At Coastal Discovery Museum kids explore the marshes, learn about Hilton Head history and meet gators and turtles

Coastal Discovery Museum is the place to learn about Hilton Head history and lifestyle in the Sea Islands, the Gullah culture and to explore the incredible flora and fauna of the Coastal Carolina.

Kids on guided walk at Coastal Discovery Museum

Kids on guided walk at Coastal Discovery Museum

Admission to the museum is FREE.
Inside there are excellent exhibits, interactive stations, art objects and a children specific Discovery Room.

Outside enjoy a peaceful self-guided walking tour of the former Honey Horn plantation.

Museum highlights and family fun things to do:

Just for Kids Programs (here is a detailed monthly schedule)

2009 Update: The Karen Wertheimer Butterfly Habitat is now open for your outdoor delight! Roam among free flying butterflies and see hungry caterpillars undergo the most amazing metamorphosis on earth. Explore the exhibit on your own for free or sign up for a guided tour (Mondays and Wednesdays through September).

Guided Beach Turtle Talk and Walk – Special tour offered in the summer where you can examine loggerhead turtles nests on the Hilton Head beaches.

Loggerhead turtle skeleton

Loggerhead turtle skeleton

Learn about the Sea Turtle Protection Project
and Keiki Makai, a “child by the ocean” golden-retriever trained to find turtle eggs.

Daytime tour (no turtles will be seen): Tuesday 10 AM Cost: $12 adult / $7 child (ages 4-12).
Evening tour: Tuesday and Thursday 8 – 10 PM.Cost: $20 adult / $15 child (ages 4 and over).

Get to know a Gator – Gator land program featuring a live alligator at the Honey Horn Campus. Learn about the gator habits and myths and take a photo with it. Thursday August 28 at 9:30, 11:30 and 2 PM. Cost: $12 adult / $7 child (ages 4-12).

The Gullah Culture

The Lowcountry is defined by the rich African American Gullah culture.

Gullah arts and crafts

Gullah arts and crafts

The museum has photos, art objects, examples of Gullah traditions and stories about the islanders.

The Gullah dialect is a combination of many different African languages with almost no English words in it.

It is passed from generation to generation orally and has undergone many changes over the years.

You can even learn a few Gullah words:
Comya – one who comes from another place
Binya – a native of the island
Fa good – permanent
How oonah da du? How are you all doing?

Trees to enjoy at Honey Horn

Kissing moss covered live oak tree

Kissing moss covered live oak tree

• Live Oak – the most majestic tree on the coast is highly resistant to decay, disease and even hurricanes.
• Cabbage Palmetto trees – the revered State Symbol is now a popular landscaping tree because of its tolerance of salt spray and cold.
• Loblolly Pine – the most important source of timber in the southern United States. Honey Horn proudly displays a 180 years old loblolly pine tree.
• Pecan – common lawn and shade tree in the South can grow up to 150 feet.
• Red Cedar – extensively used in chests, closets and fence posts. Its cones are used to flavor gin. Honey Horn features one of the biggest red cedar trees in the South.

Off-site Guided Tours and Cruises
Check out the monthly calendar of events to best plan your time and budget. Strongly advise to call ahead (843)-689-6767 for reservations, departure details and special assistance needs. You can also make reservations online.

Forts of Port Royal – Visit the Forts of Port Royal (not open to the general public). Learn about the early island explorers, the Civil War and Mitchellville (the Nation’s First Freedman’s Community), and the Steam Cannon. Tour leaves from Westin Resort. Cost: $12 adult / $7 child (ages 4-12).

Dolphin and Nature Cruise – View the habits and learn more about the bottlenose dolphin and variety of wading birds in a relaxing cruise on the Broad Creek toward Calibogue Sound. Departs from the Broad Creek Marina. Cost: $19 adult/ $13 child (ages 1-12).

Jarvis Creek salt marshes

Jarvis Creek salt marshes

Get an idea on what to expect on this kind of cruise from my previous post.

Kayak Nature Tour – Guided trip into the calm and secluded Jarvis Creek salt marshes. Observe oysters, otter, and egrets and learn about the area’s rich history and culture. Jarvis Creek has little to no boat traffic and includes State Shellfish oysters grounds. Departure sites vary; call the museum for more info (843) 689 – 6767. Cost $27 adult / $25 child (ages 5-12)

Pickney Island Walking Tour – View National Wildlife Refuge maritime forest, salt marsh and fresh water pond ecosystems and the wildlife associated with each area. Cost: $12 adult / $7 child (ages 4-12).

