Over the years, my wife and I have been members of Disney’s amazing DVC (Disney Vacation Club), proud owners in three Disney properties. We have had many memorable vacations and have been all over “Disney’s World” But the one destination that was missing from our itinerary was Disney’s Hilton Head Resort. For many years, we have wanted to go, but other, more “Exciting” venues tempted our palate and it was always put on the back burner. This year, however we finally made the plunge so to speak and I must agree with Disney…It is a Hidden Gem!
But rest assured this is not one of those “Our Vacation” reports. I would never do that! On the contrary, this is a report on what I believe is the best kept vacation spot, barring none. Disney’s Hilton Head Resort was planned and built by Cooper, Robertson & Partners an international architecture and urban design firm headquartered in New York City, and opened on March 1st, 1996. It’s interesting to note they also were involved in the Master Plan for Celebration, Florida for the Disney Development Company in 1997. This is the vacation spot to go if you want a slower, more relaxed pace, and the scenery is spectacular! A bit smaller than most of Disney’s DVC spots, it has that peaceful and serene Southern atmosphere, yet if you want, a short distance away, you can amp it up with all kinds of nightlife, excursions and sports of all kinds.
Disney’s Resort is located on a secluded 15-acre island called Longview Island. It is on Hilton Head’s Broad Creek, which is technically a land, locked tidal marsh. The resort has two parts, the resort itself on Longview island and about 1.3 miles away, is the Disney Beach House in Palmetto Dunes, which fronts their beach on the east side. You can walk this if you want, drive, rent a bike, or take the Disney Resort’s free shuttle bus running on the half-hour back and forth to the beach house. The beach house is an expansive 13,000 foot facility, offering a heated swimming pool, children’s, wet play area, an arcade room, billiards, Ping-Pong and changing rooms. There is even a Coast Guard-themed clubhouse. At the beach house are two of the three eateries on the resort. Signals, for quick service, and Surfman’s Sand Bar, serving lunch and dinner and poolside bar. It is opened seasonally, but is not a table-service restaurant.
From the beach house is access to three and a half acres of oceanfront and if you want, 12 miles of additional beachfront. There is also covered parking in adjunct to outside parking. But be aware, parking spaces are small in number, during the busy times, it might be better to take the shuttle. Over on the main island is the resort itself. It is themed after the “South Carolina Lowcountry” during the 1940’s and 50’s and the units (123 in all) have the rustic feel of hunting and fishing lodges during that time. Offered are 1-Bed, 2-Bed and 3-Bed villas. A tip…When booking, there are two main views, Pool view or Marsh view. Book the Marsh view. It is breathtaking to see the sunrise over the marsh, sitting on your balcony with a coffee in the morning, and the scenery cannot be beat. All of the units feature private porches furnished with wooden rocking chairs, reminiscent of a scene out of Currier and Ives.
The one and two room units come with a Jacuzzi, vanity sinks, stall showers, full kitchens and appliances. Studio units have wet bars with microwave ovens, compact refrigerators, and coffeemakers. The bathrooms have shower/tub combinations, but do not include washer or dryers, but complimentary machines are available in a common laundry room for use by all resort guests. All of this is offered in 20 three-story, gray-wood buildings with red and green roofs, and old time advertising on the outsides, mainly fishing and hunting motifs. In fact, even though it is located on the ocean, the décor in the rooms and common areas have that fishing/hunting lodge décor, again with old time fishing tackle, bait and hunting company signs. All Units provide both air conditioning and ceiling fans, TVs and DVD players. You can even rent movie. A folding crib is included in each guest unit. Balconies are featured in all guestrooms. Wireless Internet access is available for a fee.
