By Erin Laytham Lentz
Lifestyle is significantly different on the coast and in the winter months the locals and visitors are still out on the beaches, biking and even enjoying paddle boarding, fishing and boating. The swimsuits and sunscreen are no longer required as the finicky weather can start out and end with cold, brisk air but yet still provide abundant sunshine and mild midday temps. It doesn’t take long to discover that layers are your best friend. There are some essentials that work with the casual and comfortable feeling of coastal living. If you are visiting Hilton Head from Canada or Ohio you likely own a closet filled with wool sweaters, coats and outerwear. Don’t pack them. A sweater may be all you need on a chilly winter night in coastal SC. Take a peek in most local’s closets and you will find some outerwear that is consistent with the subtropical climate.
The Fleece– If you don’t have one, get one. Brands such as North Face, Columbia and Patagonia have fleece pullovers in different colors, weights and designs for the whole family. The fleece might become your best friend as the year end brings its first deep drops in temperature most commonly felt at night/early morning. By the afternoon the fleece may be tied around your waist as things warm up. The fleece is warm enough to be worn on its own and is all the winter coat you will need.
Jacket/Shell- Mother Nature also brings Hilton Head cool, windy and sometimes drizzly days on the beach with the sand sweeping up and the ocean spray touching the skin. A light water resistant jacket can be layered over your fleece or sweater to provide a barrier against the elements. It is also easily tied around the waist when removed. This would be the raincoat of the southern coast and will be utilized just enough days to justify tossing in your bag.
Footwear– The best part of visiting the coast is being able to don a pair of flip flops with your fleece in the winter months, making those daily visits to the beach practical and easy. It is also not unusual to also see people warming their toes in Ugg boots with their shorts! Some very popular local sandals are Birkenstocks and Chaco’s. They seem to be foot friendly in terms of comfort, but also can weather the sand and water. There are many local shops that carry these brands and having a pair handy will prepare you for any weather you wake up to.
Stadium Blankets– In the winter on Hilton Head, outdoor living is a thing. From the evening Oyster Roasts and Low Country Boils, dock parties, fire pits, football and transportation by golf cart; be prepared to be outside when the sun sets and temps dip. Grabbing a warm, chenille or fleece stadium blanket is the perfect extra layer to snuggle under while socializing beside the fire pit. Only necessary a couple months of the year but don’t forget to pack it when visiting the beach. Along with the warmth of the sun, it is all you need to stay toasty warm on a coastal, winter day.
Yeti Cooler– A necessity for beach living. We want our bodies warm and our drinks cold. The Yeti comes in small toteable sizes for day trips to the beach, and large full-size coolers to keep on the boat for fishing excursions, or trips to the Sandbar. If you have room in your trunk, you may be glad you brought it! (Pro tip: Fill it with other items to maximize your packing) A Yeti cooler is even perfect to keep your fresh catch on ice on the deepest sea excursions. Pricey, but well worth it. Durable and weather-proof, these products do not disappoint.
Kavu Bags– Why do we love them? Their functionality and funky, outdoorsy designs make these sling bags, backpacks and fanny packs mesh perfectly with the coastal lifestyle. More functional than carrying a purse, and just large enough for your sunglasses, room keys and a few other small necessities.
Stainless Steel Rambler– Grab and go Tumblers in different sizes that keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. This drinkware can go to tailgates, poolside, boat trips and more. The coast also loves its Tervis Tumblers but these stainless tumblers have proven to outdo them all. These tumblers are made by both Yeti brands and even an affordable line at Walmart that passes the same tests as their designer counterpart.
Kayak or Paddleboard– Nothing is quite as invigorating as kayaking or paddle boarding, and many would agree that the cooler months are much more enjoyable than the steamy summer months. No bugs, intense summer humidity, or overcrowded waterways. The peaceful experience of navigating through the beautiful Lowcountry waters will convince you to invest in one or both of these coastal outdoor toys. Bring your own, or you will also find many rental opportunities for these on Hilton Head. Guided tours are also available year round.
Fire pit– The most remarkable features of traditional Lowcountry homes are wide, front porches, screened in back porches, fireplaces, patios, outdoor kitchens and most commonly spotted…. the fire pit. Fortunately, fire pits can be had for any budget. From the most extensive custom designed pits with seating built into outdoor verandas to a basic brick, circular pit surrounded by adirondack chairs and even the portable and inexpensive designs available at the large chain stores. You aren’t living the coastal lifestyle unless you are gathered around a pit either roasting oysters or s’mores on a winter night. Obviously not an item to travel with, but can be found locally in public parks such as the Rowing and Sailing Center at Squire Pope Community Park.
There is a distinct coastal lifestyle that is marked with sunny days, warm fires, cold waters, Lowcountry recipes and sparsely populated beaches. They are the days to relish and the reason why locals call Hilton Head home, and visitors embrace a winter beach vacation. The tease of winter is felt from late December to February and the local and tourists alike embrace it with vigor.