Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort
Our Poshbrood family—a fashion editor mom, political dad and two rather discerning and high-energy boys under 8-years old—escaped the city for the sugar-sand beaches of Hilton Head, South Carolina for a Fourth of July week vacation.
A ten-hour drive from Washington, DC, and roughly 12 hours from Cleveland, OH, the long road trip hardly stopped families from the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and South from over-running the island, whose population usually rings in at about 10,000, but that week swelled to 34,000. Our landing spot, the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort, handled the uptick in traffic stunningly.
The latest property to be added to the Omni’s upscale brand, the former Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort, which was already a AAA 4-Diamond rated property, is about to get a $18 million makeover. Starting November 2012, banks of hotel rooms at a time will be updated and amenities will be added to bring the hotel up to Omni’s luxury standards. But as far as we’re concerned, the brand’s signature commitment to a high-end family getaway is already very much in place.
We arrived on a steamy Saturday night at midnight when you’d mostly expect the late shift staff to take shelter in the lobby. Nope.
We had a doorman jump to open our car door with chilled bottled waters in hand and calypso music pumping through the outdoor speakers.
Carrying rather tired kids, we winded our way to our room through the outdoor bar scene at the XO Lounge and made a mental note to come back the night we’d scheduled the babysitter.
In the meantime, getting to the two-room Oceanfront suite we’d booked was the priority. We’d requested a rollaway bed, in addition to the pullout sofa that was already in-room, to make sure two sets of flailing legs didn’t wake each other (and then us) at 5 a.m. We’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
At over 1,000 square feet, we also had a separate dining room, mini-fridge and microwave, which were nice additions, though we never did any actual cooking in the room.
Perhaps the best feature, though, was the extra-large balcony. The boys woke up on our first morning in the room and we all walked out on the balcony in our pajamas.
Within seconds we had our first of many wildlife sightings. Five pelicans swooped by the room in formation. We’d get to see this exciting sight—not to mention both of the pools and the ocean—every time we stepped on the balcony for the rest of our seven-day visit. It never got old.
While that was a kid-friendly coincidence perhaps, Omni had a lot more up its sleeve to make my kids bound out of the room every day. As part of the Camp Omni summer package we’d booked, the boys were each given a nylon backpack with a S’mores marshmallow bar, a lanyard kit and what they at first thought was the best of all—a $10 gift card that they were able to spend anywhere on the property.
They both decided on disposable cameras in the gift shop, which offered anything from boogie boards to high-end flip flops. They’d soon decide that the Camp Omni counselors and resort activities were even better than the gift card (more on that in a moment).
That first morning we started our ritual of heading to the property’s restaurant, HH Prime, for the breakfast buffet, which is included in the Camp Omni experience for kids and otherwise free for guests under 5-years old. The modern expanse was both stylish enough for mom to get some design tips and comfortable enough for her not to freak out when the syrup dripped onto the banquette.
We navigated the “protein first, then a pastry” negotiations quite well and my Iced Red-Eye (a shot of espresso in an iced coffee) with skim milk was always brought to the table within minutes of our arrival.
Set within the resort community of Palmetto Dunes, the hotel offers access to an 11-mile lagoon, which we made great use of for standup paddle boarding. I got on a paddle board for the second time ever and paddled for four miles. My husband, however, stored his board at a local shop and went nearly daily; that is, when he wasn’t playing the links on the Oceanside Robert Trent Jones golf course, which is just one of the three courses the hotel has a relationship with—though the concierge is happy to book you on any of the island’s 23 greens.
Of course the hubby couldn’t possibly have gotten away if there wasn’t a ton for the kids to do. While there is an on-property Kids Camp where you can pay a rate of $40 for a half-day of activities and essentially babysitting (which the boys loved for the afternoon and evening they enrolled), the property also offered activities like face-painting, arts and crafts, watermelon-eating contests—even a patriotic fashion show (see photo) nearly on-the-hour the entire week we were there.
While this kind of schedule is a definite for the summer, you’ll want to ask the concierge during other seasons.
The two swimming pools, one for adults and one for kids, plus two hot tubs, were favorite destinations as well. The cabanas are for adults only, as are the oceanfront Tides Spa outdoor treatment tables.
The family pool, however, was our go-to spot most mornings. Likely because of its ease of use, as the Buoy Bar, which rings the family pool, offered all the normal kids fare (chicken tenders, hamburgers, etc…) but also healthier options, like shrimp and avocado salads, fresh fruit plates and wraps. And the cocktails didn’t hurt either. Salads, treats, wine and large selection of craft beers can be found in the Palmetto Market, also recently redesigned with iridescent tile, glass fixtures and a ton of natural light.
When the kids weren’t following around the Camp Omni counselors or diving for pool toys, we took advantage of much of what the island offered. The alligator tour at Sea Pines Island Preserve, about 10 minutes from the hotel, got us up close to no fewer than six alligators of varying ages and sizes.
We took surf lessons from HH Outfitters, which we could bike ride to from the hotel. Other than my husband, none of us had been on surfboards before. Given the great instruction and calm waves, my seven-year-old popped up on his board immediately. I was next and my five-year-old got up too. The husband decided to stick to his paddle board.
We took a few evenings to ourselves to taste the more adult restaurants on and off the island. The Omni’s concierge staff couldn’t have been more helpful in finding a licensed and bonded babysitting company, and even helped with reservations at celebrity chef Robert Irvine’s Eat and the River House restaurant in the newly developed resort community of Palmetto Bluff off of Hilton Head Island.
While we love our beach trips, all sand and no city makes mom a dull girl. So when we picked Hilton Head, we all agreed to a day in Savannah. We ferried there and had an incredible time seeing architecture, eating at The Pirate's House (where Treasure Island was actually penned) and going to a few museums.
Though if you ask the boys, the Thin Mint ice cream (it is the hometown of the Girl Scouts founder after all) at the famed Leopold’s Ice Cream parlor was the hit of the day.
Charleston is also a quick ride from Hilton Head, but we’re saving that for next time. And there will be a next time!
Family packages start at $259 a night.