A Guide to the Best Spots for Stand-Up Paddling in Hilton Head

RR Staffer Jake Wheeler sets off for a sunset paddle on Hilton Head
RR Staffer Jake Wheeler sets off for a sunset paddle on Hilton Head Ry Glover
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In the past few years stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has exploded in popularity. If you were to ask someone if they SUP not too long ago, you would most likely receive looks of bewilderment and/or shock. Nowadays, anyone who has been anywhere near any body of water has heard of stand-up paddleboarding and has most likely tried it out for his or herself. With balance being the only real skill necessary, (yes, this is more challenging for some than others…), the accessibility of the sport has made it a win-win for many first timers looking to get outdoors and enjoy the water. As an added benefit, SUP makes for an incredible full body workout that is low impact and thoroughly enjoyable.

A paddleboarder explores Broad Creek
A paddleboarder explores Broad Creek hiltonheadisland.org

In many ways, Hilton Head Island has begun to realize its role as a stand-up paddling paradise. There are multiple large, calm creeks that are perfect for it and many other flatwater options in the area as well. For those who are interested in paddlesurfing, the island has waves that are perfectly suited for long paddleboards. The island also boasts passionate outfitters who can equip you with the right gear so you perform your best when out on the water. On Hilton Head Island you can get whatever SUP experience you’re craving.

When it comes to paddleboarding Hilton Head Island, perhaps the best place to do so is Broad Creek—not enough can be said about this paddleboarder’s playground. Due to its tidal nature, not many motorboats dare to venture up Broad Creek, which means that you will have a carefree paddle as you feast on all this creek has to offer. There is natural abundance on a grand scale here, with creatures of sea and sky all around. You’ll see flounder, stingrays, dolphins, and schools of fish in the water, and all of Hilton Head’s sea birds frequent the skies above. What is perhaps most remarkable is that even those who have paddled this creek for years come back to it time and time again. With the changing tides and seasons Broad Creek can be at once comfortingly familiar and excitingly exotic. You could spend a whole year paddleboarding the winding waterways of this creek and still not feel like you’ve seen it all, and that’s why locals treasure this beautiful expanse of salty water that ebbs and flows with each tide.

A paddleboarder in Bluffton at Sunset
A paddleboarder in Bluffton at Sunset StandAndPaddle.com

Other great flatwater options include Skull Creek , Pinckney Island , and the May River in Bluffton. The best place to launch your board on Skull Creek is the Squire Pope Rowing and Sailing Center. This puts you near the middle of Skull Creek and opens your options for exploration. This waterway is much bigger than Broad Creek and is part of the Intercoastal Waterway, so it can be a bit more challenging of a paddle, but it's not to be missed by those who are up to the challenge. It is a great place for anyone who is looking for a good SUP workout. Stick near the shore and head either direction and you’ll have miles of uninhibited water to really get moving.

Like Broad Creek, Pinckney Island is another nature lover’s dream. The water and islands surrounding Pinckney are part of a roughly 4000-acre wildlife refuge that is pristine and beautiful. You will be blown away as you paddle around the island and take in the sheer magnitude of life around you. Bald Eagles, dolphins, redfish, white tail deer, and everything in between call this island home and you will likely see all of the above as you paddleboard around the island.

The May River in Bluffton is another fantastic place to SUP. A paddle down the May River is a paddle through the old south. You'll cruise by huge live oaks draped in Spanish moss, and gorgeous old southern homes that line the river. The May River is akin to a “main drag” in the sleepy town of Bluffton, South Carolina and you are bound to see many of the town’s inhabitants out enjoying themselves. There is a feeling of revelry and community on the May River, and it is extended to anyone clever enough to enjoy its waters.

For the slightly more adventurous among us, those looking to give paddlesurfing a try,  Burkes Beach and North Forest Beach are good bets. Both of these beaches are frequented by the island’s surfers and are known for having the best waves around. Hilton Head typically has slow and low rollers that are perfect for longer boards like paddleboards.

A paddle surfer in HHI
A paddle surfer in HHI Outside Hilton Head

And if you’re looking for paddleboard gear on Hilton Head, the perfect place to do so can be found in Shelter Cove Plaza at a store called Outside Hilton Head . The store has been on the island for over 35 years and is an incredible wealth of knowledge regarding outdoor sports in Hilton Head. They offer paddleboards, paddles, PFD’s, and anything else you could need for SUP. They will greet you with a smile and make sure that you get a board that suits you and your needs. If you aren't looking to invest just yet, Outside Hilton Head also offers some incredible SUP tours, you can check them out here.

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