Honey Horn Guided Walks($10 adult / $5 child starts at 10 AM at the Discovery House) and Terrace History Talks ($5 per person, 3 PM)

Honey Horn History Walk – Travel back in time with the stories of Honey Horn’s past 200 years.
A Walk in the Woods – Enjoy Honey Horn’s beautiful setting, and learn how Native Americans used Yaupon holly in their cleansing rituals.

Pretty whelk shell

Pretty whelk shell

Salt Marsh Discovery – See an oyster bed up close, learn how to harvest crabs and throw a cast net from the deck.

Lowcountry Nature A-Z – From alligators to no-see-ums, learn about some of the area’s most intriguing residents and the habitats they call home.
The Civil War Era – During the Civil War Hilton Head was home to thousands of Union soldiers. Historic photographs, maps and artifacts tell the story of Hilton Head from 1861-1865.

The Early Years – Find out how the island got its name and learn about pre Civil War plantation lifestyle.


The Coastal Discovery Museum is located at 70 Honey Horn Drive (or 100 William Hilton Parkway near the Cross Island Parkway and Hwy 278 Business intersection). Open year round, Monday-Saturday 9 AM – 4:30 PM and Sunday 11 AM – 3PM.

Check out this custom Google Map with fun places to take your kids in Hilton Head.

If it helps here are my favorite places to enjoy with my daughter while vacationing on the island.


Fun packed family day trip at Sea Pines, a magical world to enjoy the Harbour Town lighthouse, alligators, horseback riding, kayaking and even ghosts!

Visit the 90 feet tall candy striped Harbour Town Lighthouse open daily from 10 AM to sundown. Admission is $3 (kids under 5 years of age get in for FREE) but you can get free passes from the Harbour Town concierge desk. If interested to see more of the legendary Sea Islands lighthouses read this post.

The Marina is the place for adrenaline water activities: parasailing, jet skiing, even shark fishing. Or you can hop on one of the dolphin watch cruises: Vagabond and Spirit of the Harbour.
Harbour Town Marina parasailing

The main kid attraction is the playground behind the Harbour Town Marina. Best of all is FREE (don’t you love when that happens? 🙂 ). Children go crazy about the tire swing and will rub elbows to climb the odd shaped oak tree next to the bicycles rack. Let them do it. It burns energy and you get a cute photo once they’re up.
Sea Pines playground

Say Hello! to Sea Pines’ “Odd Couple”, the baby alligator and turtle at the Nature Center located across from the playground. If you ask nicely the lady inside the Center may let you pet the snakes! Admission is FREE yet be prepared to spend a few bucks on the souvenirs.

Sea Pines resort Nature Center
Here you can also sign up for Eco-Tours around the island. Reservations required you can call (843)-842-1979.

• The one hour Alligator Boat Tours run every hour 8 – 11 AM and 5 – 8 PM Mon through Fri, 9, 10 AM and 5 and 6 PM in the weekends. Cost is $21 for adults and $17 for children (12 and under). $2 discount for Sea Pines Resort guests.
• Two-hours guided kayak tours through salt marshes on single or double kayaks. Cost is $30 for adults and $20 for children (5-12 years). $2 discount for Sea Pines Resort guests.
• Guided kayak fishing expedition, $220.
• You can rent kayaks ($20/hour for double, $10/hour for single) and go on your own.
Harbour Town Marina kayaking

You can enjoy some yummy cookies and lunch at the Bakery Cafe next to the Center. This is a historic building: an 1880 Leamington House Lightkeeper Cottage brought to Palmetto Dunes during WII to monitor German submarines activities.

Treat your kids to a horseback and pony rides or a fun petting zoo at the Lawton Stables. One hour western style horse back rides through Sea Pines Forest Reserve are offered daily at 9:30, 11:30, 2 and 4 PM for $60 per person. Must be 8 years or older. Call (843) 671-2586 for reservations.
Horseback riding at Sea Pines Resort

There are several places to eat at the Harbour Town Marina. By far the most popular and very family friendly is the Crazy Crab. Steamed shellfish, Sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads are ~$8.95. Fish plate ~$12.50 (includes French fires and coleslaw). Seafood pot $15.95. Boiled crab legs at market price. Crazy Crab also serves late lunch (mostly fried stuff) from 3 to 4 PM.
Crazy Crab restaurant at the Harbour Town Marina

Enjoy a self-guided walk through the Stoney-Baynard Ruins. The mansion house, built in 1790s, had a colorful history: lost at a poker game only to have its owner’s William Baynard die from yellow fever, then burned down during Civil War. Currently the ruins are believed to be haunted by William Baynard’s ghost!

