Nature and Eco Tours

Zodiac boats are inflatable boats with rigid hulls. They hold up to six people plus the captain (a few might hold more if the captain is licensed for more). They are low in the water, so provide a good platform for observing dolphins up close. Going out on a zodiac, you will also have an expert guide and will be in a small group. Zodiacs have a greater range than kayaks, so they can go farther to find dolphins. Also, you don't have to paddle them. Here are some places that provide eco tours on zodiacs.

Commander Zodiac at the South Beach Marina in Sea Pines Plantation. 843-671-3344

Nature cruises and dolphin watching are among the most popular pastimes on Hilton Head. There are many ways to do this, each with its own characteristics.

Kayaking puts you as close as you can get to wildlife, however it limits your range (it does take some effort), and may not provide a dolphin experience. May not be desirable for non swimmers or non athletically inclined.

In South Beach Marina in Sea Pines Plantation, Zodiac boats also put you right where the action is. Most hold six people plus the captain and can go almost anywhere. You are almost certain to see dolphins.

Larger boats such as Gypsy and Vagabond and others provide a more stable platform with amenities such as a bathroom, soft drinks and snacks.

Consider the distance from the marina to the area you will be going. You don't want to spend all your time getting there and getting back.

On the Water

Enviro Tours in Harbour Town Marina in Sea Pines plantation. 843-671-4386.

Dolphin Discoveries at Simmons Landing off Marshland Rd. 843-684-1911.

Other companies offer nature tours on small, six passenger boats. Low Country Nature Tours in Shelter Cove Harbour, 843-683-0187, uses deck boats.

If there are more than six people in your party and you want to be together, there are enviro-tour boats that can hold more passengers but are still small enough to provide a close-up view. One of these is the SS Pelican, which holds 20 passengers. It operates out of Broad Creek Marina. 843-681-2522. All American Tour Boat Company also can accommodate more than six passengers. 843-681-9800. It operates out of the Broad Creek Marina. Dolphin Seafari can accommodate 22 passengers. It sails from the Palmetto Bay Marina. 843-298-0661. You can call the various marinas for information about others.

For those who like to sail, sail boats and sailing catamarans are available for eco tours also. For example: Cheers, a 47 foot sailing yacht, which sails out of Broad Creek Marina. Hilton Head's only gaff rigged schooner, Schooner Welcome, sails from Shelter Cove Harbour and holds up to 30 passengers. Pau Hana and Flying Circus are sailing catamarans operating from the Palmetto Bay Marina 843-686-2582. Harbour Town Marina has H2O Let's Go Sailing, with two distinctly different boats 843-671-4386.

Some people prefer a stable viewing platform with amenities such as restrooms and snacks and beverages available. Some larger power boats that go out on dolphin watches are:

Gypsy, which is docked at the South Beach Marina in Sea Pines Plantation. Gypsy offers not just dolphin watches but a "kids cruise" which adds cast netting for shrimp, pulling up crab traps that have previously been set, and shark fishing. 843-363-2900.

Another eco cruise especially (but not exclusively) enjoyed by children is the Tammy Jane, a trawler where passengers learn all about shrimp trawling and are treated to a demonstration. You never know what will come up in the nets: squid, puffer fish, shrimp, crabs etc. Located at Skull Creek at Hudson's Seafood House. 843-384-7833.

The Holiday operates from Shelter Cove. 843-785-4558.

The Vagabond, in Harbour Town marina. 843-842-4155.

Salt Marsh Photographic Cruises offers boat trips in the salt marsh guided by an experienced photographer. Departs from the Hilton Head Boathouse on Marshland Rd. 843-290-2720.

If you are experienced you can rent a boat or kayak and go out on your own. The best way to see dolphins, if you are fortunate enough, is to seek out a shrimp trawler that is at anchor with its nets up. Shortly after a trawler anchors, the crew usually clears the nets and the shrimp catch of collateral catch (small fish, squid, etc.) and dumps it overboard. This attracts small to medium fish, which in turn attract dolphin. If you are in a power boat and if the tide is running (either way) you should be able to nose into the current and apply just enough throttle to stay alongside the trawler for a long time. It's an experience you won't soon forget.


If you don't mind providing the locomotion, kayaking is an excellent way to see dolphins and shore birds. Tour guides are versed in the local wildlife and talk about the flora and fauna seen on the tour. They also know where to go to find dolphin. Seeing a dolphin from a kayak is quite a thrill because you are so close, but it can be intimidating to some.

Listed here are some kayak rental and excursion companies in alphabetical order. We make no representation regarding these companies. This summarized information is provided to give you an idea who to call to get complete information.

Broad Creek Kayak Company 843-342-3508 behind the Old Oyster Factory.

Broad Creek Marina 843-681-3625.

Coastal Kayaking 843-842-4194

Cool Breeze Kayaking, AKA Adventure Kayak Nature Tours, 843-683-4040 operates in two locations: Pinckney Island and Broad Creek

C-Katz Watersportz 843-681-9008 Jenkins Rd. at the RV Resort.

Kayak Hilton Head 843-684-1910 is located at Simmons Landing, next to the Broad Creek Marina. Also offer kayak fishing. They now have a second location at the RV Resort on the north end, from which you can explore Pinckney Island 843-684-1912.

Outside Hilton Head, 843-686-6996 offers three locations: Pinckney Island, Broad Creek, and South Beach Marina (843-671-2643). They provide dolphin watches, kids' summer camp, fireworks, fishing, Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge and Daufuskie Island.

Palmetto Bay Water Sports 843-785-2345 is located at the Palmetto Bay Marina.

Water Dog Outfitters 843-686-3554 at Broad Creek Marina.

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Hilton Head Hideaways PO Box 6055 Hilton Head Island, South Carolina 29938 +1 (843) 422-7189

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