The South Carolina Lowcountry seems to be in the public eye more and more every year. With our local towns and cities receiving accolades so quickly it’s hard to keep up, it’s no surprise that our little region is not so little anymore. Miles of beaches, rich agriculture of land and sea, prolific salt marshes, water sports, amazing dining… the interest in our region isn’t difficult to understand.
What can sometimes be difficult to understand is how the various elements of our region are intertwined, and just how much there is to see, do, and know. That’s where we come in. And if adventure or a change of scenery is what you’re after, there’s good news: There are so many great day trips around here. So many, in fact, that this post could be quite a bit longer. But we don’t have to tell you everything… we just want to get you started. We’ll leave some of the discovery to you.
Before we begin: Why did we choose Bluffton? Well, primarily for its central location and ease of access. When it comes to day tripping, it’s a great jumping off point.
This region is not only a place of exceptional natural beauty, but one of rich history and culture. If you have a day and you’re looking for something interesting to do, here are some of our suggestions for a few of our favorite day trips (within about 90 minutes’ drive) from Bluffton, South Carolina, in no particular order. Keep in mind that this list works great for any of our local towns… just add or subtract the various time differences depending on your origin point.
Without further adieu… here are some of our favorites:
The City of Beaufort
You may have heard the terms “north of Broad” and “south of Broad.” While in Charleston this refers to a street, here in Beaufort County it refers to a river — the Broad River. Beaufort (as well as Port Royal and the surrounding sea islands) is located starting about 20 minutes from Bluffton in the northern part of the county. The second oldest city in the state behind Charleston, this bountiful town is packed with antebellum homes, historic sites, great dining, art galleries, shops, and is home to the University of South Carolina’s Beaufort campus (known locally as USCB). It plays host to an annual International Film Festival, as well as a number of fun events throughout the year. This beautiful town is one of our favorite places in the world, and makes for a wonderful day trip, weekend, or longer!
The ACE Basin
This is a huge protected area that sits between Beaufort and Charleston. ACE stands for Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto, the three rivers whose waterways and ecosystems make up the basin. This incredible natural area offers so many opportunities for bird watchers, hikers, kayakers, as well as its own non-human inhabitants. The endangered wood stork, for example, has suffered increasing losses of its natural Floridian habitat. As a result, more of the species are found nesting in places like the ACE Basin with each passing year. For those who love the incredible and unique nature of the Lowcountry, this one’s for you.
Take the ferry or a private boat over to magical, timeless Daufuskie Island, only accessible by water. Grab a bike or golf cart, enjoy some fresh Gullah fare al fresco at Lucy Bell’s Cafe, grab a Scrap Iron (be careful with these!) at the Daufuskie Island Crab Co., taste and tour of the Daufuskie Island Rum Company, and enjoy the most pristine stretches of Lowcountry beach you can imagine… on foot or horseback! Daufuskie offers history buffs plenty to explore, and was also the setting for beloved Lowcountry author Pat Conroy’s powerful story, The Water is Wide.
Hilton Head Island
While it might seem obvious to a local, for anyone who doesn’t know our area well, it’s worth mentioning that Hilton Head Island is perhaps the single most popular day trip from Bluffton (and vice versa, for that matter). Enjoy miles of white sandy beaches along Travel + Leisure‘s “#1 Island in the United States,” tee off at one of the many golf courses, explore Sea Pines, enjoy amazing food from flip-flop casual to fine dining, grab a cocktail and watch the world go by on island time while listening to live music at one of the many open-air venues. At only 20 to 40 minutes (depending on where you are coming from) drive time, this trip is a convenient way to have a complete change of scenery for as long as you like.
The Reconstruction Era National Park
Remember all of that culture we’ve been talking about? Well, the Gullah heritage is front and center in everything that makes the Lowcountry what it was, and what it is today. Established by Presidential order in 2017 and comprised of several sites throughout the region, the Reconstruction Era National Park weaves the story of how the freed men and women of the time integrated into society as a whole, as well as the work done to preserve those parts of their African-based culture that were, and remain, so precious to the fabric of humanity in this region.
