Tradition is strong in the Hilton Head area. Check out the Gullah Heritage Trail.
Jul 1, 2019 at 8:00 AM by
When you look at the Discovery Map for Hilton Head and Bluffton, South Carolina, you see a number of plantations indicated–at least on the main Hilton Head side of the map. Historically, plantation referred to the estate upon which crops such as tobacco, rice, coffee and sugar were cultivated. The word can also refer to an area in which trees have been planted, particularly with the goal of harvesting them for sale. In the case of Hilton Head, however, plantation refers to the various developments–most of which are gated communities–that have been created on the island these past decades. It’s true that many of them are characterized by rich, wooded areas and meticulous landscaping typical of many a classic Southern plantation although they are not like the plantations featured in “Gone with the Wind” or other famous movies about the South. In fact many of the people that live within these plantations are second (or third or fourth) homeowners; plus, there’s an increasing number of year-round residents, thanks to the conveniences of telecommuting.
But what was life like back in the day, on a real plantation? You can gain a sense of it at Honey Horn Plantation where the Coastal Discovery Museum showcases this historic property situated within a 68-acre plantation, punctuated by great old oak trees, salt marshes and open fields. Here, the museum conducts tours where you can learn about those that lived and worked at Honey Horn, including the Hacks, the family that inhabited the property for almost a half century. This is where you may experience the lowcountry up close with guides that will lead you on a journey into the deep South. You can also embark upon this adventure on your own by visiting one of the many historic buildings on the Honey Horn Plantation used by the Coastal Discovery Museum to showcase permanent and temporary exhibitions that reveal the natural history and cultural heritage of the region.
So how do you define lowcountry? It refers to the geographic and cultural region of all of South Carolina’s coast, including its islands. The area, once known for its slave-based agriculture and life, now relies primarily on tourism and the showcasing of its natural environment and beloved customs for its existence. Fortunately many of the wonderful traditions of this culturally-rich land have been preserved. You can learn about them as well as the local history and folklore on a Gullah Heritage Trail tour. The Gullah are African Americans that live in these parts. They speak Gullah, a language similar to Creole, and live a life that weaves African influences with their Southern roots. For some down-home cooking with good Gullah soul, try one of the restaurants or eateries specializing in lowcountry food in Hilton Head and Bluffton. Think crab rice topped with shrimp, fried green tomatoes, beer- and bacon-braised greens, jalapeño cornbread and peach cobbler. And that’s just for starters.
Learn more about the history and traditions of the region on Bluffton Jack’s Old Town Tours. Settled in 1807, this quintessential lowcountry town still exudes much of the antebellum charm it possessed back in the day. So named because it sits high on a bluff overlooking the May River, Bluffton is recommended for anyone headed to Hilton Head and a must for those that want to embue themselves with the old fashioned charms of the south. The buildings within Old Town Bluffton have been beautifully preserved and are certainly worth a closer look, especially with Bluffton Jack, a local character that entertains children and adults alike. Tours organized by The Heyward House Museum, a historic home built in 1841, also supply lots of local color and fun in beautiful Bluffton, South Carolina.
Who knew that touring in Hilton Head and Bluffton could be so rich?