It’s our time now.
We all know that the visitors to the Lowcountry pay for a lot of the everyday amenities we all enjoy and fuel new businesses we all love to frequent. By all accounts, this year will once again set many tourism records.
But locals largely stay away from their favorite activities due to both the unpredictable and excessive traffic and the unbearable heat of a Southern summer. It’s a risk-reward thing – time invested vs. the chance of a long wait due to the influx of tourists.
We are now in the magical window between Labor Day and Snowbird Season, where the weather is moving in our favor every day, the roadways are largely clear and business owners are counting on us to come out of our tourist-induced slumber.
Here are our picks for the hot spots to hit during your Lowco Localpalooza, with an assist from our blue-ribbon panel of online helpers.
The beach is a gimme, folks. Most of you who love the beach braved the crowds anyway, but for the rest of us, there’s endless sand real estate. But what are the less-obvious choices?
Dog Days at the Beach: Bring your fur baby with you if you’re soaking up the ocean air. The dogs were banned during the day during the summer, but post-Labor Day, dogs can be on-leash on Coligny all day. And from Oct. 1 through April 1, dogs can be off leash under your control anytime during the day. Clean up after your pet or you’re going to get an express pass back to beach jail.
Miniature golf: The driving ranges like Toptracer at Palmetto Dunes and the indoor golf spots like Rendezvous Bluffton and Chronic Golf are certainly more local friendly. But it’s Pirate’s Island and Adventure Cove on Hilton Head where you see the biggest difference in wait times. Pirate’s Island (8 Marina Side Drive, 843-686-4001) offers $1 off coupons on piratesislandgolf.com. The two 18-hole courses and arcade are equally less crowded at Adventure Cove (18 Folly Field Road, 843-842-9990), where you can buy an all-day unlimited pass for $20 for adults and $17 for kids 12 and under.
Bonus pro tip: The go-karts at Adventure Hilton Head are open. Yes, we said go-karts. It’s an outstanding marina-side course available for single rides ($15) and double rides ($20). More on that in October, as we give you the full tour and review.
Hudson’s: You can insert pretty much any of your favorite eateries into this spot, but our blue-ribbon panel said the most welcome wait relief always comes at Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks (1 Hudson Road, Hilton Head Island, 843-681-2772, hudsonsonthedocks.com), where a likely three-hour wait on Saturday nights is cut to an hour or less, and where you can find a seat at Sunday brunch before the technical brunch window is over.
Pinckney Island and the Parks: We know, just veering over toward Moss Creek gives you agita in August. But hit that gas pedal, don’t be afraid. Get on that bridge and go see one of truly underappreciated gems of the Lowcountry at the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge (843-784-2468), 4,000-plus acres full of diverse plant and bird life. Venture even farther and you can actually get tennis court time at Chaplin Community Park and take advantage of the PRO Wellness Fitness Trail at Jarvis Creek Park, full of 10 pieces of outdoor cross-training equipment set up at stations behind a large oak and overlooking Lake Liggett.
Sea Pines: Again, we pretty much put the entire South End and Pope Avenue back in play for locals this time of year. For me, the biggest bonus is getting a table before 2 p.m. at Kenny B’s French Quarter Café. But the biggest windfall of adventure is at Sea Pines, where locals play tourist this time of year with the 15 miles of paved leisure trails, the horse stables, water sports at the two marinas. Plus, there’s bike tours, hay wagon rides and the Harbour Town Fall Fest on Sept. 26 that features a sidewalk sale, classic car display, children’s activities and a Deaz Guys concert.
Boat rentals: Whether it’s at Shelter Cove, Harbour Town or Broad Creek, the jet skis, pontoon boats and motor boats are all more readily available this time of year. Many on our blue-ribbon panel like to do a month-long tour, hitting up one marina a weekend to find the best deals.
Fishing Saturdays with Ben Green: We featured this local treasure in our July 6 issue (blufftonsun.com) but many locals don’t know that these free fishing lessons for the entire family actually run through October. Just head out to the Rowing and Sailing Center off of Squire Pope Road on Saturdays from 4 to 6 p.m. and learn how to cast, bait and hook the fish and get a crash crabbing course in the water. Check out Ben’s Facebook page, On the Hook with Ben Green, for more information.
Festival season: The Boiled Peanut Festival in Bluffton kicked off the 14-event season on Sept. 11. Next up is this week’s Wine & Food Festival on the island (hiltonheadwineandfood.com) and the Yemassee Shrimp Festival on Sept. 17-18. You can find something to celebrate just about weekend through Halloween, wrapping up with the Gullah Food Festival on Hilton Head on Oct. 30.
Farmers markets: The Honey Horn Farmers Market continues on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Bluffton Farmers Market in Old Town runs Thursdays from noon to 5 p.m. year-round.
Golfing: It’s almost as obvious as the beaches, but the one caveat is that many of the Lowcountry courses run off-season locals specials starting now. Check your favorite course online for the best deals.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.