A Journey Through Hilton Head Island’s Landmarks

February 19, 2024

Welcome to a remarkable exploration of the Hilton Head Island Landmarks, where history and beauty intertwine to tell the stories of this coastal paradise. As you set sail on this virtual tour, prepare to witness the charm and character of some of the most iconic landmarks in Hilton Head Island. From the storied walls of the Harbour Town Lighthouse to the spiritual serenity of the Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum, each site carries a piece of the island’s soul. You’ll uncover tales of heritage and bravery at Civil War forts and delve into the vibrancy of the Gullah culture that continues to flourish on the island.

Your journey through the famous landmarks in Hilton Head is peppered with scenic beauty and cultural depth, offering a comprehensive experience that goes beyond the surface attractions. These landmarks aren’t just places to snap a photo; they are the narrators of Hilton Head’s illustrious past and the custodians of its culture. It’s an immersive experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for every grain of sand and marsh on this island. Embrace the Lowcountry charm and dive into an adventure that you’ll carry with you long after you depart.

Key Takeaways

  • Experience the island’s history up close at iconic landmarks like the Harbour Town Lighthouse.
  • Discover the haunting beauty of the Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum.
  • Learn about Hilton Head’s critical role in the Civil War at Fort Mitchel and Fort Howell.
  • Explore the ruins of the Stoney-Baynard plantation, basking in antebellum stories and ghostly legacies.
  • Connect with the rich Gullah culture through the captivating exhibits at the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island.
  • Marvel at the world’s largest figurative sundial through the Neptune Statue, a blend of artistry and astronomy.
  • Enjoy the comforts of Savannah Lakes RV Resort in Hardeeville, SC, for a restful stay amidst historical splendor.

The Historical Significance of Harbour Town Lighthouse

As you set foot on the alluring shores of Hilton Head Island, ready your senses for a stunning encounter with one of its must-see landmarks, the Harbour Town Lighthouse. This iconic beacon, painted with bold red stripes, isn’t just a photogenic backdrop, but a monument steeped in history and ambition. Let’s ascend the lighthouse steps together, where each flight unveils a new chapter of the island’s rich past.

  • Begin with the visionary efforts of Charles Fraser and architect I.J. Please, who in the 1960s introduced this New England styled lighthouse as the first privately funded beacon built in over a century.
  • Ahead, encounter the meticulously curated museum pieces that guide you through 19th-century maritime sagas and the pivotal moments of the Civil War Era, laying the groundwork for what Hilton Head has become today.
  • Reach the pinnacle, where you are rewarded not only with a sense of accomplishment for the climb but also with breathtaking panoramas of Harbour Town and the surrounding Lowcountry landscapes — views that encapsulate the beauty of one of the top Hilton Head attractions.

While here, you’re invited to indulge in the landscape of stories that the Harbour Town Lighthouse preserves. It’s a unique opportunity to satisfy both your quest for historical knowledge and your pursuit of fitness, all within the travels up and down this maritime guardian. Embrace the past, and glimpse the future, all from the summit of Hilton Head’s illustrious landmark.

Unveiling the Mysteries of Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum

Historic Landmarks in Hilton Head

As you wander through the historic landmarks in Hilton Head, you’re bound to feel the shifting sands of time beneath your feet. At the Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum, history takes on a tangible presence. This 18th-century site beckons with the tales of those long passed, including the sorrowful story of William Baynard, whose resting place lies within the mausoleum’s somber walls.

At this Hilton Head Island point of interest, the air is laced with the sedate stillness of history. The Baynard Mausoleum stands as the island’s oldest structure, a silent sentinel to the soul of Hilton Head. The Heritage Library offers tours that delve deep into this chapter of the island’s past, granting you a poignant glimpse into the legacy that still haunts this hallowed ground.

  • Feel the weight of centuries as you explore the Zion Cemetery’s labyrinth of headstones, each telling its own story of love, loss, and legacy.
  • Connect with the island’s rich narrative by attending an illuminating tour provided by local historians.
  • Perhaps even encounter the ethereal residents rumored to wander among their own stone memorials under the cover of the Southern dusk.

