Bluffton, South Carolina, is a quaint town in the state's famous Lowcountry region and a lovely complement to nearby beach destination Hilton Head Island. The town is a cozy feast for the eyes, with antique churches, cute boutique shops, and antebellum homes lining its streets. Bluffton oozes Southern charm, with grand, draping oaks and a beautiful view onto the waters of the May River. Visitors love the town's many delicious mom and pop restaurants, opportunities for golfing and fishing, and cultural and historical highlights. Bluffton has a little something for everyone-it is packed with fun, yet still maintains a relaxing and welcoming small-town atmosphere.
1. Heyward House
© Heyward House
Heyward House, a project of the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, was originally constructed for a local plantation lord as his summer residence. Built around 1841, Heyward House is one of only eight remaining pre-Civil War homes in Bluffton. Given its excellent condition and the exhibitions and artifacts it houses, the estate provides a wonderful platform for learning about the history of the Lowcountry region. Heyward House offers four different tours: a guided house tour; a guide-led walking tour; a "living portrait" tour in which participants use their smartphones to bring the house's paintings to life; and finally, a tour led by a virtual docent.
70 Boundary Street Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-757-6293
2. Bluffton SC Farmers Market
© Bluffton SC Farmers Market
The Bluffton Farmers Market is a weekly event that brings the entire community together, including both locals and tourists alike. The market was established in 2008 thanks to a local grassroots effort, and today it includes dozens of Bluffton growers and downtown vendors. These purveyors offer products like fresh fruit and vegetables, locally produced chocolates and cheeses, and artisan bakery and prepared foods. The Bluffton Farmers Market regularly hosts area talent as well, with musical performances a common sight at the weekly events. The community gathering hosts several interesting events at the market—children can learn to become "little growers", while the adults can enjoy special dishes from the "chef at the market".
40 Calhoun, Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-415-2447
3. Island West Golf Club
© Island West Golf Club
South Carolina is known the world over for its excellent golf courses. Island West Golf Club contributes to this stunning reputation with its interesting layout, convenient facilities, and prime location on the edge of Hilton Head Island. Island West stands out against other courses in the region, as it was designed personally by Major Champion Fuzzy Zoeller to be an entertaining, challenging play. The course includes an extensive practice area, a well-stocked pro shop, and a fun bar and grill famous for its Hot Dog Bar. The golf club offers services like equipment rentals, stay packages with local hotels, and tournament preparation and professional scoring.
40 Island West Drive, Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-815-6660
4. May River Excursions
© May River Excursions
May River Excursions provides its passengers with several different boat charter options leaving from Bluffton's Old Town. Every trip is run by May River's own Captain Chris Shoemaker, who trained in the Coast Guard and is himself a Lowcountry native. The boats the company owns and operates can hold up to 12 guests at a time, taking them around the beautiful waters near Hilton Head Island and Daufuskie Island. May River Excursions offers several types of tours—for those interested in getting their hands dirty and catching some dinner, crabbing, fishing, and shrimping trips are available. River tours and dolphin excursions, on the other hand, provide a less hands-on, more relaxing way to explore the region on the water. Phone: 843-304-2878
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5. Maye River Gallery
© Maye River Gallery
Maye River Gallery is an intimate display space that presents some of the best works of the Lowcountry region. The gallery touts itself as a purveyor of art for the body, home, and spirit, and its collection incorporates a number of different media. These include landscape paintings with images of the beautiful people and natural scenery of the area, woven and ceramic pieces, and applied arts items such as jewelry and glassworks. Maye River holds special events, such as art walks throughout Bluffton and "paint outs". The gallery celebrates its tight community of artists, all of whom hail from the South Carolina Lowcountry and many of whom have been recognized on both the regional and national levels.
37 Calhoun St, Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-757-2633
6. Corner Perk Cafe, Bar, Roasters
© Corner Perk Cafe, Bar, Roasters
Corner Perk Café is a local Bluffton coffee shop, roaster, and brunch restaurant with an award-winning reputation. The café has been voted the Lowcountry's best coffee shop for 6 years in a row, and it delivers quality coffee to its customers each and every day. Corner Perk marries urban and country, bringing both New York style and South Carolina flair in its interior and exterior décor. The café brews only the freshly roasted beans it has prepared on site that very day, making for an excellent cup of coffee with every order. The brunch menu includes a litany of breakfast favorites like omelets, French toast, and a large selection of breakfast sandwiches.
