When our friends at Lowcountry Produce told us they will present a “Bubbly Bar” – a setup for serving sparkling wines – in the plaza for our festive Holiday Market, it started us thinking how much we have to celebrate every day. This year’s Holiday Market, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 7, will once again feature the talent of local artists and artisans, the sparkle of our Christmas décor, and the feeling of familiar fun that arises when the Shore Notes stroll The Shops at Sea Pines Center as they sing the songs of the season.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

Yet, the sparkle of the lights and the wines and the performances are merely a marker of what we are grateful to celebrate every day. Here in the heart of Sea Pines, in the middle of the original Hilton Head Island dream that became the nation’s favorite island vacation spot, residents and visitors alike give thanks for the catalogue of fun that we find around every corner.

So, instead of a list of Christmas wishes, let’s have a look at the sum of riches we have already, here to enjoy any day, around The Shops at Sea Pines Center.

Much More than a Visit

Whether we enjoy them full time, seasonally, or just for a visit, the wonders that surround us here among The Shops at Sea Pines Center are so abundant that now and then it’s a good idea to pause and take inventory. Otherwise the experiences that make Sea Pines special might tend to take on what one friend calls, “The Statue of Liberty effect.”

He says that in his quarter century living in Manhattan, he saw that people rarely think about the Statue until somebody comes to visit. By contrast, the pleasures of Sea Pines are more about the experience and less about the monument, so we tend to be more involved than that. Still, we can all use a few reminders.

Before There Was Golf

The story goes that our walking trails and bike paths appeared even before our first golf course. They are a good place to start, in recounting our Sea Pines pleasures, because even as we residents motor beneath arches of sheltering live oaks, festooned with graceful Spanish moss, we catch glimpses of neighbors and guests with smiles on their faces, walking, jogging, or biking along the smooth, winding paths that the founders wisely placed beyond our scenic streets for pure enjoyment.

A map of the Sea Pines trails reveals more than even the long-term resident might imagine. The trails are so extensive, and they reach through every sector of our beautiful grounds, that the map might also serve as a directory to the many locations, features, and scenes that make Sea Pines an environment that attracts and enfolds people who have been everywhere, who could live anywhere.

Beyond even the South Beach Marina, the trail extends nearly to the very tip of Hilton Head Island, passing by the playground there. Our playgrounds serve as a reminder that family life and generational enjoyment were part of the vision of this world-class resort from the very beginning.

Tales of Pirates and Planters

Ambling easily along the coves and inlets of our southern tip, the trails lead to the ancient Stoney-Baynard Ruins, the remains of a house built originally by a genuine “Captain Jack,” Captain Jack Stoney, in the 1790’s. The story goes that Captain Jack lost the house to planter William Baynard in an 1840 poker game. It his hands it grew into a grand antebellum home that overlooked the Calibogue Sound. Today the grounds are listed among the National Register of Historic Sites.

Proceeding alongside scenic Plantation Drive, our trail comes to one of its many choices: Left to Harbour Town, or right to The Shops at Sea Pines Center. The Harbour Town arm of the trail provides yet another playground, as well as a visit to our iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse, and to the yacht basin that founder Charles Fraser is said to have modeled on the harbor of Portofino, on the Italian Riviera. The Sea Pines Center arm leads not only to our fabled Shops, but beyond us to the Plantation Golf Club and the Sea Pines Beach Club.

The View from Horseback

Had we walked or jogged or biked along a more northerly path we would reach Lawton Stables, where accomplished equestrians and occasional admirers alike enjoy the presence, character, and availability of well-cared-for horses and ponies. Trail rides extend through 600 acres of the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, set aside since 1971 to offer visitors and residents alike the pleasures of the Lowcountry’s natural setting. Children 7 and under can take part in pony rides within the stables.

And speaking of the Forest Preserve, many consider it one of Sea Pines’ most precious assets, even though it is too often overlooked. Among the natural wonders kept unspoiled here is a sign of ancient civilization, evidence that human beings have sought the peace and abundance of this land for at least 4,000 years. The Shell Ring here in the Forest Preserve is said by scholars to date back as far as the time of the Pyramids.

The Earliest Islanders

Here in the richness of the pre-historic coastline our first visitors harvested seafood and hunted small game, leaving behind fossils, tools, and shards of their ceramic cookware. The clearest evidence of their good fortune is the near-perfect circle of shells they built from the oysters, clams, and salt-marsh mollusks on which they feasted gratefully. Archaeologists tell us these early Islanders returned to the site for over 300 years.

The Forest Preserve is not just a place for a look-see. Active enjoyment is encouraged and offered here among the fields and lakes. One, Lake Joe, is set aside for children’s fishing only. From the quiet of the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, it’s hard to imagine how close our trails have brought us to the Greenwood Gate, the principal entrance from off the Sea Pines Circle. But the experience doesn’t have to end at the gate.

Connected Through the Island Beyond

Beyond our Sea Pines entrances – the Greenwood Gate and the Ocean Gate – our walking, jogging, biking paths connect to two arms of the extensive network of trails that extend all over Hilton Head Island. The watchful Sea Pines gate attendants are well-practiced in safely directing the traffic where our paths meet the rest of our Island.

It’s a different point of view. Our island paradise takes on a different feel when viewed on foot, from a bike, or on horseback. These shifts in perspective are an important element in what keeps the joy of living – or visiting, or returning – here so fresh.

The brilliance of including the opportunity to enjoy Sea Pines this way is yet another example of how special this vision has been from the beginning. Special and influential. The success of Sea Pines brought energy and attention to the trend toward nature-friendly enjoyment, changing the approach to resort development fundamentally. So another source of satisfaction here is knowing that the Sea Pines way has borne a positive impact beyond our own place and time.

Here in The Shops at Sea Pines Center, we’re conscious of our part in this vision, and we work gratefully to keep it a living part of what our neighbors, guest, and visitors enjoy.