Immersed in rich African culture, Hilton Head Island has plenty to offer for Black Family travel. When my husband and I chose Hilton Head as our vacation home destination, we did so with a lot of thought. We tossed around the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of Florida, Martha’s Vineyard, the Delaware shore, but we settled unanimously on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. The whole thing spurred from a conversation with my teenage son. When I mentioned that we were looking at places in South Carolina, he immediately spouted Strom Thurmond, the confederate flag, and the KKK. That’s pretty much when I decided that Hilton Head would be our permanent summer vacation spot.
As a Black American family, it’s important to us that our children understand the rich history of African and Caribbean people in this country. When I realized that my son deemed South Carolina the “anti-black” America I knew it was time to travel. South Carolina has a rich African culture from the Gullah population that lives there. Gullah people are direct descendents of African slaves that were brought to the US who still have a very strong presence in the Islands off of “Low Country”.
Our first year in Hilton Head, we spent most of our time learning about the history. We took the kids to Mitchelville, the first freedman village in the United States. Beautiful beaches with warm water surround this historic section of Hilton Head Island. The first one-room school house for African children and the historic St. James Baptist Church were highlights of our tour. The kids were in awe of the strong presence of African-Americans on the Island.
After a few days of history and museums we allowed them to come back to the future with trips to The Salty Dog cafe and Shelter Cove where the teenagers could shop and girl watch and my first grader could play miniature golf. There are also several places to charter boats on the Island. I sailed my crew out to the lighthouse for dolphin watching and a thrilling speedboat ride.
It’s been three years now since we took up “residency” on Hilton Head Island and it’s been one of the best family choices we’ve made. A mix of rich African history, a strong presence of current African-American culture, and plenty of beaches, shops, and great food, Hilton Head has become to many Black families what Martha’s Vineyard has been for so many others. You can’t judge a book by its cover…or its senator. Hilton Head is an excellent choice for Black family travel.