Hilton Head Island History & Heritage

Some of the most important South Carolina historical sites are part of Hilton Head Island history.

1521 Francisco Cordillo led a Spanish expedition to explore the area. He initiated contact with the local tribes.

1663 English Sea Captain William Hilton arrived on Hilton Head Island and, started the first successful plantation. Hilton was greeted by Spanish speaking Indians from the Yemasse tribe from Florida. He sailed from Barbados to find new land on which to plant sugar and indigo, Hilton soon claimed the Island in the name of the British Crown.

1698 English king granted several islands and some of the Lowcountry’s mainland to John Bayley, the area was known as Bayley’s Barony.

1717 John Barnwell was the island’s first English settler after receiving a grant of 500 acres now known as Hilton Head Plantation.

1790 Another planter William Elliott with the help of his neighbor Will Seabrook successfully raised the first crop of long-stem Sea Island cotton. They had come up with a successful type of fertilizer for the cotton, resulting in record crops and wide acclaim for the Sea Island cotton.

1861 Hilton Head Island was filled with union army troops and many of the islanders fled. After the civil war the boll weevil killed the cotton crops.

1956 A bridge was built connecting the island to the mainland. At the same time Charles Fraser, a young developer whose family owned most of the land on the south side of the island. He created a resort community that would combine the natural beauty & ecology of the island and Sea Pines Plantation was born. Sea Pines Plantation became an example of the modern resort community all over the world. Also the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce was established.

1959 William Hilton Inn was opened with 56 Rooms. It was torn down to build the Marriott Grand Ocean in South Forest Beach Drive in the 1990’s.

1962 Port Royal Plantation was developed by Hilton Head Company, led by Fred Hack.

1983 Hilton Head became a town in 1983 and is home to several environmentally planned communities we call plantations. Cotton fields were replaced with lush green golf courses, tennis courts and beautifully designed resorts and villas.


Hilton Head Island Today!

Hilton Head Island is one of the nation’s premier resort destinations. The island is filled with natural beauty with 12 miles of gorgeous beaches, challenging golf courses, peaceful lagoons, salt marshes filled with wildlife. Hilton Head is nature’s perfect year-round playground for visitors of all ages….custom made for relaxation.

Hilton Head Island is the second largest barrier island on the Eastern Sea Board. White sandy beaches stretch for 12 miles of stunning natural beauty. More than 2.5 million travelers come yearly to take advantage of all the island has to offer. The island consists of several plantations, most of which are now resort communities. Hilton Head was one of the first ecologically-planned cities; the island strives to maintain its natural feel, combining the structures into the native ecology as much as possible.

Hilton Head Island is the perfect setting to fulfill your vacation experience with recreational activities such as Golf, Tennis, fishing, historical tours, boat rentals, biking, jet skiing, kids activities, sailing, kayaking festivals and much more. The island’s semi-tropical climate is ideal for outdoor activities year round.

The advent of the eco-friendly construction in 1959 by Charles Frasier set the tone for the entire island’s real estate development. In fact this style of real estate development had never been considered prior to his development of the Sea Pines Resort. It was such an incredible feat that not only did the rest of the island follow, but it reverberated around the world and many other communities adopted the style. Real estate offerings on Hilton Head Island are as diverse as the people who visit and live here. There are smaller 1 bedroom villas in the low $100’s to huge mansions along the waters for well over $10 million. If you want to be a part of Hilton Head Island there is definitely a place here for you.