Courtesy of Palmetto Bluff

Culture & Recreation

History of Bluffton, South Carolina

Bluffton’s history is still alive and well in its streets, buildings and historic homes. Bluffton’s Old Town is a unique treasure in this country because its original one-square mile town has been largely preserved. What Bluffton was in the 1800s can still be seen today despite the destruction of the Civil War, Mother Nature and man’s desire to build anew. This speaks to the success of Bluffton’s historic preservation projects and its residents’ labors of love to nurture the town’s story and assets.

In the last two decades, Bluffton’s growth has exploded in both land mass and population as it has annexed numerous neighborhoods and properties. It is now the fifth-largest South Carolina town in land mass. Despite this skyrocketing growth, Bluffton’s original treasures representing Bluffton’s early days remain and are closely guarded.


Following the American Revolution, long-staple Sea Island cotton and rice grown on mainland plantations brought tremendous wealth to the Carolina Lowcountry. In the early 1800s, Bluffton became a summer resort for planter families seeking relief from intense heat and disease-carrying mosquitoes of the mainland rice plantations. Summer cottages were built on the high bluffs and coves of the May River to catch the cooling breezes. The street grid, which still exists today, was laid out in the 1830s and provides river and marsh views.

The Town of Bluffton, incorporated in 1852, was comprised of one-square mile and remained as such for almost 130 years until the first annexation took place. Bluffton has since grown to approximately 54 square miles and is one of the largest municipalities in South Carolina.

While recent growth has increased the Town in size and population, preservation of natural resources, history and culture has remained a Town priority. The Town’s community plans such as the May River Watershed Action Plan, the Old Town Master Plan, and the Buck Island Road/Simmonsville Road Neighborhood Plan are examples of guiding documents that address conservation of the May River and protection of the inherent character within the Old Town Bluffton Historic District and the Town’s surrounding neighborhoods.

To learn more about Bluffton’s history, preservation efforts and tours, please visit the Heyward House Visitor’s Center at 70 Boundary Street in Old Town.

Heritage Trail

To complement Bluffton’s preservation efforts, Celebrate Bluffton, a historic-preservation non-profit, is working to establish a Bluffton Heritage Trail that presents a balanced, cohesive and personal history of Bluffton and the heritage of its residents. This information will be available through an app so you can experience Bluffton’s history at your convenience and spend as much or as little time as you desire at each location. The Bluffton Heritage Trail will enable you to experience Lowcountry history firsthand. As you make your way through the town, you will learn about its unique beginnings. Through interactive experiences and stories linking history, politics, economics, and culture you are introduced to people and events that shaped the Bluffton you see today.


Known as the “last true coastal village of the South,” Bluffton offers a lifestyle rich in culture and recreation. Bluffton’s laid-back attitude, together with the stunning views of the May River, access to the Atlantic Ocean and waterways and its quaint, charming Old Town offers the perfect combination to live and work. As many towns and cities in the United States are focused on building more strip malls, expanding franchises and extending its suburban sprawl, Blufftonians place a high priority of maintaining an extremely high quality of life and preserving its historic roots, its natural resources and its artistic culture.

Strategically located in the heart of the South Carolina Lowcountry region, Bluffton’s crown jewel is the May River. The town is located at the north bluff of the May River, thus giving the town its namesake. The May River is a water-lover’s paradise offering an abundance of fish, shrimp and oysters. Bluffton is also the home to South Carolina’s last full-time oyster shucking business, located at the end of the Wharf Street dock. Bluffton Oyster Company first opened in 1899 and has been operated by generations of the Toomer family.

The Bluffton sandbar, which is accessible at low tide, is also a hub for many memories. On route to the sandbar or other destinations, you can also enjoy the beauty and wonder of Mother Nature as the River nurtures a community of wildlife within her domain. Watch the birds construct a nest in trees high above you, look next to your boat as dolphins swim parallel to you and enjoy the beautiful sunsets over the calm waters.

Beyond the stunning views of the water, Bluffton’s streets are populated with antebellum homes, historic churches and creative shops. The centuries-old oaks are draped with cascading Spanish Moss; giving Bluffton a classic southern feel. While Bluffton is the fifth-largest town in South Carolina due to its land mass, the Bluffton culture treasures its small-town energy and offers an eclectic Old Town District peppered with award-winning shops and restaurants.

