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.
“We are a business to business chamber bridging the gap between the bridges.” We encourage, develop and sustain great relationships that bring all concerned to a common ground entity for the common good of all concerned. Representing Businesses and the Communities in the Greater Bluffton and Greater Okatie Areas! 217 Goethe Road, (843) 757-1010.
Enjoy the Sights, Tastes, History and Traditions of Beautiful BlufftonTest
Bluffton Promenade in Old Town
Old Town Bluffton, Highway 46 takes you straight into Downtown Bluffton:
This delightful area along the beautiful May River is compact but loaded with Lowcountry charm. Boutiques, art galleries, upscale and casual eats, coffee spots, restored antebellum and post-Civil War homes and churches make this a place you’ll want to spend some quality time. A lively Farmers’ Market takes place every Thursday and has something for everyone to enjoy. Sunday Brunch is another a big happening in Old Town Bluffton. But note that many shops are only open Monday through Saturday, so plan ahead to get the most out of your time there!
Map: Townofbluffton [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
The May River:
The May River drives the character of Bluffton, named for its location on the river’s north bluff. Its lazy sandbars, docks, shrimp boats, sunsets, wildlife, islands, seafood, and breezes all combine to make Bluffton what some residents consider the “last true coastal village of the South.” There are a number of access points around town, including the Bluffton Calhoun Street Public Dock (113 Calhoun Street) and the Alljoy Boat Landing (265 Alljoy Road).
Bluffton Farmers’ Market, 40 Calhoun Street:
Buy local! Find fresh fruits, veggies, baked goods, flowers and more in a family-friendly, community-oriented environment that showcases local farmers and vendors. See what’s happening around town, get information about local events, enjoy live entertainment and bring your pets! Thursdays from 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Bluffton Oyster Company, 63 Wharf Street:
Dive into the best of the Lowcountry’s culinary tradition at the only remaining hand-shucked oyster joint in the state. Established in 1899, this restaurant relies on the local crabs, shrimp, mussels and oysters to feed its patrons. When you’ve had your fill, burn off some of the seafood with a stroll up to the Bluffton Oyster Factory Park, and take in the serene waterfront from the wharf.
Church of the Cross, 110 Calhoun Street:
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, this gorgeous Carpenter Gothic-style church features fanned arches, latticed shutters, rose-colored light and exposed pine. Situated atop a bluff of the May River, the Church of the Cross was designed by architect E.B. White and built in 1857. Currently an Episcopal congregation, the church sometimes holds outdoor services at sunrise, and has used the May River itself for baptisms.
Garvin-Garvey Freedman’s Cottage. Photo: Heyward House Museum & Welcome Center Facebook Page
Sometime around 1878, newly freed Cyrus Garvin built this home on the 54 acres he had purchased in 1870. Sitting atop a high bluff overlooking the May River, it is one of very few Reconstruction-era houses belonging to a freedman in this area. The home passed out of family hands in 1961, but was restored in 2016 and is now open to the public. Tours are available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and by appointment on Fridays.
St. Patrick’s Day in SavannahTest
The 2019 St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicks off on Saturday, March 16 at 10:15 a.m. More than 300,000 people are expected to visit and attend the parade, in which more than 280 floats and marching units will travel through the downtown streets of Savannah. Starting at the corner of Abercorn and Gwinnett Streets and concluding at Bull and Harris Streets, the parade lasts about four hours and includes local Irish groups, pipe bands, celebrities, politicians and military units. This lively celebration has been a tradition in Savannah for more than 190 years. The parade dates from approximately 1824 and is considered a military spectacle, which features soldiers marching through the scenic streets from different regiments.
The 2019 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and ceremonies in Savannah rock downtown all month long. With charity bar crawls, ceremonies to honor the military and festivals all over town to celebrate Celtic heritage, Savannah is sure to have an event everyone will love. The most popular St. Patty’s parties on River Street and in City Market kick off on Friday, March 15 at 10 a.m. and continue Saturday from 10 a.m. until midnight. Live entertainment, food and beverage vendors will be onsite, and a $10 wristband will be required in order to drink alcoholic beverages outdoors, so be sure to bring your I.D. proving that you’re over 21!
Parking is prohibited in the marshaling areas and parade route, which will be marked the day before. Vehicles parked in the prohibited zones will be towed beginning at 6 a.m. the day of the parade.
How about turning off your devices and reading books this winter? While there is less daylight and a nip in the air, February is a fantastic time to get cozy are read these works by Lowcountry authors and learn more about Bluffton.
“The Water is Wide”
Pat Conroy is generally better known for novels like “Prince of Tides” and “Beach Music,” but an early work of nonfiction about his days as schoolteacher on Daufuskie Island is, in my opinion, by far the standout. Although Daufuskie is called “Yamacraw” and the names of characters are changed as well, the unflinching portrayal still ticked off a lot of folks around here when it was published in 1972. Conroy spoke the truth about what he saw: little black children on an island of isolation and poverty, whose education had been so sorely neglected that they couldn’t even recite the alphabet or name the country they lived in.
