South Carolina has a lot to offer. From miles and miles of golden coastline and marshlands to charming small towns full of rich history, you’ll never run out of things to do and sights to see. The state has the perfect balance of city and country. Now throw in access to beaches and mountains and it’s the perfect place for young families, singles, and retirees to settle down.
Yes, South Carolina is a solid option for relocation and there is a wide variety of choices. In this article, we’re going to zero in on comparing Hilton Head Island to Myrtle Beach: the “island” vs. the “beach.”
Choosing between Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach when considering where to buy a home is a tough decision; they are completely different experiences. Let’s dive into what it’s like living in either place and then look at some quality of life numbers. After that, you’ll have enough information to decide which is the right place for you and your family.
Hilton Head: The Basics
While many people consider visiting Hilton Head for their vacation place, others are considering turning their vacation experience into everyday life.
With lovely weather year round, tons of restaurants, beautiful beaches, why wouldn’t you want to move to Hilton Head?
A barrier island and Lowcountry resort town in Beaufort Country, South Carolina, Hilton Head has 12 miles of beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean. For this reason it is an incredibly popular vacation destination.
One of the things you will want to take into account if you are considering living in Hilton Head is the ebb and flow of tourists on and off the island. During the peak tourist season (April through Labor Day) you will likely find longer than usual waits at restaurants, heavier crowds, and more traffic. Don’t let that deter you from moving to Hilton Head Island though, the tourists help to keep the economy booming in Hilton Head.
Flourishing Cultural Community
For a community of its size, Hilton Head offers a number of cultural opportunities. These include plays at the Art Center of Coastal Carolina and concerts by the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. You will find a flourishing community of fine art, music, and theatrical venues on the island. You can attend performances and cultural exhibits and visit galleries at a number of different institutions.
More than 250 Restaurants
While the island is only 5 miles wide and 12 miles long, Hilton Head is home to more than 250 restaurants. You can find just about any kind of ethnic cuisine on the island including: Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Caribbean, Japanese, German, Italian, and French. You also won’t have any trouble finding local seafood spots, all-American fare, and southern-style cuisine.
The climate of Hilton Head is a humid, subtropical climate. This means that the winters are mild and the summers are warm and humid.
The island is heated year-round because of the gulf stream. The gulf stream is located 70 miles off the coast of Hilton Head and helps to keep the temperature cooler in the summer (74 degrees-92 degrees) and warmer in the winter (38 degrees-63 degrees). The Gulfstream also helps to protect Hilton Head from ocean storms.
Hilton Head may be small, but it has a thriving school system. Hilton Head has more than a few private schools, and each one is great in it’s own right. If schooling is important to you, then Hilton Head might be the place for you.
Every youngster learns in a different manner, and you’ll want to figure out what sorts of learning options are available before moving and enrolling them.
For such a small island, it is fairly remarkable that two airports service the area. The first and closest airport is Hilton Head Airport which is on the island itself and roughly 5 miles away from all the resorts on the island. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is a second airport about 45 miles south of Hilton Head in Savannah, GA. Savannah is a larger airport, but they have just extended the Hilton Head runway and it now has more flights than ever. Most visitors and locals get around by driving or by riding bicycles, as there is no public transportation on the island.
There is Rush Hour Traffic
The traffic on Hilton Head isn’t always bad, but it is a good idea to get a sense of it before you make the move.
The reason for this is because the Hilton Head Bridge is arguably the most difficult aspect of Hilton Head driving. On a good day, the traffic can be slow moving and congested during rush hour. However, if even the smallest of fender benders occur you can expect to spend much longer than you’d want to imagine sitting in traffic.
The main attraction for most visitors to Hilton Head Island is the beach. With expansive white sandy beaches, tourists love to enjoy the sun, splash in the waves, and dig in the sand.
There are a lot of great reasons to live on Hilton Head. First, you’ll get to witness the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets everyday. You’ll be able to make relaxing walks on the beach a part of your daily routine.
