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10 Autism Friendly Experiences in Hilton Head, SC

Ride a bike around the island The island is a biker’s paradise! Everyone we’ve met is always so friendly (part of that famous Southern hospitality) and riding will help you lose the extra pounds gained from eating those delicious fried green tomatoes and hush puppies. Autism Travel Tip: Some places don’t have kids’ helmets so you’ll need to bring your own. Also, make sure you rehearse road safety rules and how traffic flows in ’roundabouts’ with your kids before going.

10 autistic friendly things to do in Hilton Head tree

Meet the’Salty Dog.’

One of the best places to eat on the southern side of the island , known to the locals as ‘the big toe’,is at the Salty Dog Cafe’. Though their primary grub is seafood based, they also have burgers and macaroni cheese combos for picky eaters. The seaside complex is a fun place to wander around and shop for unique souvenirs. Our son begged to buy the mini version of the restaurant’s black ‘salty dog’ mascot after reading the tear-jerking story about the brave dog on the venue’s placemat. Autism Travel Tip: Bring something to occupy the kids while you wait for an indoor table since the place seems to be continuously busy even during off hours. The complex is a bit of a tourist trap so make sure you establish a reasonable budget for souvenirs before you get there.

10 Autistic Friendly Experiences in Hilton Head,SC beach sunbathers

Lunch at the Bamboo Hut

Our favorite spot to grab a hearty well-stacked BLT or homestyle burger is the Bamboo Hut in Coligny Circle. Your kids will find the South Pacific decor (think late 1960’s South Vietnamese shack catering to foreigners) fascinating to explore with the different wall hanging nicknacks.Our children particularly enjoyed drinking their freshly squeezed lemonades in recycled mason jars. Autism Travel Tip: Ask your server to rush your order or even pack it to go if your kids get too antsy.

 boat10 Autistic Friendly Experiences in Hilton Head,SC boat

Take an Eco-Tour

Tour the island’s coastline in a WWII zodiac boat that oddly sails smoother than many cruise ships we’ve been on. On a clear day expect to see groups of playful young dolphin calves swimming together protected by their watchful moms against territorial males and hungry sharks. Autism Travel Tip: This is not recommended for travelers who get motion sickness (the boat still sways somewhat) and those who are temperature sensitive as it can get rather hot in the open boat especially during the summer months.

10 autistic friendly things to do in Hilton Head pier

Get lost on Daufuskie Island

Unique with is its Gullah population (descendants of African slaves), the island is a tourist gem. Take the ferry that runs on the hour and spend a few hours on Daufuskie Island that prides itself on being one of the few remaining places in the US with absolutely no car traffic. Our kids loved collecting shells on the clean beach front and visiting the local artisan studios. Autism Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes as there is quite a bit of walking involved and don’t forget your sunscreen and bug repellant. Also, remember to bring your water and snacks since there aren’t many places on the island to stop and purchase anything.

10 autistic friendly things to do in Hilton Head waves

Travel back in time

Go back in time to the sixties; when father knew best, and Jeannie was a household name and shop at the old fashioned Piggly Wiggly’ grocery store in Coligny Square. The store is a little small, and slightly crowded but for those seeking bargains or plain island ‘atmosphere’ this is the ‘IT’ spot. Autism Travel Tip: This is the place to stock up on sundries and beach supplies cheaply.

10 Autistic Friendly Experiences in Hilton Head,SC sand

Get De-Disnified

Venture to the center of the island and tour Disney’s non-Disneyesque Vero Beach resort where the only ‘character’ you’ll find is Shadow,their mascot dog who looks nothing like Pluto,but who is the inhabitant of a fancy dog house next to the reception area. Autism Travel Tip: Ask the front desk if you can pay and participate in their planned activities like Shadow’s Meet and Greet’ as they sometimes let visitors who don’t stay at the resort participate if they have space.

10 autistic friendly things to do in Hilton Head lake

Try Kayaking

Step out of your comfort zone and try kayaking in the island’s dolphins feeding areas like Broad Creek (very calm) and Calibogue Sound (can get rough .) This trip can provide your thrill-seeking kid with a great sensory adventure; while learning about the oyster beds that provide shelter for the local sea life and food for wild birds. Autism Travel Tip: Not recommended if your kids cannot swim and kids that are temperature sensitive.

10 autistic friendly things to do in Hilton Head umbrella Go to the Beach

Most Hilton Head beaches are equipped with lifeguards who provide extra peace of mind for parents. Also, the beaches have showers, clean restrooms and chaise lounges with attached umbrellas for daily rental. Our all time favorite is the Harbor Town Sea Pines Beach, which is less crowded than the neighboring beaches making it a much better choice for families with kids on the autism spectrum. Autism Travel Tip: Best time to go to the beach is actually in the late afternoon when the crowds are mostly gone,the water is still warm, and the sun is past its peak so you need not worry about sunscreen or renting a lounge chair.

10 autistic friendly things to do in Hilton Head sunset

It’s all about the Lighthouse

Bring your kid and climb the old lighthouse stairs to the top to witness those picture-perfect Southern Carolinian sunsets.Then join other exhausted parents under the old oak tree to sing along with long time island legend Gregg. Autism Travel Tip: Arrive on the early side if your kid likes to sit in the front row. Remember to bring insect repellent unless you wish to literally be ‘eaten alive’ by the local mosquitoes.

10 autistic friendly things to do in Hilton Head hush puppies

Stop by Hudson’s and eat puppies

Someone told me a long time ago you can often judge a restaurant’s quality by the line of patrons waiting to be seated.In Hudson’s case that line is on the long side and be advised the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. If you decide to go, remember to order their unlimited bowl of hush puppies that are well worth braving the line! Our all time favorite is their ‘Neptune Platter’, which comes with an assortment of freshly fried seafood items and is large enough to share. Autism Travel Tip: Bring electronic devices or toys to entertain the kids while you are waiting for the line to help pass the time. Have you visited Hilton Head with your kids- What did they like best?

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Margalit Sturm Francus
A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook
Margalit Sturm Francus

Margalit Sturm Francus

A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook

0 thoughts on “10 Autism Friendly Experiences in Hilton Head, SC

  • These are great tips! I haven’t found many blogs relevant to autism and travel. great read!


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