Seize the opportunity to enter the silence of Zion Cemetery and the Baynard Mausoleum, a historic landmark in Hilton Head that’s freely accessible to the public. It’s a unique chance to tread softly through an era bygone, a must-see for any traveler keen to unearth the deep-rooted mysteries lingering at one of the premier Hilton Head Island points of interest.

Exploring the Stoney-Baynard Ruins: A Ghostly Legacy

Amid the lush surroundings of Sea Pines, one of the popular tourist spots in Hilton Head Island, lies a portal to the past that beckons the curious and the bold. The Stoney-Baynard Ruins, remnants of a once grand plantation, invite you to traverse a landscape shrouded in centuries-old stories and spectral whispers.

As you navigate the grounds, the storied bricks and tabby foundations serve as silent narrators of antebellum life and Civil War aftermath. Here, the echoes of the plantation’s former residents—the Revolutionary War hero Capt. Jack Stoney and the esteemed William Baynard—resonate amidst the Spanish moss-draped oak trees.

  • Glimpse into the genteel yet tumultuous life of the ante-war South, where wealth and tragedy were oft interwoven.
  • Walk in the footsteps of soldiers and statesmen, and feel the weight of history in every step.
  • Imagine the grandeur and subsequent desolation as Sea Pines has faithfully preserved this important piece of the island’s legacy.

Though the walls may have crumbled, the spirit of the plantation endures, making the Stoney-Baynard Ruins not only an evocative Hilton Head Island Landmark but also an immersive experience into a bygone era. To walk among these ruins is to journey through time and uncover the narratives etched into the very soil of Hilton Head Island.

Fort Mitchel’s Role in the Civil War

Fort Mitchel in Hilton Head

As you explore the notable sites in Hilton Head, the historic Fort Mitchel must undoubtedly feature on your itinerary. This fortification serves as a poignant reminder of Hilton Head Island’s strategic significance during the Civil War. It was here that the Union troops fortified their presence, with the fort’s resistant palmetto log construction playing a crucial role in safeguarding vital coal supplies.

Today, although what remains of the original structure is limited, the serenity of the site and its well-curated interpretive trail offer an educational and reflective experience. To access this tranquil piece of history, you’ll need a community gate pass, but the insights gained are well worth this minimal step.

  • Walk the trail looping around the remnants of Fort Mitchel
  • Ponder the civil war strategies and stories portrayed through informative markers
  • Experience the quietude that now envelops this once-bustling military stronghold

Enhancing your understanding of the war and Hilton Head Island’s indispensable role in it, a visit to Fort Mitchel is not just about the appreciation of a notable site but also about connecting with the past that helped shape this unique region.

Discovering Fort Howell’s Protective Past

As you delve into the historic landmarks in Hilton Head, you can’t miss the chance to explore Fort Howell. Nestled near Hilton Head Airport, its unique pentagonal earthworks stand out as one of the most remarkable Civil War remnants in South Carolina. Built with the intention of securing the town of Mitchelville, the fort symbolizes a significant chapter in the journey to freedom for many during that tumultuous time in history.

Fort Howell is not only a testament to past military strategies but also a place where you can connect with the echoes of history that reverberate through its well-preserved structures. As you stroll along the mounds that were once pivotal barriers, imagine the tall perimeter walls that stood as protective bastions for the fledgling community of Mitchelville. Recognized as one of the top Hilton Head attractions, a visit to this site transports you back to a time when each brick laid was a steely statement for defense and sovereignty.

  • Experience the remarkable state of preservation that makes Fort Howell an intriguing historic site.
  • Interpretive signs posted around the fort tell the compelling story of its protective past and strategic importance.
  • Gather insight into the lives of the emancipated individuals who found refuge under the protection of Fort Howell’s imposing walls.
  • Stand atop the earthen works and take in the serenity of the site, which belies its once-critical role in shaping the history of Hilton Head Island.

Your exploration of Fort Howell will leave you with a profound sense of respect for the resilience that characterized one of the cornerstone landmarks in Hilton Head’s storied past.

Insights into Gullah Culture at the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island

The Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island

When you’re exploring the must-visit sites in Hilton Head, the Gullah Museum stands out as an emblem of cultural heritage that is vital to understanding the island’s unique identity. Founded by native islander Louise Miller Cohen, the museum sheds light on a rich and enduring heritage that predates Hilton Head’s modern popularity.

