A Brief Guide to Hilton Head Island's Place Names


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You’ve more than likely ever heard about Hilton Head Island, maybe you’ve even visited. But odds are good you’ve never once considered its odd name.

Hilton Island, sure you assume that it was named after some guy named Hilton (and you’d be correct). But what’s with the head? Did this Hilton guy get decapitated?

There are some strange place names on Hilton Head Island, including the island itself. In the following guide we’ll give you a few insights into where these names came from.

Hilton Head Island: As mentioned, the island is named for a guy named Hilton. Specifically, Captain William Hilton, who first sighted the island from his ship, “The Adventure” in August of 1663. As to the “Head” it refers to the Headlands that were visible from the ship. These tall ridges are located in Hilton Head Plantation.

Braddock Cove: Located on the south end of the island inside Sea Pines, Braddock’s Cove is named for David Cutler Braddock. He was stationed here in 1742 to keep the Spanish away. Head down and see where he used to keep watch, then grab dinner at the world famous Salty Dog café right next door. Don’t forget to pick up a T-shirt.

Spanish Wells: Hilton Head Island was a popular stop for merchant ships entering and leaving the ports of Savannah and Charleston because of the freshwater wells located right along Broad Creek. As the Spanish were the first ones to find them, they became known as the Spanish Wells.

Historic Honey Horn: The large open fields of Historic Honey Horn are now home to the Coastal Discovery Museum (which is definitely worth a visit while you’re here) as well as the site of regular festivals during the warmer months. Before all of that, it was a plantation owned by a man named Hanrahan. Over the years, the name morphed from Hanrahan Plantation to Honey Horn Plantation to Historic Honey Horn.

Shell Ring Road: Located on the north end of the island, Shell Ring Road refers to the mysterious shell rings that dot the island. Remnants of Hilton Head Island’s prehistory, these were formed by Paleoindian tribes for purposes that are still under debate.

Coligny Plaza: Hilton Head Island’s downtown, Coligny Plaza offers up a ton of shopping and dining opportunities as well as live entertainment every night during the summer months.  It gets its name from French Huguenot Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, who sponsored the expedition that would lead to the discovery of the Lowcountry.

Shipyard Plantation: The tall timbers and deep waters of Hilton Head Island made it perfect for the shipbuilding industry, which thrived in Beaufort County. In fact at one point in the 1760s, the county’s shipbuilding industry was among the largest in the colonies. Today you won’t see too many people building ships here, but you’ll see plenty of them building vacation memories. Want to build a few of your own? Check out 50 Gloucester Road available from The Vacation Company. This stunning four-bedroom vacation paradise pairs amazing golf views with exquisite updates, endless spaciousness and a lush outdoor oasis built around a gorgeous swimming pool.