If there’s one thing we know really, really well, it’s how to live the Hilton Head life (we know it so well, in fact, that we own the brand — but that’s for another day). And, with perhaps one exception, there is no better place to fully embrace this incredible island lifestyle than Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.
By the way… if you want to sound like a local, it’s simply “PD” (just don’t call it “the Dunes!”). Jump in to get to know this amazing oceanfront community, and all it has to offer.
The location of Palmetto Dunes is, in many ways, second to none – particularly if you plan to remain on-island. Set right in the middle of our 11 miles of white sand beaches, it is convenient to absolutely everything. Spanning 2,000 acres, there is plenty of room to explore the miles of bike trails, incredible views, 11-mile lagoon system (more on that below), and so many amenities that make visiting wonderful, and living here even better.
Speaking of amenities: In addition to the three golf courses, PD boasts 25 tennis courts, 24 pickle ball courts, the aforementioned lagoon system great for fishing and kayaking, and three miles of its very own beachfront. Oh, and did we mention the on-site general store, bike rentals, and restaurants? You really can find everything you need right here, only a short walk or bike ride away.
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There are four distinct sections to Palmetto Dunes: Shelter Cove (yep! It’s actually part of the neighborhood), Leamington, The Mariners side (north), and the Inverness side (south).
Dining, shopping and music, oh my! Shelter Cove is not only a fantastic place to eat, play, and enjoy a beautiful day on the wide open grass of the Shelter Cove Community Park… it’s also the closest thing the island has to a “town center.” While Bluffton has Old Town and the Promenade, and Beaufort has its historic downtown, Hilton Head Island really never developed a true central location. Originally, Coligny Plaza was meant to serve as the de facto downtown, but instead, it became the wonderful, laid-back, open-air beach-centered plaza it is today.
Shelter Cove, on the other hand, actually began as a mall. You can still see some of the original material on the side of the Belk building, and a small portion of the structure running from that to The French Bakery. Today, however, it is chock full of fun things to explore, including one of the largest open green spaces on the island. But eating, drinking and dancing (that’s right — Poseidon is the place for a bit of night life!) aren’t the only things in Shelter Cove. It is also home to the Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina, the largest award-wining deep water marina on the island. (Watch for our next “Get to Know,” which will cover Shelter Cove in far more detail.)
While Port Royal Plantation on Hilton Head’s north end can claim to be Hilton Head Island’s only truly private oceanfront community, for all intents and purposes, Leamington can also claim this status. While technically part of Palmetto Dunes, Leamington is a separately gated, private (that is, no short term rentals) community all its own. As members of PD, residents have access to all of the amenities outside of the gates, but Palmetto Dunes residents and guests do not have the same privilege in the other direction.
Leamington offers its residents lovely private amenities: A beautiful beachfront community building including grills, restrooms and lockers, a sparkling community pool, a private dock, Arthur Hills golf club, and of course, quick access to all that greater Palmetto Dunes has to offer.
Mariners & Inverness
The Mariners side is home to Palmetto Dunes icon, The Dunes House — a fantastic, completely casual oceanfront eatery serving up delicious beach fare and libations. While you can’t get there through the security gate unless you have a pass, you can walk right up the boardwalk from the beach. There are no club affiliations or room numbers here, so cash or card is all you need!
Other than the presence of The Dunes House, this is a more “residential” feeling section in many ways, primarily because the beachfront on this side is occupied completely by single-family (that is, not connected) homes. The only exceptions to this are The Moorings villas and the Beach Villas, two small complexes in that same area.
The Mariners side is home to PD’s “ocean streets,” t-shaped finger streets that line the oceanfront. Fun fact: These streets are not only all named for maritime terms, but they are in alphabetical order: Armada, Brigantine, Catboat, and so on, all the way through Man-O-War and Night Harbor, where Mooring Buoy (the main drag on this side) turns away from the Atlantic.
The Inverness side to the south is home to the interior access to Leamington, and to the vast majority of condos and villas within PD. There are so many options here, ranging from 3- and 4-bedroom side-by-side attached villas, to high-rise (well, high for Hilton Head) condo buildings with oceanfront pools. It is also home to the Omni Resort and its steakhouse, HH Prime.
A bit further back into the neighborhood on this side, you’ll find many single-family homes, as well as more villa communities overlooking golf and the sparkling 11-mile lagoon.