At this must-see landmark in Hilton Head Island, you are invited to delve into the captivating history of the Gullah people, whose ancestors were brought to these shores as slaves and who forged a distinct culture infused with African influences. As you walk through the rooms, you’re surrounded by a collection of artifacts, photographs, and handmade crafts that illustrate the Gullah way of life, uninterrupted by the bridge that would eventually link Hilton Head to the mainland.

  • Discover the deep connection between the Gullah language and its West African roots.
  • Explore the traditional crafts that have been passed down through generations, from sweetgrass baskets to hand-sewn quilts.
  • Immerse yourself in stories of survival, community, and the unyielding spirit of a people who fought to preserve their way of life against the tides of change.

Visiting the Gullah Museum isn’t just about observing history; it’s about engaging with it. It’s a respectful tribute to the past, presented in a manner that encourages understanding and appreciation. For anyone looking to experience the authentic soul of Hilton Head, the museum is not merely a destination but a meaningful journey into the heart of the island’s Gullah culture.

The Enigmatic Appeal of Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse

Imagine standing on the lush fairways of Arthur Hills Golf Course and catching sight of a structure that beautifully merges history with scenery—the Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse. An intriguing silhouette against the South Carolina sky, this lighthouse is one of the most famous landmarks in Hilton Head. It was a guiding beacon approved by Congress in the 1870s, vital during a time when maritime navigation relied heavily on such towers. The Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse played a role not just in peacetime but also in the darker days of World War II.

While this storied lighthouse has the distinction of being a private landmark, prohibiting public tours and visits, its presence is nonetheless formidable. Such is the towering stature of this iconic lighthouse that its form can be seen from up to fifteen miles away. It’s in this visibility that the lighthouse transcends physical limitations, casting its enigmatic allure far across the island. The exclusivity only adds to the charm of the Hilton Head Island Landmarks, inviting you to appreciate the beauty and history of this iconic structure from afar, enhancing its mystique and ensuring it remains an integral part of the island’s unique skyline.

  • Historic Significance: Admire the lighthouse’s role in Hilton Head’s rich navigational and wartime history.
  • Architectural Distinction: Observe the unique cast-iron skeleton tower, a rare style for its time.
  • Visual Landmark: Though privately maintained, the lighthouse’s height affords distant admiration.

When you tour Hilton Head, the Rear Range Lighthouse is an essential sight, representing an era when lighthouses were primary to travel and safety on the waters. While access may be limited, the evocative story and the striking image of the lighthouse can be wholly appreciated from various points on Hilton Head Island. It remains a pillar among the Hilton Head Island Landmarks, connecting us to a past that navigated by the light of such historic structures.

Neptune Statue: World’s Largest Figurative Sundial

Neptune Statue at Hilton Head Island

Imagine a larger-than-life tribute to the sun, a masterpiece of timekeeping, that also serves as one of the most iconic landmarks in Hilton Head Island. You’ll find just that at the entrance of Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina in the impressive form of the Neptune Statue, renowned as the world’s largest figurative sundial.

Created by sculptor Wayne Edwards and commissioned by Greenwood Communities & Resorts, the Neptune Statue doesn’t just tell time; it tells a story. Transported from a foundry in New Jersey and set against the backdrop of Hilton Head Island’s picturesque marina, this striking landmark has been an integral part of the island for over three decades. It delights viewers not only with its grandeur but also with its rich history and artistic beauty.

Here are some reasons why the Neptune Statue stands out as one of the most popular tourist spots in Hilton Head Island:

  • The precise alignment with the celestial body ensures that Neptune’s trident casts an accurate time, showcasing a harmonious blend of art and science.
  • It serves as a perfect photo opportunity for visitors, ensuring that your memories of Hilton Head Island will truly stand the test of time.
  • The statue holds cultural significance, evidencing the island’s commitment to public art and history.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply seeking an unforgettable sight, the Neptune Statue at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina awaits to offer you a slice of Hilton Head’s celestial charm.

Hilton Head Island Landmarks: The Heart of Lowcountry’s Past

As you explore the must-visit sites in Hilton Head, you’ll be captivated by the poignant stories ensconced in each landmark. These Hilton Head Island points of interest are more than mere attractions; they are the echoes of a bygone era, resonating through the landscape of the Lowcountry’s past. We invite you to unearth the layers of history that have shaped this idyllic destination.

