Exploring Hilton Head Island’s Majestic Waterways

By virtue of being an island, Hilton Head is surrounded by water. But apart from and meandering in between the ICW along one edge and the vastness of the Atlantic to the other, the island is a treasure trove of fascinating wetlands, marshes, coves and creeks.

By virtue of being an island, Hilton Head is surrounded by water. But apart from and meandering in between the ICW along one edge and the vastness of the Atlantic to the other, the island is a treasure trove of fascinating wetlands, marshes, coves and creeks. 

Rising and ebbing with the tides, these waterways carry kayaks on their scenic explorations, provide a home for a host of native animals and inspire with every ripple that catches the sun’s rays.
If you’re heading out in exploration of the island’s waterways, here are a few you can’t miss and a few ways to get the most out of them.

(Broad Creek)

Broad Creek
Running beneath the Cross Island Bridge and meandering past Shelter Cove as it narrows down to a serpentine series of rivulets among marsh grasses, Broad Creek neatly bisects the island in two. This waterway once supported the island’s thriving oyster industry, in the long-lost days before Hilton Head became a resort destination. 
Today, you’ll still find a few oystermen working the waterways, but they’ll be joined by wandering herds of kayakers and the occasional pleasure cruise coming out of the rebounding Broad Creek Marina. The docks may have been ravaged by Hurricane Matthew, but the marina is still a great place to check out a charter (and get some of the best snow cones on the island).

(Boggy Gut)

Boggy Gut
Tucked away to one side of Pope Ave., boggy gut’s freshwater tranquility weaves in between the roots of a lush maritime forest, providing a watering hole for local animals and concealing any number of frogs and alligators.
What’s fascinating about this waterway is its history. According to naturalist Todd Ballantine, Boggy Gut was once a wide waterway that ran parallel to the oceanside shoreline. It shows up on colonial-era maps of the island, and it’s believed that it was navigable at one point. That all changed when planter Joseph Lawton dammed Boggy Gut in order to grow Carolina Gold rice. 
Along with the stretch of water leading away from Compass Rose Park, you can see more of Boggy Gut and the rice fields it once fed in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.

(Folly Beach)

The Folly
Head down to Chaplin Community Park, turn right and follow the beach south for a ways and you’ll either see a remarkable slice taken out of some nearby dunes or you’ll see a gushing torrent of water heading out to see. It all depends on what time of day you’re there.
The famed Folly rises and falls with the tides, presenting either a river or a trickling tidal creek perfect for exploring (it goes without saying you should check the tide charts before you go as people have been swept away here). Visit with the native birds and aquatic life, or play archaeologist as you search for remnants of the Sunset Community, formerly located here until it was destroyed by Hurricane David’s storm surge in 1979.

Get Out and Enjoy Them
For nearly 40 years, Outside Hilton Head has been the foremost authority on having fun as you get up close and personal with our area waterways.
In addition to their outfitters shop in Shelter Cove (with two more in Palmetto Bluff), OHH is the go-to company for kayak tours, boating and sailing, dolphin tours and other aquatic excursions. Their celebrated guides don’t just take you out, they share a depth of knowledge about our waters and the creatures that live in and among them.
They also walk the walk through their Outside Foundation which has been crucial in maintaining our area oyster beds and reefs.

(33 Barnyard Cove)

Stay In and Enjoy Them
If you’re coming onto the island to enjoy our waterways, why not stay at a place on one of the island’s most beautiful coves?
Available from Vacation Company, 33 Baynard Cove is just as stunning inside as it is outside. Beach cottage chic meets sophisticated coastal flair among the property’s four bedrooms, sunlit living spaces and gourmet-caliber kitchen. On all sides, tall windows gaze out on mesmerizing views of Baynard Cove.
But you’ll really want to enjoy those views outside, either across the waters of the relaxing spa and private pool or directly over them at the private fishing dock.
Braddock’s Cove shimmers with peaceful tranquility, winding through some of the most exclusive real estate in Sea Pines and up to world-famous South Beach Marina. With this exquisite property, it’s like you have it all to yourself.