If you enjoy visiting Southern towns that are full of charm and personality, Bluffton is an idyllic spot! It's situated halfway between Hilton Head Island, SC, and Savannah, GA, and is about a 30-minute drive from either location. Should you decide to make a day trip to Old Town Bluffton, here are the things you shouldn't miss.
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The starred “You Are Here” marks The Church of the Cross.
5 Things to do in Bluffton SC
Old Town Bluffton consists of a single square mile that has undergone significant renovation in recent years. The area includes some of Bluffton's oldest homes, the Historic District, and numerous shops and restaurants. I suggest beginning your trip at Heyward House, which was built in the mid-1800's and serves as the visitor's center.
1. The Church of the Cross | May River
If you're seeking a picture perfect location, look no further than The Church of the Cross! It's located on a bluff overlooking the May River and boasts some of the most incredible views in Old Town Bluffton. The church is well-preserved, with grounds manicured to near perfection. It's easily one of the most-photographed spots in Bluffton. The Church of the Cross is one of the few structures Union soldiers didn't burn during General Sherman's “March to the Sea”.
Click on any photo to view it larger. The church celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2004. Main image source.
Be sure to walk to the edge of the property to catch beautiful sweeping views of the river. Calhoun Street (in front of the church) dead-ends at the public boat ramp. For a souvenir, pick up a jar of “Holy Honey” made from honey bees discovered in the rafters of the church.
2. Walking Tour | Local Architecture
The architecture in Bluffton is beautiful! This town beckons you to slow down and relax the minute you set foot under the gorgeous old oaks dripping in Spanish moss. Nearly every home or storefront has a wide front porch with ceiling fans and multiple rocking chairs — ideal spots for sipping sweet tea.
If you look closely, you'll notice many front porch ceilings in Bluffton are painted light blue to mimic the sky. This is a very common throughout the South. The color is known as “Haint Blue”, and it's traditionally used in historic Lowcountry homes to ward off evil spirits, or “haints”.
In addition to scaring off ghosts and goblins, the blue color also tricks birds and wasps into thinking the ceiling is the sky so they'll construct their nests elsewhere.
3. Picnic in the Park | Catch a Sunset
The Bluffton Oyster Co. sits adjacent to a beautiful park that makes a great spot for an afternoon picnic or to catch the sunset. There are numerous tables (some covered), and the entire area is shaded by moss-draped oaks. The park also has a fire pit for roasting oysters. Park in the (free) lot and walk down to the docks to see pretty views like these…
The Garvey House is also located on the property and is a great example work accomplished by Bluffton's Historical Preservation Society.
4. Shop the Boutiques
Shopping in Old Town Bluffton is just as unique as the town itself; it's full of vintage stores and charming boutiques. In true small town fashion, many of the shops close at 5-ish, so keep that in mind as you're out and about.
- Spartina 449 is full of purses, wallets, and jewelry inspired by the Lowcountry. The fabric pattern on each of their handbags is named after well-known Southern destinations and personalities.
- Al-Harry Furniture & Design is chock full of beautiful home decor and custom furniture, in addition to accessories and coffee table books by local authors.
- Eggs ‘N Tricities is housed in a former gas station and sells home decor, souvenirs, and clothing for women and children.
- Gigi's Boutique is a charming shop offering women's clothing and accessories in a variety of price points. Some of the items are rather pricy, but they're interspersed with affordable pieces, as well.
- The Cottage Cafe, Bakery & Tea Room: Stop in here for afternoon tea and a delicious snack when you're in need of a pick-me-up!
The Promenade is an easy walk from Historic Old Town and features newly built shops and restaurants. The Roost Host & Home, located in The Promenade, is my personal favorite store in Bluffton. They offer beautiful home decor, soaps, linens, and candles.
The Roost Host & Home tops the list as my favorite home decor store in Bluffton. (Think hostess gifts, candles, soaps, home decor, and linens.) The owner is incredibly sweet and helpful.
Al-Harry Furniture & Design is another shop I'm always content to spend some time in whenever I'm in Bluffton. The owner up-cycles many furniture pieces by refinishing them in her workshop and selling them in the store, along with new items.
For those who prefer more conventional shopping, there's always the sprawling Tanger Outlet Center just outside of town (towards Hilton Head). Watch out for gators in the water bordering the parking lot! You'll frequently catch them sunning on the banks within a few feet of parked cars.
5. Bluffton Farmers Market [Thursdays Only]
Each Thursday afternoon during the summer months, the town of Bluffton hosts a Farmers' Market from 1:00 – 6:00 p.m. The sense of community is strong on market days! Old Town Bluffton fills with laughter, live music, and the smell of Southern-style BBQ.
Be sure to ask if Farmer Joe is around! He always has a smile on his face and is a local favorite (in both Savannah and Bluffton).
Click on any photo to view it larger.
Bluffton is very hot in the summertime (temps in the 90's to low 100's are common), so dress accordingly. Luckily, there are sno-cones available for purchase at the market, and they're quite the necessity when you're hot and “glowing”. (Southern women don't sweat, they glow.)
Best Time of Year to Visit Bluffton
Bluffton is at its prettiest and has the best weather from March to early May. October is nice, too. If you're traveling by plane, the closest major airport is Savannah (SAV).
One of my favorite local events is Taste of Bluffton, which is a celebration of Southern cooking. The event definitely draws a crowd, but it's a great opportunity to sample some of the best dishes from local restaurants. Taste of Bluffton is typically held in April.
Where to Stay in Bluffton
There's no shortage of beautiful homes in Bluffton! My favorite (and the most popular) options are in Palmetto Bluff, but there are numerous vacation homes and a few large hotels throughout the area.
Here are a few of my favorite places to stay in area:
- Luxury Hotel: Montage Palmetto Bluff
- Budget-Friendly Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites
- Home Rentals: These Vacation Home Rentals in Bluffton are Calling Your Name!
Related: Here are a few great pointers for renting your next vacation home in Bluffton.
If you have questions about any other things to do in Bluffton SC, please post them in the comments. I highly recommend visiting if you're looking for a fun outing near Savannah or Hilton Head.
On a recent trip, we dined at Peppers Old Town restaurant*. It's a barn-styled building once fondly known as the “Deer Tongue Building”, because it was used to dry deer tongue (a common filler for tobacco). We love dining in places that are part of the local history! They have a great patio/bar area out back and there's a little ice cream shop next door.
Despite its humble beginnings, the restaurant is upscale and the food is scrumptious. You can view the menu here. Our table ordered the Shrimp & Grits platter, Twin Crabcakes, the Five Step Burger, Ribs, and Grilled Salmon, and we thoroughly enjoyed everything. Pop orders salmon at nearly every restaurant, every time he dines out, and he claimed the salmon at Peppers was probably his favorite he's ever had! High praise from a picky salmon eater. All of the seafood was locally sourced, so it was fresh and delicious!
The Bluffton Ice Cream, Co. is shaded by moss-covered trees.