Jump at the chance to travel to Beaufort, South Carolina if possible. Whether it be a quick 24 hour visit like I had, a weekend getaway, or a weeklong (or more) vacation, Beaufort will keep visitors as busy as they want to be or blissfully un-busy if that’s preferable! Between the historical highlights, the coastal charms of the beaches, and the succulent seafood fresh from the boats, Southern hospitality and cultural charms await in SC’s second oldest city.
It’s not a secret anymore that Beaufort, South Carolina is one of the best towns in the US. (I blame Southern Living for naming this beauty of a historic city its Best Southern Town in 2018 and 2019’s number #2 choice!) But truth be told, word was already out on the street about charming Beaufort. Find out why I beat a path to Beaufort and now I’m singing its praises. Hmm, I may want to rethink that-if I share TOO much, the cat will be out of the bag and EVERYONE will know!
Blissful Beaufort, SC
First and foremost, it’s my civic duty as a South Carolinian to first make sure that visitors pronounce Beaufort properly: it’s phonetically BEW-fert. Kinda like beautiful. After my stay, I could totally see the resemblance between Beaufort and its phonetic sister word, beautiful. More to the point, I must also share all the fabulous finds in Beaufort, from exciting excursions to radical restaurants and awesome accommodations.
Beaufort Things to Do
I must say that carriage tours are some of the best modes of transportation, especially in a city chock filled with history. Then again, I’m a sucker for a great on-off tour bus in big cities too. But being able to couple learning and comfort is key for me when sightseeing.
Sure, there are also awesome walking tours available in Beaufort, but the Sea Island Carriage Company. mixes covered wagon, equine transportation, and history lesson in a hour long package.
Points of interest include The Point, a dozen blocks of historic residences that have taken center stage in such movies as The Big Chill and The Prince of Tides. Between the spanish moss drenched oak trees, gorgeous Antebellum homes, and historic churches, the scenery is both riveting and breathtaking.
Shopping on and around Bay Street
Downtown Beaufort holds many treasures of endearing shops and hangouts. Here are a few of our favorites:
- NeverMore Books-Poe inspired bookstore, hence the phrase to find their location, “Look for the raven on Craven (Street).”
- Scout Southern Market-Try this cute shop for all its Southern home wares, and stay for the sweet tea float (sweet tea combined with sorbet of choice). Carrying furniture, home décor, lighting, jewelry, and gifts. Any shop named after Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird is all right in my book!
- Chocolate Tree-Run like Forrest Gump to this chocolate shop, creator of the iconic “box of chocolates” in the Tom Hanks classic, Forrest Gump. Over 60 varieties of these sweet treats are made in house daily.
- Bathe– Move over LUSH because Beaufort has Bathe, purveyor of handcrafted natural soaps, bath and body products made in town.
Then there’s two other spots worth the trek from downtown:
- Kazoobie Kazoo Factory-Where the wonderful kazoos are made; factory tours show how the kazoos are made, the history behind the kazoo, and the chance to make your own kazoo! (Adults $7, kids 4-11 $5, kids 3 and under are Free.)
- Carolina Cider Company (St. Helena Island): Part Superior Coffee shop with beverages and baked goods and part general store featuring all kinds of cider, jams, relishes, dips, and grits. This roadside stop makes an excellent pit stop for caffeine, snacks, and gift purchases.
Speaking of Saint Helena Island, as one of our history seeking activities, we took a field trip to learn about Gullah culture at the Penn Center.
Founded in 1862, the Penn Center is the site of the first academic school for freed slaves. It is a 50 acre landmark having 2 national monuments. And one of its claims to fame is that Martin Luther King Jr. stayed in Gantt cottage.
In addition to housing the York W. Bailey Musuem, the site is available for tours year-round. With 19 buildings, including Brick Church and Darrah Hall, old burial grounds, a nature Trail, Chowan Creek, there’s a lot to see on this hallowed ground.
Since we’re talking about venues outside the city, head another 10 minutes out the Sea Island Parkway to Hunting Island State Park. There’s 4 miles of beach as well as an extensive maritime forest and marsh.
One of the reasons for this excursion is to visit the Hunting Island Lighthouse, the only historical lighthouse in South Carolina still open to the public. After 167 steps up this 1873 lighthouse, visitors enthrall at a birds eye view of the Atlantic Ocean and marshes. Admission: $ 2.
Fripp Island is the most seaward of South Carolina’s barrier islands. Although I didn’t have time on my most recent Beaufort trip to stay at Fripp Island, I can say based on prior vacations that Fripp is one of the most lovely, low key beach destinations I’ve ever encountered.
