Although Hilton Head is an island, it still has a significant land mass and an intelligent layout that presents visitors with a wide range of activity options. World class golf courses and pristine beaches are the highlight for most visitors but outdoor activities like kayaking and biking are prevalent. The region has over 100 miles of easily accessible bike paths open to the general public along with nearly as many private paths traversing through resorts and along scenic golf courses. The area is so bike friendly, it was awarded the Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community Award through the League of American Bicyclists.
Rent vs Own
Traveling with a bike is not uncommon for RVers but rental programs are also prolific on the island. Staying long term easily justifies the purchase of a bike or two for cruising the pathways. Short term visitors can rent a number of different bicycles with special purposes. Electric bikes are a great option, offering a little power assistance for long days of exploring. Rentals for town bikes or bigger tire bikes for cruising the beaches are also available. Many of the rental companies will even deliver the bikes to your RV or vacation rental.
Finding Maps and Routes
Many pathways are limited to cycling and pedestrian traffic only while others are open to vehicle and cyclists. Detailed maps are available through the Town Hall in printed and digital formats. The maps show the routes and distinguish between the pedestrian pathways and bike lanes on road systems. They also show activity stops along the routes which makes it easy to view mileage while planning stops for food, shopping, beaches and parks. The pathways connect a large geographical area of the island, making it possible to see historical landmarks and attractions while navigating across the local lowland ecosystems. Plan on seeing wildlife, marshlands and coastal zones from the various bike trails.
Biking the Beaches
The beaches are all public but access is limited to specific public areas. That means you can’t simply walk through private property to access a beach but you can use a public access and walk or ride a bicycle along the beach to find your own private paradise. Bikes with bigger tires are ideal for soft sand but many of the beaches have compact sand that is fairly easy riding. Study the maps and look for public access points with long stretches of uninterrupted beaches. Using Google maps and satellite imagery will help locate some real hidden gems that are accessible by bicycle. Be aware of the tides and use the low tide for riding the beaches. Knowing the tide schedule is important and riding at low tide opens more real estate. Always plan the return route before the tides rises as well.
Best Bike Practices
The Hilton Head town hall has strategically placed bike parking stations along the routes. When visiting attractions and parks, use the bike parking and lock up your bicycle to be safe. Speaking of safety, always wear a helmet and follow traffic rules when bicycling through mixed vehicle zones. Bicycles must stick to the paths and vehicles will yield but be extra cautious to remain safe. When traveling on pedestrian only pathways, bikes must yield to pedestrians and follow the instructions.
The rules of riding are labeled clearly along pathways and bike lanes. White diamonds indicate a restricted travel lane and you must travel with the flow of traffic. A White Stripe and Stop Sign indicates a motorized crossing. Be extra cautious and stop to check for vehicles in the crossing area. A yellow center line is a symbol of two way traffic and you must remain on the right side of the road. Lastly, multiple white diagonal stripes are crosswalks. Check both directions for foot traffic, other bikes and motor vehicles.
Updates on bike paths, repairs and conditions are found on the town hall website at hiltonheadislandsc.gov. The pathways are ever expanding so check for updated maps each year. New routes will become available for cyclists to enjoy while discovering Hilton Head Islands on two wheels. Construction rarely blocks an entire route but checking the conditions only requires a few minutes and will make it easy to ride in confidence.