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12 Mar 2024
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Seasonal Events

Hilton Head Island’s pristine waters and sandy beaches attract all sorts of visitors, including aquatic friends. Year after year, hundreds of Atlantic Loggerhead Sea Turtles visit the beaches of Hilton Head Island as they return to their ancestral nesting grounds to lay their eggs. In 2023, sea turtles laid 353 nests on Hilton Head Island.

From May through October, visitors to Hilton Head Island will have opportunities to see mother turtles make treks to the beach, find a turtle nest, or even witness hatchlings emerging from their eggs. The team at Beach Properties of Hilton Head is here to keep you informed by providing you with insight into turtle nesting season on Hilton Head Island and how you can be a part of this special time without disturbing these amazing creatures.

Sea Turtle Nesting Season on Hilton Head Island

Turtle nesting season on Hilton Head Island occurs from May to October. However, nesting can first start when water temperatures reach 70 degrees, which can push the season up to late April. During turtle nesting season, Atlantic Loggerhead Sea Turtles make their journey from the Atlantic Ocean to the beaches of Hilton Head Island. 

You might be wondering why the turtles choose Hilton Head Island to lay their eggs. Fascinatingly, mother turtles return to the same general area where they were hatched. This means that generation after generation of sea turtles born on Hilton Head Island return to lay their eggs.

Once the turtles return to Hilton Head Island, they emerge from the ocean at night and make a trek across the beach to find a good spot for their nests. Females use their back flippers to dig a hole in the dunes. Once the hole is created, they will lay their eggs. On average, an Atlantic Loggerhead Sea Turtle will lay 120 eggs. After laying the eggs, the turtle fills the hole with sand before returning to the ocean.

For the laid eggs, the journey is just beginning. The incubation period lasts about 60 days. Once they are ready to hatch, hatchlings chip away at the egg with a temporary tooth called a caruncle. It can take three days for the hatchling to fully break free from its shell. After it is out of its shell, the hatchling will remain in the nest to rest before trekking across the beach and voyaging out into the Atlantic Ocean. Once in the ocean, the hatchlings have an incredible journey ahead of them; they must complete a 70-mile swim to the Gulf Stream.

Tips for Turtle Nesting Season

Witnessing turtle nesting season on Hilton Head Island in person is an incredible event, but it is important that we take great care to keep the turtles and their eggs safe. Never touch a turtle, egg, or hatchling. If you are on the beach in hopes of spotting a hatchling after dark, do not use a flashlight, as the light can disorientate the hatchling. Instead, use a red beam light. You can also help by removing beach equipment, sandcastles, and other obstacles that can make the hatchlings’ journey from the dunes to the ocean difficult. Want to help the turtles? Consider donating to the Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island fund.

For your best chance of witnessing turtle nesting season on Hilton Head Island, book a vacation rental between May and October from Beach Properties of Hilton Head. We have oceanfront properties that are just steps from the beach, offering convenient access for turtle-watching. Browse our Hilton Head lodging options online, or call 800-671-5155 for assistance from one of our reservationists.