Our idea was to drive from New York to Miami and
back again, breaking up the long trip each way with a couple of
stopovers at places we’d always wanted but never got around to
visiting. It worked splendidly -- on the way down. Now, after
spending two weeks in Miami Beach where the sun rose gloriously
every morning and set in golden splendor every evening, we’re headed
back. Our first stop will be Hilton Head, the sneaker-shaped island
off the coast of South Carolina which we’d heard much about. We
think we can reach it by late afternoon.
All goes well until we cross the state line coming
out of Georgia into South Carolina when a sky, which had been blue
all day, suddenly turns dark and ominous.
By the time we turn east onto Route 278, we’re in
the midst of a steady downpour. The traffic is heavy, the visibility
poor. What seems like hours later, we cross the bridge over the
Intercoastal Waterway onto the island only to find ourselves driving
through a web of small winding roads and past resorts shrouded in
the darkness until, at last, we make out the sign: “Westin.”
A young man named Eric welcomes us to the Westin
Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa. We follow him into a cavernous,
barely furnished building for what seems like a very long distance
to the check-in desk. Then he brings us up to our room. On the way,
he tells us the resort is under renovation. Aha, we think, that must
be why we’re the only guests around.
But, Eric says, our room is completely re-done.
Tentatively, we step inside. It’s lovely! Spacious, and comfortable.
There are LEDs lights on the headboard. The bathroom is state of the
art; the linens luxurious. And the oceanfront view – which we can’t
make out at all this dark and stormy night –is great, according to
Eric. Also, Oceans, the resort’s premier restaurant, which
specializes in fresh seafood, is operating -- albeit on a limited
We do enjoy a pleasant dinner based on a menu of
minimal options at a table that looks out at the downpour we’ve just
gotten out of. Then we return to our room and turn in, wondering if
our stopover plan is such a good idea after all and deciding we’ll
aim for an early departure the next morning.
But the next morning, all is forgiven. The storm
has ended, the sun has risen, and, as Eric promised, the ocean is
visible. From the balcony of our room, the beach spreads out before
us, a pristine panorama of pure white sand and the endless blue of a
sunlit sea. At Oceans, sunlight is streaming through the huge
windows that line the dining room. We meet Gaby and Duke, two guys
-- who together with Eric – comprise the Jamaican component at the
resort. They see us admiring the view and tell us we are sitting in
the only restaurant in all of Hilton Head Island that is directly on
Ocean’s breakfast menu is loaded
with options, and one of us takes full advantage of them, including
the low country classic hominy grits. Then we walk out into the
sunshine and meet Ellen Lam, the resort’s sales and marketing
Bright and vivacious, Ellen tells us Hilton Head
Island is just a little bigger than Manhattan Island. She was born
and grew up in Manhattan so she knows of what she speaks. We are on
the wooden boardwalk outside the restaurant and getting our first
sense of the property. Behind us is the beach. Before us is a
courtyard embraced by a five-story building that angles into four
wings – the building proper. Ellen suggests we walk down the
courtyard paths. It is a little world of enchantment with flower
beds, palm trees, a fountain, a lagoon in which an ibis stands in
perfect stillness, a shaded pond from which we spot a flash of gold
(actually it was a darting koi, Ellen explains), and three sizeable
and distinctively-shaped swimming pools (one of which will be
covered and heated for year-round use once the renovation is
|There are 412 guestrooms and
suites here. “Most of them face the ocean; those that don’t
look have a beautiful island view with its wooded areas.
None face the parking lot,” Ellen tells us.
We take a look at the Carolina Café, a big
sprawling casual dining room in the midst of renovation.
More F&B venues are in the works. Meanwhile, there are a
range of activities and facilities the resort offers among
them a world-class spa, sizeable conference and meeting
spaces, beautiful ballrooms.
At the same time, the resort is very
family-oriented. The Recreation Team organizes on-site
activities for adults and kids. There’s a discovery camp for
children along with many interesting and fun activities for
the 4 to 12 year-old set.
In our short stay at the Hilton Head Resort and
Spa, we take the measure of the place with refreshed eyes. What had
seemed so cavernous the night before becomes promising as we learn
of the changes underway from new lighting to new furnishings
inspired by Art Deco design.
And then there’s the rest of the island, there for
the taking by anyone staying at the resort. Twelve miles by five
miles of flat land –perfect for biking. Excursions are available:
horseback riding, kayaking, fishing, dolphin-spotting. The Port
Royal Golf and Racquet Club is located alongside the resort. It has
three 18-hole golf championship courses, 14 tennis courts, both clay
and hard surface. Many famous golfers come to play on the island.
The PGA Tour plays here every April.
|Our Hilton Head sojourn took
place in February. Now it’s April. The renovations should be
complete. It would be a good time to return. But we’d rather
wait until May or June when it’s turtle-nesting time. We’ve
heard turtles weighing as much as 250 pounds come up to nest
in the sands. Imagine that, and also the long expanse of
untrodden beach, the sight of the retreating sea at low
tide, and the fine, pure sand extending so far out, the
peacefulness of walking the boardwalk under a starry sky,
pleasures of Hilton Head Island...
The Westin Hilton Head
Island Resort & Spa
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
843 681 1027
Photographs by Harvey Frommer