What makes Hilton Head Island a magical winter destination

There might not be snow on the island, but there’s still magic in the air every winter on Hilton Head. It might not be the most obvious choice for a winter vacation destination, but Hilton Head Island truly embodies the holiday spirit each year! 

Despite the lack of snow, you’ll still feel like you’re strolling through a winter wonderland in one of the island’s many magical light displays. There are visits from Santa, tree lightings, and tons of other festive events. Plus, there’s a favorite Hilton Head tradition: spending Christmas morning on the beach!

Here’s why we love visiting (or living on) Hilton Head Island in the winter:

Find holiday cheer at these events

If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit, check out these festive events across the island:


  • The Nutcracker by Hilton Head Dance Theatre

Don’t miss Hilton Head Dance Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker! A Crescendo event, this show is sure to put you in the holiday spirit! This event runs Nov. 11-13 and Nov. 18-20. Purchase tickets here.

Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina has their annual “Light Up the Harbour” event from late November through New Year’s Eve. The magic kicks off on November 25 with the “Santa and Shopping Day.” Santa will arrive by fire truck at noon and stay until 2:30 p.m. Kids will be able to take photos with Santa and share their Christmas wishes! There will be additional kids’ activities and holiday music as well. Then, after dark, the Harbour will light up with decorated boats and other Christmas decorations around Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina.


  • Shelter Cove Community Park — Winter Wonderland Festival

Head to the park in Shelter Cove Towne Centre on Friday, Dec. 2, for the Winter Wonderland Festival. Sponsored by the Island Rec Center and Pink Magazine, this event is sure to be festive and family friendly. Keep an eye on this website for further details.


  • Deck the Hulls Christmas Boat Parade

Join America's Boating Club Hilton Head for the 1st annual "Deck the Hulls," A Christmas Boat Parade, on Saturday, December 3, 2022 at 5:30 pm. This family fun, holiday event is free and open to the public.  A wide array of boats decked out in holiday style will parade along the Skull Creek Corridor, dazzling spectators with an array of lights and decorations. Check out a list of viewing locations here (and keep an eye out for participating restaurants and family activities). 


  • Sea Pines Resort Holiday Events

Sea Pines Resort definitely knows how to get people into the holiday spirit. Their most popular holiday event is Harbour Town Lights — where the iconic lighthouse and the rest of Harbour Town is lit up and transformed into a magical winter wonderland, complete with a giant Christmas tree. This event kicks off on November 25 with a tree lighting ceremony and Greg Russell concert. There’s also Polar Express-themed holiday wagon rides, another Greg Russell Christmas concert, evenings filled with more family-friendly holiday fun the week of Christmas (complete with movies, marshmallow roasts and train rides), and, of course, the Harbour Town New Year’s Eve Celebration.

Or enjoy an annual festival

Winter on the island isn’t just about the holidays. There are also a few of our favorite annual festivals: including the Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival and the Hilton Head Oyster Festival.


  • Concours d'Elegance & Motoring Festival

Held in the first week of November, the Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival celebrates the fine art of the automobile. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this festival, and it’s sure to be an exciting time on the island. Learn more here.


  • Hilton Head Oyster Festival

Celebrate oyster season on the island with the Hilton Head Oyster Festival! On Friday night, Nov. 11, enjoy all you can eat steamed oysters, Lowcountry boil, pulled pork, seafood chowder & chili. Then on Saturday, enjoy a day full of live music, local artisan vendors, food, kids’ activities and more! Learn more here.


  • Hilton Head Island Lantern Parade

Make your own lantern and join in the parade or just observe this beautiful gathering on Saturday, Nov. 12. Created by and featuring artist Chantelle Rytter, the Lantern Parade is a free event and an opportunity for the surrounding community and visitors to celebrate the history, ecology and people of Hilton Head Island. We want to see our whole community as volumes of light! See the details here.

Escape the winter blues on the beach

While the weather might be a bit too chilly to swim, winters on Hilton Head are still great for long walks on the beach! It’s the best time of the year to explore the expanse of white sandy beach on the island — layer up and walk for miles, or rent a beach bike! There’s still abundant wildlife on the island this time of year, and various migratory birds, so it’s a great time for wildlife viewing/bird watching as well. Check out the tide charts and explore the beach at low tide, looking for tide pools and see which types of creatures you can find! 

Enjoy mild temperatures and less crowds

Another bonus of visiting in the winter? It’s less crowded than in the summer months! But because the temperatures are usually still pretty mild, you can usually partake in all the same outdoor activities — just without the crowds and humidity! Temperatures usually still reach the 60s, and it’s not unusual to have the occasional winter day in the 70s, either! 

So what can you do on the mild winter days?

Go for a round of golf, or mini golf with the kids. Check out one of the island’s many playgrounds, including the new pirate-ship themed playground at Lowcountry Celebration Park near Coligny Beach. Explore Sea Pines Forest Preserve, or go on a horseback ride from Lawton Stables. 

Check out our rainy day blog for some indoor activities as well!
Lindsay Bunting
Lindsay Bunting
PO Box 3087 Hilton Head Island SC 29928