Updated November 2023, with more information about the resort and updates on character experiences.
Where can you find picturesque beaches, spacious rooms, a low-key vibe, and DOLE Whip? At Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, of course! This Disney Vacation Club Resort, one of the few not located next to a Disney theme park, has just enough Disney magic without the fuss. Buckle up, because we are heading to the South Carolina low country–this is your guide to Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort (with tips for parents!).
About Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort located in—you guessed it—Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, just five hours outside of Walt Disney World. The resort opened in March of 1996 as only the second DVC resort located outside of a Disney theme park (the others are Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa). It is located in the cozy Shelter Cove Harbor area of Hilton Head Island, and sits on Broad Creek, partially surrounded by a large tidal marsh. Pets are not allowed at the resort, and MagicBands are currently not accepted. You do not need to be a DVC member to stay there; I found my reservation after checking the availability online for weeks. (It is a popular resort!)
Layout. Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is located on a barrier island and adjacent to a landlocked tidal marsh. When you exit into the Shelter Cove Harbor area, you drive through a commercial and residential shopping area, and over a small bridge onto Broad Creek, where the the resort is located. Upon entry, after scanning your room key at the gate, you arrive at the Live Oak Lodge, where the small lobby and several amenities await your arrival.
At the Live Oak Lodge, a Cast Member wearing Mickey Mouse gloves waves to each arriving guest. Inside the lobby area are check-in desks, restrooms, a Mickey statue, a fireplace, coffee station, and a pool table.
A double staircase leads to the lobby, which is on the second floor. There is one elevator on the ground level of Live Oak Lodge, however, which can be found by walking around the stairs. This elevator is the only one on property; if your needs require elevators access to get to and from your room, make sure you notify the resort upon making your reservation.
Parking spots, bike racks, and luggage carts can be found on the ground level of Live Oak Lodge. Notably, parking under the the Live Oak lodge (and around the resort) is free.
The resort is smaller than most Walt Disney World Resorts but spread out enough to give it a certain charm. It largely consists of three-story buildings, walkways, and parkings spots. In between the buildings you will find activities (more on that below), topiaries shaped like Disney characters, barbecue pits, hammocks, and tables. Lush trees provide a canopy that accentuate the walkways.
Update: on March 12, Disney announced that Chip ‘n Dale will be visiting the resort sometime this year! I think this is a fitting character experience for this resort. Chip ‘N Dale can be found around the resort, though they remain more elusive than dear ole Pluto. Make sure you pay attention to the activities calendar, or ask a cast member if you want to see them.
At the center of the resort is the Big Dipper Pool and a building that is the hub of the resort, where you will find Broad Creek Mercantile, Tide Me Over (more on both of those below) a community hall, a gym, and a pier.
Pro-tip for the dads (or whoever else loads and unloads the car): these wooden carts are luggage carts, and they are located outside most of the buildings next to the parking spots. These saved my life, and I appreciated that they were located close to my room instead of only in the lobby. As I mentioned earlier, there are no elevators outside of the Live Oak Lodge. This means you will be carrying your luggage from the lobby/your car to your room, and due to the buildings being raised off the ground, up either one or two flights of stairs. This can be a lot of work, so prepare accordingly.
The Room. I stayed in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom villa near the pool area. The rustically-themed room was spacious–definitely the largest among the the DVC villas I’ve previously stayed. (See my guide to Bay Lake Tower or to the Boardwalk Villas.) The room included a flat-screen TV, DVD player, washer and dryer, a full-kitchen with a dishwasher, seating nook, and two couches that pulled out into beds. A large patio extended between the living area and the primary room, each with a dedicated entrance. The primary room features a large bed, TV, and a large bathtub, shower, and closet. The second bedroom featured two queen beds, closet, storage nook, I would describe the vibe as woodsy, cozy, and outdoorsy, with a polished edge. Think of it as Disney’s Wilderness Lodge meets the beach. For parents: if you’re traveling with kids, these rooms provide more than enough space. Don’t forget: you can request a pack-n-play from the lobby, which can be delivered to your door.
Food. Simply put, there are not many food options at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. Also, there is no table-service restaurant, so you may need to leave the resort if you are looking for those options. However, Tide Me Over, the resort’s lone dining option, offers a range of suitable options throughout the day. Tide Me Over is located on the second level of the building across from the Big Dipper Pool, where most of the resorts amenities are located. The menu features quick American eats, similar to quick service restaurants at the Walt Disney World Resort.
You can also get DOLE Whip and Mickey waffles, too, which gives the resort that touch of Disney magic. (Note that only the waffles (not pictured) were shaped like Mickey Mouse.)
