There’s no denying that South Carolina is a wonderful state. Whether you’re looking for a heavenly vacation spot or the perfect place to settle down, there’s no shortage of great options here. Two of the most in-demand areas are Hilton Head and Charleston. As islanders, we admit that we may be a little bit biased. After all, there’s no place we’d rather live than in our Lowcountry paradise. That said, we know that Charleston has a lot to offer—which is why we’re providing a side-by-side comparison of these two South Carolina hotspots.
If you’re wondering which place is better for your family—Hilton Head or Charleston—here’s what you should know…
Population: 131, 204
Density: 1,159 people per square mile
Median household income: $61,367
Density: 959 people per square mile
Median household income: $72,569
Hilton Head has fewer people and a lower population density than Charleston, making it a great place to spread out, relax, and put down roots. Residents of both places enjoy a relatively high household income, though professionals on the island tend to bring in more money annually.
Median home value: $454,300
Median listing price: $455,000
Median home value: $286,200
Median listing price: $315,000
Home values and listing prices are typically higher in Hilton Head than they are in Charleston. While there’s good value to be found in both places, there are some key differences between the two.
Hilton Head is home to an impressive luxury market, which boasts a large number of high-end estates. While you’ll find multi-million-dollar mansions here, there are also plenty of more modest options available—including a variety of stylish condos and villas on the water. Price points vary on the island, but there’s plenty of value in the market. And because properties are in demand, homeowners tend to see high returns when they sell.
If you’re looking for newly-built homes, there’s a wide array of them in the subdivisions of Charleston. You’ll also find some attractive historic properties, ranging in style from Georgian to Queen Anne and beyond. For ambitious buyers, there are some major opportunities to restore homes built in the 1800s (of course, this type of commitment isn’t for everybody). Unfortunately, one of the big drawbacks of living in Charleston is traffic congestion.
Golf, tennis, and other attractions
• Harbour Town Golf Links
• Palmetto Dunes Tennis Club
• Hilton Head Island Bike Trails
• Coastal Discovery Museum
• Pickney Island National Wildlife Refuge
• Sea Pines Forest Preserve
• The Ocean Course (Kiawah Island)
• Links Course (Wild Dunes)
• Charleston Tennis Center
• Maybank Tennis Center
• The Aiken-Rhett House Museum
• Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Hilton Head is home to some of the best golf and tennis facilities in the country. Favorites include Harbour Town Golf Links (an award-winning course that hosts the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour) and Palmetto Dunes Tennis Club (which is designated number 2 on the planet for instruction and events). The island is also home to pristine nature preserves, historical and cultural attractions, and a number of charming restaurant and shopping districts.
Charleston doesn’t host an event like the RBC Heritage (South Carolina’s only PGA tour event), but it has some impressive courses all the same. The top choice for golfers is the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. For those who prefer rackets to clubs, the Charleston Tennis Centre is the way to go. You’ll also find several museums that speak to the area’s rich history, and a lively downtown (just beware of common city problems like insufficient parking and noise).
Hilton Head and Charleston are both known for their beautiful beaches. The key to finding the sandy stretch that’s perfect for you is knowing what each area has to offer.
Folly, Sullivan’s Island, and Isle of Palms are some of the top beaches in Charleston. Whether you’re looking to relax by the water or try out some water sports, any one of these options will serve you well. Potential downsides include the crowds, as well as humidity (which tends to collect in this part of South Carolina).
Hilton Head is also blessed with its fair share of sandy coastline. The variety on the island is truly incredible—from vibrant Coligny Beach to peaceful Burkes Beach. Whether you’re looking for a private (community members only) spot or something a bit more lively, you’ll find it here. The island also boasts extensive bike trails, and they make getting to and from some of Hilton Head’s best beaches a breeze!
Making a decision
At the end of the day, Hilton Head and Charleston are both great places to live. It really comes down to preference. While Charleston has a city feel, Hilton Head is known for its friendly village vibe. Of course, we’re partial to the island—where every day feels like a vacation.
If you’re ready to learn more about what Hilton Head has to offer (and some of the gorgeous properties on the market here) don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to show you around!
Thinking about making a move to Hilton Head? Let us help you decide whether the area is right for you. Get in touch—we’d love to answer your questions.