You’ll also get to eat your fair share of delicious seafood when you live on an island. On top of that, the ionized air of living near the ocean can help to make you feel more energized and more relaxed.
Lastly, buying real estate near a beach is historically a good investment if you plan to live in the home. There’s always a lot of interest in beach towns, as you aren’t the only one who fantasizes about moonlit strolls on the beach or doing your morning run on a gorgeous sandy beach.
Less Than an Hour From Savannah
Even though Hilton Head is a relatively small community, you can always head to Savannah for a change of pace. Savannah is truly a beautiful city with Spanish moss draping the trees that line the street and stunning squares and streets throughout the city. You are also close to a number of other great southern locations for day trips or weekend trips. Only about 2 ½ hours away from Charleston, where you can experience the rich history, culture, and Southern charm of the city. You can even head south and be in Jacksonville, Florida, in about 2 ½ hours. All of these larger, close-by cities will give you the opportunity to see more concerts, visit more museums, and find more culturally enriching outings….all while living on the relaxing, beachy, Hilton Head Island.
Access to Great Hiking, Camping and Wilderness Opportunities
There are a number of wildlife preserves and green spaces right off the island that you can head to if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. The Victoria Bluff Heritage Preserve Management Area is nearby and consists of more than 1100 acres of nature traits. Just over the bridge, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a great place for bird watching and nature walks. The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is also not far away. This is a 29,000 acre wildlife refuge where you can take a 4-mile wildlife drive or check out the hiking and biking trails.
If you are looking to do something more adventurous, you are roughly 5 hours away from the Appalachians and the Great Smoky mountains depending on what part of the region you’re travelling to.
Hilton Head is a Paradise For Golfers
If you’re wondering why you should move to Hilton Head Island, one good reason is that it is a tremendous location for golf lovers. If you love golf you will be ecstatic at the variety of courses you can play.
Myrtle Beach: A Tourist Town
If you are thinking of moving to Myrtle Beach, you will want to understand it’s a tourist town. Millions of visitors arrive every year to enjoy the beach and the wide variety of tourist attractions that you will find in Myrtle Beach. If you enjoy new faces, new people, and crowds you will love living in Myrtle Beach.
Many Things to Do in Myrtle Beach
With endless tourist attractions, restaurants, and shopping centers you will never run out of things to do. Combine that with the beach and 80 golf courses, and you will always have new places to go and try. Once you’re living in Myrtle Beach you will find your local spots where you can become a regular.
More Per Capita Restaurants than in NYC and Paris
According to the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, there are 480 restaurants for every 100,000 people. Paris has 477 restaurants for every 100,000 people New York City has only 310. That’s a lot of dining options!
Low Cost of Living
These days, people typically have to choose between living in a desirable location for a hefty price tag or choosing to live in an area with a low cost of living. Myrtle Beach is an exception to this rule, as it is both desirable and has a low cost of living.
If you are considering moving to the area, you’ll want to consider your job prospects in Myrtle Beach. The economy of the area is definitely dominated by tourism with 75,000 area jobs in the tourism industry. This has both pros and cons for people moving to Myrtle Beach without a job.
Before moving to Myrtle Beach you should have a general plan when it comes to your job prospects. You could move to Myrtle Beach and begin in one of the many restaurants and work your way into something else. There is always a need in the tourism industry.
There are also job opportunities in healthcare in the Myrtle Beach area. A significant retirement population has made their home in this area and there are many medical centers where you can find employment.
You will notice right away when living in Myrtle Beach that this is an economy built on tourism and healthcare. Make sure that’s a good fit for you before locating to Myrtle Beach.
A Treat for Beach Lovers
There are 60 miles of uninterrupted beach in this area. One of the great things about Myrtle Beach is that there are so many other tourist attractions inland that the beaches rarely get too crowded. That is, so long as you avoid the areas in front of major resorts.
