• Palmetto Dunes

The Story of Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina

Updated: Aug 31, 2018

How Hilton Head’s Largest Deep-Water Marina Came To Be



The shops, apartments, purveyors, and events at Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina have become an integral part of life at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, and a favorite destination of visitors and locals on Hilton Head Island. It’s hard to believe that everything we enjoy about a visit to Shelter Cove wasn’t there a mere 35 years ago.


As we look back over 50 years of Palmetto Dunes, we’re remembering how exciting it was to see Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina grow into the beautiful, bustling place it is today. Take a look with us as we go back in time and relive the history of Shelter Cove.


Believe it or not, the marina at Shelter Cove was once not a marina at all. In 1980, over 600,000 cubic yards of sand was removed from the harbour to bolster the beach refurbishment at Palmetto Dunes and create the cove and marina you see today (pictured here you see the sand being pumped onto the beach from the harbour). The project took seven years of planning and cost over $1 million.


The first Shelter Cove buildings, Harbourside I & II, began construction in 1982. Pictured here is the HarbourSide I & II groundbreaking and the complex under contruction.



Buildings weren’t the only plans for Shelter Cove. “Dockominiums"—boat slips for sale, with perks similar to the concept of purchasing a condominium, was a part of the plan. Dedicated boat slips are available to purchase or rent still today.


In 1983, construction was complete, the Neptune Statue installed, and an official dedication was made with guests including the Mayor, John W. Davis and W.M. Self (owners of Greenwood, Palmetto Dunes’ managing company), and Robert Onorato, president of Palmetto Dunes.



With dredging and building completed, Shelter Cove needed a Harbormaster to oversee the marina. In 1983, David (Dave) Harris (pictured here) accepted the position—a job he would hold for 30 years. What does a harbormaster do, you ask? Everything from managing marina services, to slip sales and rentals, charter fishing and sightseeing vessels, to the fuel station and marina store.


Harbourside I & II weren’t the only buildings planned for Shelter Cove! For the entry of the harbor, an award-winning four-story structure was planned, to house the marina store as well as a restaurant and a lighthouse. In 1983, the building was honored by the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects for excellence in design.



By 1985, the famous Neptune Statue was well on its way to becoming the icon of Shelter Cove Harbour. Pictured here, children can be seen playing at the statue during the Shelter Cove Island Fair, a precursor to HarbourFest.


HarbourFest began in 1988 and celebrated its 30th Anniversary this year. For 30 years, families and visitors have been taking in spectacular fireworks, donning the coveted spinning hats, dancing to live music, and more!


As we can see in this advertorial from 1983, Shelter Cove was the place to be from its very inception! Since then it’s been home to fishing tournaments, races, festivals, and countless memories.


For 35 years, Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina has been a hub of entertainment and activity. It’s a friendly place to visit, a dynamic place to live, a fun place to spend time. Safe to say that the idea was a good one!


What’s your favorite Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina memory? Share your photos and stories with us.

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