  • Discover the ancient Native American shell rings in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, an archaeological treasure dating back thousands of years.
  • Stand beneath the sprawling boughs of the Liberty Oak, a stately tree around which Harbour Town Yacht Basin was thoughtfully designed.
  • Find serenity at Braddock Point Cemetery, where each headstone and memorial unlocks another chapter in the island’s diverse narrative.

These storied locations not only reward visitors with their tranquil beauty but also with a deeper appreciation for the island’s enduring heritage. Immerse yourself in Hilton Head’s historic allure—where every site tells a story, and every visit enriches your understanding of this unique part of America.

Tracing the Heyward Family Legacy at Heyward House

As you meander through the historical heart of Bluffton, the Heyward House emerges as a significant beacon among the notable sites in Hilton Head. For nearly two centuries, this regal antebellum home has stood the test of time, inviting visitors to step inside and experience the cultural tapestry that is emblematic of Hilton Head Island’s rich past.

Heyward House’s walls reverberate with the stories of yesteryears, having once sheltered the family of a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Today, this Hilton Head Island Landmark opens its doors so you can traverse its rooms, which continue to exude antiquated charm and genteel elegance. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply seeking to enrich your cultural itinerary, the educational tours offered here are not to be missed.

  1. Admire the perfectly preserved architecture that stands as a tribute to the antebellum South.
  2. Interact with knowledgeable guides that unveil the multi-layered history of the Heyward lineage.
  3. Discover original artifacts that paint a vivid picture of Bluffton’s storied past.

Embrace the opportunity to connect with history at Heyward House, an undeniable treasure among the notable sites in Hilton Head. Let this house be more than a visit; allow it to be an immersive journey into the soul of the island.

A Beacon of Resilience: Church of the Cross

As you explore the historic landmarks in Hilton Head, the Gothic spires of Church of the Cross will inevitably draw your gaze, symbolizing more than spiritual guidance—it narrates a story of survival and resilience. This centerpiece of Bluffton’s heritage, with its serene atmosphere and archaic charm, has remained a witness to the ages, including the tumultuous times of the Civil War.

With its upcoming centennial in 2024, Church of the Cross invites locals and travelers alike to partake in its rich history. A visit to this must-see landmark in Hilton Head Island is an invitation to step back in time, embraced by docent-led narratives that echo through its hallowed halls. This place isn’t just a building; it’s a vibrant testament to community strength and historical perseverance.

  • Experience the tranquility and spiritual ambiance that has comforted many over the centuries.
  • Engage directly with the history that shaped Bluffton and the surrounding areas.
  • Learn about the Gothic Revival architecture that makes the Church of the Cross stand out amongst historic landmarks in Hilton Head.

In the heart of Bluffton, the spiritual beacon known as Church of the Cross awaits your visit, promising not just a tour, but an immersive journey through time.

Seafood and Stories at Bluffton Oyster Company

Delve into the true flavor of Hilton Head as you discover one of the island’s must-visit sites. Bluffton Oyster Company, not just a purveyor of exquisite, locally-harvested seafood, is a cherished institution steeped in the history of Hilton Head’s coastal bounty. Here, the story is just as savory as the catch of the day.

  • Dive into the rich history behind the company’s foundation, laid upon the very oyster shells that have been part of the island’s fabric for centuries.
  • Relish fresh oysters, clams, mussels, and more, knowing they come from waters that have sustained generations of islanders.
  • Meet the Toomer family—descendants of Simpson V. Toomer—who continue to dedicate themselves to the legacy and sustainability of Hilton Head’s seafood tradition.

Bluffton Oyster Company isn’t just another spot on the map; it’s a place where the popular tourist spots in Hilton Head Island intermingle with interactive history lessons. As you taste their seafood, you’re savoring a piece of Hilton Head’s enduring story.


As we wrap up our expedition through the rich tapestry of Hilton Head Island’s historical narrative, we’re left with a sense of awe for the region’s deep-rooted cultural heritage and captivating lore. These iconic landmarks in Hilton Head Island are not merely coordinates on a map but are storied waypoints that chart the course of American history. Whether it’s the echoing tales of valor from the Civil War or the celebratory affirmations of Gullah traditions, each site is a chapter in a much larger story that awaits your discovery.

