An Excursion to Sleepy but Historic Bluffton

Despite the deep appeal of the South Carolina coastline, history buffs might want a more enlightening morning’s diversion. If that’s the case, consider a few hours’ excursion to a 19th-century riverfront community in Lowcountry that time has almost passed by: historic Bluffton, a town perched on the South Carolina mainland within a short drive of Hilton Head.

Bluffton’s historic core remains about the way it looked in 1901. Be warned in advance not to expect palatial, aristocratic homes open to the public. Some of those were burned in 1863 during the Civil War. Most of the ones that remain are private, closed to the public, and relatively small, collectively reflecting the mercantile society of river traders who occupied them. The most impressive of the buildings is the much-weathered Gothic Episcopal Church of the Cross, 110 Calhoun St., at the edge of the May River.

Calhoun Street has the community’s densest concentration of historic homes. But for a deeper insight into just how slow and sleepy this town really is, drop into the Heyward House Historic Center, 70 Boundary St. at the corner of Bridge Street (tel. 843/757-6293; The low-slung design of the house, originally built in 1840 and later enlarged prior to 1900, was inspired by earlier planters’ homes in the British West Indies. It’s open for 30-minute guided tours Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 4pm. House tours cost $8 for adults and $2 for students (children 9 and under get in free), but additional donations to the upkeep of the house are appreciated. A caretaker here will also give you a free map for a self-guided walking tour of the town as well. If you want a guided tour of town, they’re available by appointment Monday to Friday for $18 (students $12). Depending on the season, there may or may not be a kitschy collection of battered memorabilia for sale somewhere along the length of Calhoun Street.

For more information about sleepy Bluffton, contact the Old Town Bluffton Merchant Society at tel. 843/815-9522 or visit

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.