While it is known as the “Heart of the Lowcountry,” Bluffton’s motto for decades was “Bluffton: It’s A State of Mind.” Like falling in love, Bluffton residents can’t reach a consensus of how to define it; however you know it, once you experience it. Bluffton’s state of mind offers genuine hospitality, artistic eccentricity, the love of food and a yearlong calendar of festivals, farmers markets and fun events.


Bluffton’s centerpiece is the May River; offering beautiful scenery, an abundance of natural resources and a venue for watersports, outdoor activities and sports. The ebb and flow of the tides have witnessed generations of families falling in love with Bluffton’s lifestyle on the water as the pristine May River has provided food, recreation and even, old-fashion baptisms.

The sub-tropical climate allows for year-around watersports, nature-watching and outdoor living. Kayaking or boating through the marsh grass and watching the diverse populations of birds are among the simple joys of living in Bluffton. It is also an outdoors paradise offering fishing, crabbing and shrimping.

Adding in a year-long calendar of festivals, events and activities, Bluffton values its community and provides ample opportunity for neighbors to come together for food and fun.

Bluffton’s culture of outdoor living also is a venue for bicyclists, runners, walkers, swimmers and athletes of every kind. For those looking for organized sports teams, the Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services offer adults and children alike numerous opportunities to participate. To meet the growing needs of the community, the Town of Bluffton and Beaufort County have provided a plethora of parks for families, adults and children to relax and play such as:

 Park  Activities
 Buckwalter Regional Park  Bluffton Recreation Center/Gymnasium, soccer fields, skate park, youth football, playground, walking trails, biking pathways
 Buckwalter Trail  Walking trail
 Dubois Park  Playground, pavilion, benches, picnic area, swings and  public Wi-Fi
 M.C. Riley Sports  Complex  Baseball field, lit basketball court, playground
 New River Linear Trail  Hiking, walking trail, benches, kayak dock, and scenic  view of the Okatie River
 Oscar Frazier Park  Playground, soccer fields, baseball fields and Rotary  Community Center
 Oyster Factory Park  Boat launch area, picnic area, walking trail, benches, fire  pit, public Wi-Fi, and the Bluffton Oyster Factory
 Pritchard Park  Benches, Picnic area and scenic views of the May River
 Pritchard Street Pool  Indoor swimming pool
 Sam Bennett Sports  Complex  Baseball field and home to the Bluffton Eagles Baseball  team
 Tom Herbkersman Commons  Shaded seating area in Old Town, Old Town Map, and Follow the Fiddlers destination point


It is a unique experience to live in a Town which places a high priority on assuring its residents have plenty of opportunity for making memories, having fun and enjoying life.

That culture drives a varied buffet of entertainment venues such as rustic bars, outdoor concerts and upscale cuisine. Whether you are grabbing a beer after work or are celebrating a life landmark, there are restaurants, bars and entertainment venues tailored to your tastes. Bluffton’s “main street” of restaurants and bars is located in an area called the Promenade where you can find seafood entrees, award-winning barbecue, wine bars and healthy tapas.

Bluffton also offers an active arts and theatre community with local galleries and theatres showcasing local talent. Bluffton’s Old Town District is known for its “Art Walks,” and its numerous galleries offering interpretations of several artistic genres. Old Town also offers a walking-shopping experience; as you stroll through its upscale boutiques, antique stores and its quirky vintage and home décor stores.

In the middle of Old Town is the Oyster Factory Park where most of the community oyster roasts occur. You know you have been initiated into Lowcountry living when you crack open a steamy oyster shell and discover one of Bluffton’s most treasured natural resources for your palette pleasure.

Bluffton’s also has become a hub for year-round festivals highlighting local culture and cuisine. These festivities include the Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival, the Bluffton Village Festival, the Boiled Peanut Festival, the Taste of Bluffton and so forth.

As many current Bluffton residents have testified, after spending a day or a week in Bluffton, it is possible you may fall in love with Bluffton’s “State of Mind,” and decide to change your permanent address. Not many places still exist which provide modern-day entertainment amidst the rustic beauty of the past and a Town’s natural scenery.

Local Offerings

Regional Offerings

Bluffton Climate

 Yearly Average Precipitation  48.4”
 Yearly Average Temperature  65.8°F
 Yearly Average High Temperature  75°F
 Yearly Average Low Temperature  55°F
 Sunshine: Average Percent Possible  81%
 Snowfall: Average Total Inches  0.23”


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