Easter and RBC Heritage on the same weekend? Get ready for some traffic, Hilton Head

Here’s how bad traffic can get when you hit the Hilton Head bridge at the wrong time

Traffic to and from Hilton Head Island is often congested, but it can be at its worst on summer Saturdays when its tourist season and the vacationers are arriving.
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Traffic to and from Hilton Head Island is often congested, but it can be at its worst on summer Saturdays when its tourist season and the vacationers are arriving.

Hilton Head Island, start your engines.

Or maybe stop them?

This year, the weekend of the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing golf tournament is lining up with the unofficial start to the heavy tourism season — Easter weekend.

April 15 through April 21 likely will be a chaotic week on the island as Heritage welcomes an estimated 135,000 people to the south end of Hilton Head at the Harbour Town Golf Links.

“I don’t remember if I like it or if I don’t like it when they’re on the same week,” Andrew Carmines, owner of Hudson’s Seafood on the Docks said of Easter and Heritage sharing a weekend. “So I can’t complain.”

Odds are, if you’re driving on Hilton Head in late April, you won’t be on the fence about the synchronization.

The island’s peak number of vehicles crossing the Hilton Head bridges has generally risen each year, according to S.C. Department of Transportation’s traffic count data. However, the number in 2016 beat out 2018 as far as gridlock.

According to an analysis of the SCDOT data, the busiest traffic days have historically been the Friday of Heritage weekend — last year 65,288 vehicles crossed the bridge in eastbound and westbound directions — and the Thursday before Easter, when 72,389 made the trip.

This year, those two days will fall right next to each other on the calendar.

So far, the lead up to the golf tournament and holiday weekend has been typical for heavy traffic.

In 2018, the second busiest travel day was two Fridays before Easter Sunday, when 67,091 vehicles came on and off Hilton Head.

This year, that day fell on April 12, when 67,210 vehicles made the trip — just a 119-vehicle difference.

Around 2.62 million visitors came to Hilton Head last year, according to the vice president of the visitor and convention bureau Ariana Pernice. That was only slightly lower than in 2017, when chamber officials reported 2.67 million visitors.

Hilton Head Island hotel and home bookings

Once those thousands of visitors get where they’re going, they need a place to stay.

According to advanced reservation reports tracked by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, there’s a 3 percent and 3.2 percent increase in hotel and home bookings for April and May 2019, respectively.

The chamber commissions tourism research through a third party, Destimetrics/Inntopia, which also found that June and July reservations are “holding steady,” while August reservations are up by 2.3 percent.

Traffic calming for Heritage week

While the island will be nearing capacity this week, Heritage officials are taking some measures to reduce the number of cars heading toward Sea Pines.

Complimentary shuttles will take spectators from the Coligny Beach parking lot to a drop-off near Harbour Town from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily, according to previous Island Packet reporting.

  • Shuttles will be available at the Coastal Discovery Museum and have service to and from Harbour Town Marina from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The ride will be approximately 20 minutes.
  • During tournament hours, the taxi and Uber pick up and drop off location is The Shops at Sea Pines Center. After hours, taxis and Uber drivers will be able to pick up at locations around the Harbour Town Golf Links once tournament play has ended.
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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.