FREE at more than 350 locations in the Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Beaufort and Savannah areas. Lowcountry Leisure Guide provides a comprehensive view of what Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Beaufort and Savannah has to offer in the way of Shopping, Dining, Activities and Calendar of Events. If you would like to preview the guides before your arrival, you can view the guide ONLINE.
42 New Orleans Road, Suite 103 | Hilton Head Island | 800-673-9385
NATIVE or NOT: Bluffton BloomsTest
Many of us, in our Southern childhood wanderings, grew up with camellias, azaleas and crape myrtles. They may have been around our whole lives, but they weren’t always here.
Many “exotics” were brought to the North American continent with the Europeans. These plants are from all over the world! Camellias are from China, azaleas are from Japan, and crape myrtles are from Southeast Asia. Despite what its name suggests, even Confederate Jasmine is not native.
Lately, the trend is to use more native plants for landscaping. Native plants require less attention, can be subjected to the saltwater’s edge to absorb rain runoff and benefit indigenous animals and the Lowcountry ecosystem. As a marine biologist, I have rarely considered the difference until interior and waterfront development resulted in the removal of huge amounts of native vegetation, allowing rainwater to flow freely into the May River and, along with it, fertilizers, oil and gas residue, fecal coliform from animal droppings, litter and more.
Most non-native plants coexisting in the Lowcountry are considered naturalized or non-invasive and, since they have become established, are not a detriment. However, they aren’t as resilient as the saw palms, yuccas, sand spurs and bull thistles. Other natives include the Southern magnolia, American holly, dogwood, cabbage palmetto, black-eyed Susan, sweetgrass, Carolina jessamine, beauty berry and others. For the complete list of Coastal Native Plants, visit the South Carolina Native Plant Society’s website at scnps.org.
Native plants do fine without any extra irrigation or fertilizer—a great advantage when considering the local marine environment. And they’re cheaper! Many new developments have incorporated sweetgrass around parking lots and in medians. It is the grass with the purple POOF at the top (obviously, I’m not a botanist). It is also the material used to make Gullah sweetgrass baskets.
The saw palmetto stalks have spines that scratch. Have you ever run into one of these? Or tried to yank it out of the soil? They are sharp and tough. Deer do not eat palms, unless they are really desperate. Not only is the plant protected from would-be trampling, it also serves as a dense shelter for small ground dwellers. Saw palmetto extract has been used in the medical field to reduce urinary problems resulting from an enlarged prostate.
Have you ever bumped into the yucca in the Palmetto State Bank parking lot? You forget how sharp they are! I have stabbed myself a time or two getting out of the car, but I noticed it was cut down the other day. The common name for this plant is, appropriately, Spanish bayonet. Yucca need very little water and they produce an attractive white flower. Apparently, the root is edible and full of nutrients. Another plus? Deer will not eat a yucca plant.
Non-native plants which interfere with the growth of native plants are considered invasive. Kudzu comes to mind, as well as the tallow tree and honeysuckle vine. Tallow trees are very thirsty. They can dry up a small swamp, leaving little water for competing native species. This tree is everywhere! One good look at its unique leaf, followed by an observant glance at our woodlands will quickly yield a tallow tree sighting.
As a child, I plucked honeysuckle and tasted its sweet nectar. This Japanese vine was introduced to Long Island in 1809 and distributed by nurseries. It overcomes other plants by covering them with a thick mat. There is a native honeysuckle, but I guarantee that you have never seen it. It has fused leaves and a purple flower.
All our native plants have unique characteristics that make them perfect for the Southern coastal plains or Lowcountry landscape. The website mentioned above provides a concise list. You will even find there are two species of azalea that are native, but not exactly familiar. Now I want to find them! They are like hidden jewels and imagine what a conversation piece to have an authentic Lowcountry yard with much less fuss!
My favorite non-native, the gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) was first given its scientific name in England by Linnaeus in 1752. It was named after a Scottish physician and naturalist, Dr. Alexander Garden, who later retired to Charleston, SC. (Yes, Dr. Alexander Garden’s garden was the first location of a gardenia in America in 1762.)
105 Okatie Center Boulevard North | Bluffton| (843) 705-2300
116 Old Town Square | Bluffton | (843) 645-3700
The May River: A Shimmering TreasureTest
For generations, the May River in Bluffton has united Lowcountry residents who live along the shores of this shimmering estuary.
During the antebellum period, Savannah-area plantation owners brought their families to spend the summer under the shade of the live oak trees lining the May River. The breezes off the river prevented the intrusion of mosquitoes lurking on sweltering rice plantations and spreading diseases like malaria and yellow fever.
When Union soldiers drove Hilton Head residents out of their homes during the Civil War, they sought asylum in Bluffton, which earned its name from the signature high banks along the May River. That natural bluff made it easy for Confederate soldiers to spot an invasion attempt during the tumultuous Civil War.