Hunting Island State Park
Drive out to Hunting Island and take a bike ride around this historic state park. Hunting Island is the go-to beach for most Beaufortonians, and it won’t disappoint. Home to one of the only remaining lighthouses in the state, it is an area with both rich history and incredible natural beauty. Get lost in the otherworldly feel of “the bone yard,” an area of natural beach that is home to hundreds of sun-bleached tree remains. You’ll need a day pass, but if you plan to visit more than once, the annual park pass may be the better call. Both can be purchased at the gate as you enter the park.
Tour Local Farms
Do a farm tour. Did you know that you don’t even have to leave Beaufort County to visit multiple producing farms? The Lowcountry is a rich agricultural area, with many local farms that have been in operation for generations. A few of our favorites: Three Sisters Farm, established in 1848 and in continuous operation by the same family ever since, is located in Pinckney Colony. It’s one of the last remaining rural areas in southern Beaufort County, and offers wonderful fresh produce and flowers at local farmers markets as well as through a CSA program. North of the Broad River, visit lush, hand-planted and harvested Seaside Farm (a major local tomato producer), the huge produce stand at Barefoot Farms, and the newer Morning Glory Homestead. If you want to venture out a little further, pick up a fresh bouquet at Wimbee Creek Flower Farm in Seabrook. Oh, and those little produce stands you see dotting our local roadways? Definitely don’t pass those up — just make sure you have some cash!
Tour a shrimp boat. Shrimping has a rich history in South Carolina, and there are still a number of shrimp boats in operation today that supply our region with their bountiful local catch of Carolina shrimp. Feeling shrimply adventurous? Book a trawling expedition with local cruise company Vagabond Cruises, where you can experience the trawling and sorting for yourself, and maybe even get lucky with a fresh haul of your own.
The Queen of the Live Oaks
Visit the Angel Oak. This amazing natural wonder sees about 400,000 visitors per year, and if you’ve not yet taken the time to visit, you won’t be disappointed. Located on Johns Island, this treasure of nature emits a timelessness and sense of history that simply must be experienced in person. Its branches stretch toward the sun before tumbling back down to reconnect with the earth, shading an incredible 17,000 square feet. If you are fortunate to get there at a quiet moment, you may feel as though you’ve stepped into a fairytale.
Good Hope Plantation
Good Hope Plantation may be the most obscure choice on this particular list, and is located north of Bluffton in Ridgeland, South Carolina. The present main house, constructed in 1943, was built to replace the original home lost in a fire. Three of four original 1890s log cabins remain remarkably well-preserved. An authentic piece of Lowcountry history, Good Hope can be traced back to the Heyward family’s original ownership before it was purchased by the Pratt family in the 1890s. The Pratts still own it today, caring for the land and operating the dwellings for the family and guests of the property.
Visit the Hostess City of the South. People are often surprised to learn just how close Savannah is to Bluffton. And as one of America’s best small cities, it is a welcome change of pace that brims with history and culture. The old-world charm and gorgeous architecture make for a great day trip from Bluffton — best enjoyed with a postcard-worthy cup of coffee (or cocktail — you can do that here) in hand to simply take it all in. Explore the city’s many squares, take a picturesque walk through the historic cemeteries, visit a museum, stroll along the bustling riverfront… there is so much to do in this beautiful Southern destination, and it’s all within 30 minutes of Bluffton.
The Holy City
Visit downtown Charleston. While it’s just on the edge of that 90-minute radius, no list of Lowcountry experiences is complete without it. Officially the oldest city in the state of South Carolina, Charleston is simply a world in itself. Dripping with Southern charm, beauty, and history, the Holy City is an exceptional place to spend a day. A very walkable place once downtown, simply leave your car behind and hit the historic streets. Get lost on purpose, find your way to Rainbow Row, any of the fantastic restaurants dotting the city, the pineapple fountain, and be sure to take a photo with the stately Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge in the background — one of Charleston’s many ‘grammable backdrops. Looking for something indoors? May we suggest the South Carolina Aquarium. This fantastic facility is home to more than 5,000 animals, and many attractions and exhibits, all must-sees for kids (and adults) of all ages.
Take the Day… or More
Whether you’re looking for a way to spend the day, or planning an entire weekend away, the Lowcountry of South Carolina has just what you need to fill countless days with fun and adventure. We have best-kept secrets and hidden gems all over the place, and this list barely scratches the surface.
Want to know more about any of these, or others? Where are your favorite day trips around the Lowcountry? Let us know in the comments!
Until next time,
Daniella, Ric + the Elevé Team