Retiring to Hilton Head vs. Bluffton


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The Lowcountry of South Carolina, home to both Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, is consistently listed as one of the best places to retire, as well as one of the best places to buy a vacation home. Thanks to the Lowcountry's  unique landscape, residents and visitors alike are treated to sweeping views of scenic coastal beauty.

If you’re exploring Hilton Head or Bluffton in your search for the best places to live in South Carolina, there are some obvious and some more subtle differences to consider. 


Bluffton, long-know as “the gateway to Hilton Head,” has come into its own with its undeniable charm and style. The overall population skews a little younger than Hilton Head, and thanks to a growing number of galleries and music venues, there is a distinct artsy vibe in Bluffton these days.

Just within the last few years, Bluffton made Forbes’ “25 Best Places to Retire,” Southern Living’s “Best Places to Retire,”  and Coastal Living’s “America's Happiest Seaside Towns.” So it’s no wonder that Bluffton SC real estate has become so popular. Just a few years ago we shared our Top 7 Reasons to Love Bluffton.

This walkable historic town sits on the banks of the picturesque May River, where fresh oysters are harvested and served up in the local restaurants that have opened in recent years throughout the Old Town section of Bluffton. At the heart of Old Town is the Promenade, a mixd-use development that features restaurants and bars alongside eclectic art and antique galleries. And, of course, when you’re ready to relax and cool your feet in the sand, the beaches of Hilton Head are only a 15-minute drive away.

In terms of communities, Bluffton shares a similar development style with Hilton Head, with a wide variety of gated communities offering something for every lifestyle. In addition to gated communities, there are also plenty of riverside houses and cottages to consider. This wide range of real estate options certainly contributes to Bluffton being one of the best places to live in South Carolina.

When it comes to cost of living, Bluffton SC real estate on average costs less than Hilton Head. So, if being inland with a short drive to the beach suits you, the real estate savings and charm of Bluffton should be it at the top of your list of best places to retire or buy a vacation home.

Some of our favorite Bluffton communities to check out include:

Other highlighs of Bluffton include:

  • Award-winning Inn at Palmetto Bluff
  • May River Theater
  • Bluffton Oyster Co.—since 1899
  • Annual festivals and events
  • Museums and historical sites
  • Parks, trails, bicycle paths, sport fields and complexes
  • Boat landings on the May and Colleton Rivers

Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island’s 12-mile stretch has been chosen by Conde Nast Traveler, Southern Living, Travel and Leisure, and many others as a prime seaside location and one of the best places to live in South Carolina.  With an average water and air temperature of 70 degrees, Hilton Head is the ideal location for outdoor recreation and some much-needed downtime.

As with any luxurious resort, Hilton Head hosts millions of visitors every summer, which does add to the overall congestion. However, that’s a small price to pay for residents who get the island practically to themselves during the other 9 months of the year.  

No question Hilton Head is one of the best places to retire, with gated communities, beachfront villas, and luxury homes to choose from, but it’s far more than a retirement community beneath a beautifully-preserved tree canopy. It’s also a world-class golf destination, a biker’s paradise, and a beach comber’s dream. With this prime coastal location, though, comes the downside of oceanfront living – storms and flooding, which increase the cost of homeowner’s insurance.

One our favorite Hilton Head communities you should definitely check out is Sea Pines.

Other highlighs of Hilton Head include:

  • 12 miles of beachfront, public beach with wheelchair access
  • Eco-friendly development
  • More than two dozen world-class golf courses/clubs
  • Home to the PGA’s RBC Heritage Tournament
  • The Coastal Discovery Museum and Sea Turtle Project—protecting loggerhead sea turtles
  • Protected parks, lands and wetlands
  • Abundance of wildlife—birds, deer, alligators, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins
  • Saltmarsh estuaries teeming with game fish, sport fish and marine mammals
  • Hilton Head Choral Society and Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra
  • Harbour Town—shops, over 200 restaurants and plenty of boat gazing
  • Historic preservation of Gullah culture (tours, festivals, cuisine)

If you’re searching for a vacation home or for the best places to retire, both Hilton Head and Bluffton’s mild winters, gorgeous landscape, and rich culture – combined with lower property taxes and affordable living make them excellent options. Visit Hilton Head and Bluffton, and discover for yourself just how fine life can be in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

As us for our complimentary Bluffton-Hilton Head Relocation Information or fill out the form below to learn more about the Lowcountry.


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