In a pitiful drafty schoolhouse with outdated textbooks cast off by mainland white schools, they were beaten and called “retarded” by their only other teacher. So Conroy promptly instituted his own unorthodox methods—such as taking them across the water on field trips to an outside world about which they had an astounding ignorance—until his job was threatened by patriarchal powers of the school board. Despite its treatment of such heavyweight issues, the book is an absolute joy to read, full of the warmth and humor of Daufuskie’s native islander community. And the kids—you can’t help but love the kids! Conroy perfectly captures their hilarity, innocence and mean streaks; their tragedy, potential and hope. The Lowcountry is better for having this book.
William Elliot’s “Carolina Sports by Land and Water”
First published in 1846, here is a genuine primary-source window into a past that is so often discussed here: the days of gentlemen rice planters. “I am a hereditary sportsman,” Elliot writes, “and inherit the tastes of my grandfather, as well as his lands.” Elliot is absolutely typical, keeping to all the social norms and prejudices of the era. He built his fortune on the backs of slaves, whom he felt certain would burn the whole place down if he didn’t crack the whip; later he went into politics; his passion for “sportsmanship” contributed heavily to the wanton 19th-century slaughter of wildlife that nearly exterminated deer, bear and panthers from the South. But at least the way Elliot tells it, he’s a hero.
Here are rollicking tales of the hunt in which he kills two bear with one shot, chases down and strangles a deer with his bare hands, and lands any number of epic bass and drumfish that would make the modern angler gape with envy. Of particular interest are his stories of “the mightiest, strangest, most formidable among them all for its strength, the devil-fish; then rarely seen, and deemed, even down to our own times, scarcely less fabulous than the Norwegian kraken!” Elliot liked to harpoon these monstrous manta rays, then hold fast to the line while they towed his little boat on a wild ride all over Port Royal Sound! Politics aside, there’s just no denying he knew how to spin a good yarn.
This Daufuskie Island author has a way of telling stories that perfectly suits his habitat: thick and tangled like the woods, weaving in and out like tidal creeks, grand as a plantation, full of shabby history like an old praise house, dubious as something you only thought you saw in the moonshadows, dirty as a dirt road yet somehow sacred too, like golden light on the marsh. You’re never quite sure what his stories are about, but boy do they give you a feeling—like being up in a deer stand before dawn, or down at Marshside Mama’s after dark (Daufuskie’s infamous juke joint). And they are NEVER politically correct.
A seventh-generation Lowcountry native son, Roger Pinckney is authentic; he’s got both the pedigree and the checkered past to lend just the right sensibilities to his work. Characters include bootleggers, outlaws, “root doctors” (Lowcountry voodoo men), unscrupulous developers, and of course more than a few beautifully dangerous women. His novels are titled “Reefer Moon and Mullet Manifesto,” and his collections of essays include “The Right Side of the River, Signs and Wonders,” and “Seventh Son on Sacred Ground.” He even has a fairly scholarly work entitled “Blue Roots,” which tells all about Gullah folk magic from Roger’s own experience. Read him to escape into a tale, to understand the Lowcountry, and to be reminded that we must appreciate and protect what has always made this place great: the water and the land.
“Scarlet Sister Mary”
Highly controversial in its own time, this novel will still raise eyebrows today. It is the story of a young black woman whose true love does her bad, so in his wake she gives free reign to her passions with a long string of casual lovers by whom she bears nine illegitimate children. She rears them on her own with strength, courage and a sort of homely dignity, even as she is ostracized by her church-dominated community. The book is set in post-emancipation coastal Carolina, but with a twist: there is not a single white character in the book. It has been compared with other pioneering novels (such as “The Color Purple” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God”) for its celebration of rural Black-American culture on its own terms, in its own language.
Here is an intimate, three-dimensional portrait of a Gullah community where people’s lives carry on absolutely independently of their recent masters—yet it was written by a white woman, making the book very revolutionary for its time. Due to this, and to the sensual nature of its content, it was labeled obscene and banned from at least one public library in South Carolina. Its author Julia Peterkin, a plantation mistress who grew up around Gullah folk and knew how to perfectly render their dialect and humor, became the first South Carolinian to win the Pulitzer Prize when “Scarlet Sister Mary” was selected in 1928. (A detractor promptly resigned from the jury in outrage.) But none of this is the real joy of the book. Read it for the colorful language and laugh-out-loud humor that bring to life this troubling, yet warmly loved slice of Lowcountry folklife.
J.E. McTeer’s “High Sheriff of the Lowcountry”
He is a local legend, along with his arch-nemesis (and in a way admired friend) the infamous Sea Island conjure man Dr. Buzzard. McTeer became head lawman of Beaufort County in 1926 at the age of 23, replacing his deceased father, and went on to serve in the position for 37 years, garnering respect and affection from both the black and white communities of that segregated time. But where else in America could you find a sheriff who was also a self-professed “white witch doctor” and who openly did supernatural battles with the criminals he was trying to bring down? McTeer authored the “Fifty Years as a Lowcountry Witch Doctor,” “High Sheriff of the Lowcountry,” “Adventure in the Woods and Waters of the Low Country,” and “Beaufort Now and Then,” vintage classics you can find in any local library. The pages brim with matter-of-fact accounts of hexes, counter-hexes, and court witnesses who couldn’t complete their testimony because they started convulsing and foaming at the mouth after someone “put the root” on them. McTeer’s long quest to bring down the flashy-dressing, purple-spectacled, third-generation rootman Dr. Buzzard – who in particular was helping draft dodgers by administering small doses of arsenic to give them heart murmurs, a malpractice that McTeer couldn’t abide—resulted in much trading of threats and spells, and ended only when Buzzard’s son ran his car into the marsh and drowned. (In his books McTeer insists this was a coincidence, but nevertheless it sealed the fame of his powers.)