As you plan your itinerary, remember that these landmarks aren’t just to be seen—they’re to be experienced. The must-visit sites in Hilton Head offer you an immersive lesson in history and culture that transcends the physical beauty of their locations. As live galleries of the past, they beckon you to delve into the stories and lives that have shaped the island into the marvel it is today.

And when the day’s journey comes to a close, consider resting at the tranquil Savannah Lakes RV Resort, where the embrace of southern charm and comfort will revitalize you. Let it serve as your basecamp as you venture out each day, eager to absorb more of Hilton Head Island’s undiminished spirit. Remember, each visit not only pays homage to the island’s lineage but also cements your own connection to this extraordinary slice of South Carolina.


What are some iconic landmarks to visit on Hilton Head Island?

Iconic landmarks include the Harbour Town Lighthouse, the Neptune Statue at Shelter Cove, the historic Stoney-Baynard Ruins, Fort Mitchel, and the Gullah Museum. Each of these locations holds historical significance and offers a unique glimpse into the island’s heritage.

Can I climb the Harbour Town Lighthouse and is there an admission fee?

Yes, you can climb the Harbour Town Lighthouse for a panoramic view of the island. There is an admission fee, and the climb features a museum-like setting with historical exhibits spaced along the way up to the top Hilton Head attraction.

Are the Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum open for visitors?

Yes, the Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum are open to visitors, and no admission fee is required. For a more detailed understanding of their historical significance, consider taking a tour with the Heritage Library.

What is the significance of the Stoney-Baynard Ruins?

The Stoney-Baynard Ruins represent the remains of an antebellum plantation that reflects the area’s pre-Civil War life and culture. It is a popular tourist spot in Hilton Head Island that offers a haunting look back into the island’s tumultuous history.

What can visitors learn from Fort Mitchel?

Fort Mitchel played a key role during the Civil War, protecting the Union’s supplies. Although little remains of the original fort, its interpretive trail and peaceful surroundings make it a notable site in Hilton Head for those interested in American history.

What is the historical importance of Fort Howell?

Fort Howell, with its preserved earthworks, was constructed to protect the freed slave community of Mitchelville during the Civil War. A visit to this fort offers an opportunity to reflect on this pivotal moment in history and its importance as a historic landmark in Hilton Head.

What will I see at the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island?

The Gullah Museum showcases the history and culture of the Gullah people, who are descendants of West African slaves brought to the area. You will discover traditional Gullah crafts, language, and stories that have shaped the island’s heritage, making it a must-visit site in Hilton Head.

Is it possible to enter the Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse?

The Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse is not open for public entry as it is located on private property. However, it remains a famous landmark in Hilton Head, visible from afar and an essential part of the island’s maritime history.

Why is the Neptune Statue a popular tourist attraction?

The Neptune Statue is not only the world’s largest figurative sundial but also a recognizable symbol of Hilton Head Island. It was created by sculptor Wayne Edwards and is a favored spot for photos among visitors to Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina.

How do the Sea Pines Forest Preserve shells add to the history of Hilton Head Island?

The Sea Pines Forest Preserve contains ancient Native American shell rings, which are evidence of the island’s early inhabitants and their way of life. This preserve is part of the Hilton Head Island points of interest that offer a look into thousands of years of natural and human history.

What historical experiences does Heyward House offer?

Heyward House, located in Bluffton, is one of the few remaining antebellum homes in the area. It provides visitors with educational tours that recount the life of the Heyward family, their role in American history, and the house’s significance as a notable site in Hilton Head.

What makes Church of the Cross a must-see landmark in Hilton Head Island?

The Church of the Cross is a historic Gothic Revival structure that has survived the Civil War and remained a central part of the Bluffton community. Visitors can take docent-guided tours and enjoy the serene environment at this unique and resilient landmark.

Why is Bluffton Oyster Company considered a significant cultural spot?

Bluffton Oyster Company is the last remaining oyster factory in South Carolina and is situated on historical grounds. It offers a connection to the area’s oystering past, along with fresh seafood that has made Hilton Head famous. Visiting it is a chance to savor local flavors while stepping back into the pages of the region’s storied history.

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