The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a 12,000-square-mile, federal National Heritage Area, honors the remarkable story of the Gullah people, including those who lived in the Lowcountry and Sea Islands of South Carolina. Take a couple of days to explore their special place in South Carolina history through these culturally significant points of interest, museums, and tours.
Lowcountry Gullah Heritage Tour
Hilton Head Island
- Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island: The Gullah Museum preserves the Gullah culture that existed on Hilton Head Island before the bridge to the mainland was built. Tour The Little House, built in 1930 by former slave William Simmons, which has been preserved by Simmons' great-granddaughter, Louise Miller Cohen, and gives visitors the experience of life on the island of the Gullah people during the 20th century.
- Gullah Heritage Trail Tours: These two-hour tours are led by native islanders and descendants of the first Gullah settlers. See the Gullah Family Campgrounds, one-room schoolhouse, tabby ruins and more.
- Mitchelville Freedom Park: The first post-Civil War settlement for freed slaves, Mitchelville established the beginning of freedom for the members of this community as they built homes, elected their own officials, developed laws and implemented mandatory education for their children.
- Lunch: Bullies BBQ, a Hilton Head hotspot for slow-cooked smoked ribs and pulled pork plates, makes a great stop for a late lunch on your island tour.
- Stay: The Rhett House Inn in nearby Beaufort, home of the annual Gullah Festival, is a classic Southern inn in the heart the historic district. Check out the nearby Rhett Gallery, owned by the family who built the inn, to see artwork reflecting local Gullah history.
- Dinner: With an outdoor patio overlooking the Beaufort River and fresh seafood options, Plums is a local favorite and within walking distance of the Rhett House.
St. Helena Island
- Penn Center: Take a short drive on the Sea Island Parkway to St. Helena Island and the home of the campus of the former Penn School. Founded in 1862 as a place for the education of emancipated Sea Island slaves, the school operated through the end of World War II and was a sanctuary for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, marking it as a sacred place on the Gullah Corridor. Also see the Center's museum exhibits, three galleries and a shop featuring traditional and contemporary Gullah arts and crafts.
- Gullah Grub: Once you've finished the tour of the museum, stay on St. Helena Island for lunch at The Gullah Grub Restaurant. Owner and Head Chef Bill Green, known as the "Gullah Huntsman," has been featured on "Martha Stewart Living" and "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," and is nationally recognized as a source of authentic Gullah cuisine. He has been known to take a seat in the dining room and share stories from his incredible past with diners.
- The Gullah Geechee Gallery: One of the core exhibitions at The International African American Museum, the Gullah Geechee Gallery explores what it means to be Gullah Geechee and the contemporary issues facing their communities today. Featuring a full-size bateau (boat), a recreated praise house and multiple media experiences, the Gullah Geechee Gallery provides profound insights to their vibrant cultural identity.
- Charleston City Market: Jump back on the Sea Island Parkway and head north to Highway 17 and the city of Charleston, where you can stroll the Charleston City Market and see Gullah artisans weaving sweetgrass baskets and conversing in the beautiful blend of French, Creole and African languages.
- Gullah Tour of Charleton: The Charleston Visitors Center is the starting point of Gullah Tours, which features many stops including the Underground Railroad, Brown Fellowship Society and Catfish Row. Note: Reservations required.
- Boone Hall Plantation: If you're looking for an authentic experience, don't miss Boone Hall Plantation, which offers a Gullah theater presentation, tours of 18th century slave dwellings and more on the grounds of the plantation that was founded in 1681.
- Hannibal's Kitchen: Before you head home, experience a meal from Hannibal's Kitchen, a no-frills operation serving up some of the best Gullah cooking around. Don't miss their signature dish, Crab and Shrimp Rice. You can also get your fill of soul food favorites like lima beans, okra soup, fried chicken, pork chops, and collard greens.