Take Advantage | Callawassie Island

Take Advantage

A Glimpse into the People and Places of the 2024 Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival Callawassie Island Home Tour

Every February, as the weather and tides wax and wane high and low, warm with hints of famous summer destinations, and still cold enough to keep your cabernet chilled and give that spartina wrap one last go for the season, is a far-reaching, charitable, and decadent celebration of island life called the Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival.

With so many days and ways to play and stay, there’s one festival stop that some think is a best kept secret while others will tell you tickets sell out fast for the Seafood Festival’s Callawassie Island Home Tour.

Before the festivities run west, the root of the HHI event is a phenomenal showcase dubbed “an exciting and luxurious culinary adventure that honors the South’s rich heritage.” This highly lauded culinary community experience isn’t just in good taste – it gives back, supporting education and conservation to the tune of 1.2 million this year alone, donating to area institutions like The Coastal Discovery Museum, Island Recreation Scholarship Fund, Waddell Mariculture Center, Port Royal Sound Foundation, Gullah Heritage Museum, Medical University of South Carolina, and Volunteers in Medicine.

That sustaining mission and the essence of Callawassie Island are so aligned, this event becomes a perfect balance, appreciating and perpetuating the bounty and beauty of our Lowcountry home – and literal homes, as you’re welcomed through the front door of participating members on the tour.

Open to the public, ticketholders are made to feel at home, starting with “a Welcome Reception at the newly renovated River Club, savoring magnificent river views while enjoying a dazzling selection of elegant wine and food pairings, hosted by sommeliers and our esteemed Callawassie Island Ambassadors, and shuttle service whisking you away to tour a curated selection of splendid residences.”

Held on February 21st and “attended this year by 70 attendees from all over the U.S.” according to Communications and Membership Director Lindsey Cooler, “to nothing but rave reviews from the guests.” Not just guests but the participating residents equally raved about this opportunity to share the grace and goodness of Callawassie Island and to see through fresh eyes as they ingratiated themselves to those they welcomed in their home.

For Pat Ano, it wasn’t just the home but the “boat house” as well where her guests took a moment to make themselves at home. “My husband is a fly fisherman,” Ano explains of how they’ve outfitted the guest house with a “great bar to match the great view. My two friends also got involved as docents and got to talk to visitors and answer questions from people who were local and curious or visiting from far out of town who came just for the seafood festival.”

Ano paints a picture that swings from the marsh side back porch back to the front grand entrance where she says, “we designed the home with a love of southern architecture with the matching staircases off to each side.” As she describes their southern paradise, she pays homage to the 200 bid varieties (including the eagles that gave her guests a good show), lack of density, golf course, and communal feel, “like living in a small town.” Lest we forget it was a seafood fest, so her location guests were served lobster Bolognese stuffed pasta and ceviche to wit she commended, “the Chef out did himself with hors d’oeuvres.”

That would be the island’s Executive Chef RJ Dye whose impression of this year’s festival-tivities honored “how enjoyable it was for me and my team to work closely with the membership and how much fun it was to welcome people into our community and share good food and drinks, seeing up-close the hospitality shown to our guests by the membership, not only from the people opening their homes but also the volunteers that helped keep the event on track.”

While the Chef applauds the others, the others applaud the Chef, like Anna Malphrus, a last minute addon to the roster, who started her recap of the experience hailing the scallops and beef tip skewers with light rosé served in her home.

“It’s such a rare and wonderful opportunity and people should take advantage – and not just the guests, but volunteers if you’re interested in opening your home and participating in future years or helping out with the event. It gives you a fresh perspective of everything. The water – even if you don’t live on the water, take a glass of wine, walk to the water where there are so many places on Callawassie to sit and take in the view – it’s amazing how much water there is to enjoy.”

Whether the fresh perspective that bright eyed guests bring to hosts or the never-take-it-for-granted gratefulness of the residents, the island is so easy to fall in love with there were the standard handful of visitors who engaged with realtors afterward. “It’s not a hard sell, it’s a showcase,” as Pat Ano puts it, where the island and its residents aren’t showing off they’re just showing up and in true Callawassie form, people fall in love, just by crossing the causeway.

It’s everything. Beyond the “luxurious ambiance, impeccable craftsmanship, and unique design features that make these homes truly extraordinary,” it’s the place – the exclusivity and peace of the oaks and greens, the history, the almost untouched spirit – and it’s the people.

As Malphrus explains endearingly, “When you walk your dog, it takes a while.” That’s a beautiful line when you unpack it and understand what it means. “You say, ‘come on Tabby we’re going to take a 5-minute walk’ but you know it’ll take 30 because, any venture out your door is a meet and greet with friends.”

Dates and info are already up on the Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival website for 2025. Island tours do sell out. As this year’s hosts encouraged and so many enjoyed, you’re reminded for next year: “It’s such a rare and wonderful opportunity … people should take advantage.