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For Food, Shopping and a Small-Town Vibe, Old Town Bluffton Has It All

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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Church of the Cross
The Church of the Cross in Old Town Bluffton dates back to 1767.

Each April, thousands of fans of professional golf - and a good time in general - find their way to Hilton Head Island, specifically to Sea Pines Resort and its Harbour Town Golf Links, home to South Carolina's lone annual PGA Tour event, the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

But more visitors are discovering another inviting spot - albeit quite different from the island - just 14 miles (25 minutes by car) from Sea Pines.

Old Town Bluffton, a community with a rich history and plenty of sights and places to visit, has become a "must-see" stop for those seeking something else on their trip to the SC Lowcountry.

From historical sites to memorable dining to great shopping, this quaint community is proud of its distinctive identity.


Explore the Past

Heyward House
One of eight antebellum homes in Old Town Bluffton to survive the Civil War, the Heyward House is the only one open to the public for tours.

You want history? Well, you're in the right place.

Some 26 homes dating to the early 1800s dot Old Town Bluffton, with one - the Heyward House (70 Boundary Street), built in 1840 - serving as a public museum, welcome center and starting point. An easy-to-use phone app leads visitors on a self-guided tour. Access the app here.

A 10-minute walk along Calhoun Street - passing a small shop with a sign reading, "Bluffton is a State of Mind" - brings visitors to the stunning Church of the Cross, founded in 1767 and built on its current location in 1854. You are sure to admire its weathered wooden walls, views of the May River and spacious, quiet interior.

Outside, a large, rough-hewn cross at river's edge beckons visitors to stop and reflect.


Enjoy Sips and Eats

Soft shell crab and rice
At FARM, enjoy dishes with locally sourced ingredients like this seasonally offered soft shell crab with Carolina Gold rice,

For breakfast, eat with the locals at the Corner Perk (1247 May River Road), a casual coffee shop that serves a variety of morning dishes, from brioche French toast and "create your own" omelets to a quick egg and cheese bagel plus a wide assortment of coffees. 

Lunch favorites include Bluffton BBQ, Local Pie, Captain Woody's Seafood Bar, and Calhoun Street Tavern. 

For dinner, there's the Bluffton Room for steaks and wine, the May River Grill for local seafood, and The Pearl Kitchen & Bar.

Several restaurants also spotlight the local bounty with excellent farm-to-table fare, most notably Nectar Farm Kitchen and the aptly named FARM, where South Carolina Chef Ambassador 2019, Brandon Carter, turns out acclaimed cuisine featuring local ingredients.

Impressed? Take home some South Carolina goodies when you shop the Farmers Market (open on Thursdays) or head to the wharf for succulent, fresh-off-the-boat seafood from Bluffton Oyster Company.

And do sit back and enjoy an adult beverage. Don't miss Burnt Church Distillery with its stunning onsite tasting room, distillery, gift shop, humidor and history room. For something a bit more exotic, try Agave, a laid-back Southwest Tex-Mex Patrón margarita and taco bar on the Old Town Bluffton Promenade.


Shop for Treasures

The Store
The Store offers a rustic shopping experience with plenty of surprising finds.

From the funky to the charming to the artsy to the chic, there's something for every shopper in Old Town Bluffton.

For seekers of rustic/antique treasures, head to The Store for things old and new. Bluffton General Store offers locally themed apparel and gifts. Boutiques like Spartina449 and Gigi's are where modern Lowcountry women shop for the latest Southern chic fashions.

Adults and kids alike will be charmed by the Storybook Shoppe, a magical book and gift nook appealing to the young and young at heart.

For goods and gifts infused with coastal flair, stop in at The Complete Home  and Marsh on the May - both purveyors of fine treasures for the well-appointed home.

But for the ultimate Old Town souvenir, spend some time in one of the many art galleries. Camellia Art, Pluff Mud Art Gallery, and SOBA (Society of Bluffton Artists) will get you off to a good start.

Indeed, Old Town Bluffton is a small, old-fashioned Lowcountry town that embraces visitors with plenty to see, do and eat. For a relaxing day away from golf on Hilton Head, it's hard to beat.


Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.