Hilton Head Island may look like a simple little island at first glance, but what you can’t tell right away is just how much life is packed into our twelve-mile long coast. In the off-season, we’re a small community of about 35,000 residents. During the tourist season more than 100,000 additional people come to the island to live and work. The increase in population is more than necessary, for each year more than 2 million tourists visit Hilton Head for a relaxing resort island getaway.
Wondering why so many decide to visit each year?
It doesn’t take much more to see why people want to come here. What’s harder to understand is why they ever would want to leave?
From Explorers to Entrepreneurs
Beyond its obvious attractions, Hilton Head has a rich past. The history of man on Hilton Head Island dates back thousands of years, with the first seasonal inhabitants living on the island up to 10,000 years ago (according to some estimates). The first confirmed Europeans to visit the island were Spanish explorers in the 1520’s. In 1663 English sea captain William Hilton landed on the island and soon thereafter claimed it for the British Crown. Hilton had been commissioned by a group of Barbados planters seeking land suitable for growing indigo and sugar. Hilton’s landing began a rich agricultural tradition on the island.
Colonization of the island did not begin until the early 1700’s. In 1790 a successful crop of Sea Island cotton helped spurn the island’s plantation system. By 1860, 24 successful plantations were in operation on the island raising a variety of crops. In the years after the Civil War the island declined from prosperity as the plantation lifestyle became obsolete.
The island was primarily populated by a small number of farmers, hunters and fishermen for many almost 90 years. In the 1940’s the island drew increased interest from the timber industry due to its abundance of tall, straight pines. In 1956 Charles Fraser opened the first resort on Hilton Head Island: Sea Pines Plantation. The development of the island was further aided by the opening of the first bridge to the mainland that same year.
Living the Island Lifestyle
Hilton Head Island has undergone a dramatic transformation in the last half-century; evolving from a quiet agricultural area to one of the world's premier resort hotspots. The cotton fields may have been replaced with lush resorts, but the natural beauty of the island has remained unspoiled. You won’t find any neon signs here, nor will you see any buildings much taller than the treetops. What you will find is a high quality of life and warm, wonderful people. Hilton Head Island is more than just a premier resort destination. Hilton Head Island is a great place to live, work and relax!