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Here in the Lowcountry, it takes more than seeing pumpkin spice lattes on the menu at Starbucks to signify the beginning of autumn. Cooler breezes off the May River, oyster roasts on the calendar, and redfish on the line are our preferred indicators of the season…and with that said, it’s officially fall, y’all. Around this time of year, indoor pursuits are an appealing change of pace from the usual outdoor activities that keep us entertained during the summer months. Between our art galleries, theater productions, and local festivals, there’s no shortage of options to enjoy in Beaufort County. A museum visit is another great way for locals and visitors alike to spend a cool autumn day in the Lowcountry. Check out the list below to discover museums in Bluffton, Hilton Head, and beyond that are sure to educate and inspire!

The Best Museums in Bluffton, Hilton Head and Beyond

Coastal Discovery Museum
70 Honey Horn Drive
Hilton Head Island, SC

With basket-making demonstrations, art displays, historical and cultural exhibits, a farmer’s market, ecological information, walking trails, a butterfly garden, and an interactive scavenger hunt for children, why would you not visit the Coastal Discovery Museum? There’s truly something for everyone! Located on a 68-acre property in the historic Honey Horn area of Hilton Head, this local treasure inspires love for the Lowcountry and gives visitors a glimpse of the Hilton Head Island of yesteryear. Admission to the museum, trails, gardens and docks is *free, though this 501(c)3 non-profit organization gladly accepts donations.

Hours: 9 am-4:30 pm Monday-Saturday | 11 am-3 pm on Sundays

*There may be a charge for daily education and guided programs. Check the museum’s event calendar and website for ticket prices and other information at https://www.coastaldiscovery.org/.

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Experience the Lowcountry Up Close and explore the 68-acre Historic Honey Horn property! From marsh boardwalks and historic buildings to art exhibitions and an indoor Kids Zone, the Coastal Discovery Museum is one of the country’s few Smithsonian Affiliations and the perfect place to discover why Hilton Head Island was named the Best Island in the Continental U.S. by Travel + Leisure readers for the fourth consecutive time. . . . . . #coastaldiscoverymuseum #honeyhorn #hiltonhead #museummonday #fiddlercrabcove #marshboardwalk #inthemarsh #onthewater #communitymuseum #smithsonianaffiliate #motivationmonday #travelandleisure #getoutside #inspiringothers #sclowcountry #lowcountrylife #visithiltonhead #discoversc

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The Gullah Museum of Hilton Head
12 Georgianna Drive
Hilton Head Island, SC

The Gullah people are descendants of Central and West Africans who were enslaved on the cotton and rice plantations of the South. To ensure that their story is not forgotten, the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head was established with the purpose of preserving, protecting, and promoting the Hilton Head Island Gullah history for future generations. Under the direction of founder Louise Miller Cohen, who can trace her own family tree back to one of Mitchelville’s original residents, the museum aims to teach visitors about the unique heritage of the Gullah people via their language, songs, and stories. If you’re visiting the island in October, be sure to keep an eye out for the annual Gullah Food Festival. This free celebration features great music and even better food—shrimp and grits, seafood gumbo, devil crabs, chicken stew, and more.

The museum is open by appointment. For festival event details or to schedule a museum tour, call 843-681-3254 or visit http://www.gullahmuseumhhi.org/.

The Heyward House
70 Boundary St.
Bluffton, SC

At the Heyward House Museum, visitors will learn about the people who built and lived in this pre-Civil War era house, the various artifacts contained in the five-room home, and the early history of Bluffton as a summer resort for southern planters. Located on Boundary Street in Historic Downtown Bluffton, the Heyward House was built in 1841 and is rich with both personal and community-centered stories. In addition to being a museum, it is now the official welcome center for the town of Bluffton. Heyward House offers guided tours, group tours, and a selection of new virtual tours as well. In each of these tours, visitors will glean knowledge about the history and heritage of the town that has been called the “last true coastal village of the South.”

Hours: 10 am-5 pm Monday-Friday | 10 am-4 pm on Sunday

For pricing and more information, visit https://www.heywardhouse.org/tours.

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Parris Island Museum
111 Panama Street
Beaufort, SC

Located on the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, the Parris Island Museum is dedicated to the military history of the United States Marine Corp as well as the history of Parris Island and Beaufort County. Visitors will view a vast collection of military uniforms, discover details about various war campaigns, and learn more about the process of basic training, the day-to-day life of a recruit, and the making of a Marine. Local residents may find the Civil War history pertaining to Bluffton and Hilton Head Island particularly interesting. An exhibit outlining the history of the indigenous peoples of the Lowcountry is also on display.

Hours: 10 am-4:30 pm daily | Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

This museum is located on an active military base, so visitors will be required to present a driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance to the Military Police/Marine Corps Police at the front gate of Parris Island. For more information, visit http://parrisislandmuseum.com/.

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Beaufort History Museum
The Arsenal
713 Craven Street
Beaufort, SC

Starting at the historic arsenal in downtown Beaufort, which was built in 1798, the Beaufort History Museum guides visitors through 450 years of events. Topics range from the first Spanish explorers, to the seeds of secession that were sown prior to the Civil War, to post-war Reconstruction efforts and much more. Be sure to allow time for strolling through downtown after your time at the museum, as the Beaufort of today is loaded with a variety of dining choices, boutique shopping, and a multitude of scenic photo ops!

Hours: 10 am-4 pm Monday-Saturday

For admission prices and tour information, visit https://beauforthistorymuseum.wildapricot.org/about.

Penn Center
16 Penn Center Circle West
St. Helena Island, SC

Though small in size, Penn Center is big on history relevant to the Lowcountry as well as the nation. Located on the beautiful sea island of St. Helena, the center is approximately 15 minutes from Beaufort and worth the drive. Established in 1862 by two Quaker women, the center is located on the site of the former Penn School, one of the country’s first schools to provide education for former slaves. Named after William Penn, Penn Center is a designated National Historic Landmark and was recognized as a Reconstruction Era Monument by President Barack Obama. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also utilized the Penn Center as a retreat site. Today, the Penn Center is acknowledged as one of the most significant African-American historical and cultural institutions in the nation. Spanning eras from pre-Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, the Penn Center provides visitors with information that will both educate and inspire. In addition, the Penn Center History and Culture Program has African artifacts on display along with an area pertaining to the culture, history, and art of the Gullah Geechee people.

Hours: 9 am-4 pm Tuesday-Saturday

For admission prices and more information, call 843-838-2432 or visit the center’s website at http://www.penncenter.com/.

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