Of course, no discussion of Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort would be complete without mentioning, well, the oceanfront. Claiming 3 coveted miles of white sand and shoreline along the 11 mile stretch of Hilton Head Island’s world-renowned beaches, PD has one of the best setups around. And because the neighborhood is long and thin, you’re never far from the ocean or the rest of the island.
You should note that, while all of the beach itself (shoreline to high water line) is public, access is often private. Depending on where you are in the community, you’re never too far from an access point, but some locations are more convenient than others.
Palmetto Dunes offers three great golf courses within its boundaries designed by three of the greats: Arthur Hills, Robert Trent Jones, and George Fazio. Recently, the Trent Jones practice range and learning center was upgraded with Toptracer technology, making it an even better place to work on your game. All are publicly playable, so go get a tee time and enjoy a round in the sunshine!
Tennis & Pickle Ball
With 25 tennis courts and 24 courts dedicated to the fastest-growing sport in the country (where, by the way, we have hosted the World Pickle Ball Tournament!), there is no shortage of playtime on the courts! PD employs pros in both disciplines to help players of all levels get where they want to go, and in such an active community, there are always matches to stop and watch. Stop by the pro shop for more details on membership, clinics, and more.
This is arguably the most unique feature of this wonderful neighborhood, and in fact, is among the most unique features of all of Hilton Head. While technically called the “11-mile lagoon,” we prefer to refer to it as a narrow lake, because that is really what it feels like. A winding, continuous waterway running throughout the community, this wonderful amenity creates opportunities for kayaking, boating (electric or manpower only), fishing, and enjoying a completely different bit of scenery. While a number of the homes are directly on the waterfront and enjoy their own docks, there are also several community launches so anyone can enjoy time on the water.
Fun fact: While the lagoon is best known for the lifestyle and activities it provides, it was actually installed as a flood and erosion mitigation tool. The level can be lowered manually, which is done roughly once per month for water health, or in anticipation of the occasional big storm. That way, the lagoon can absorb the influx of water, keeping the rest of the community safe and dry. It also helps maintain the beautiful sand along our shoreline by reducing the intensity of erosion along this part of the beach (which is by its nature particularly susceptible through wave action).
Leave the Car, Grab the Bikes!
One of the greatest elements of life (or just a bit of time) on our island is the fact that it is exceptionally bike-able. Hilton Head Island earned the distinction of being a Gold Star biking community by the League of American Bicyclists, and has also earned a spot amongst the 25 most bicycle-friendly communities in the entire country.
Outside of a major grocery run or leaving the island entirely, there really isn’t any reason not to hop on the bike for anything you might need. And, as an added bonus, there are a number of places (like gated communities) that you can’t enter in a car, but you can explore on a bike. If you’ll be out after dark, just be sure to have a light source mounted on the front. Any bike shop in the area can help you with what you might need.
The Dunes Buggy
We love this! The Dunes Buggy is an awesome free ride service within the community, including to and from Shelter Cove. Between the start of April and Labor Day, it can be called on for free rides from 8am to 9pm — all you need to do is dial 843-689-4222.
Dining & Drinks
There is so much to cover in this section. So, for the sake of brevity, we’ll just give you a rundown of our favorites:
The Dunes House: A great local spot. Extremely casual, you can walk from the beach or park your car or bike in the front. This is also one of the public (meaning not private to a particular house or complex) beach accesses from within the neighborhood. Get the burger, fish tacos or shrimp wrap, and the piña colada is a must-have! Be aware, they don’t have cut fruit behind the bar, so if you want a few limes, we recommend bringing your own (yes, really — we do it, too!).
HH Prime: Relaxed vibe, and for a resort restaurant, the steak is quite good. We love a beautiful NY strip and glass of full-bodied red.
Alexander’s: A classic island restaurant, one of the many things we love about this place is the dock — pull your boat or canoe right up, hop out, and enjoy a great meal. The bar is also a great place to hang out and meet visitors and locals alike. Chances are, you’ll see us there if you stay long enough!
The Woodie Wagon: The PD food truck. Stop here for quick, fresh bites, snacks, and a kids menu. Visit the website for daily menus and where you’ll find the truck that day — it’s always changing, but worth the search.
Big Jim’s: The perfect place to relax after a round of golf, or just stop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner, Big Jim’s overlooks the first hole of the Trent Jones course and the Toptracer practice range. Good BBQ, a solid beer selection, and a recently updated breakfast and brunch menu make it a go-to PD hangout.
