First, the good news: Hilton Head Island  has 12 miles of some of the most beautiful, safe beaches you’ll find anywhere. The bad news is that there are only a few ways to gain access, generally at locations referred to as “beach parks.” Don’t just drive into a residential neighborhood and think you’ll be able to park and find your way to the beach; for better or worse, Hilton Head is not set up for that kind of casual access.
Driessen Beach Park has 207 long-term parking spaces, costing $0.25 for 30 minutes. There’s free parking but fewer spaces at the Coligny Beach Park entrance and at Fish Haul Creek Park. Also, there are 22 metered spaces at Alder Lane Beach Access, 51 at Folly Field Beach Park, and 13 at Burkes Beach Road. Most other beach parks are for permit parking only. Clean, well-maintained public restrooms are available at all the beach parks.
You can find beach information at 843/342-4580 and www.hiltonheadislandsc.gov . Beach Park hours vary: Coligny Beach Park is open daily 24 hours. All other beach parks are open 6 a.m.–8 p.m. March–September and 6 a.m.–5 p.m. October–February.
Alcohol is strictly prohibited on Hilton Head’s beaches. This may cut down on your vacation fun, but the plus side is the ban makes the beaches very friendly for families. There are lifeguards on all the beaches during the summer, but be aware that the worst undertow is on the northern stretches. Also please remember to leave the sand dollars where they are; their population is dwindling due to souvenir hunting.