Interesting Facts about Sea Pines Resort and Forest Preserve

• 50 years ago, an oceanfront lot in Sea Pines could be purchased for $7,500. Today this will go for 3-4 millions!
• In 1959 the Fraser family set aside 572 acres for the Sea Pines Preserve. First trails were built in the early 1970s, followed by four lakes – Joe, Thomas, Mary and Chapin – the largest open freshwater ponds on the island.

Beautiful Anhinga inside the Forest Preserve

Beautiful Anhinga inside the Forest Preserve

You can get a fishing permit at no charge from the CSA Security Office located at 175 Greenwood Drive. Swimming is not allowed.

• The Verizon Heritage is the South Carolina’s only PGA Tour event

The Indian Shell Ring inside the Sea Pines Forest Preserve is the site of a 4,000 years old nomadic Indians village.

Here you can see an elliptical mound of shells and materials used around their huts.

• Over 200 species of birds have been spotted in the Preserve and the area has been recognized as an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society.

Check out this bike trail map with most of the attractions inside Sea Pines Resort:

More fun things to do at Sea Pines and Hilton Head

Here are more ideas of affordable things to do with kids while on vacation in beautiful Hilton Head, “the Gem of the Lowcountry”:

• Go to the Public Library. It’s FREE and kids will have a blast reading with you.

• Be a pilot, a movie director, a ship captain or a painter at The Sandbox Interactive Children’s Museum ($6)

• Visit Fort Pulaski near Savannah to see live cannons and musket firing, learn about Immortal 600 tragedy and the Waving Girl legend, and become a Junior Ranger ($3).

• Learn about the Hilton Head island history, the rich Gullah culture and sign up for some fun family programs at the Coastal Discovery Museum (free museum admission; guided tours, cruises and beach walks are $5-$30)

• Visit Beaufort an art, architecture and movie-making heaven and historic Port Royal home of the first settlement in the New World.

Soak in the sun, play, learn and always have fun at the serene Hilton Head island beaches!

Got young kids? Take them to Sandbox, Hilton Head’s fun-packed children museum

Escape the heat and join in the fun at Sandbox, Hilton Head’s awesome interactive children museum. Some of the things kids can do at Sandbox:

• Be a captain or a pirate on The Adventure ship
Pilot a real airplane or direct a puppet show
• Build like Bob the Builder at the Loggerhead Castle
• Shop at the International Bazaar
• Fight dragons while rock-climbing
• Play with Thomas the train engine…and much more

Charlie's Playouse - dedicated room for babies and toddlers

Charlie's Playouse - dedicated room for babies and toddlers

Things to know before you go
1. Admission is only $6. Sandbox is open Mon to Sat 10 AM – 5 PM (till end of August, May and September is Tue to Sat) and is located on Pope Avenue behind the St. Andrew Methodist Church (off the Sea Pines roundabout).

2. Best time to go is early morning or after 3 PM where is not so crowded. Sandbox is not very big (2 stories with 4 rooms). If more than 15 kids and parents are around you’ll start rubbing elbows looking for places to sit down.

3. There is a dedicated room Charlie’s Perfect Playhouse for babies and toddlers. It’s relatively big and has rocking chairs! The next best thing for little ones is upstairs: Thomas train set for boys, crafts, puppet theater, doctor and tea party stations for girls.

4. For older kids the most fun thing to do playing in the airplane station equipped with real flight piloting instruments and controls.

5. There is no food served on the premises and I don’t think you can bring your own. So plan your lunch time accordinlgy.

Need more ideas on what to do with kids while vacationing at Hilton Head?

• Go to the Public Library. It’s FREE and kids will have a blast reading with you.

• Watch dolphins swim along as you cruise around the island ($20-$30)

• Visit Fort Pulaski near Savannah to see live cannons and musket firing, learn about Immortal 600 tragedy and the Waving Girl legend, and become a Junior Ranger ($3).

• Spend a magical day inside Sea Pines resort to horseback riding, eco kayak tours, water skiing, parasailing and biking. Visit the 4000 years old Indian Village, the ghost haunted Baynard Ruins and the Harbour Town Lighthouse.

• Learn about the Hilton Head island history, the rich Gullah culture and sign up for some fun family programs at the Coastal Discovery Museum (free museum admission; guided tours, cruises and beach walks are $5-$30)

Of course nothing can beat having good old fun at the beach! You get free entertainment watching brown pelicans free fall diving, seagulls chasing shrimp boats, happy dolphins swimming in the ocean and proud boys catching a baby shark!

