Over the four-hundred and fifty years since Europeans first set foot on our own paradise island there have been ever more significant changes in the cultural and commercial composition of this 69.15 square mile unique island.
In this post however, we do not discuss those direct changes brought about by the last phase; ‘Tourism & Transplants’, we will spend a few words highlighting a few of the fantastic ancillary benefits enhancing our leisure hours, gained by all, because of the need to make life pleasant for those tourists and transplants. Part two (December) of looking at the enhancements that came as a direct result of the Tourism/Transplant phenomena will examine the improvements to health and welfare.
In this issue we will touch on parks, beaches, paths/trails, marinas and nature preserves. You will note that in some instances I have featured the less publicized but by no means less interesting or awesome facilities.
“Good colored people, you have a great work to do, and you are in a position of responsibility. This experiment is to give you freedom, position, homes, your families, property, your own soil. It seems to me a better time is coming … a better day is dawning.”
With these words, Union General Ormsby Mitchel deeded to the inhabitants, the former slaves on the plantations in and around Mitchelville, the land they had slaved on prior to the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
These creative, industrious and motivated new free citizens, built homes on neatly arranged streets, elected their own officials, developed laws, built an economy, and implemented mandatory education for their children.
In fact, the reports of the success of Mitchelville were so glowing, that the famous Underground Railroad freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman, was sent to Hilton Head to see this bustling town, so she could share the story of Mitchelville’s self-governed success with future freedmen towns.
Situated on Hilton Head Island, SC, Mitchelville Park epitomizes the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor that forms the roots of the African-American's contribution to the heritage of freedom in America.
Today the Gullah, direct decedents of those who settled on Mitchelville, still live and continue the traditions of their ancestors.
There are over twenty parks on Hilton Head Island, including beach parks, community parks and recreational parks.
Driessen Beach Park is a little hard to find, and for most Hilton Head Island regulars, that's a very good thing. Seldom crowded, with plenty of parking spaces to go around, this relatively expansive park has plenty of room to roam, and plenty of beachside and wooded amenities to keep everyone in the family perfectly comfortable and completely entertained.
A perfect stretch of sand for Hilton Head Island day trippers, or folks who just want to check out a reasonably isolated stretch of the oceanfront shoreline, Driessen Beach Park is a gem that's just popular enough with the regular sandals and lotion crowd.
There are six other public access beach parks on Hilton Head. All the twelve miles of Hilton Head beaches are open to the public. Direct access to a stretch of beach may not be readily available, however, since the waterfront and therefore the beaches, encircle the island, one can actually relax in the sand on any of the twelve miles of shoreline, some sunny spots may take more effort than others…but many times the elegant isolation is worth it.
Hilton Head Island is a Gold Bicycle Friendly Community.
With over 64 miles of public pathways and nature trails on which pedestrians and cyclists may enjoy the diverse destinations and activities provided by The Town of Hilton Head Island it is no surprise.
Add to this the fact that there are more than fifty additional miles of pathways and shared roadways within the private developments and you have the ability to hike or bike a healthy excursion several times a week and never get bored.
Travel two or three times a week along these diverse paths and trails and not only will you experience Hilton Head Island from a close-up and personal perspective, your health will benefit enormously.
Land or water visitors to Hilton Head Island will find several marinas that can accommodate small, medium or large yachts.
There are over twenty public and private marinas plus stand-alone boat ramps. Among the largest and most popular are:
- Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina at Palmetto Dunes
- Skull Creek Marina
- Harbour Town Yacht Basin
- Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort & Marina
- Broad Creek Marina
- Windmill Harbour Marina
- South Beach Marina at Sea Pines
Although I am a fan of all the diverse amenities available for the residents and visitors to Hilton Head, I must admit to a personal preference for our magnificent nature preserves and a particular fondness for the unique, serene, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Consisting of four-thousand acres permanently designated a wildlife refuge, the wetlands, uplands and meadows can be traveled leisurely on foot over the suggested trails that range from 1.2 miles to 7.8 miles. If you are a true outdoor enthusiastic and want to take advantage of all the paths, you can walk or bike ride the entire ten-miles of trails.
An island with Mackay Creek on the western side and Skull Creek between the island refuge and Hilton Head Island, access is by car, bicycle or walking. If you choose to drive, as you go over the Skull Creek bridge you’ll encounter bicyclists and pedestrians on their way to and from the refuge.
As you walk or bike the early parts of the trails you will come upon the scene you see here.
To your left a panorama of wetlands
To your right, Ibis Pond.