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. If you decide to make a day trip to the area, here are the things you shouldn't miss.
Fun Things to do in Bluffton SC
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The starred “You Are Here” marks The Church of the Cross.
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 the 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. The Roost Host & Home is a local favorite for home decor.
Eggs ‘n Tricities sells souvenirs, plus clothing for women and children, and is housed in a former gas station.
Gigi's Boutique, Copper Penny, and Cocoon are a few other's to check out. Stop for afternoon tea at The Cottage on Calhoun Street when you're in need of a pick-me-up.
For those who prefer more conventional shopping, there's always the Tanger Outlet Center. 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. Visit Rose Hill Mansion
The Rose Hill Mansion is one of the few plantation homes in the area that the public can tour. Only guided tours are allowed, so a reservation is a must.
The Rose Hill Mansion (photo source)
The home is a popular destination for weddings. It was built in 1858 and was lovingly restored in the late 1990s. (A necessity, since the home caught fire in 1987.)
BONUS: Bluffton Farmers Market [Thursdays Only]
I would include the Farmers Market as a must, but since it's only open one day of the week I'm adding it as a bonus!
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 farmers 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 Savannah and Bluffton.
Click on any photo to view it larger.
Bluffton is very hot in the summertime (temps in the mid 90's to low 100's are common), so dress accordingly. Luckily, there are sno-cones available for purchase at the farmers 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 looks prettiest and has the best weather from March to early May. October is nice, too. If you're traveling by plane, the closest airport is in Savannah (SAV).
Here are a few great pointers for renting your next vacation home in Bluffton and a $40 Airbnb credit.
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.