility with indoor seating, a beer garden, and several dining options. I wish them all the best!
- Point Break – NEIPA – 7%
- Porch Pineapple – Wheat Beer – 5.8%
- Rocket Emoji – Double IPA – 8.3%
- …And There’s Your BFF – Peach Sour – 6%
- South Island – Pilsner – 5.1%
- Refraction – NEIPA – 7.6%
SUM UP: Pinckney Island is a federally protected wildlife refuge located on the South Carolina coast between Bluffton and Hilton Head. It is open to the public for hiking, biking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Be aware of the hot and humid climate as you’re preparing for a visit here. There’s no bathroom facilities but make sure to bring plenty of water and try to stay hydrated. I also recommend long pants and bug spray as the area can get quite buggy. Most of all, remember that it is the wildlife’s home and you’re just visiting! After your hike, head onto Hilton Head Island to visit Side Hustle Beer Co. This is a small neighborhood venture that offers up some of the best beer in the region! Bring a picnic or order some take out and hang out on the patio for a while! You won’t be disappointed.