Bluffton History

May River BenchThe town of Bluffton is situated on a high bluff overlooking the pristine May River, source of world-famous Bluffton oysters. The historic riverfront community still welcomes visitors with as much charm and vibrancy as it did in its antebellum heyday. Its’ location was prized by Lowcountry planters and their families as a refuge from the harsh plantation environment of mosquitoes and heat. The high bluffs welcomed strong southerly breezes that kept possible Yellow Fever infection at bay and dispelled sultry summer doldrums.

Bluffton’s reputation as a summer resort village helped it grow into a commercial center, welcoming packet ship trade between Beaufort, Hilton Head Island and Savannah. It was the first town in Southern Beaufort County.

The rich history of the area includes Native American Yemassee Indians and the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas. From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, this region is full of history lessons. Literally a hotbed for political rhetoric in the 1840’s and 1850’s, cries of secession were first given serious voice and debate in Bluffton.

Church ofthe Cross BlufftonAfter incorporation in 1852, the town continued to grow. Then came the war. Initially raided and scavenged in the early days of the conflict by Union forces occupying Hilton Head Island, Bluffton was finally shelled and burned in 1863. The Heyward House, Campbell Chapel AME Church and the Church of the Cross were among 17 structures to escape destruction. Those three historic buildings and seven other houses can be seen today in the Town’s Historic District.

The Heyward House, an outstanding 1840’s example of early Carolina farmhouse style, is the Town’s official Welcome Center. It is open Monday- Saturday and is a great place to start your docent or self-guided tour of the House or National Register Historic District and the thriving, vibrant arts community. Then you can discover the many wonderful retail shops and restaurants around town. Life in Bluffton is still conducted with tolerance, respect, and courtesy. Please come and discover the Bluffton “State of Mind.”

Heyward House Parlor in Bluffton



Bluffton Area Attractions

Bike TrailBluffton Bike Trails
25 miles of bike-friendly roads and trails.
The best way to see Old Town Bluffton.
Call (843)757-6293 for map of trails


Bluffton Oyster Company
63 Wharf Street, Old Town Bluffton.
Oldest continuous operating oyster shucking facility in South Carolina. Opened in the early 1900’s, the 4.5 acre site on the pristine May River was purchased by the Beaufort County Open Land Trust and will evolve into a community park. (843)757-4010

Bluffton Riverfront Pocket Park and Garden
End of Pritchard Street, Old Town Bluffton.
A living example of Bluffton’s River Overlay Protection District, this planted buffer provides visitors the opportunity to see how vegetated buffers along waterways protect water quality and enhance property aesthetics. (843)706-4500

Calhoun Street Art DistrictCalhoun Street Gallery Bluffton
Collection of art galleries clustered along
Calhoun Street, in the center of Old Town Bluffton. Call (843)757-6293 for map of galleries.

Campbell Chapel AME Church
23 Boundary Street, Old Town Bluffton.

Bluffton Church of the CrossChurch of the Cross Episcopal
110 Calhoun St, Old Town Bluffton.
Tours available Mon-Sat, 11am-2pm.(843)757-2661. This beautiful old church survived an attack by a Federal gun boat during the Civil War.


A Guild of Bluffton Artists
20 Calhoun Street, Bluffton. (843)757-5590. Open Mon-Sat, 10am-4:30pm. A co-op gallery of 14 Bluffton artists and craftspeople, the Guild is located in the historic Planters Mercantile building. Featuring original paintings in various media and styles, hand-made pottery, jewelry, turned wood pieces, baskets and more.

Bluffton Historic Heyward HouseHeyward House Historic Center
70 Boundary St.(843)757-6293Built in 1841 as a summer cottage for a Lowcountry planter, the Heyward House is Southern Beaufort County’s only house museum and Bluffton’s official welcome center. The Heyward House is open Mondays-Fridays 10am-4pm and Saturdays 11-2pm. It offers free information on things to see and do. Also available are docent-guided tours of the site. 

Waddell Mariculture CenterJames M. Waddell, Jr., Matricultural Research & Development Center
Sawmill Creek Road off Hwy. 278. One of the nation’s largest facilities for fish and shrimp farming & research. For tour information call (843)837-3795.



Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Off Hwy. 278, between the bridges to Hilton Head Island. 4,053 acres preserving salt marsh and maritime habitat. Historical marker commemorating Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Tour buses
call in advance. (912)452-4415. .

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