Eleven {Amazing} Things to Do in Bluffton, SC

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Little historic “downtown” Bluffton is easy to miss if you’re moving too quickly. This charming village resting in its moss draped finery on the the banks of the May River is a mecca for history lovers, antique aficionados, and art enthusiasts.  Many Blufftonians will tell you that “Bluffton is a state of mind” and indeed it is – a state where the sun shines brightly, the streets are shaded by old oak trees, and the locals and visitors alike enjoy passing the time in a rocking chair on a front porch with a pitcher of cold sweet tea or maybe a little stronger libation.  Bluffton came into being as a spot for the families of planters in the late 1700’s escaping the heat of the Lowcountry summers.  The breezes off the river in the days before air conditioning made the hot days more bearable.  It survived burning by Union General Sherman during the Civil War, hurricanes, and  economic depression, and remains today as the heart of the Lowcountry.  So stay a while and enjoy the food and the fun of this gem of a little Southern town.

bluffton shopping

{1} Church of the Cross Anglican – This relic of Southern Gothic Revival architecture was built in 1854 and escaped burning during the Civil War by Union forces during Sherman’s “March to the Sea”.  The church is located at the end of Calhoun Street and has a magnificent expansive view of the river.  There is a docent on staff daily to provide tours of the sanctuary and grounds.  Several years ago during repairs, honey bees were found in the rafters and the church collects and sells their “Holy Honey” as a fundraiser.  This is some heavenly honey and is divine when served with butter on hot biscuits! (Tip for travelers – docents are not available every day but if they are open they typically have someone there from 11am-2pm)


{2} Heyward House -Built in 1841 and the headquarters of the Bluffton Historical Society, Heyward House is one of the few structures that escaped the federal gunboat attack on Bluffton during the Civil War, and it looks much as it did 170 years ago. Notice the “summer kitchen” which was used for cooking during the hot months to keep out the heat.  If you can’t take the heat …….you know the rest!   There is a docent led walking tour daily of the house and the other historical sites in Old town Bluffton. They offer house tours daily (for a small fee) and  guided walking tours with reservations only.  If you wish to take a self-guided tour around town pick up a Walking tour map.   70 Boundary Street – for events and details be sure to check their website at heywardhouse.org


{3} SOBA  (The Society of Bluffton Artists) gallery at the corner of Church and Calhoun Streets with over 100 exhibiting artists offers works for every taste.  The Bluffton galleries welcome art lovers for the Art Walk on November 28 from 4:00 to 7:00.

bluffton art gallery

{4} Jacob Preston enjoys a much deserved reputation as “Bluffton’s tallest potter”  and Bluffton’s biggest rosemary bush grows right outside the front door of his studio.  His works reflect the deep blues and marshy browns of the Lowcountry, and his bowls make especially lovely gifts for faraway friends.


{5} Picnic in  Pritchard Pocket Park – pack pickled peppers, pimento cheese, potato salad and pulled pork,  This diminutive river side green space with a lovely view is located at the end of Prichard Street.  You may run into Peter Piper.


{6} Calhoun Street boutiques – Perhaps a half mile long, Calhoun Street is the center of Bluffton’s lively shopping district.  Anchored by The Store, this was originally a dwelling built in 1904. On one end, and Eggs n Tricities is housed in a long ago gas station on the river end; designer women’s and children’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, fine wines, and books are all available for your buying pleasure.  (Most recently locals spotted Kelly Clarkson visiting these local spots as well as Corner Perk…See #9)

kelly clarkson downtown bluffton

{7} Bluffton Oyster Co – has been owned and operated by the Toomers family for over 100 years.   Since November is an “r” month right now the oysters will be plentiful, briny and delicious.  Their shrimp, mussels and blue crabs also make a tasty lunch or dinner.  Have you ever had a hush puppy?  Toomers’ oysters are all plucked from the banks of the May River and shucked by hand.  (This past summer the Toomer Family was featured by Family Circle Magazine!)

{8} Secession Oak – This stately oak tree in Bluffton’s Stock Farm was the scene of a notable speech in July 1844 by one of South Carolina’s most ardent secessionists, Thomas Barnwell Rhett.  The heat of the steamy Lowcountry day was surpassed only by Rhett’s fiery rhetoric in the run up to the Civil War.  Stop by Stock Farm Antiques on May River Road and ask for Mr. McCracken, who owns the property on which this historic tree sits for directions.


{9} Carolina in the morning – the very early morning.  If you find yourself in Bluffton at 6:00 AM, get an early start at Corner Perk with rich roasted coffees and enticing pastries and sandwiches.  It’s a favorite with the locals and conveniently located near the “four way stop”  on the May River Road. (Even Kelly Clarkson has made a stop in at this popular spot and shopped the boutiques as well!)

corner perk breakfast

{10} Afternoon tea – For a restoring “pick me up” during a day of shopping, gallery hopping, and sightseeing, make reservations at The Cottage on Calhoun Street for Afternoon Tea with all the traditional trimmings – scones with clotted cream, sweets, and savories.  Or, pop in for a spot of vino and lunch or dinner.


{11} Farmers’ Market – on Thursday afternoons from 2pm until 6pm during November find locally grown produce, stewed tomatoes, gumbo, fried oysters and shrimp, barbecue, breads, cakes, cookies, ice cream, coffee, boiled peanuts – and even more Bluffton bounty.  Music is also on the menu and the occasional dancing breaks out!  Calhoun Street in front of The Cottages.


  • DrexelLake

    Looks like we’ll give it a try.

  • Patty Diamond

    Also visit Peaceful Henry’s!

  • http://www.elainehurst.com Elaine Hurst

    I have so many memories of Bluffton, from a time when there was not much there, the ’50’s/’60’s/’70’s. I remember when the first air conditioned grocery store came. My aunt had a house, which is still there, very close to the Secession Oak. Went to church in the wonderful Anglican church, remember the bees. Love that little town.

  • marybeth dolan

    Where is a good place to stay that is good for bike riding.

  • CarolineJenkins

    Beautiful photos and I love the narratives but I must call attention to an error. It is true that the Toomer family has had an oyster business for many years, but not at the present location. This “oyster factory” was owned and operated by Mr. John Samuel Graves and his son whom we called Mister Junior for at least 50 years. The Toomers were at Hilton Head and Buckingham.

  • Melissa Bailey-Descoteaux

    Any bed and breakfast in Old town?