2018 CITY GUIDE BLUFFTON: Heritage Trail



Bluffton is the last remaining example of a Lowcountry antebellum planters summer colony. And since cultural tourism is a growing trend and studies show those who are interested in history spend more money on their vacations than traditional tourists, local leaders are happy to woo them.

But it wouldn’t hurt locals to learn about where they live, either.

“It’s not just for tourists,” said Carolyn Coppola, executive director of Celebrate Bluffton. “There are so many people who live here who don’t know these stories.”

BLUFFTONS HISTORY3So don’t be surpised if you spot folks standing on the corner of May River Road and Calhoun Street in Old Town Bluffton, listening intently to earbuds. They’re not lost. They’re just going back in time.

Celebrate Bluffton’s Bluffton Buddy is a free mobile app for iPhones and Androids that offers a narrated walking and driving tour through the history of Bluffton, highlighting landmarks and historical details dating back to before the Civil War.

Bob Newbert, the nonprofit group’s chairman, said the idea for the app rose out of a desire to preserve and promote the town’s interesting history, offering the perfect way to marry heritage and technology.


Money for the app’s production came in part from the town of Bluffton, which donated a small portion of its accommodations tax money, as well as donations from Celebrate Bluffton members.

Other ways to get an earful about Bluffton’s History include Garfield Moss’ “Old and New Bluffton” tours by golf cart. Cruise around town like a local on a stretch golf cart during a one-hour history and heritage tour led by Moss, who is knowledgable about the area, funny and friendly. And the many stories he shares provide plenty of Bluffton lore.


Heyward House, Bluffton’s official visitor’s center, offers walking tours that begin with a guided tour of the house and grounds, and then continue with a walk through Bluffton's historic district. Guided 75- to 90-minute-long walking tours are available Monday through Friday by appointment, and reservations are required. Or, of course, visitors are welcome to take a stroll through Old Town Bluffton at their own pace — Heyward House’s virtual docent walking tour is compatible with smartphones and tablets and available online.

BLUFFTONS HISTORY8Stop by Heyward House and pick up a set of walking tour cards, and when you get to one of the historic sites, scan the corresponding card with the free Zappar app. Your virtual guide will appear on your screen, dressed in period clothing.

Some of the sites in Bluffton included on the self-guided tour include the Graves House, Campbell Chapel AME Church, The Church of the Cross, Seven Oaks, Bluffton Oyster Co. and the Garvin-Garvey House.




BLUFFTONS HISTORY5One of Bluffton’s oldest structures is getting a facelift thanks to a partnership between the town and Beaufort County.

The two recently bought a 1.3-acre parcel on Calhoun Street in Old Town that is home to the Squire Pope Carriage House.

The structure, which overlooks the May River, was built around 1850 and served as part of a summer home for “Squire” William Pope, a Hilton Head Island plantation owner and state lawmaker, according to Bluffton Historical Preservation Society documents. The main home — along with most of the other buildings in town — was burned during the Civil War, but the carriage house remained intact.

The town plans to stabilize the carriage house and rehabilitate the interior and exterior. The town and county also plan to add a new public park with access to the May River to the property.



Three groups currently offer history tours of Old Town Bluffton: