A Foodie’s Guide to Hilton Head Island
A Foodie's Guide to Hilton Head Island
By Esme Benjamin
If you like to let your taste buds lead your vacation choices, it’s time you considered Hilton Head Island. Naturally, this South Carolina destination has an abundance of local Lowcountry fare, but its thriving sustainable seafood scene, calendar of foodie festivals, and French pastries good enough to rival the best Parisian patisseries may surprise you. Read our foodie’s guide to Hilton Head Island for a list of top culinary experiences and noteworthy dining establishments.
Hilton Head Social Bakery
Start your day at Hilton Head Social Bakery’s Harbourside location and you’re likely to find a line out the door. Locals are obsessed with the freshly baked French pastries and breads by award-winning Chef Philippe Feret. From raspberry macarons to pistachio eclairs, you can’t go wrong with any purchase, but the flakey, buttery croissants – which Chef Feret jokes are only 100 calories each – are a non-negotiable. We opted for the chocolate-banana flavor and it was hands down one of the best croissants we’ve ever eaten. With a recently opened second location (pictured above) situated on the south end of the island, Hilton Head Social Bakery is a must try when visiting America’s Favorite Island®.
Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks
A visit to Hilton Head Island isn’t complete without a meal at Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks. This family-owned restaurant operated and managed by sustainable seafood-expert Andrew Carmines, prides itself on offering the freshest, hyper-local seafood on the island (some of it responsibly farmed and harvested by Carmines and his team). Equally impressive is the restaurant’s landmark location overlooking the docks – the perfect spot for an alfresco sunset dinner. When perusing the menu don’t overlook the shrimp, which Carmines swears are the sweetest and most delicious you’ll taste anywhere in the country.
Quarterdeck at The Sea Pines Resort has long been a place for tourists to refuel with classic American dishes and a drink or two after a round of golf, but after an eagerly anticipated revamp, this Hilton Head Island staple has become the buzziest spot in the region. Re-opened in the spring of 2022, Quarterdeck now features a bar and dining area, rooftop oyster bar, ice cream parlor, walk-up market/deli, and private dining rooms – all with unparalleled views of Harbour Town, the legendary 18th hole of Harbour Town Golf Links, and tranquil Calibogue Sound.
Hilton Head Seafood Festival
The Hilton Head Seafood Festival, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2022, is worth scheduling your vacation around. Held each February in support of the David M. Carmines Memorial Foundation, the festival is a seven-day celebration of fresh seafood, great wine, and southern hospitality. Get tickets for multi-course dinners created by celebrity chefs and sommeliers, classic hog and oyster roasts, cooking masterclasses, wine tastings and more. It’s the ultimate showcase of Hilton Head Island’s thriving culinary scene.
Nectar Farm Kitchen
When you’re on the hunt for a delicious brunch spot, copy the locals and head to Nectar Farm Kitchen. Known for incredibly fresh ingredients sourced from Lowcountry farmers, the restaurant’s menu is full of classic southern brunch dishes – think: chicken and waffles drizzled with hot honey, sweet potato pancakes slathered in peach butter, and fluffy biscuits so good you’ll be thinking about them for days afterwards. Is your mouth watering? Then make a reservation because Nectar Farm Kitchen gets booked up ahead of time.
ELA’s on the Water
Dining outdoors while soaking up harbor views is a defining feature of the Hilton Head Island restaurant scene, and ELA’s on the Water is one of the best places for it. Overlooking Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina, this upscale bistro’s sophisticated atmosphere and expertly executed dishes (market-sourced seafood and steaks are their specialties) set the scene for a memorable dining experience. If you’re looking for a date night spot, this is the one.
Coast at Sea Pines Beach Club
With its oceanfront views, spacious deck, and thoughtfully curated wine menu, Coast at The Sea Pines Resort's Sea Pines Beach Club is a prime location for pre-dinner sundowners and nibbles. Secure yourself a table on the second-floor deck for panoramic views of the Atlantic, and order yourself a chilled glass of white (or a fun tropical cocktail) and a dozen oysters. It’s the most satisfying way to wind down the day.
Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival
If you consider yourself a bit of a wine connoisseur, don’t miss Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival in March – seven days of events designed to educate and entertain in equal measure. Sample award-winning wines at public tastings, plus southern cuisine and live performances. If you ask us, the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival is the perfect setting for a big reunion trip with friends.
Fishcamp on Broad Creek
Fishcamp on Broad Creek is another excellent waterfront restaurant worthy of your itinerary. Situated inside the original building owned by Charlie Simmons – a local boat captain who used to shuttle goods and passengers between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, ensuring supplies reached the locals in the days before a bridge was constructed – Fishcamp’s sundrenched space and classic southern fare attract locals and visitors alike. Opt for a Lowcountry boil and a craft cocktail, and be sure to snag an outdoor table in time for sunset.
Of course, this is just a taste of what Hilton Head Island has to offer. Find more local dining recommendations (plus plenty of tips on things to see and do) at HiltonHeadIsland.org.