The breeze off the Beaufort River stirs the curly, Spanish Moss that dangles from hundred year old Live Oak trees. The sunlight glints off the water, highlighting the verdant green, marsh grasses that grow along the banks, while Snowy Egrets hunt for food among the reeds. Residents and tourists meander along the sidewalks of this sleepy, southern town at a slow, civilized pace stopping into the contemporary shops and art galleries that reside inside historic facades. Hungry patrons stop to read the menus along Bay Street where establishments dot the river walk and dining alfresco is the norm. One might think that this low country gem would be a popular destination, as popular as its neighboring cities of Hilton Head and Charleston. Surprisingly, it is just the opposite. Even though Beaufort has become more popular these days, it still remains a bit of a secret.
To visit Beaufort, is to be surprised by Beaufort. It has a rich history that dates back to the 16th century. The architecture, the proximity to the water (both the river and the ocean) allows visitors to enjoy this timeless city and experience an amazing get-away in a short amount of time. If you only have a few days, here are some suggestions of things to see and do, that would allow you to experience some of the best of beautiful Beaufort.
There are hotels and motels near and around Beaufort, but to have a true antebellum experience, select one of the seven charming B&B’s in town. All offer free internet access, delicious home cooked breakfasts and a few are pet/child friendly. The Rhett House Inn circa 1820 is an award winning B&B located in Beaufort’s historic landmark district. It offers two large, shaded verandas where you can enjoy breakfast daily or snack on the award-winning, homemade cookies and iced tea served every afternoon. Several movie stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck have slept here.
This is where the term southern comfort comes from. The restaurants serve local specialties and barbeque, but focus on the seafood caught in the surrounding waters (shrimp, crab, oysters and fish). Plums is a Beaufort favorite. This restaurant serves up a terrific low country boil or Frogmore stew. This famous dish combines shrimp, sausage, corn, onions and potatoes. Plums also serves a variety of burgers, salads and po boy sandwiches. It is open 7 days a week for a casual lunch or dinner. Grab a seat on the porch for awesome river views.
Q On Bay is a barbeque restaurant that boasts the largest patio on the Beaufort River, great barbeque, salads and southern cuisine as well as 32 draft beers on tap. It is open 7 days a week for a casual lunch or dinner and stays open late with a limited menu for the night owls.
Old Bull Tavern, another local favorite, is only open for dinner and closed on Sunday and Monday. This unique gastro pub features a changing menu of American comfort fare combined with craft cocktails, curated wines, brick oven pizzas and small plates. “It’s the secret that everyone knows about.” There is no sign outside the door.
Take a tour
Walk downtown to Bay Street and purchase tickets for an historic carriage tour. Sea Island Carriage Co. provides horse-drawn carriage tours that last 55 minutes and are fully-narrated. The tour allows you to view all the antebellum homes, historic churches and movies sights. It is a charming way to see the city and hear the local lore.
In a dozen or so locally owned boutiques where you can find one-of-a-kind gifts, home accents, works by local artists, chic clothing, books and toys. You can find these stores all along Bay Street and some tucked away in the alleys off Bay.
Spend Time Outdoors
A great way to relax and enjoy nature. Sights from the water include dolphin sightings and water birds native to the region. Captain Dick’s Original Beaufort River Tour and Dolphin Watch tours last about 1-2 hours and range from day tours ($20.00) to evening sunset cruises ($28.00). It departs daily from the Downtown Marina.
Hunting Island State Park: with over 5 miles of beach, 8 miles of hiking trails and a light house that is over 153 years old to climb, visitors can enjoy the park in a variety of ways.
The Spanish Moss Trail: Bike or walk along the trail the runs along the former Magnolia Line Railroad. The trail connects the city of Beaufort and the town of Port Royal. Currently 7 miles of the trail are open with plans to extend it further.
Visit a Museum
The Santa Elena History Center allows visitors to discover the fascinating history of Beaufort, when the European explorers raced to set up colonies in the new world.
The Beaufort History Museum is housed in the Beaufort Arsenal, it has been open to the public since 1939. Inside you will discover the museum’s collection of artifacts, documents and photos detailing 450 years if island history.
Beaufort has so much to offer, that you might need to extend your weekend to see it all. For more information on Beaufort, South Carolina and all that it has to offer go to: www.beaufortsc.org