Culture // 5 min Read

History Explained: Why It's Called the Lowcountry

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Jul 5, 2022

What Does “Lowcountry” Mean?

When learning about the state of South Carolina, you may have come across the term “Lowcountry” used to describe certain areas of the Southern East Coast. So, what does “Lowcountry” mean and what areas define it?

Continue reading to find out more about the geographic and cultural significance of South Carolina’s Lowcountry region.

What Areas Encompass the Lowcountry?

The state of South Carolina is divided into four geographic areas: Upstate, Midlands, Pee Dee, and Lowcountry. The Lowcountry is defined as the Southern, Easternmost area of the Palmetto State. It comprises twelve counties: Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton, Hampton, Allendale, Barnwell, Bamberg, Orangeburg, Calhoun, Dorchester, Berkeley, and Charleston.

The term "Lowcountry" was created to describe these areas since they are located below the Fall Line, which is a geographic region in which the hard rock of the mountains reaches the softer sand of the coastal plain. In fact, a majority of the Lowcountry sits only 270 feet above sea level, while the rest of the state sits much higher at about 350 feet above sea level. So, not only is the region located in the lower portion of the state, but the land is also sunk lower into the water. For these reasons, the area is referred to as the “Lowcountry.”

The Natural Terrain of the Lowcountry

Among the many things that make the Lowcountry of South Carolina unique is its natural terrain. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Savannah River, the Lowcountry is characterized by salt marshes, winding waterways, and sandy beaches that exude natural beauty. Not to mention, the native live oak trees, Spanish moss, and palmetto trees that encompass the maritime forests are truly a sight to behold. These diverse habitats are what set the region apart from the rest of the state.

The Culture of the Lowcountry

The culture of the Lowcountry has been primarily shaped by the Gullah-Geechee people. The descendants of West and Central Africans who were enslaved in South Carolina to labor the coastal rice and cotton plantations, the Gullah-Geechee people have retained many of their African traditions throughout the years.

These Gullah-Geechee traditions have been reflected in the food and arts of the Lowcountry. For example, many Lowcountry dishes contain a combination of rice and seafood as a result of Gullah-Geechee influence. You may also notice many arts and crafts created with sweetgrass, such as baskets and other accessories. In fact, this basket-making tradition originated in the 17th century and has been passed down for generations. When visiting the Lowcountry, you have the opportunity to experience these amazing traditions firsthand and gain a greater understanding of the people who shaped the culture.

3 Must-Visit Places in the Lowcountry

In order to see the beauty of the natural terrain and enjoy the rich culture, we recommend visiting the following places in the Lowcountry.

1. Bluffton, South Carolina

    Bluffton, South Carolina is located between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, running along the winding May River. Commonly referred to as the “Heart of the Lowcountry,” Bluffton is rich in Southern culture and natural beauty. Here, you can spend your days kayaking along the golden marsh or exploring beneath the live oak trees of the maritime forest. Meanwhile, the Old Town Bluffton Historic District is home to countless local boutiques and restaurants as well as several museums where you can learn about the history of the region.

    When planning your visit to Bluffton, we recommend staying at the Montage Palmetto Bluff in order to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Lowcountry. Here, you can relax in a charming collection of rooms, suites, cottages, cottage suites, and vacation homes set among the tranquil waters of the May River and the lush landscapes that border it.

    2. Beaufort, South Carolina

      Located a 40-minute drive from Bluffton, Beaufort is a small town located on Port Royal Island. Here, you can experience picturesque Lowcountry scenery as well as visit several historic sites and even the filming locations of some iconic movies. In fact, Forrest Gump and G.I. Jane were filmed in the town of Beaufort.

      In downtown Beaufort, you can experience the rich culture of the Lowcountry. Shop from local vendors, dine at Southern restaurants, visit museums, and tour historic homes. To fully immerse yourself into the cultural heritage of the town, take a carriage ride of historical sites to gain more insight into the past.

      3. Kiawah Island, South Carolina

        A private community located 21 miles south of Charleston, Kiawah Island is a must-visit destination in the Lowcountry. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Kiawah River on the other, there is no shortage of exciting outdoor adventures. Here, you can swim, boat, fish, and relax to your heart’s delight! Not to mention, Kiawah Island is revered as one of the top golfing destinations in the world. Here, you can play a variety of world-class golf courses, including the Ocean Course — the home of the 2021 PGA Tournament.

        Since Kiawah Island is so close in proximity to Charleston, we recommend spending a day exploring downtown. The city is chock-full of monuments and sites of historical and cultural significance to the Lowcountry. Here, you can visit Civil War forts, the Historic Charleston City Market, and countless museums — just to name a few. All in all, a visit to Kiawah Island and Charleston will help you to embrace the beauty and history of the Lowcountry.

        A Look at Living in the Lowcountry

        With the abundance of rich culture and serene natural terrain, the South Carolina Lowcountry is an amazing place to call home. If you’re interested in relocating to the South, we recommend exploring our residential community here at Palmetto Bluff. With upscale amenities and an ever-evolving variety of activities to partake in, residents are able to fully immerse themselves in Lowcountry living.

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