The Vanishing Mile Isle: What’s Happening in 2023?

The Vanishing Mile Isle is a mile long sandbar exposed at low tide. Officially named Grenadier Shoal on nautical charts, it has been a popular excursion near Daufuskie Island. Tour companies on Hilton Head have taken guests to explore the bar for years. Treasures found include sand dollars, sea shells and shark teeth among the tidal pools

The key to a successful visit lies in catching the right low tide, a phenomenon that varies daily due to the gravitational pull of the sun and moon. Tides around a quarter moon phase result in weak tidal exchanges, while full or new moons bring larger tidal variances.

Understanding a Tide Chart

Tide charts use “Chart Datum,” which includes terms like “mean high water” and “mean lower low water,” representing average high and low tide depths over a 19-year period. Concerning low tide, the focus is on the “mean lower low water” average. Zero on tide charts signifies the average for these low tides.

Normally, any low tide exceeding +0.50 ft above the average allowed for exploration of the Vanishing Mile Isle. During new or full moons, negative tides exceeding 1.5 feet below average would reveal a vast surface area to explore.

2023: A Year of Changes

Spring 2023 brought unseasonably cool weather to Hilton Head, with strong northeastern winds prevailing throughout April and May. These winds not only kept Hilton Head cool but also had a dramatic impact on the Vanishing Mile Isle. The persistent northeastern winds created strong surf, pounding the shoals for weeks, displacing sand, and smoothing out the sandbar. By the time these winds subsided, the island had lost over a foot of its height. What was once visible with a low +0.50 feet, now required a negative tide of -0.50 feet to be seen.

As summer progressed, traditional southern winds helped rebuild the Vanishing Mile Isle. Tybee Island sits directly south of the sandbar, and helps prevent heavy surf buildup, allowing the sand to gradually stack up and the sandbar to return. While not a complete rebuild, by August, almost 6 inches of lost height had been regained.

However, September brought more northeastern winds, including the effects of Hurricane Idalia, Hurricane Lee, and Tropical Storm Ophelia. These winds further flattened the island, making the situation worse than before.

The Vanishing Island has Vanished!

Even a negative tide of -0.50 feet is insufficient to reveal the sandbar. As October approaches, forecasts continue to predict northeast winds, exacerbating the issue. Consequently, Cross Island Cruises has temporarily suspended its beachcombing excursions to the Vanishing Mile Isle until the end of the year, or when conditions improve. While we aim to provide exceptional experiences, the sandbar currently falls short of expectations. Any interest in this tour should contact us directly for alternative ideas of exploring our waters.

Other companies may continue to operate the tour as usual, but it’s advisable to check with them to ensure they are aware of the loss of exposure or if they have alternative plans in mind. Nobody wants to embark on a 2 to 3-hour boat ride with specific expectations, only to find nothing at the destination.

sandbar exposure level 10/28/23, -.21 MLLW

*****OCTOBER 28 UPDATE******

We have seen an improvement in the height of Vanishing Mile Isle. Tours this weekend with a negative low tide level of -.21 feet did present acceptable areas of exploration. We will continue to operate this tour on a limited basis. If interested in taking a tour, feel free contact us to inquire about certain days of availability.

Things to do on Hilton Head when it rains

Hilton Head is full of things to do outdoors. Beautiful beaches, bike trails, golf courses and boat rides are all major reasons why it’s such a popular tourist destination.  But there are some days the weather doesn’t quite work out the way we’d like. What do to on Hilton Head when it rains?

Don’t let it spoil your trip!  There are plenty of things to do even when the weather runs foul. Here are a few ideas.

Educational Outings

The Beaufort County Library has a Hilton Head location on the north side of the island.  Nothing beats curling up with a good book on a rainy day! The spacious building houses a children’s storytelling area, cozy South Carolina Reading Room, and the popular Friends of the Library Bookstore.  Residents and vacationers alike are welcome to come see what they have to offer.  Open year round, closed on Sundays.

If you have little ones that need to keep their hands and minds busy on Hilton Head when it rains, you should head over to The Sandbox, an Interactive Children’s Museum. Let the imaginations fly in the children’s flight simulator, find their inner Picassso in the Rhythm and Hues art room, or become one with nature in the Loggerhead Sandcastle room.  Hours of entertainment are here, right near Coligny Beach.

Spend some time exploring the history of the island at the Coastal Discovery Museum.  While a good portion of the museum’s exhibits are outdoors, there are some amazing indoor exhibits that include the geological and historical development of the island.  Check out some of the live animals in the Discovery Lab or immerse yourself in the local culture with one of the many rotating exhibits that focus on art, history and environment.  Kids can get an opportunity to meet Myrtle the Turtle, a diamondback terrapin that resides in the Kid Zone!  Located in Honey Horn on the north side of the island, the CDM is a must visit rain or shine.

Indoor Adventures

Ever done battle with robots? Gone hang gliding over an island? Maybe you want to create a magical beast for a pet? If you’re looking for a little excitement in your afternoon on Hilton Head when it rains, check out Atomic VR HHI, the only virtual reality arcade on the island.  With over 30 games to choose from, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Located near the airport, sessions range from 40 to 130 minutes and are suitable for ages 6 and up.

If you enjoy solving puzzles, head on over to the Hilton Head Escape Room.  You’ll have an hour to work on this interactive adventure as your team is locked in a themed room. You’ll work together following evidence and discover clues in order for you to find the way out! Located near Coligny, you could easily find yourself spending the whole afternoon trying the various themed rooms.

Have a Beverage and Relax

Another great way to spend a wet couple of hours is to spend it at Park Plaza Cinema. A family owned, dog friendly (under 20lbs) movie theater, Park Plaza offers several films, comfortable seats, and an extensive food and drink selection. Showtimes and listings vary at this south located cinema, off Greenwood Drive near the Harris Teeter shopping center.

If it’s just adults in the group you can visit 3 spots of locally made beer, wine and spirits. Hilton Head Brewing Company, Hilton Head Distillery and the Island Winery are all located on the same street on Cardinal Road. Offering group tours and tasting, the Distillery gives you an in depth look at what it takes to make premium hand-crafted spirits, walking you through the entire process. Get a taste and a bite at the island’s first brew pub or get a flight of small batch wines at the Winery. 21 and over.

If the rain carries on into the evening, head on over to the Comedy Magic Cabaret. Known as fun, family oriented entertainment, the Cabaret has been keeping smiles on faces for almost 10 years.  Friday nights is their wildly popular comedy game show “BONK” that’s as much fun to watch as it is to play.  Centrally located on William Hilton Parkway, reservations are required.

Dolphins are already wet!

One of the great things about Hilton Head is the weather. While it may rain, it doesn’t usually rain all day. It often comes in small cells and doesn’t last too long. If it’s a little rain, we’ll still go out on the water to look for dolphins. Believe it or not, dolphins don’t mind getting wet! Give us a call to see what the day looks like!

These are just a few ideas of what to do while you’re waiting for the sun to come back out. There are countless more options on Hilton Head when it rains and its surrounding area you can find. Hopefully the weather cooperates with your vacation, but don’t let a little rain put a damper on your plans to explore.

Contact Us

If you have any personal requests or questions about any of our tours, please feel free to reach out by phone, text or email.

(843) 247-8117

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