*Note: If we go across the street to Shelter Cove, this list would be about four times as long (Poseidon, The French Bakery, Tio’s… it never ends!), so we’re saving that for another post. But it is worth noting that, for all of your grocery needs, this area is home to Whole Foods, Kroger, a local liquor store, and lots of great shops. You’ll also find The Fresh Market just a few minutes further down the road.
The General Store
One of our favorite things about Palmetto Dunes, the General Store is a staple within this neighborhood for both locals and guests alike. Stop in for the basics, some great HHI swag, and delicious breakfast and lunch grab-and-go items from the counter in the back corner. We love the breakfast burrito, and the fried chicken is seriously good. This is also a great place to grab a coffee, and an ice cream cone in the evening. Enjoy your soft serve on the porch to take in the breeze and catch the action on the courts across the street.
The Outfitters Center
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention this terrific amenity, even though it isn’t technically part of the neighborhood other than its location. Dubbed as the place for bikes, kayaks, canoes and fishing, Hilton Head Outfitters is a great place for visitors to grab anything you need for an outdoor adventure. And, for locals, it’s a great place to pick up gently used gear at the end of the season — look for beach bikes, kayaks, paddles and more starting every October or so. Score!
Some Things to Know
PD does not have a pool. While many of our rental homes and villa complexes have their own, the community itself does not have its own pool. We do, of course, have that little thing called the Atlantic. But if a traditional pool environment is important to you, be sure to plan with this in mind.
Even though Palmetto Dunes is a private, gated community, many of the dining and golf facilities are open to the public. And of course, those that are not behind gates, including Big Jim’s and Alexander’s, are wide open.
Let’s talk traffic patterns: While you may think you’re being friendly by stopping for a caravan of cyclists and pedestrians, there is a reason they don’t have the right-of-way. Particularly in the morning and evening, when most people are coming and going, it can cause major holdups in a very short period of time. Add to that a traffic circle which most people do not know how to navigate properly (don’t ignore the YIELD signs, please!), visitors on bikes who are just getting their “sea legs” back, and people coming in and out of the tennis courts, and it can get jammed VERY quickly.
So please, as much as you want to stop and let them cross, please note that they have the stop sign — not you. And on the other hand, if you’re out on your bikes, please stop for cars. Motor vehicles have the right-of-way here. We say this in the most loving way: If you want to keep everyone safe, please kindly follow the rules and keep the lanes moving.
Thinking of making Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on Hilton Head Island home? You might be surprised to know that there is a significant number of people who call Palmetto Dunes home year-round. But whether you wish to be here all year, or only sometimes, this top-rated island community has an array of wonderful choices for you.
As of the time of this article, single-family homes (that is, detached) in Palmetto Dunes range from $899,000 to $7.25M USD. As you might imagine, these values contain many variables, but the most impactful are proximity to the water (whether beach or the 11-mile lagoon), architectural style and quality, and size. Proximity to the beach also carries a premium from an investment perspective, as this is one of the most important elements for short-term rental performance.
Along with an array of single-family homes — 22 available at the time of this writing — Palmetto Dunes also offers myriad villa (that’s what we locals call condos) choices, from oceanfront French-inspired townhomes to 1-bedroom “drop in and head out” beach pads. And because there is so much to choose from and know in just that category alone, it will be getting its own article very soon — but don’t let that stop you from inquiring if a villa is more your speed. We are happy to answer your questions.
Why We Love Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
There are many fantastic places to call “home” on Hilton Head Island. Depending on the level of energy you prefer to have around you, this will determine which locales are the best places to start looking for your specific goals.
And while we love all of our communities for so many reasons, Palmetto Dunes is also where we personally choose to call home. Why? Well, we love the energy of visitors — having new neighbors every week isn’t for everyone, but there are a lot of us who call it “home” year-round, and the rest is just a greater opportunity to make more friends. And, the particular stretch of beach where we are is never very busy (seriously, never). Despite the fact that we’re located between the higher-traffic areas of the Westin to the north and the Marriott to the south, our stretch is mostly individual homes.
We tell you this to illustrate that there are so, so many choices, and if you are looking, we can’t overstate the importance of connecting with a team who knows the island inside and out in pursuit of your own perfect slice of Lowcountry paradise. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch. We are thrilled to be a resource for you!
We hope you enjoyed learning about this amazing island community! What’s your favorite thing about Palmetto Dunes? If you aren’t local, do you plan to visit? Let us know in the comments!
Until next time,