The Wildlife of Hilton Head Island
Updated: Jun 8
It’s always fun being active and enjoying the great outdoors and on Hilton Head Island, one of the most enjoyable things about getting outdoors is the chance to encounter the vast array of wildlife on the Island. Read on for our list of Lowcountry wildlife and the best places to see it.
We’re not the only ones who love Hilton Head’s beautiful sandy beaches! Loggerhead sea turtles chose our shores to nest, making Hilton Head Island a vital part of the continuation of this endangered species. Nesting usually happens at night, when Loggerheads have the protection and safety of darkness. During nesting season (May to October) beachside buildings will keep outdoor lights off to further encourage Loggerheads to nest and safely find their way back to sea. A turtle sighting is rare—and should definitely be enjoyed from afar—but you might be able to see the turtle’s unique tracks on the sand during a beach bike ride.
Great Blue Heron
This majestic water bird is an iconic sight on Hilton Head Island and one you’re likely to see while paddling the Palmetto Dunes lagoon. These wading birds prefer shallow waters and can often be found at the lagoon’s edge. It’s one of over 250 different species of bird in the island, and definitely one of the more thrilling sightings.
The egret’s pristine white plumage and slender profile make them easy to spot. They can be found wading through the long grasses of Broad Creek or competing with your fishing line for fish in Palmetto Dunes lagoon.
American Alligators can be found throughout South Carolina and can be a common sight, especially during the cooler spring and fall when they like to sun themselves to stay warm. The gators on Hilton Head Island can be large—up to 12 feet long—and they’re faster than you think so if you see one, keep your distance. It’s wise not to attempt to feed any animal you come across in the wild, but this is especially true of gators. Not only is it dangerous, it’s illegal.
Close to 200 Bottlenose dolphins inhabit the coastal waters of Hilton Head Island. That number grows throughout the spring and summer months when you’re likely to see them in groups (called pods) as you paddle throughout Broad Creek. Learn more about the dolphins of Hilton Head Island with this infographic.
These sea snails can grow to be up to nine inches long and they love the waters off the shores of Hilton Head’s sandy beaches. Next time you’re biking or beachcombing along Palmetto Dunes beach, keep an eye out for their colorful coiled shells on shore.
These large-beaked sea birds can be seen bobbing off the shore of Hilton Head’s beaches, and you might even catch them diving for their next meal. Whether you’re out on the water learning to surf, turning your eyes to the sky during a peaceful paddle, or gazing out from one of Hilton Head’s waterside patios, you’re bound to see a Pelican during your stay.
Hermit, ghost, fiddler, blue — you can find quite the variety of crabs scuttling along Hilton Head’s shores! Catch them as the tide goes out during an evening beach bike ride and marvel at how fast these small shelled creatures can move.
What wildlife have you encountered while exploring the outdoors on Hilton Head Island? Share your wildlife photos with us on social media using the hashtag #HiltonHeadOutfitters.