Signals, the other quick-service option, is located at the private Beach House (more on that below), and only operates between 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. There is also a poolside bar at the Beach House where you can find DOLE Whip and various libations.
The Beach and Beach House. Staying at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort grants you access to Disney’s private Beach House and beach access in the Palmetto Dunes area of Hilton Head Island. The Beach House is located just over a mile from the resort, and can be reached by a complimentary shuttle that departs every ten minutes throughout the day. This wasn’t a dealbreaker for me; I enjoyed the serene marsh setting away from the beach, and also the ability to be at the beach within minutes.
The Beach House–which can be accessed with your room key–is low-key, with a heated pool, the aforementioned Signals and bar area, and an indoor common room with a fireplace and nautical decor. A DVC photo kiosk is available to take free photos in the common area–so be on the lookout for that. The beach itself was beautiful, clean, and not-too crowded.
Broad Creek Mercantile. The resort features one convenient store, that, like the stores found at Walt Disney World Resorts, sells food, clothes, souvenirs, and sundries. It is not the biggest store, but they manage to squeeze a lot in there, including Disney’s Hilton Head Island-specific merchandise. Remember the DVD player I mentioned earlier? Don’t forget to put it to good use by renting DVDs for free at the Broad Creek Mercantile. I rented Frozen and Toy Story for the kids, and I got a kick out of explaining to them why there were commercials before the feature! (They are used to Disney Plus, of course.)
Activities, Activities, and more Activities! When it comes to activities, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is the leader of the pack. The activities are scattered around the resort making it easy to keep your kids occupied without leaving the property. This is key for those of us with parents of toddlers; we simply take our coffees to-go and let them run around from activity to activity. Here is a full list of activities available around the resort:
- Fenced-in playground
- Large checkers set
- Bocce Ball
- Basketball Court
And then there are the activities hosted by cast members that take place every day, throughout the day. In fact, at check-in I was handed a full weekly schedule for all of the fun, which included: hot cocoa and s’mores, trivia, tie-dying, birding, scavenger hints, and all sorts of crafts (to name a few options). The activities also change depending on the season—during our recent November-December trip, the Cast Members hosted holiday-focused activities, like making Mickey wreaths. Note that some of the activities cost money, per person, and require that you sign up before activity, so make sure you inquire before it starts with Cast Members at Broad Creek Rentals.
The Pools. The Big Dipper Pool is the main pool, and the largest of the two. It features a large, swirling water slide, a hot tub, and a small, kids pool area with two frog fountains. The pool area and the kiddie pool are the perfect size for this resort.
Surrounding Area. Though the resort is on its own tiny island, it is just a short walk to the Shelter Cove shopping area, where you can find various shops and places to eat. This quaint area is close yet far enough so that you to feel secluded while still being a stone’s throw from civilization.
As a father, I want others to be aware that the access to the shops are not pedestrian-friendly. In fact, as soon as you cross the bridge from the resort, you will notice that you need to descend a staircase to your right to continue to the storefronts. However, the sidewalk ends, and you can no longer continue down that path. Because we had our stroller, we were forced to wait for the passing cars to pass, drive our stroller into the road–one of my least favorite things to do–and then find the short ramp up to the curb, where we then descended down a gravel-type incline to the store-level. I am not sure how others with accessibility needs navigate such an area, and I hope Disney is planning some pedestrian-friendly updates to this part of the resort.
Quick Tips for Your Trip:
- MagicBands are not accepted at the resort.
- Pets are not allowed.
- Parking is free.
- Disney Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club member discounts ARE are accepted at both Tide Me Over and Broad Street Mercantile. Save that money!
- S’mores are free!
- The Beach and Beach House are not located at the resort but can be reached via shuttle (or your own transportation) during the day.
The Verdict. I throughly enjoyed my stay at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, so much so that I’ve returned twice since this article was initially published. It offers you everything you want at a Disney Resort without the crowds and the fatigue from a day spent at the theme parks. Though I clearly am a theme parks enthusiast, now that I have kids I increasingly look forward to “resort days” spent exploring the Disney resorts, restaurants, and amenities. And I think that’s why Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort works so well: every day there is a “resort day.” Add in the beach, activities, and stellar cast members, and you have the perfect Disney getaway.
Have you visited Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort before? Let me know your thoughts on this guide to Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort below!
Want to learn more Disney Resorts? Check out my guides to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas, Disney’s Polynesian Village and Resort, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Disney’s Yacht Club.
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