Keep kids curious at the Hilton Head Public Library (fun and free things to do on the island)

While vacationing at Hilton Head make sure to stop by the awesome Public Library, located on 11 Beach City Road near the Business Hwy 278 mile marker 4. It’s educational, fun, free, air-conditioned, and most important kids love it! The library it’s very modern. It has a huge children room equipped with cozy reading couch, baby corner, computer stations and even a theater area. I was surprised to see some interesting art pieces displayed on the hallways.

The library it’s opened daily except Sunday. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 9AM to 8PM, Friday and Saturday till 5PM.

Mom and daughter entering the Hilton Head Library

Lana’s excited to enter the Children Room at the library

Excited to enter the children room at the Library

So she can read with her friends Winnie and Piglet

Reading on the couch with Winnie

Or have a laugh putting on a silly puppet show

Fun playing puppets at the library

Babies always have fun playing at the library

Baby corner at HH Library

Nothing like the mother-daughter bond reading together

Fun reading with her mother

Bigger kids enjoy the computer games and video books
Boy enjoying the video programs
In the end it’s all about having fun!

Nothing like being curious at the Library

Here are more ideas on how to keep kids entertained without spending a ton of money:

Be a pilot, a puppet show director, a ship captain, a chef, an artist or train conductor at Sandbox Interactive Children Museum ($6 admission)

• Learn about the Hilton Head island history, the rich Gullah culture and sign up for some fun family programs at the Coastal Discovery Museum (free museum admission; guided tours, cruises and beach walks are $5-$30)

• Visit the Harbour Town Lighthouse ($3 admission), the Nature Center (free) and the 4,000 years old Indian Village inside Sea Pines Resort and Forest Preserve ($5 to enter the plantation)

Staying curious forever? Priceless!

Fort Pulaski awesome cannon firing and its fascinating history (memorable weekend things to do around Savannah and Hilton Head)

On April 11, 1862 Union troops struck with fury. 30 hours and 1,142 shells later the “indestructible” Fort Pulaski surrendered. The damage was so deep it will take 1,000 Union troops 6 weeks to repair it.

Facts and Trivia

The breached wall and broken Confederate cannon at Fort Pulaski

The breached wall and broken Confederate cannon at Fort Pulaski

• In 1837 with its 8 foot thick brick walls the fort was considered invincible. No cannon could inflict significant damage from more than a mile away (the closest spot where you could fire at it). New technology proved them wrong.
• The battle at Fort Pulaski marked a new warfare milestone: the end of masonry style fortifications.
• Germans volunteers of the 46 N.Y, Regiment manned the parrot riffles shooting from the batteries along Tybee and McQueens islands. Following the war the guns were taken to Cockspur Island. In mid-1960s the guns were recovered and brought to Fort Pulaski.
• The Demilune was added in 1872 to protect the fort entrance. During the Civil War the area was flat covered with gun platforms, a mess room, storage area and a guard house.
• When the Confederates seized Fort Pulaski from the US forces (in anticipation of Civil War hostilities) only 2 persons where guarding it.

Learn more about the Fort Pulaski history like the Immortal 600, the Waving Girl, and John Wesley (Founder of Methodist Church) and the awesome kids activities you can enjoy there.

Critical steps to fire the Confederates cannons
There were 5 to 9 men on the cannon fire crew, one of the earliest examples of team-work. Each person performed a specific task yet all men were cross-trained on all operations. If needed just 2 persons can safely fire the cannon.

1. Sponge the barrel and clean any leftovers (this was most important safety procedure)
2. Cover the air hole with the thumb to prevent air going inside the barrel – stumping
3. Put the projectile inside the barrel. The old cannon used by Confederates had a ball-like shell that didn’t fit tightly inside the barrel. It wiggled when it came out thus being less accurate and damaging.
4. Point the gun (during those time you didn’t “aim” another hint about the target firing guessing game) then put your arms up to signal the gun is pointed.
5. Insert the friction primer (piece of wire) to seal in the gunpowder. The primer and the projectile were poor quality and main culprit for the lame results defending the fort.
6. Fire! It was very loud. There were no ear plugs and most of the crewmen couldn’t cover their ears….you can image over time most of them were deaf.

New shells still stuck in the wall hundreds of years later!

New shells still stuck in the wall hundreds of years later!

Firing the new cannons (Parrot Riffles) required identical steps. It took a little longer because the cannon and all instruments were much bigger and heavier. The new aerodynamic projectile was longer and fitted perfectly inside the barrel. The shots were extremely powerful and very accurate even from over a mile away.

