The marshes surrounding Hilton Head are a lush wilderness, ideal for exploring by kayak. For thousands of years, small boats have been used to connect these coastal islands for the purposes of trade, family and culture. The modern kayak continues the longstanding Lowcountry tradition of the personal watercraft. If you do one thing while visiting our Island, get on the water in a kayak.
Kayaking is a true family sport. It is fun and easy enough for children and seniors, but complex enough to engage serious enthusiasts. Our ideal weather and temperate climate make the Lowcountry the perfect place for beginners to learn kayaking. For your first time out, employ a knowledgeable guide to take you on a tour of the winding trails and open vistas of the salt marsh. Your guide will give you an overview of the plant and animal species in the area, as well as interpreting the tides and winds to give you the best possible trip. If you are kayaking with kids, a guided tour has the added benefit of the guide providing entertainment throughout the expedition.
If you are an experienced paddler and would like to go out on your own, rent some kayaks and plan ahead. The tides in our area vary from 7 to 10 feet, making it crucial to know the tides before going kayaking. While paddling against the tide is not difficult, going against the strongest tide for the whole trip isn’t that enjoyable. If you plan to paddle with kids, choose the easiest possible route based on the tides.
Look up the tide chart on the tides page of this website. This site lets you pick from many local waterways. For your first time out, plan to split the low or high tide. If you want to be out for two hours, leave an hour before low or high tide. For example: if the high tide at Broad Creek is at 7:24 a.m. on June 1, leave at 6:24 a.m. and return at 8:24 a.m. The times of high and low tide vary every day, so remember to check the tide tables!
You will also want to check the weather before heading out. Technology has made this an easy task. Remember, weather predictions get more accurate the closer to the day of the prediction. Also note, wind is a not always your friend. If it is blowing 10 mph or above, expect it to be a bit difficult paddling in one direction; 15 mph and above be cautious; at 20 mph and above, you probably shouldn’t go out. Check the weather right before you go to be sure there are no pop-up storms, which are common in the spring and summer. Again, if kayaking with kids, err on the side of caution for the best possible experience.
If you would like to rent kayaks, visit the Outside Hilton Head store in Shelter Cove Plaza or the waterfront location at Shelter Cove Marina. Many of our knowledgeable staff are guides and have a wealth of information about local paddles. Their firsthand experience is worth hours of planning on your own. If you prefer to go the guided route, Outside Hilton Head offers a variety of guided tours for you to choose from. Get Outside by kayak this June!
By Jessie Renew, Outside Hilton Head
For more than 30 years, Outside Hilton Head has provided personalized adventures for all ages, from kayak, fishing, nature and dolphin tours to kids’ camps, history excursions, family outings and stand-up paddle boarding. For more information about tours, call (843) 686-6996 or outsidehiltonhead.com.