Of all the ways folks enjoy getting around on Hilton Head Island, the Sea Pines Trolley ranks as a favorite for many. It seems to fit the mood of Sea Pines – breezy, stylish, unruffled. The busy dreamers who envisioned this place that became America’s favorite island made an inspired choice with the trolley. And they placed one of its main stops right here in The Shops at Sea Pines Center.
When regular summertime service resumed this week – from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Blue and Green routes and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the Red route – visitors and Sea Pines residents alike got a pleasurable option back for getting to some of the most attractive spots on Hilton Head Island. One destination that all three routes share in common is The Shops at Sea Pines Center.
The other destinations of the Sea Pines Trolley, too, sound like a litany of pleasure points, the places where memorable days take shape: Harbour Town, South Beach, the Sea Pines Beach Club, the Harbour Town Swimming Pool, the Racquet Club Villas, the Heritage Pad at Lighthouse Road & Plantation Drive, the lovely Lawton Stables. Who wouldn’t want to go?
And, especially when it comes to the Trolley, getting there is clearly part of the fun.
Defined by Style
It must be style that makes a trolley. Because our Sea Pines Trolley is one example of a conveyance that has outlived every major technical development in getting people from here to there. Trolleys at first were horse-drawn. Then the British and Australians tried steam for a while. San Francisco was not the only city to install an elaborate, underground cable system for hauling trolleys down the tracks – Chicago, London, Melbourne, and Sydney did, too. The cable-drawn trolley in Dunedin, New Zealand, ran from 1881 to 1957. “Cable cars” were particularly good for hilly cities – not much of an issue here on Hilton Head Island (maximum elevation just over 25 feet).
Electric trolleys were common all over the world for many years, maintaining contact via overhead electrical supply lines that sometimes hummed and sparked. The first suburban lifestyles were enabled by these quiet, civilized conveyances. They breezed through outlying neighborhoods and people simply stepped on at the nearest platform, to arrive for work or shopping downtown. In neighborhoods such as Atlanta’s Kirkwood or Brookside in Kansas City, these former trolley paths now play host to runners, walkers, bicyclists, and dog-walkers, who value the privileged, central locations of their right-of-way.
The craze for cars and the viability of gasoline-powered buses spelled the eclipse of relying on trolleys for basic public transport. So why do we still have a place for them, making a point of trolley riding, even when they have to come with engines and tires, like our Sea Pines Trolley? Trolleys remind us of a lifestyle that cities thought they outgrew.
The Funny Thing About Progress
Many of us grew up in a world where progress was considered inevitable. Bigger, faster, farther were assumptions that everyone made about tomorrow. The usefulness of space travel was never questioned; it was our destiny. Frontiers were to be conquered. Speed records were always to be exceeded. Skyscrapers were always to be bested. Everything from distances to quarterly earnings were always and everywhere to be exceeded. Let’s admit it at last: Those times could be exhausting.
And things didn’t always work out the way people envisioned they would. That emblematic tip on the Empire State Building was a mast for mooring blimps that never came. The flat top of the Pan Am building was for landing helicopter shuttles to the airport. It didn’t work out too well in the middle of a crowded city at rush hour on Friday. Instant personal communications were the stuff of detective comic strips and science fiction. Who wouldn’t want to have access all the time? Now, privacy has elements that already seem forgotten.
So it turns out that progress comes with a mixed track record. Sometimes the trade offs prove to be worth it. Sometimes not so much. Our Sea Pines Trolley is an affectionate nod to the pace and processes of a time that might be past elsewhere, but that people love to feel again, recalling them here. Notice that even Walt Disney styled the first thing people see at Disneyland – Main Street USA – after the Victorian store fronts of his hometown in the heyday of trolleys. He proved to be far from the only one who looked back with love.
And anyway, trolleys weren’t just quaint, they can be efficient, too, and not only here with our Sea Pines Trolley. In Australia, Melbourne never let go of their trolley system, and in fact they are expanding it still. Athens developed theirs for hosting the 2004 Olympics. Edinburgh Scotland relaunched their trolley system in 2014, and Seattle operates a system today that exemplifies the low-floor approach, where there are no steps up from the platform to the car. Cities today tend to call their trolleys trams, or light rail, but we feel sure they are just avoiding the suggestion of “quaint” as this approach to travel continues to prove its relevance.
A Few of Our Favorite Trolley Rides
And of course, getting there is just the beginning. Our Sea Pines Trolley whisks vacationers and residents, couples and families, first dates and wedding parties, to the main events of the dream that our Hilton Head Island founders envisioned, right here in Sea Pines.
Lawton Stables, just up the way, presents the beauty and calm of horses. Whether you’re there just to show the kids, to pat them over the fence, to take them on a trail ride, or even for a horseback tour of the resort, our equestrian friends share a kind of contemplation. The senses are involved. The pulse slows down, and thoughts turn serene as we take in the dignity of horses and the caring ways they inspire among people.
The Sea Pines Beach Club is another favorite destination for the Sea Pines Trolley. Guests enjoy a beach that appears on somebody’s top-10-in-the-world list just about every year, and for good reason. The amenities here, too, are in every way world-class.
Harbour Town and the Yacht Basin are quite simply the must-do spots for Hilton Head Island vacationers, whether it’s their first visit or their 40th. Our iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse is the landmark that vacationers compare to the Pyramids and the Eifel Tower – if you haven’t seen them, then you haven’t been there.
Our Sea Pines Trolley is one of the touches – one of the thoughtful details – that makes Sea Pines the heart of Hilton Head Island. Our link with it is one of the things that make The Shops at Sea Pines Center an extraordinary place to enjoy.