ROAD TRIP: Day 4 – Feeling the Island Vibe

{ disclosure : VW Routan was provided for editorial use by Volkswagen North America, Sola stroller, available for pre-sale in July at and debuting August 12th, 2010 at Babies ‘R’ Us stores nationwide, was provided by Mamas & Papas, all images used in coverage were taken by a Nikon D5000 – on loan from Nikon USA }

We now had 2 days under our belt on the island and were getting into the rhythm of things.  That’s not to say you don’t still need to be flexible and open to ideas.  As much as I would have liked to do the tourist thing every day, that’s not exactly feasible with 2 under 3.  We opted for simple and even that wasn’t simple.

Let’s go for the simple part… FOOD.  Vacations are not a vacation unless they meet the following 3 criteria — Good Food, Beach/Pool and Sun — okay, 4 – shopping too.  We always try to embrace and get a taste of the local flavor as much as possible.  I happened to stumble upon, while reading this month’s FOOD network magazine, a piece on Robert Irvine’s favorite eats on Hilton Head Island!  One of his favorite spots, Stack’s, had my mouth watering before even tasting it, offered Creme Brulee French Toast.  Drool. It tasted as good as it sounds.  It was going to be a good day.

The real gem of Hilton Head Island is their beaches.  So the family and I set out to hit the seaside.  If we thought packing for the trip was cumbersome, we were taught another lesson when packing for the beach.  I guess we should have done a little more research before hand, but when we hit the sand, we weren’t quite as prepared as I’d hoped we would be.  We did of course head out with sunblock, beach toys and a sun tent for the babe.  What we found out was that the beachfront, although owned by the Westin, did not provide beach chairs and umbrellas, not to mention the head-scratching towels.  We quickly adapted and forked over the $20 for 2 chairs and an umbrella while the husband ran back to the hotel pool area to grab towels for us.  With the quick calculation in our head we decided there had to be a better way to enjoy the beach, but we’d figure that out later and set out to enjoy the rest of the day.

I can see why some people consider Hilton Head Island, the best kept secret.  The sand is so fine, its firm the closer to the water you get.  The seaside lifestyle here is very anything goes, as long as you respect nature.  I loved seeing the bikes riding along the water line, kids frolicking in the ocean, dolphins swimming by and saying hi.  I got so excited when one of the beach bathers screamed out, “Dolphins!” waking me up from my sunbathing nap.  I gave her a pass as dolphins are one of my favorite sea creatures.  The toddler was amused by the tiny crabs digging around and the sweet little gecko she found underneath her beach chair.  Nature undisturbed was all around us and I, who declares firmly aloud that I am not a nature-friendly person — you’ll never find me camping in the woods — was not phased at all!  I learned that sand dollars are living creatures when the husband found one in the ocean.  His rare find turned out to be the norm for this island as the neighboring beach dweller had stacks and stacks of them in their treasure chest.  This was nature that I could deal with (the comfort of the resort just steps away…phew!).

I am always looking to take full advantage of all that a resort has to offer.  Figuring out what is offered and what is not can be as hard as deciphering a treasure map.  The best way to get all the intel is to read the hotel services manual, often found in a desk draw somewhere in your room.  I found out that the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa has a Kid’s Club which gives a free welcome bag when you check-in.  Really?!  We were not offered one when we checked in.  A quick visit to the front desk yielded a backpack for the toddler filled with coloring book and pencils as well as a generous sun hat.  Even the babe got a welcome gift in the form of the Westin Explorer rubber ducky, nightlight and first aid kit.  We added the backpack to the bribing arsenal.

While the beach was fun, we were on a budget and shelling out $20 a day for 5 days didn’t seem cost efficient for 2 beach chairs and an umbrella.  We also found out the hotel offered a similar service through their preferred vendor which offered discounts for longer stays but still we thought we could save even more.  What became our epiphany was… WALMART!  2 Chairs for $40 and an umbrella for another $20.  For $60 we got nice chairs and an umbrella sure to last us through the whole summer.  On the downside, we have to tote them back home.

After our little beach excursion, we decided to explore the island a bit and headed off to the famous Sea Pines section.  The husband was kicking himself the whole time we were there.  We were at the site of the famed Verizon Heritage Golf Tournament.  Because he had forgotten his clubs in our packing frenzy, all he could do was admire the links from afar and take a picture with the iconic red striped tower. Like many familiar cape-side towns there was lots of quaint local shops to peruse in. I particular admired all the beautiful stained glass work which I wasn’t sure if this was a local artisan thing, or just a touristy gimmick.  Nonetheless gorgeous.

Oh the stomachs growling again for some seafood…

…the Sola.  Our sleak pushchair was drawing stares from all the hotel guests at the posh Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa.  Is it catty of me that I loved saying that it wasn’t out yet – due in August at a neighborhood Babies R Us?  While everyone watched us in the lobby, I demonstrated how easy it was to move babe from rear-facing to forward facing, not to mention the ease of the recline… ensued. – I was having a Carrie (SATC) moment – yea, we’re that cool.