Hilton Head Island's rich and colorful history will come to life on Oct. 13 when the Heritage Library welcomes locals and visitors to the second annual History Day. This unique dual-format event will guide history buffs through some of the island's most fascinating sites, from Civil War-era forts to prehistoric shell rings.
"This island is such a fascinating place to call home, and a lot of people never get a chance to see firsthand how deep our history goes," said Linda Piekut, a volunteer and former director of the Heritage Library. "History Day has proven to be a fantastic opportunity to dive into the story of Hilton Head Island you may have never heard."
That story will be told during History Day in two different ways - by bike and by trolley. Starting at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., the morning guided bike tour will leave from Cherry Hill school for a three-hour trek through time.
Stopping at sites such as Fort Howell, Mitchelville Freedom Park, Fort Sherman, the steam gun at Fort Walker and Zion Chapel of Ease Cemetery, this invigorating bike ride will make regular stops to explore and discover.
The Heritage Library will provide participants with bikes, but those who bring their own can get a discounted ticket.
Those who don't cycle can enjoy many of the same sights on a 3.5-hour trolley ride that leaves at 9 and 9:30 a.m. from Coastal Discovery Museum. Along the way, a docent will tell fascinating stories that inform some of Hilton Head Island's most important historic sites.
The afternoon trolley tour ratchets up the historical intrigue with a trip deep into the island's prehistoric past. Leaving at 1 and 1:30 p.m. from Coastal Discovery Museum, the ride will take a reverse-chronology ride from Hilton Head's modern resort era to its far-flung past as a stopover for Paleoindians.
The island's recent history as a world-class resort island will be detailed at the first stop in Harbour Town. Participants can learn about pioneer Charles Fraser and others who brought the world to our doorstep, confident that Hilton Head's natural beauty would make it a vacation paradise.
The trip will continue into the past at sites within Sea Pines including Braddock Point Cemetery, a Gullah cemetery and the Stoney-Baynard plantation house and slave quarters ruins, before wrapping up in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve at a 4,000-year-old shell ring. The subject of recent archaeological digs, this last reminder of the island's first natives continues to captivate with the millennia of stories and secrets it contains.
Between the two tours, Coastal Discovery Museum will host an afternoon of cultural experiences from The Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Lunch will be available as well.
Reservations are required. Tickets are $25 for the trolley tours and $20 for the bike tours, or $15 if participants provide their own bikes. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit bit.ly/HistoryDayHHI.
Barry Kaufman of Bluffton is a freelance writer.