1297 May River Road, Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-816-5674
7. New River Linear Trail
© Courtesy of johnsroad7 - Fotolia.com
The New River Linear Trail makes up part of the larger East Coast Greenway, an incredibly extensive trail that, when completed, will provide a route for non-motorized movement between Key West and the border between the United States and Canada. The New River Linear Trail is an unpaved section of the Greenway and finds its southern endpoint at the New River. The trail includes scenic natural areas such as wetlands and historic places close to the town of Bluffton, which are marked with informative signs. The trail is open to both cyclists and hikers, and dogs are welcome along the route.
3809-3835 Okatie Hwy, Bluffton, Phone: SC 29910
8. Old South Golf Links
© Old South Golf Links
Old South Golf Links is a Hilton Head-area golf course that allows golfers to play the links in a gorgeous Lowcountry setting. The course is planted squarely in the beautiful natural marshland setting of McKay's Creek and was designed by famous course architect Clyde Johnston. Surrounded by lush marshes, rolling hills, and arching treetops, golfers at Old South can even expect an encounter with local wildlife, which includes hawks, deer, and storks, to name just a few. Because it is a public course, the location is accessible to visitors. Nonetheless, it features country club amenities like a restaurant and has a strong reputation, having been named one of America's best new public courses by Golf Digest when it was opened.
50 Buckingham Plantation Drive, Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-785-5353
9. Old Town Bluffton
© Old Town Bluffton
Bluffton's old town is a charming downtown area with a number of historic and cultural highlights. Sitting just off the May River, the area is a pedestrian-friendly spot full of boutiques, galleries, and fine dining and casual restaurants. Some of the important historical landmarks in Old Town Bluffton include the Church of the Cross, the Heyward House Historic Center, and the May River Theatre. These and other venues in the downtown area welcome visitors to explore and take a break on their front porches and in their often ample outdoor spaces. Many vendors and community spaces here schedule regular events that bring together both locals and tourists alike.
10. Rose Hill Mansion
© Rose Hill Mansion
Rose Hill Mansion is an astoundingly beautiful plantation home that holds an important place in the Lowcountry, and the entire South more broadly. Initially, Dr. John Kirk built the structure to be his family home in the 1850s, though construction was paused during the Civil War. Today, the house has been fully restored and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of its highlights are its grand entry staircase, original furniture, and portraits and artifacts owned by its original proprietors. Rose Hill is designed in a Gothic style and is surrounded by sprawling gardens. The venue is open for guided tours, weddings, and other special events.
199 Rose Hill Way, Bluffton, SC 29910
11. Salt Marsh Brewing
© Salt Marsh Brewing
Salt Marsh Brewing cooks up excellent beers to be paired with the delicious food made at its downstairs neighbor, Bluffton's Fat Pattie's restaurant. Both of these locations sit right in the heart of the city in the Old Town neighborhood. Salt Marsh is a new addition to the community, as it was opened by home-brewer-turned-professional Nick Borreggine and brewery mastermind James Brown. It produces a permanent collection of craft beers, which includes a red ale, a wheat beer, and several IPAs as well as a rotating selection of seasonal beverages. Visitors can take a taste inside or enjoy the great Lowcountry weather in the on-site beer garden.
207 Bluffton Rd, Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-815-6300
12. Hilton Head National Golf Club
© Courtesy of clairebove - Fotolia.com
Top-notch golfing is one of the most attractive features of the South Carolina Lowcountry, and Scratch Golf's Hilton Head National Golf Club is a strong contributor to the area's reputation as a golf destination. This course is a fan favorite, winning three back-to-back local awards in 2012. Golf legend Gary Player and award-winning golf architect Bobby Weed teamed up to design the 18 holes at Hilton Head National, which are accessible to casual golfers but can provide a challenge for those more seasoned at the links. The course is open to the public and has daily rates for visiting golfers. Amenities include a pro shop and the Player's Pub restaurant. More small town vacation ideas
60 Hilton Head National Dr., Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-842-5900
13. Society of Bluffton Artists
© Society of Bluffton Artists
The Society of Bluffton Artists, known more fondly as SOBA, is a Bluffton community non-profit that brings together local artists to help them enhance their skills and share their talents with aspiring creators. Founded in 1994, the society is and has always been run by the artists themselves, who host demonstrations by distinguished members of the art world and hold art classes throughout the year. SOBA owns two spaces, a gallery in Old Town Bluffton, and the Center for Creative Arts. The gallery displays works in different media by artists from in and around the Lowcountry, while the center provides a space for classes and workshops.
6 Church St., Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-757-6586
14. Southern Barrel Brewery
© Southern Barrel Brewery
Southern Barrel Brewery is a beer connoisseur's heaven. This young craft brewery serves up a unique assortment of homemade beers, which include lagers, stouts, ales and pale ales, and even a raspberry-flavored concoction. In addition to its year-round sorts, Southern Barrel also produces seasonal selections that tap into the flavors of each particular time of year. The facility has a rustic feel highlighted by reclaimed wood accents, and it includes the brewery itself as well as a tavern with a full food menu. Guests are welcome to tour the production areas, try a flight of Southern Barrel's best beers, grab some nosh, or take a growler to go.