Sensational as all this may sound, McTeer was an extremely intelligent, rational, shrewd and insightful person who had a deep understanding and sensitivity toward the people of his community. He called himself a “poor man’s psychiatrist,” and after his tenure as sheriff, he continued to see patients who came from several states around to seek his counsel in a little back “root room” of his real estate office. He was truly an icon of a unique era that is now past (you could never get away with this stuff now!) but which continues to hold sway on popular imagination.
“Rambler’s Life: The South” and “The South Reloaded”
These back-to-back underground classics are the rarest books on the list, written by a hometown girl (me) and available in limited handmade editions at Cahill’s Market. They chronicle secret histories and little-known stories of the Lowcountry—as well as the real-life South beyond it—told in the words of everyday people who you might actually know. If you like moonshine, folk art, BBQ, gospel, snake experts, bluesmen, rednecks and people who wrastle gators with their bare hands, you will enjoy “Rambler’s Life”; if you like rubies, treehouses, backpacking, kung fu, island-hopping, Buddhist meditation, sacred healing waters and intelligent conversation you will also enjoy “Rambler’s Life.” There is a lot going on in the South, once you get beyond ugly stereotypes on the one hand, and overcorrection of being too polite on the other. An indie writer with no agenda and the willingness to get down and dirty for the story is just the person to report on these complexities—here is Huckleberry Finn reborn as a girl with a pickup truck and a notebook, on an epic New South odyssey.
Enjoy a good read this winter, while supporting your local authors and keep telling their truths.
Visit the Pinckney Island National Wildlife RefugeTest
The Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, located near the bridge to Hilton Head Island, offers an ideal place to enjoy the natural beauty of the Lowcountry.
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
Hilton Garden InnTest
1575 Fording Island Road | Bluffton | (843) 837-8111
Hampton Inn & Suites Bluffton – Sun CityTest
29 William Pope Drive | Bluffton | (843) 705-9000
Holiday Cranberry Mule Recipe from Hilton Head DistilleryTest
The Cranberry Mule is a holiday take on the popular Moscow Mule. It is a perfect seasonal cocktail for a Christmas get together.
Holiday Cranberry Mule Recipe:
2 OZ OF AERMOOR VODKA
1 OZ OF CRANBERRY JUICE
5 OZ OF GINGER BEER LIME JUICE
Combine Aermoor Vodka and cranberry juice in a shaker full of ice. Shake, then pour over ice. Top off with ginger beer, add lime juice to taste and stir gently. Serve with fresh cranberries, lime and a sprig of rosemary for garnish.
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.)
1376 Fording Island Road| Bluffton | (843) 837-9494
Holiday Inn Express – Bluffton/Hilton HeadTest
35 Bluffton Road | Bluffton | (843) 757-2002
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.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by MarriottTest
105 Okatie Center Boulevard North | Bluffton| (843) 705-2300
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott
Bluffton hotels, motels, inns, and bed and breakfasts showcase the best of the Lowcountry. Whether you’d like to spend a week at a luxury hotel or enjoy a romantic getaway at a charming inn, Bluffton has just what you’re looking for. Discover Bluffton lodging and accommodations for the best of the Lowcountry.
It’s the day before Thanksgiving. Outside the weather was overcast and rain drizzled, but inside I was snug in my bed. My wife, Betsy, and I had planned to hit the highway for Bluffton by noon. We felt that should get us through Atlanta before rush hour and into Bluffton by dinnertime. It was 6:30… Read More…
An official United States public holiday honoring all who have served in our country’s armed forces, Veterans Day is commemorated on November 11. Once celebrated as Armistice Day, the date is significant in that it marks the day when major hostilities of World War I formally ended in 1918: on the 11th hour of the… Read More…
It was the first hurricane warning I’d ever taken seriously. Since moving to Bluffton from the West Coast in 2004, I’d seen a few storms come and go; Hanna in particular I remember as causing the most ruckus. Everyone scrambled to stock water and board windows, and their feverish flight clogged the roads. I thought… Read More…
There are few things as glorious as spotting a manatee while out exploring Bluffton’s tidal creeks and rivers. This roly-poly mammal is so unique in appearance that seeing a paddle tail flip up out of the water, or that signature nose breaking the surface of the water as it grabs a snoot full of air,… Read More…
Beaufort is full of history and structures that reflect life as it was hundreds of years ago. There are some museums and sites in particular you should see and experience. Be sure to put these historic destinations in Beaufort on your travel itinerary when you visit. Beaufort History Museum, 713 Craven St., Beaufort Learn the rich… Read More…