Nature in the Forefront: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Nature in the Forefront: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
The Church of the Cross


Bluffton, South Carolina, just minutes from Hilton Head, makes a fun day trip. It’s full of artisan shops, charming restaurants, antebellum homes, and historic buildings, with the May River and towering mossy oaks creating an incredible Lowcountry backdrop.

A tour of the historic Heyward House gives insight into the history of Bluffton. Built in 1841 as a summer home for John James Cole, it was named for the Heyward family, who owned it from the late 1880s until 1998. Thomas Heyward Jr. was the first in the Heyward family to live there and was the grandson of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The house is virtually untouched and shows what life was like in Bluffton more than 170 years ago. The Church of the Cross, built in 1854, is another great historical stop, and the gorgeous gothic building is a sight to behold. It survived a burning of the town by Union troops in 1863, and today it stands beautifully along the May River.

Nature in the Forefront: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Tomato Pie at The Cottage

A five-minute walk from the church down Calhoun Street will bring you to The Cottage Cafe, Bakery, and Tea Room that oozes with Southern charm. In fact, owner Leslie Rohland says it’s the Southern dishes that guests like the most, including the shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, gumbo, and tomato pie. Visitors to Bluffton don’t just hail from nearby cities such as Savannah, Charleston, and Hilton Head, but from all over the world—and there’s usually a line of them at this beloved and bustling cafe. Locals love it, too, as well as their quirky, low-key town. “To have a Bluffton state of mind you have to sort of be here and just sort of spend the day, and you can get a really nice feel for the eccentricity of it,” Leslie says. “It’s kind of weird, but perfect.” 

Know Before You Go

The Cross Island Parkway is a toll road that directly connects the north and south ends of the island, crossing the Harbor River. The toll is $1.25, and only cash is accepted.

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