Hilton Head Island or Hilton Head is a town (located on an island of the same name) in Beaufort County, South Carolina. It is 20 miles (32 km) north of Savannah, Georgia, and 95 miles (153 km) south of Charleston, South Carolina. The 12 miles (19 km) of Atlantic Ocean beachfront are among the most popular vacation destinations on the east coast. An estimated 2.25 million visitors pumped more than $1.5 billion into the local economy in 2004, . A year-round population was 33,862 can swell to over 275,000 during the peak of summer vacation season.
The island has a rich history that started with seasonal occupation by native Americans thousands of years ago, and continued with European exploration and the Sea Island Cotton trade. It became an important base of operations for the Union blockade of the Southern ports during the Civil War. Once the island fell to Union troops, hundreds of ex-slaves flocked to Hilton Head, which is still home to many 'native islanders', many of whom are descendants of freed slaves known as the Gullah (or Geechee) who have managed to hold onto much of their ethnic and cultural identity.
The Town of Hilton Head Island incorporated as a municipality in 1983 and is well known for its "eco-friendly" development. The Town's Natural Resources Division enforces the Land Management Ordinance which minimizes the impact of development and governs the style of buildings and how they are situated amongst existing trees. As a result, Hilton Head Island enjoys an unusual amount of tree cover relative to the amount of development.
Carolina football teams consistently attract standing-room-only crowds to Williams-Brice Stadium. The atmosphere on game days has been voted "the best" by secsports.com. (See 9/15/05 at .) Unfortunately the team has yet to win the SEC, has gone 4-10 in bowls since 1945, and has never played in a national championship game. Many great athletes have played for the Gamecocks and have become stars in the National Football League. The most famous is Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers. After the retirement of Lou Holtz in 2004, the University hired Steve Spurrier to lead the Gamecock football program.