Hilton Head Island is often referred to as the second largest barrier island on the East Coast. Hilton Head, however, is technically only half-barrier, since the north end of the island is a sea island. The south end of the island is a barrier island, and the two halves are separated by a land-locked tidal marsh known as Broad Creek. With a rich history starting with seasonal occupation by Native Americans thousands of years ago, the island has been home to exploring Europeans and was an important base of operations during the Civil War.
Approximately 70% of the island is within gated communities known as plantations. These plantations vary in size and are replete with amenities such as marinas, golf courses, tennis facilities, magnificent homes and condos, bike trails, beachfront entertaining facilities and nature preserves. Sea Pines Resort, Shipyard, Palmetto Dunes, Wexford and Hilton Head Plantation are just a few of the plantations on the island. A popular off-plantation oceanfront area of the island is Forest Beach, which contains many large homes available for short-term vacation rental.