Located 19 miles east of Beaufort, SC, Fripp Island Resort has over 3 miles of uncrowded beach, two championship golf courses, multiple pools, tennis courts, kayaking, and oceanfront, marsh and golf view accommodations. The preferred mode of transportation on Fripp Island is a golf cart, which can be rented daily or weekly.
Plan on lots of golf cart exploring, deer sightings, and beachcombing for shells (and certain time of the year paying close attention for sea turtle nests).
In July, the Beaufort Water Festival is one of the Lowcountry’s longest running festivals and Beaufort’s crown jewel. The first Festival was held in July 1956, and it is still worked as a community, non-profit project. Now spanning 10 days, the festival features concerts, an arts and crafts market, local cuisine, a talent show, competitions, children’s programs, arts and crafts, and fireworks.
Not to be outdone, Fall has the Shrimp Fest: think lowcountry cuisine and dancing under the stars. With arts & crafts, live entertainment, a special race for kids (the “Popcorn Shrimp Race”), and lots of food and drinks, this festival is truly a family friendly event.
Between the other seasonal offerings like the Light Up the Night Boat Parade, Fall Festival of Houses and Gardens, and an International Film Festival, there’s a high probability that there’s something exciting going on. So be sure to check the CVB’s calendar of events.
It’s easy to stumble onto this stretch of landscaped area in Beaufort just off Bay Street. Officially opened in 1979, the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park boasts breathtaking views of the Beaufort River and the Woods Memorial Bridge and many shops and restaurants flanking it.
One of the most delightful things about staying in a charming Southern city is its bed and breakfasts and inns. Beaufort certainly kept that tradition going with The Beaufort Inn located in the Landmark Historic District. As a guest of the Beaufort Inn, I experienced a property that oozes Southern charm with historic architecture, gardens, verandas and rocking chair lined porches.
From traditionally appointed guest rooms to garden view suites and contemporary flats, The Beaufort Inn has quite the assortment of accommodations primely located in the heart of South Carolina’s second oldest seaside town.
I stayed in the delightful Garden Cottage Luxury King, located behind the Main Inn. These rooms feature a king bedroom, toile draperies, and upholstered chairs. Each offers a private porch/balcony overlooking the beautifully lit Garden Courtyard and an incredibly large bathroom with pedestal sinks, walk-in rainwater showers and bathrobes.
But my absolute favorite feature? Three words: Claw footed tub!
Some of the touches I was most impressed with:
- Bicycles to explore Downtown Beaufort or the Spanish Moss Trail
- S’more Packets to enjoy by one of Beaufort Inn’s firepits
- Conveniently located downtown.
- Afternoon Snacks and Refreshments in the Lounge. I just HAD to try the Whoopie Pie sandwiches-they were delicious!
Three other noteworthy features of the Beaufort Inn: 24/7 concierge service, an on-site spa, and breakfast vouchers that can be used at one of the 3 restaurants highlighted below in our food recommendations.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my list of favorite foodie finds in and around Beaufort, SC.
- Blackstone’s Cafe-breakfast of champions can be found here in dishes like omelets, french toast, shrimp and grits and eggs benedict.
- Common Ground Coffee House-a full coffee bar featuring coffee, fresh baked pastries and desserts and overlooking Waterfront Park.
- Rain-N-Bagels-true to its name, it is raining bagels here with multiple varieties and delicious cream cheese concoctions like cranberry orange. The lox bagel is a treat!
- Plums-casual waterfront bistro, raw bar; serving up po-boys, salads, and fried seafood alongside scenic views of Waterfront Park.
- Shrimp Shack (St. Helena Island)-Road trip out to the Shrimp Shack on St. Helena Island for their awesome Shrimpburger. Other favorites include fried shrimp, crab cakes, flounder, clams, scallops, and fried chicken.
- Lowcountry Produce-country kitchen food like burgers, salads, sandwiches are featured in this foodie market that also sells vegetables, jams, jellies, syrups, sauces, and other Southern sundries.
- Saltus River Grill-Naturally in a coastal town, it’s primarily about the seafood! This urban seafood grill produces fan favorites like She Crab Soup and their take on Sea Island Shrimp and Grits with Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms, Scallions, Bacon Lardons, Garlic Confit & Chicken Pan Jus.
- Breakwater-New Southern cuisine with dishes like Nashville Hot fried chicken, pimento cheese burger, and scallops and risotto.
- Dockside (Lady’s Island)-waterfront casual with marina views. Try the fried green tomatoes, crispy scored flounder, lowcountry boil, or steamed crab pot.
- Johnson Creek Tavern (Harbor Island)-Bring your appetite and a dollar bill to add to the walls. This casual family restaurant overlooking Johnson Creek serves up buckets of oysters, snow crab legs, fried seafood platters, and stuffed flounder.
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