South Carolina’s economic saving grace during the post-war Reconstruction Era, the May River was used to transport goods and summer vacationers between Savannah and other port cities.
By any measure, the most coveted resource sold along the water trade route were the oysters that inhabited the pristine river. South Carolina’s oysters, or Eastern oysters as they are called, continue to be in high demand for the authentic taste of the Lowcountry the bivalves provide. As the oysters clean and filter the water of the May River, they absorb some of the salty Southern flavoring that can only be found in South Carolina’s waters.
Home to some of the nation’s tastiest oysters, the May River also serves as an unofficial community gathering spot when the tides roll out. On any given summer day, the May River Sand Bar is lined with boats blasting music, mariners playing cornhole, the sweet smell of fresh food on the grill and kids chasing after newfound friends. The sunset version of this come-as-you-are party may be the highlight of any South Carolina summer.
A short walk from the shops in Old Town Bluffton, the May River can be accessed at the end of Calhoun Street or the sandy Brighton Beach. Tours of the Church of the Cross are available from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Tours of the Garvin-Garvey Freedman’s Cottage are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $5 per person; free admission for children.
5 Facts About Old Town BlufftonTest
1. Old Town is a great destination for visitors.
Situated along a natural bluff overlooking the May River, Old Town Bluffton features historic homes converted into chic boutiques, treasure-filled antique shops, caffeine-rich cafés and colorful art galleries. Wander through Bluffton’s shady streets, play cornhole, sample happy hour specials and discover beautiful works of art by Lowcountry artists.
2. History lives on Bluffton’s streets.
Although some of Bluffton’s homes were burned in 1863 during the Civil War, the historic structures that remain offer insight into the mercantile society of river traders who once occupied them. Today, Calhoun Street has the community’s densest concentration of historic homes and art galleries.
3. Southern hospitality is always in style.
The historic Heyward House
The Heyward House, located at 70 Boundary St., is the Official Welcome Center for the Town of Bluffton, offering free maps, information and more. This historic home, built in 1841 and inspired by planters’ homes in the British West Indies, is open for guided tours Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
4. Bluffton offers memorable
By Jay fraser4 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Popular annual events in Bluffton include Mayfest, which originally started in 1978 and unites local artisans and musicians to celebrate local culture, and the Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival, which features original art, kayak tours, a 5K run and plenty of fresh, local seafood.
By James Earl (d. 1796) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
From 1937 to 1975, when it was donated to the Fish and Wildlife Service, Pinckney Island was privately owned and managed as a game preserve. Established in 1975, the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge features more than 4,000 acres of wild Lowcountry beauty, including Pinckney Island, Corn Island, Big Harry Island, Little Harry Island, Buzzard Island and numerous small hammocks.
Nearly 67% of the refuge consists of salt marsh and tidal creeks, which support a diversity of bird and plant life. Wildlife commonly observed on Pinckney Island includes waterfowl, shorebirds, bald eagles, wood storks, wading birds, raptors, neo-tropical migrants, white-tailed deer and American alligators, with large concentrations of white ibis, herons and egrets.
The refuge offers ideal opportunities for hiking, bicycling, photography and wildlife observation.
Suggested Hiking/Biking Trips:
All trips begin and end at the parking area located half a mile from the refuge entrance; distances are round-trip.
Ibis Pond: 1.2 miles
Shell Point: 4.6 miles
Starr Pond: 2 miles
Osprey Pond: 3 miles
Nini Chapin and Barker Ponds: 3.6 miles
Bull Point: 5 miles
Dick Point: 7.4 miles
Clubhouse Pond: 6.2 miles
White Point: 7.8 miles
Confessions Of… A Hotel General ManagerTest
How to Get a Great Room Rate.
How to save on hotel stays: the discounts, the concessions, the lures.
By Stuart Wilson
1. Negotiate with the hotel. When business is slow, no property will turn down a reasonable offer. Earlier in my career, as a front-desk manager, I would leave for the night and allow the desk clerks the flexibility of negotiating discounts should they experience resistance to the hotel’s published rates. We found that by selectively reducing prices, we could avoid turning away any business when we needed it.
2. Though it’s best to phone ahead, you can negotiate on arrival. If you walk in without a reservation and are unhappy with the rate you are quoted, tell the desk clerk and ask if there is a lower rate or offer a rate that you are willing to pay. Always wait until the desk is not busy. This will allow the clerks to quote discounted rates without being overheard by other guests who may be checking in. You’ll be surprised at how often you are successful in receiving a discount on your room just by asking.
3. Despite the possibility of last-minute discounts, it’s best to make your reservations long in advance. As soon as you are aware of your travel plans, call and make your hotel reservations. As your arrival date nears, the demand for that room will usually increase. As demand increases, the discounted rate will be sold out and only the high regular rate will be available.