If you are raising a family in Myrtle Beach and looking for family friendly beach spots, you’ll want to stay close to the Boardwalk or head down to Surfside. The area near 21st Avenue is more of a college student area.
The humid subtropical climate of Myrtle Beach is typical of South Atlantic and Gulf states. During the summer, it is humid and hot. The summer season is long and you can expect average daytime highs to be between 83 and 92 degrees F.
The winters are short and mild. During the day the average highs range between 57 and 61 degrees F. The lows at night are on average between 36 and 38 degrees F.
It is common to experience thunderstorms during the hot season and the most precipitation occurs between June and September. When thunderstorms do occur, they are typically brief but occasionally severe.
In Myrtle Beach, a number of multi-neighborhood subdivisions and expansive master-planned communities have been built in the last decade. These places offer amenities like parks, tennis courts, pools, even sometimes a golf course. The HOA fees in these communities are fairly low compared to most condo complexes in the country and usually include street upkeep, lawn maintenance, and more.
The Myrtle Beach Metropolitan Area is Growing Fast
For several years in a row Myrtle Beach has ranked as the second fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States. Between 2010-2018 more than 104,000 people moved to the area, nearly 30% population growth.
The growth has also brought some unintended consequences inasmuch the crime rate has spiked, especially the violent crime rate which is one of the highest in the US.
There is a single public school district, however, there are a number of private and charter schools in the city or nearby. As far as higher education goes, the largest university in the area is Coastal Carolina University.
Now that you have an overview of each city we are going to dig a little deeper using 19 criteria that impact quality of life. Using that criteria we ranked each place either one or two. After that we totaled each ranking for an overall score, the lower score was the winner for these specific criteria.
Cost of Living
1. Myrtle Beach: 84.8
2. Hilton Head: 122.1
100 = National Average (Below 100 means cheaper than the US average. Above 100 means more expensive.)
1. Hilton Head 3.4
2. Myrtle Beach 7.6
Future Job Growth
1. Myrtle Beach 38.8
2. Hilton Head 34.7
1. Hilton Head 6.0%
2. Myrtle Beach 9.0%
Family Median Income
1. Hilton Head $95.787
2. Myrtle Beach $50,855
1. Hilton Head
2. Myrtle Beach
Crime is ranked on a scale of 1 (low crime) to 100 (high crime)
Median House Cost
1. Myrtle Beach $149,800
2. Hilton Head $431,900
Property Tax Rate (rate per $1000 of home value)
1. Myrtle Beach $4.1
2. Hilton Head $5.2
1. Myrtle Beach $1,086
2. Hilton Head $2,182
No negligible difference
Air Quality (100=best)
1. Hilton Head 74.2
2. Myrtle Beach 69
Water Quality (100-best)
1. Hilton Head 61
2. Myrtle Beach 28
Physicians Per Capita (number of physicians in the county per 100,000)
1. Hilton Head 193
2. Myrtle Beach 160
Population density (number of residents per square mile of area)
1. Hilton Head 959
2. Myrtle Beach 1302
Expend Per Student
1. Hilton Head $12,315
2. Myrtle Beach $11,583
1. Hilton Head 14.5
2. Myrtle Beach 15.5
Students Per Librarian
1. Hilton Head 351.3
2. Myrtle Beach 499.3
Students Per Counselor
1. Hilton Head 376.8
2. Myrtle Beach 431.9
Hilton Head: 22
Myrtle Beach: 29
As you can see, moving to Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach comes along with some pros and cons like anywhere else.
So, the “island” or the “beach”…. where should you purchase your next home?
Despite being in the same state, I think we’ve shown that the two towns are very different and both provide two very unique experiences. Only you can decide if Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach is the right place for you and your family. If affordability drives the bus then Myrtle Beach might be right for you. But if you are looking for the total package and a quality of life unmatched anywhere, then you owe it to yourself to consider Hilton Head.