“Every time I pull in the gates of Pinckney Retreat I feel as if I have died and gone to heaven, said Jim Williams. He and his wife, Shelly, looked at more than 50 homes in the area but kept returning to the Beaufort community. One late afternoon, as they were sitting on the community dock discussing their future, a dolphin swam by.
“My wife said it was a sign that we were making the right decision, and we bought just after that." They built their home and are now enjoying life in the Lowcountry. He rides his bike – sometimes along the Spanish Moss Trail and other times around the community. She still works in the medical field and when she has free time, likes searching for treasures at local consignment and antique shops. They love Beaufort’s charm and particularly like the Old Bull Tavern for a night out. They’ve met new friends from New Hampshire, Connecticut and yes, Ohio. “This is the best neighborhood we’ve ever found,” he said. “We all look out for each other and enjoy our lives here.”
Beaufort is a perfect place for people who love water. Fresh waters from inland rivers meet the ocean at Beaufort, creating tidal creeks and marshes where birds and other wildlife flourish.
Beaufort County has 587 square miles of islands, 64 sizable ones and 2,000 small ones. Port Royal Sound is the second-deepest natural port on the Eastern Seaboard, which is one reason Outdoor Life magazine recently rated it a top outdoor town.
It’s only natural that Beaufort would celebrate water, which allows boating, sailing, kayaking, swimming and fishing most of the year. And these folks love any excuse for a celebration, including their annual fall Shrimp Festival, a Gullah Festival (celebrating the mingling of the West African and American cultures in this area), and Penn Center Heritage Days on nearby St. Helena Island, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., found spiritual sustenance.
It has been repeatedly recognized as the “Best Small Town” according to Southern Living. Hollywood has found that look to be picture-perfect. The Big Chill and Forrest Gump were filmed in Beaufort.
Beaufort’s natural beauty frames its architecture. Union occupation during the Civil War saved the city’s gracious old homes from destruction. It is South Carolina’s second-oldest city, and Beaufort’s historic area is one of the state’s three national landmark districts. The city’s resolve to maintain its character in the face of daunting growth prompted the National Trust for Historic Preservation to name Beaufort early on as one of 12 “Distinctive Destinations” in the country, where past and present sit comfortably side by side.Beaufort has its share of galleries and boutiques. Cuisine at an array of restaurants, casual to chic, includes fresh local seafood that proves local schoolchildren and artists knew what they were doing when they chose the shrimp as Beaufort’s mascot and theme for another annual festival.
Beaufort County has a thriving Arts Council that fosters chamber music, theater, jazz, dance and visual arts. Beaufort has a symphony, and a performing arts center at USC-Beaufort. America Style magazine has named Beaufort one of the top small arts towns for the past two years.
Beaufort County residents consistently have the highest incomes and lowest unemployment in the state. Taxes are below the national average, too. Airports are easily accessible, as are military and civilian hospitals. Beaufort Memorial Hospital has nearly doubled in size in the past few years with new heart and cancer centers.
The U.S. military is the county’s largest employer, with troops at Parris Island Marine Recruit Training Base, the U.S. Naval Hospital and the Marine Corps Air Station. Many officers who spent time here come back to retire. Retirees can take community courses ranging from literature to ceramics as well as wine tasting at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, which also offers high-tech training. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is affiliated with the University of South Carolina-Beaufort campus and features so many learning opportunities.
For younger families, the community puts a premium on public schools, where teachers and students both excel. In the past several years, about $300 million has been appropriated for new schools, and a private foundation helps provide laptop computers to students.
And now, the editors of Money magazine named this town one of its top six “terrific towns on the water,” for soon-to-be retired baby boomers. Longtime residents say Beaufort is not just a good place to retire, but a good soil for lifelong roots. They’re accustomed to gently correcting folks who don’t yet know the memory jogger: Beautiful Beaufort.
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