Fort Pulaski Admission and Cannon Firing Schedule
There is only $3 fee to get inside the park (children under 15 get in for free). The firing demos are held in the weekend as following:
• Sunday: noon, 1:30 and 3:30 PM
• Saturday: 11, noon, 2 and 3:30 PM

Bring your family to Fort Pulaski for an inspirational family experience!

Free and fun things to do and great places to see with kids in Beaufort

There is plenty of fun and free things do with your kids while visiting historic and picturesque Beaufort.

For starter there are 2 playgrounds The new playground in Beaufortone on the Waterfront Park and one off of Pigeon Landing (located left off Boundary Street and opposite waterfront area). This playground opened just 2 years ago, has brand new facilities (restrooms, picnic tables, water fountains, and stations) and excellent age appropriate equipment. There is something for everyone from babies to older kids and even large swings for adults (parents need to have some fun too). 🙂 It’s twice as large as the playground at Waterfront Park, a lot less crowded and dogs are allowed in the park as longs as they are on leash. A great thing with this playground is the large oak trees that provide shade throughout the day.
One extra perk is the chance to see fighter jets flying by every now and then which seems quite popular with boys. While in the area you can drive to the end of Pigeon Landing to reach the boat docking and boardwalk. It’s very peaceful and the view of the marshes and Beaufort river is incredible.

The playground at the Waterfront Park is better known and quite popular with tourists. Location, location, location! Just caught a shark Main attraction for kids is watching fishermen showing their skills on the dock in front of the playground. When I visited with my daughter 2 weeks ago we saw a guy catching 3 baby-sharks in less than an hour! All the children were mesmerized. Another kid-popular activity is balancing over the raised boardwalks weaving through the park. In case you get hungry there are several restaurants and cafes only few yards away.

Ice Cream Parlor and Tin Men
After all the jumping and hopping at the playground you should take the kids to the Southern Sweets Ice Cream Parlor. It’s located downtown in Old Bay Marketplace (across the clock). Besides delicious and reasonably priced ice-cream you can get very good and hearty lunch: made-to-order yummy hot-dogs (8 styles to choose from at $3 each), and a variety of gourmet sandwiches, salads and soups. Southern Sweets Ice Cream Parlor Most lunch items are around $6. They also carry a kids menu with the usual suspects for around $2. I had the Old Bay Dog (with sauerkraut), a cheese toast sandwich and one ice-cream all for about $8.

Who knew that window shopping can be fun for little ones? Where it is…at least in Beaufort…it wasn’t voted one of America’s Best Small Arts Town for nothing! On our way to the Vernier House museum (2 blocks down from the ice-cream parlor) my 4 years old daughter stopped many times to admire the art on display and point out whatever raised her interests. She loved the wine bottle holders made of tin representing all sorts of funny characters. She definitely liked this better than all the museums we’ve visited that day.

Beaufort Must See Museums: Vernier House and the Arsenal
The Vernier House museum – headquarters for the Union troupes during the Civil War – is the only historic house in Beaufort open to public on a regular basis: Monday to Saturday from 9 AM to 4 PM. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Marquis de Lafayette visited the house in 1825.

Beaufort Arsenal Museum The Arsenal, located at 713 Craven St., is one of the most significant historical sites in Beaufort. It was completed in 1798 to create a militia and to build a laboratory for making explosives. Currently is home to the Beaufort museum. Made out of brick and tabby and featuring a Gothic design with crenellated parapets the Arsenal has a very distinctive architecture. Hours of operations are 10 AM to 5 PM. The museum is officially closed on Wednesday and Sunday. However, I went there on a Tuesday and it was closed, so better to call ahead just to make sure: (843)-525-7077. Admission for adults and children over 6 is $3.

Scenic boat tour over Beaufort River
This is a great outdoor attraction the whole family can enjoy.
It’s very relaxing and you get up-close and personal to the beautiful Lowcountry marshes and Sea Islands wildlife. There are two boat tour opportunities: one from Beaufort Marina (located at the end of the waterfront park) and one from Port Royal Landing marina, operated by River Safari. If you go to Port Royal read this post to learn about all the fun things you can do there.

More family attractions around Beaufort:

The Lighthouse at the Hunting Island State Park, the Old Sheldon Church Ruins and Graveyard. On St. Helena Island: visit Penn Center and Bailey Museum and the Chapel of Ease (beware of Land’s End light and ghost sighting!)

• Go to fun-packed super family friendly Hilton Head island where kids rule!

• Drive down to Savannah and visit the amazing Fort Pulaski a Civil War landmark that changed military warfare for ever. You get to see live cannon and musket firing, learn about the Immortal 600 prisoners and the Waving Girl legend. Kids can become Junior Rangers.

Happy family vacation in Beaufort South Carolina!