375 Buckwalter Pl Blvd, Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-837-2337
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15. Spartina Marine Education Charters
© Spartina Marine Education Charters
As its name suggests, Spartina Marine Education Charters offers much more than just a sightseeing experience on its charter boat trips through the waters of the Lowcountry region. Instead, Spartina provides a fully educational and immersive experience that introduces both children and adults to the endless species found in this aquatic habitat. The expeditions run for between 1 and 2 hours, during which Captain Amber shows off sea birds, marshes, dolphins, and stunning coastal views. Different tours have their own specific themes, and many include an on-board tank where passengers can get up close and personal with crabs, fish and shrimp.
31 Alljoy Rd, Bluffton, SC 29910, Phone: 843-338-2716
More Ideas: Heyward House
The Heyward House is a bustling center of activity for the town of Bluffton, South Carolina. Housing the welcome center and museum, as well as the home to multiple types of tours, the house is educational as well as being fun. Built in 1841, using the early Carolina Farmstead architectural style made popular by West Indies transplants to the area, the house was originally used by John Cole, his wife Carolina, and their children as a summer home.
By 1860, the house and plantation had doubled in size. Eventually, in 1930, the kitchen was remodeled and modernized.
When Cole died of tuberculosis after the Civil War, the family sold the property and moved in 1874 to Texas. The house then passed through multiple families until finally falling into the hands of the historical society in 1998. It has functioned as the only house museum in the town as well as being given the title of “official” welcome center of Bluffton.
The first stop for visitors wanting to learn more about the Heyward House and Museum as well as the entire town of Bluffton is to stop at the welcome center. The welcome center holds a wealth of information about the town, including maps, menus, brochures, and other information to really see the very best parts of the area. The welcome center staff is also available to answer questions and give directions.
From the Heyward House, there are multiple options for tours that can be booked.
- Guided tours of the house and the surrounding grounds are available Mondays through Fridays from 10am to 4pm and Saturdays from 10am to 3pm. Reservations are not mandatory unless the group who plans to tour consists of more than 10 people. House tours last around an hour. There is a cost per adult, with a 50% discount for students and free for children under 10 and historical society members
- Virtual docents are available for visitors who want a little more guidance but still want to be able to go at their own pace. Done via a set of the houses’ “walking tour” cards, each historical site on the tour has its own card. Simply scan that card using the Zappar app (which is free on both iPhone and Android phones) and listen to Ms. South Carolina (Senior America) Dianne Gibb describe the history. There a flat fee for access to the cards.
- After a tour of the house, head out on the town with a guided walking tour. Offered Mondays through Fridays by appointment only and lasting just over an hour, reservations must be made at least two days in advance. There is a fee for each adult talking the tour, with a discount for students.
? For a more unique tour, consider paying the flat fee for the “living portrait” self-guided tour. Making use of the same Zappar app that is used for the self-guided walking tour, the living portrait tour allows visitors to scan specific portraits that are located in the Heyward House, which allows them to spring to life to tell guests in their own words about their personal story and the room that they are located in.
The welcome center is open Mondays through Thursdays from 10am to 5pm, and Fridays from 10am to 4pm. Admission and parking is always offered free of charge.
The Heyward House loves to lead students on educational field trips through the house and its surrounding grounds. Offering what they call “School Day” programs, the house staff helps students have an interactive educational experience. Each School Day educational program, offers several stations that are arranged throughout the house and grounds to teach students about the interesting history of the town of Bluffton and its surrounding areas.
The stations offered for School Days are: Bluffton History, Archaeology, Life in the 1800’s, Summer Kitchen, and Slave Cabin. Contact the staff for more information ahead of a planned field trip to help plan curriculum.
Students can bring their own sack lunches with them on the field trip and enjoy a picnic at nearby Dubois Park or at the May River. However, there is no place to keep lunches cold at the house, so food should be non-refrigerated. Bus parking is available on-site.
Located in the kitchen addition of the house is a gift shop with a selection of various books, toys, food, clothing, and other gifts and souvenirs. Check out the books about the history of the town and the house, take home some loose-leaf tea, purchase a handmade Christmas tree ornament, or grab a cookbook with historic recipes. Purchases help to support the welcome center, house, and museum.
Heyward House, 70 Boundary St, Bluffton, SC, 29910, Phone: 843-757-6293
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