Why The Best St. Patrick's Day Parade Isn't What You're Thinking

Yes, living in Savannah you no doubt already have your St. Patrick’s Day Parade plans picked out. You know your spot, you know how you’re getting home and you’ve already made sure you don’t have anything planned for the next day.

But what if you wanted to try something different this year? What if you wanted to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a slightly less frenzied atmosphere, on an island paradise where you could spend your post-parade buzz with your toes in the sand.

If you’ve never been before, the Hilton Head Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade is worth checking out if nothing else than just to enjoy a slightly more low-key alternative to Savannah’s beer-soaked bacchanalia.

35 Years of History

The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Hilton Head Island began inauspiciously, with local restaurateur Tom Reilley leading a procession down 278 from his north end pub to the Sea Pine Circle. It nearly ended in disaster, with the police intervening to put a stop to the impromptu parade, which needless to say was being held without a permit.

Since then, the parade has grown by leaps and bounds. Also, not for nothing, they have permits. But beyond filing the necessary paperwork, the parade has grown into a phenomenon, with 30,000 attendees, marching bands from all over the region and a few surprises every year.


Stepping off in 2018

The 2018 Hilton Head Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade promises to be the best yet. Especially if your driving metric is “giant food.” Along with the oven that was used to cook the Guinness World Record “World’s Largest Meatball” at the Hilton Head Island Italian Heritage Festival, this year’s parade will also feature the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and the famed “Big Idaho Potato.”

But it’s not all big foods. There will of course be appearances by local dignitaries and officials (this author will personally be driving one of them on the parade route. If you see someone important looking in the back of a 2010 Sebring, be sure to say hi!) as well as the Alee Shriners, plus pipe and drum bands including the  Wake & District Pipe Band of Raleigh, North Carolina; Ancient City Pipes and Drums of Palm Coast, Florida; Boston Police Gaelic Column from Boston; Police Pipes and Drums of Bergen County in New Jersey; and Charleston Police Pipes and Drums — as well as the returning Marine Corps Band from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.


Where to Stay

The best part of the Hilton Head Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade, however, may just be the fact that you can start the afternoon at one of the competing open air festivals at Aunt Chilada’s and Wild Wing Café on either side of the Pope Avenue Parade route, then walk back to a stunning oceanside vacation villa once the parade wraps up.

Located just a short walk from the parade route, 52 North Forest Beach Drive, available from Vacation Company, offers a great place to either unwind after the parade or keep the party going. The spacious pool deck with its splash-down spa and adjoining lanai give you plenty of room for al fresco entertaining, while the main dining room with its seating for 12 and exquisitely realized coastal motif opens up to the outside to bring the party in. And with seven magnificently comfortable guest rooms, you can bring the whole gang to Hilton Head Island to enjoy the parade.

The Hilton Head Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade steps off at 3 p.m. March 11. For more information, visit hiltonheadireland.org.