The resort has the Big Dipper pool with a water slide, a kiddie pool and a 25 man hot tub. On the second floor above the pool complex, there is an air-conditioned Community Hall, where many social events, sing-alongs, storytelling and the like take place. It is the location of the Tide me Over counter-service restaurant, offering the usual burgers, salads, sandwiches and such. For you fitness freaks, there is a gym/fitness room. But it is very sparse, with a few cardio machines, a small universal gym and small dumbbell bench. But, as I stated in the beginning, this is the place to slow down and really rest. You can stay at the resort, never leave and have a wonderful time. There are tons and tons of things to do… Shuffleboard, horseshoes, Ping-Pong and bocce are offered. You can rent out adult, child, and adult-child tandem bicycles with fat tires suitable for the beach and the island’s hundreds of miles of bike paths. Fishing and crab netting gear is available for off the end of a long dock that extends out over a marsh to Broad Creek, the estuary running through Hilton Head Island, right in back of the pool complex, and no license is required. Rental kayaks are available for use on Broad Creek and nearby lagoons. The resort has a naturalist who gives complimentary tours of the marsh and also offers bird-watching excursions and after-dark astronomy lessons. At the beach house, you can rent chairs, umbrellas, and boogie boards as well as ocean kayaks, Aqua Bikes, sailboats, and low-slung three-wheel beach buggies. There is a cozy billiard room next to the check-in office, with checkers and a fireplace (Seasonal of course). There are many planned activities for the kids, check on the activities board.
You won’t find Mickey or Minnie mouse here at the resort, but you will find an amazing Cast Member by the name of B’Lou Crabbe. He is the local Resort’s local folklore expert, musician, storyteller, magician and everything in between. His partner, whom he tells tales with, is a dog named Shadow. According to B’Lou, she first appeared at the resort during construction in 1996. He continues… “She showed up when we were building the resort. We noticed a golden retriever puppy hanging around with some of the workers, getting in to trouble and coming out of it smelling like roses. We named her Shadow, not because of her color of her fur, but because she was more underfoot than your own shadow and the name stuck.” Shadow is the only Disney animal Mascot in the world. One of the nice things we enjoyed about Hilton Head, unlike cruises or even going to other Disney parks, where there is an agenda every day or schedule’s to meet, and everyone in your travel party is scurrying around to see everything, you move at a leisurely pace, on your time! We played simple games like shuffle board, sat around the fire pit with other guests, went fishing off the pier and walked the beautiful grounds. Just getting up a bit early in the morning and seeing that sun rise about the marsh, coffee in hand, proved that you can enjoy a relaxing time without the running around.
If you want a little more excitement, a short walk across the bridge to Shelter Cove, which has a gaggle of restaurants, a beautiful pier, concerts, and a supermarket. HarbourFest runs every Tuesday night from June 5 till August 21 at Shelter Cove Marina, featuring arts & crafts, live entertainment, and fireworks at sunset. There are also many shops and stores. Away from the resort, are movie theaters, supermarkets, and all kinds of eateries and excursions available. We took an hour and half “Sunset Cruise” right from the Cove; it was amazing and very reasonable. A few things about the resort… Arriving/leaving Check-in time starts at 4 PM; Check-out time is 11 AM. Required at check in, Credit card or cash deposit required, Government-issued photo ID required. Here is a good money-saving tip, and we did this in Disney’s Aulani Resort…Since all the rooms have a kitchen, (Sans Studio), I would take the time to stock up on some basic food stuffs, especially for breakfast and dinner. Unless you have saved a good amount of cash, it can be VERY expensive to eat out every day here, on property or off. We had seven in our party, and the first breakfast set us back over $120.00 bucks, and the eatery was not that expensive. We purchased simple things, and dined in the room, occasionally going out to eat. We calculated we saved over $1000.00 considering we only spend $180.00 for supplies! Just something to think about.
This is the place to go for a relaxing time. If you don’t want to rush around with many schedules, you have arrived. There is plenty to do, but at a slower pace. Just walking around the grounds can take several days. The Resort staff is Disney perfect, helpful, smiling and efficient. You immediately get this warm and welcomed feeling, and I regret I have not vacationed here sooner. I will return again rest assured. This is truly a “Hidden Gem”