Hilton Head Island was originally settled by the Gullah, African American descendants of slaves. Their primary source of income was rice farming and their isolation on the coastal islands allowed them to retain their own language, which retained many words from Africa. Because their forebears had learned how to live with malaria in Africa, they flourished on land that white folks could not tolerate.
But then the real estate developers came along. They looked at that wide stretch of beach twelve miles long and the heavily wooded property and saw dollar signs. When we first visited in the mid 1980's, they had built a fake light house and surrounded it with a village selling nautical tourist items and seafood restaurants. Radiating out from Harbour Town were classy homes on large lots. Each home was unique, but they were all wooden, painted in earth tones ranging from beige to gray. They were surrounded by vegetation and gave the impression that not a leaf was disturbed by their construction. Winding between these homes were miles of bike paths. We were impressed.
When we returned today we were still impressed, but we hardly recogized the place. That twelve mile beach was lined with condos and hotels. It was challenging to find a spot where we could access the beach from the road, but persistence paid off and we enjoyed our last beach bike ride of this trip on the hard packed sand. Although the weather was beautiful today, it's still low season here so many of the condos and homes appeared empty. When we left the beach and tried to get back to the road we ended up in a huge, golf course development. Compared to Florida where we mostly saw people sitting on beach chairs in the sand, Hilton Head buzzed with activity. The fifty miles of bike trails were well used and the tennis courts were busy with players and folks taking lessons. Many of the golfers appeared to be walking the course rather than using carts. The geezers here were burning the calories.
We rode our bikes almost three hours and barely scratched the surface. Golf, tennis, bike paths, beach - this place has our name on it. We stopped by a nearby campground to check the rates for next year. It's on our list.