4. Never call the 800 number. Dial the hotel direct! Usually, the rates quoted by the national reservations services (the ones you access by phoning the 800 number) are simply regular or premium rates. The majority of the discounted rates will be available only through the hotel itself.
5. Ensure that any special request you make will not trigger a “rate add-on.” For example, asking for a golf view, a pool view, or a beach view usually means a more expensive room than one with a less desirable location. Always confirm the rate first-then, and only then, state any special preference or request. You’ll avoid being given an add-on rate.
6. Always request a reservation number. Or the name of the person who took the reservation. This will become invaluable should a hotel renege on a rate.
7. Be sure to request super saver rates. Ask if the hotel offers any super saver rates, discounts, or specials. Most hotels will offer some type of discount off the regular rate if it encounters resistance from the would-be guest. This is also called a hotel “fall-back” or “bottom out” rate.
8. Or request an AAA or AARP rate, a senior citizen rate, or a hotel membership rate. Many hotels offer discounts of at least ten percent to such persons.
9. If you fit the bill, request a government or corporate rate. If you are in the military or if you work for a government agency or as a government contractor, you may be eligible for a government rate, which can be as much as 50 percent off; indeed, government rates are among the hotel industry’s best rates. Similarly, if you’re a traveler on business, always ask for the corporate or business rate, and let the telephone reservationist know the name of the company for which you work. If you are employed by a company that has an office close to the hotel, you may receive a substantial discounted rate that is aimed at capturing the majority of your company’s out-of-town guests.
10. Occasionally, shareholders of hotel chains are entitled to discounted rates. Shareholders should inquire directly with individual hotel chains for details.
11. There are travel industry, hotel employee, long-term, and “good samaritan” discounts to be had. If a member of your immediate family is a travel industry employee, you may be eligible for travel-industry discounts. As a hotel manager, I have received numerous discounts at hotels, rental car agencies, and on airlines. Always ask. If you are planning on staying five to seven nights, ask whether discounts are given for extended stays. And lastly, keep in mind that many independent hotel operators and some major hotel companies offer good samaritan rates to guests experiencing hardships (stranded motorists, victims of storm damage or fires).
12. Tell the front desk you’re willing to accept a “suite connector.” Many times the staff cannot sell the entire extent of a multiroom suite at maximum price, and that leaves the sitting room portion, which is connected by a lockable door, available. Usually, the sofa can be converted into a bed, and this provides a nice accommodation at a considerable discount. Or you can request that a roll-away be placed into the sitting room (for which you’ll be sure to receive a good discount).
13. Finally, mention that you’re willing to accept an “out-of-order” room. Rarely are all the rooms in a hotel ready for occupancy. Housekeeping and engineering departments designate some rooms out of order because of some defect in the room (ranging from a small stain on the carpet to a faulty TV). Depending on the standards of the hotel, managers may allow these out-of-order rooms to be sold on a discounted, “last-sell” basis. Hotels rarely sell 100 percent of their rooms. They have to deal with no-shows, out-of-order rooms, early departures, duplicate reservations, last-minute cancellations, family emergencies, and a host of other empty-room-making contingencies. That’s why hotels are more than willing to deal-under the proper circumstances-and you, the savvy hotel guest, can benefit from that policy.
NEXTloft Extended Stay & SuitesTest
1376 Fording Island Road| Bluffton | (843) 837-9494
If you have any connection to environmental issues in the Lowcountry, you have likely heard that Hilton Head and Beaufort County have banned single-use plastic bags for most goods. Retailers had to quit using plastic bags on November 1. Plastic bags cause cause many problems in our communities and in our ecosystems. Hopefully, with the ban there… Read More…
The Lowcountry is full of subtle surprises this season. Ah, fall! This favorite season conjures up images of vibrantly colored leaves. The nip in the air makes us yearn for hot spiced cider and s’mores and being bundled up around a toasty fire. We pull out our jackets, sweaters, hats, mittens and boots to prepare… Read More…
If you have never heard of Waddell Mariculture Center (WMC), let me start by saying that it is the ONLY facility like it in the United States. And, yes, it is in Bluffton, South Carolina and has been for over 30 years! It is a research facility managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural… Read More…
I began exploring the daily life of the athletes who play polo, in preparation for the Annual Rotary Club of Okatie Polo for Charity event on Sunday, October 28. I assumed that the riders were going to be athlete divas, simply because of the game’s moniker, “the sport of kings.” I quickly learned that the… Read More…
Whether you’re just learning to play golf or you’ve been teeing off for decades, it’s important to realize that golf is a sport that can take a lifetime to perfect. There are always new ways to refine your swing, practice your putt and improve your score. Fall’s refreshing weather encourages golf improvement. As October temperatures cool… Read More…