Boating and Paddling Around Hilton Head

Hilton Head Island is loaded with inland and offshore boating opportunities. You can easily take a slow pace kayak trip on calm waters or brave the ocean currents to reach offshore fishing hot spots. Boating and cruising is a big part of the culture on Hilton Head and you can find a large number of options for access, boat storage and charters or rentals. Hit the links for the day and take an evening cruise on the water for the perfect day on Hilton Head. Bring your own boat and store it at a marina or choose a rental or charter service to enjoy some time on the water.

Marinas and Access

The island has numerous marinas for long term boat storage and plenty of boat ramps for day use access. Many of the rentals and charters are also associated with one of these common access points. The Broad Creek Marina is a popular launching point. The famous Sea Pines Resort also has a major marina with the Harbour Town Yacht Basin. Space and access to this one is limited however and it’s primarily used for yacht docking. They have another marina however for normal access at the South Beach Marina location. They have a ramp and docking prices for single day, weekly and monthly rates.

Palmetto Dunes is another favorite resort and they have a great big marina called the Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina. It’s the largest in the area and also acts as a major hub for tours and charters. If you want something smaller but super secure, the Windmill Harbour Marina is completely sheltered. It’s a deep water marina and is completely private and sheltered from ocean currents and shifting tides. The Skull Creek Marina is another great option with security and easy access. It’s in the open, making for easier landings as well.

Many of the marinas allow for daily launches but you can also utilize simple boat ramps to launch as well. The ramps are convenient and often very cheap or free. Numerous public ramps make it very easy to get your boat off the trailer and into the water in minutes. Public Ramps are available at Marshland Road and Harbor River. You will also find developed ramps and access at Buckingham Landing, Cross Island Landing, Edgar C. Glenn boat ramp and H.E. Trask Sr. boat landing.

Kayaking the Area

Kayakers don’t need marinas and they can launch from the public ramps or from any public access point on the water. Kayaks are especially popular in the backwaters that are sheltered from heavy winds and ocean currents. The saltwater marshes are especially popular for birders and anglers wanting to cast a line. There are several creeks and lagoons that also have excellent kayaking alongside great wildlife and fish habitat. Broad Creek and Jarvis Creek are two favorite locations to explore. If you want to see dolphins, Calibogue Sound is the place to paddle. At the Palmetto Dunes Resort, many lagoon channels offer tranquil waters. You can even rent or charter kayaks from the resort.


If you want something a bit more luxurious than a kayak, consider chartering a boat. You can charter fishing specific expeditions but taking a relaxing cruise is also an option. Dolphin tours are great for individuals, couples and families and several operators focus on locating and viewing the resident dolphins. Sunset cruises are the perfect way to end a day of adventure as well. Island Time Charters runs a nice sunset option that runs past the famous Harbour Town Lighthouse. They also have a sandbar cookout cruise that combines boat and beach time for a perfect afternoon.

Charters and cruises come in a wide variety of different boats, specialties and group sizes. It pays to do some research. Party cruises are a blast and are often on larger vessels with a minimum group size requirement or a specific price point to accommodate groups. Smaller vessels can offer a more intimate experience for couples and small groups as well. Exploring the salt marshes and lowland grass habitats also requires a specialty flat bottom boat to navigate shallow waters. If you want a cruise focused on bird and wildlife watching, these are the ticket. The larger, deep hull yachts cannot access the marshes but they are amazing for cutting through ocean currents and reaching the areas farther offshore. Ideally, you will stick around long enough to experience both options and do multiple charters and cruises. Spending time on the water is always a welcome escape.