One of the South’s favorite towns, Beaufort has it all – history, battle sites from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, great shopping, magnificent accommodations and food that brings tears to your eyes (in a good way).
Let’s take an insider’s look at Beaufort, starting with Old Sheldon Church Ruins. A majestic sanctuary in its day, the building was burned and destroyed in 1779 by British troops. It was rebuilt, but today, all that remains are the stately columns and the building shell but it’s still a favorite destination for special occasions and worth a side trip to see a piece of history.
When you arrive in Beaufort, you’ll need accommodations and we’ve got some excellent recommendations. First, let’s get our bearings. This destination is an enchanting antebellum town set on a bluff overlooking the Beaufort River.Its broader location is in the heart of the beautiful, historical South Carolina Lowcountry – site of the second European landing on American soil. It contains one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in America, and is one of the famed “Colonial Sisters” along with Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA.
SO, WHERE TO STAY?
Here are some options. The Rhett House Inn is an 1820 Greek Revival Town Mansion. It’s a AAA Four Diamond B&B, with sweeping verandas, afternoon tea, evening hors d’oeuvres, and nightly homemade desserts. Bicycles, beach chairs and beach towels are complimentary, and guests can enjoy the private Sanctuary Club at Cat Island.
Or, consider the Beaufort Inn, with its heart pine floors, fireplaces, cast iron soaking tubs, gardens, verandas and balconies. This is a classic Southern inn which offers modern day amenities, including king-sized beds, fireplaces, suites, two-bedroom lofts and private cottages.Both are steps away from historic homes and unique shops.
A different option is the City Loft Hotel – a top-25 boutique property in downtown Beaufort. For more rustic accommodations, consider camping on Hunting Island State Park, rated a “Top 10 Beach” by Trip Advisor, and acknowledged as the most visited state park in South Carolina. Larger families might want to think about renting a beach house on the ocean at Fripp Island Resort. Fine Southern families have vacationed on Fripp for generations.
Once you’re settled, you might want to indulge in a bit of remedial shopping and Beaufort is just the town for it.
Shopping is superb here, and Bay Street has lots of wonderful little shops – art galleries and gift/jewelry shops, including The Craftseller.
For a unique art gallery, LyBenson’s is definitely one of a kind. The gallery specializes in unique Zimbabwe Shona Verdite Stone Sculptures, and carries the largest collection in a retail setting in North America. (Verdite stones are frequently called the Green Stone of Africa, or Africa’s Green Gold – beautiful and a great investment.)
A wonderful boutique is Rossignol’s, located on Bay Street. It’s got unique and distinctive gifts for all occasions. A reviewer on Yelp had this to say: “I love that they mix awesome local designers in with well-recognized national brands. And have one of the biggest collections of Herend figurines I've ever seen (more than the Neiman Marcus in Atlanta)… very unique fine jewelry and a little something for everyone.”
Stop for lunch at Panini’s on Bay Street. Insider tip: Try the pear and gorgonzola salad.
After depositing your newfound treasures, take time to walk through the historic district. We recommend taking a tour. Beaufort Movie Tours are excellent, and we’ve reviewed Spirit of Old Beaufort Tour in our Carolina Adventures.
Plan to spend several hours at Hunting Island State Park (unless you are camping there). On the way, along Highway 21, stop in Frogmore at the Red Piano Too Art Gallery, with its folk art, jewelry, etc., some local.
If you’re still hungry when you pass the Shrimp Shack, stop and order a shrimp burger – sublime.
Happy and not hungry, you’ll arrive at Hunting Island - Located approximately 16 miles east of Beaufort on Highway 21. This 5000-acre park offers its visitors three miles of gorgeous public beaches. There’s a very long fishing pier, a lighthouse (worth the climb—the views are stunning), a nature center, and campsites and cabins. If the surroundings look familiar, it might be because Disney’s “The Jungle Book” was filmed here. (There’s a reason we suggested it as a great camping venue.)
Another fine option is Breakwater Restaurant, ideal for special occasions, or any night out. The menu highlights meat, and the shrimp and grits receive raves. In addition to a full range of entrees, they have tapas for those looking for smaller bites. For a true Southern delight, try fried green tomatoes layered with “awesome” homemade pimento cheese.
Afterward, take a walk around downtown before retiring for the evening.
You’re up early and ready to eat again, although you probably thought you’d never dine again after last night’s cuisine. It’s a new day, however, and both the Beaufort Inn and the Rhett House offer scrumptious breakfasts. At City Lofts, City Java & News offers a great expresso bar, plus urban-chic breakfast selections.
If you haven’t already done so, take a walk in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, located on the Beaufort River in the middle of downtown. This is easy walking and with lots of porch swings strategically situated, frequent stops to enjoy eye candy are mandatory. Depending on the time of year, you may find a special activity underway, and you’ll certainly have a front row seat for what’s happening on the water. Children will enjoy the playground.
Another option for day two is a wonderful excursion, courtesy of Beaufort Kayak Tours. You’ll be led by husband and wife team, Kim and David, who are degreed, certified master naturalists and City of Beaufort History Tour Guides. Choose from historic Beaufort, salt water marsh and barrier islands, or blackwater rivers of the Ace Basin. Check with them for times offered.
If you’d rather enjoy the water from terra firma, take a quick six-mile trip over to the Port Royal Sands Beach. It’s a locals’ hangout and features a great pier and observation tower. Hint: Take a sandwich bag when you go; there are lots of sharks’ teeth to be gathered on the sandy beach. The boardwalk offers a lovely stroll out on the water, and the town’s charm may tempt you to return, or stay for a longer visit.
If you’re back downtown Beaufort for lunch, try Bricks on Boundary which is open for lunch and dinner. This is casual food with an unusual twist. Try the shrimp and crab corn dog. Really!
Afterwards, you'll be tempted to stay another night -- or a lifetime. Great communities, including Dataw Island and Celadon, on Lady's Island, offer resort living. The outdoor recreation is phenomenal – athletic skills are not mandatory. One feature of the Beaufort area is worthy of note. Nearby U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, is one of the most visited military facilities in the world, hosting more than 120,000 visitors each year. Many visit to see their young people graduate from training and stay to enjoy the fantastic surroundings. The town and military facility support one another and work together for the good of the community.
Beaufort. One of the South’s favorite vacation and retirement destinations. Full of history and fun. Good times for sure – all year round.
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