Since 2000, Bluffton’s population has grown from just under 3,000 to just over 15,000. What’s up in this moss-draped village on the beautiful May River? Locals will tell you it’s the appeal of the “Bluffton State of Mind.”
“It’s a young and vibrant community (average age is 34), and people are attracted by the culture, arts vibe, proximity to beaches, and small-town way of life coupled with fabulous restaurants, shopping, outdoor activities, and other amenities usually not found in a town this size,” said Charlie Clark, VP-Communications for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Clark says that, in some ways, Bluffton is to South Carolina what Austin is to Texas: “a little funky and quirky, laid-back, and dedicated to staying that way.” Locals tool around the historic district in golf carts, rather than SUVs.
Iconic Church on the River
At the end of Calhoun Street, on a bluff overlooking the May River, sits one of the most beautiful churches in the South. Church of the Cross has been a congregation since the 1700s. Its historic wooden Gothic home with shutters and palmetto-shaped detailing was built in 1854. Inside, the sanctuary glows with delicate pink, from the plaster walls and rose-colored windowpanes, which were imported from England.
Stroll Calhoun Street and The Promenade for eclectic shops and galleries.
"Bluffton General Store is the newest charming hot spot for fresh cut flowers daily, gifts, one-of-a kind original art, and home décor, “ Clark says. “Jacob Preston Pottery is a fixture downtown and well-known as Bluffton’s Tallest Potter. He still leaves the door unlocked and works on the honor system when he heads out of town. In 20+ years of doing so, he has never had a single item taken.”
“The bucket-list stop for lodging would be the Montage Palmetto Bluff,” Clark said. “With the recent addition of their new inn modeled after the home that formerly sat on the property, it’ a magical place, complete with gas street lights.”
Among Clark’s dining picks are The Cottage for decadent desserts plus “tomato pie to die for and salads the size of a football field”; Ted Huffman’s Bluffton BBQ; the upscale Bluffton Room with its rooftop bar and open air bar that ties into The Promenade shopping area; and The Dispensary for live music and “the best burgers in town.”
The Bluffton Oyster Factory—fourth-generation owned—is the only one still operating in South Carolina. Part of a newly renovated Oyster Factory Park, the facility harvests May River oysters known for their sweetness. Bluffton hosts town-wide oyster roasts in the fall.
Want To Live There?
Housing prices in Bluffton can range from entry-level properties in the low 200s, to Lowcountry dream homes along the Colleton and May Rivers—those will set you back millions. Choose from downtown cottages in the Stock Farm area or on downtown streets bordering Calhoun, which are walkable to shops and restaurants; family-friendly neighborhoods along Buckwalter Parkway; or gated communities ranging from family-friendly Hampton Hall to upscale Colleton River, Belfair, and Berkeley Hall, which have their own rec facilities, golf courses, and clubs.
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With it's gorgeous architecture, tree-lined streets, eclectic shopping, and waterfront location, no wonder Charleston was voted best city in the South by the Southern Living audience in 2017.