Laid-Back Life on the Bluff

Named by Forbes magazine as one of the best places to retire, Bluffton is also a laid-back, family-friendly enclave with a young, vibrant artistic community within easy reach of island beaches, live music, one-of-a-kind treasures, field-to-fork cuisine and endless outdoor activities.

Photo By: Chris M. Rogers

Photo By: Chris M. Rogers

Photo By: MichaelHrizuk

Photo By: Chris M. Rogers

Photo By: Chris M. Rogers

Photo By: Jason B James

Photo By: Charles Harris

Photo By: Christine

Photo By: Chris M. Rogers

Photo By: Chris M. Rogers

Old Town Bluffton

Sure, Highway 278 running through Bluffton on the way to Hilton Head Island is chock-a-block full of big boxes and name-brand outlets. For those seeking one-of-a-kind local finds inspired by the surrounding beauty, Old Town Bluffton on Highway 46/May River Road begs you to take your time and to browse. Stroll at your leisure among bespoke boutiques, filled with unique clothes and accessories, such as Spartina 449, a homegrown handbag and accessories line.

Art Galleries and Antique Markets

Art galleries and antique markets, coffee shops, wine bars, bakeries and craft breweries breathe fresh air into refurbished cottages and bungalows. Catch a matinee at the May River Theater, or walk across to the promenade where home furnishings stores, like Abode, help you imagine that relaxed and refined Bluffton flair for your dream home overlooking the marsh. Top off your day with a taste of jazz and bourbon at the Roasting Room Lounge.

FARM Bluffton

No two sittings at FARM Bluffton are alike. At lunchtime, when the menu is an elevated meat-and-three, you might have a choice of fresh-caught shrimp or country ham and sides of stone-ground grits flecked with parmesan and pepper, sautéed lady peas, or refried butter beans. At supper, Chef Brandon Carter might fashion a bruschetta topped with chanterelle mushrooms foraged earlier that day by managing partner Josh Heaton. Whatever farmer Ryan Williamson has grown and harvested less than a mile down the road serves as inspiration for the day’s menu, which is numbered to emphasize how quickly tastes change when the ethos is on the freshest proteins and produce available. The intimate, wood-planked atmosphere creates a communal vibe made all the more convivial by the expertly crafted cocktails.

Farmers Market Bluffton

Every Thursday afternoon, from mid-January through late-December, the stand of Carson Cottages on Calhoun Street in the heart of Old Town becomes a communitywide celebration of wholesome goodness. Farmers Market Bluffton, which launched in 2008, shares the wares of more than 30 producers, from artisanal cheesemakers and spice blenders to bread bakers and small family growers.

Artisans at the Farmers Market

Local chefs are often onsite to give demonstrations on how to shop the market and prepare savory dinners for the week. Master gardeners share their growing tips with adults and kids, planting seeds with the next generation.

The Pink Pig

Although technically in Levy/Hardeeville, this pocket-sized barbecue joint sits right on Highway 170 just southwest of Old Town Bluffton. You can’t miss it—either the petunia-hued porcine calling cards painted around the white shack or the meaty Brunswick stew. Folks drive across the bridge from Savannah and down from Beaufort just for a lunch plate of tangy, mustard-slathered Carolina-style pulled pork or fresh-battered fried chicken. Bring an empty belly and plenty of cash because the Pig doesn’t take cards.

Dive In

With year-round sunshine and average water temperatures in the 70s, Bluffton is the ideal spot to get your feet wet. The sands of Hilton Head Island are a mere 15-minute drive, depending on traffic. Waterfront parks and outfitters offer boat ramps and equipment rentals for canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. At low tide, the sand bar in the middle of the May River is transformed into a town square for boaters.

Saddle Up

Horse lovers will find fellowship in this little pocket of paradise. In Palmetto Bluff, equestrians will find boarding stables, dressage and event fields, lessons for beginners and competitors, and picturesque riding trails through maritime forests and along tidal creeks.

Join the Club

Within Bluffton, the surrounding area and barrier islands, golfers have their choice of nearly three dozen championship courses on which to practice their swing, including (pictured) the one at Palmetto Bluff’s par-72 Jack Nicklaus-designed May River Golf Club. From seaside links to meandering parks, golfers are sure to find their sweet spot.

Music on Malphrus

When church isn’t in service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry, an entirely different kind of religious experience occurs in its chapel, which becomes a listening room for performances by local, national and international touring musicians. Affordable ticket prices ($20 a head) and stellar acoustics draw patrons from Savannah and Charleston alike. Now entering its fourth season, Music on Malphrus will host acoustic group Ryanhood, modern folk duo Friction Farm, bluegrass picker Brooks Williams, and Greenwich Village folk singer Rod Macdonald, among others, in 2018.

Historic Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival

Every October, Old Town rolls out the welcome mat for thousands of visitors to celebrate its good fortune to sit at the crossroads of briny goodness and artistic expression.

Attractions at the Arts and Seafood Festival

The weeklong Historic Bluffton Arts and Seafood Festival explores the heritage and cuisine of the Lowcountry with walking and paddle tours, cooking demonstrations, special dinners, live music and author readings—all culminating in a street fair of more than 100 juried artists during its final weekend.

Shop This Look