When the invitation came to visit Beaufort, S.C., I was curious, for I had never heard of this small, Southern town. Looking at a map, I saw it was just a hop, skip and a jump up the East Coast from Hilton Head Island. However, upon arrival, I discovered that Beaufort was more Charleston than island resort town, just on a smaller, more intimate scale. Since I was only in town for the weekend, I didn’t have much time to explore to the full extent I would have preferred, but I did see enough to know I want to return again – and soon!
The second oldest town in South Carolina, Beaufort is full of homes, churches and historic sites constructed before the Civil War, which is reflected in their construction and grand appearance. In fact, many even appear on the National Trust for Historic Preservation; however, movie buffs will recognize many homes and buildings from their favorite movies. “The Big Chill,” “Prince of Tides,” “Forrest Gump,” “GI Jane” and “Platoon” are just a few of the movies that were filmed in Beaufort. For an in-depth exploration of Beaufort and its movie history, I highly recommend taking a tour with one of the many tour operators. They offer walking, bike and bus tour options, so you’re sure to find one that fits your style.
The Great Outdoors
As someone who loves being on the water, Beaufort easily captured my interest given its location on the Beaufort River. I had the opportunity to see Beaufort from the water during a boat tour that started at the Beaufort Waterfront Park and took us upriver before returning to the park. We saw our fair share of wildlife, including dolphins, as well as scenic views of some of the city’s most notable historic homes.
Another place to take in nature was Hunting Island State Park. The park offers a wide array of activities including biking, hiking, swimming, picnicking, camping and more. The highlight of my visit was a stop at the Hunting Island Lighthouse, the state’s only publicly accessible lighthouse. For a nominal $2 fee, visitors can climb 167 steps to the top, where they can take in lovely views of the surrounding area. (NOTE: Children must be at least 44 inches tall to make the climb.) Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for anything else, but I definitely hope to return with my kids. I think they would love it.
Located in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Beaufort offers its fair share of notable dining destinations that capture the area’s cuisine influences. Two places I really enjoyed were 11th Street Dockside Restaurant and Southern Graces Bistro. Actually in neighboring Port Royal, 11th Street Dockside features a selection of fresh seafood favorites like Cajun catfish, sautéed sea scallops and the very popular steam pots. Steam pots come with such standards as shrimp, crab legs, mussels, corn on the cob and red potatoes.
At Southern Graces Bistro, which is located at The Beaufort Inn, prides itself on upscale Southern gastronomy. Menu items range from shrimp and sweet potato grits to Southern fried chicken. My choice was a delicious roasted apple salad with grilled chicken that included a pecan- coated goat cheese fritter. I only hope I can experience it once more in the not-to-distant future!
Given its historic background, it’s not surprising that Beaufort is home to a number of bed-and-breakfast inns. Twosuns Inn has beautiful views of the bay, while The Beaufort Inn is conveniently located in the downtown historic district. If you prefer something a little more modern, then head to the City Loft Hotel, a boutique hotel just a block away from the city’s main shopping street. Amenities include BeeKind products, iPod lamps and free Wi-Fi. It’s quite the luxury jewel in Beaufort’s already shining crown.
As I mentioned before, this barely scratches the surface of all that Beaufort, S.C., has to offer. I hope you’ll visit soon and let me know what you discover in this charming destination.
Disclosure: Karon visited Beaufort, S.C., as a guest of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.