PHOTO: Sunrise on Hilton Head Island. (photo via Flickr/Lee Coursey)
It’s a vacation paradise that places a premium on reconnecting with nature.
Here you’ll find no neon signs, no hotel towers shading the beach and none of the kitsch and clutter of the modern vacation getaway. Instead, you’ll find pristine estuaries and marshes harboring snowy egrets, dolphins and alligators. You’ll find golf courses where the pros play, bike paths that have earned the island accolades from the League of American Bicyclists and white sandy beaches stretching to the horizon.
And if you were here last week, you might also find a small army of crew members prepping the island for its close-up as reality television came to town.
Yes, the show that is still on the air somehow, “The Bachelorette,” came to Hilton Head Island this past week to film in, on and around the island (mostly around) and before the episode airs on May 22, we thought we’d give you a sneak peek of filming locations.
Tuesday, March 28: Calhoun Street, Old Town Bluffton
Photo by Barry Kaufman
The first night of filming saw Rachel Lindsay hitting Old Town Bluffton for a date with Dean on a stage set up right in the middle of Calhoun Street.
Founded as an antebellum getaway for wealthy plantation owners, Bluffton proved popular among the well-to-do thanks to its cooling breezes off the nearby May River. After being burned to the ground in the Civil War (just eight buildings survived) the town found a new lease on life as a fishing village.
Today, it’s a quirky yet upscale small town just over the bridge from Hilton Head Island, with Calhoun Street at its heart. Thursday Farmer’s Markets are generally as rowdy as it gets, although once a year during Mayfest (the Sunday before Mother’s Day) the place is packed.
There are probably more people there during Mayfest than were there during the Russell Dickerson concert that was set up specifically for the show. But hey, it lets the television audience see a quaint slice of small-town Southern life.
Wednesday, March 29: Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head Island
Photo via Flickr/Nick Amoscato
For day two of their Hilton Head Island adventure, Rachel and her small army of would-be suitors descended on Shelter Cove Marina, located mid-island.
Tucked away on a winding stretch of water that nearly cuts the island in half, Shelter Cove Marina has been the place for locals and visitors to unwind for years. Every Tuesday during the summer sees fireworks during HarbourFest, while you can enjoy the island’s best margarita at San Miguel’s and live music from Shannon Tanner and Cappy the Clown.
READ MORE: 10 Must-Play Golf Courses on Hilton Head Island
During their visit to Shelter Cove Marina, the guys all took part in the first-ever “Bachelorette Spelling Bee” at the pavilion where Shannon Tanner plays. If you’ve ever wanted to see grown men on the tail end of a booze cruise fail to spell Champagne, you’ll have your chance when the episode airs. (The winning word, we kid you not, was “polyamorous”).
Interestingly, while details of the production were shut down tight, Shelter Cove’s location gives us a clue where the bulk of the episode was filmed –just beside the marina you’ll find the entrance to Disney’s Hilton Head Island resort. The show being on ABC, we can assume some form of corporate synergy went down.
Thursday, March 30: Oyster Shell Park, Bluffton
Photo by Rob Kaufman/Courtesy Town of Bluffton
Interestingly, the gang headed back off-island Thursday night (something most islanders will never do twice in one year, much less twice in a week).
The Thursday night date brought Rachel and her date to Shuckin’ and Shaggin’, an event at Bluffton’s Oyster Factory Park that is nowhere near as dirty as you’re assuming it is right now.
As it happens, both terms reference Lowcountry traditions. The shuckin’ refers to the oysters pulled out of the May River. The uniquely brackish waters of the river create some of the world’s finest oysters, and the Bluffton Oyster Factory right at the park is where you’ll find them fresh out of the water. The shaggin’ refers to the official state dance of South Carolina (really), which is basically like doing the twist, but to worse music.
The real star of the evening was the venue, though. Situated along a glittering stretch of the May River’s pristine waters, Oyster Shell Park gives visitors a chance to put in a kayak, relax under twisting live oaks and even tour a fully restored freedman’s cottage.
The Hilton Head Island/Bluffton episode of The Bachelorette airs May 22.