Beautiful Beaufort is a lovely town on the South Carolina shore. Located about halfway between Charleston and Savannah, Beaufort is the second-oldest city in South Carolina. Full of Southern charm, it offers a wide array of things to see and do, from antebellum architecture and history to deep-sea fishing charters.
We recently drove down the East Coast from North Carolina to Florida. We wanted to make a stop in a quaint Southern town along the way, and Beaufort fit the bill.
Since I’m a history buff, I had to read up on Beaufort’s history before we arrived, and I’ll share what I learned with you. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union during the Civil War. For a time, Beaufort was occupied by Union soldiers. Thankfully, unlike in Charleston, where everything was burned to the ground, in Beaufort this occupation was somewhat peaceful, so many historic homes and buildings were spared and are still standing today.
Things To Do In Beaufort
Take A Carriage Tour
Beaufort has so much interesting history, and on the guided tours offered by the Sea Island Carriage Company, you can learn all about it. From historic churches to antebellum mansions, you’ll see it all with a knowledgeable local guide. These fun horse-drawn buggy tours are typically about an hour in length and very informative.
Go Deep-Sea Fishing
When you’re surrounded by so much water, take advantage of it by going deep-sea fishing. We’ve been on numerous deep-sea fishing charters, and it’s quite an adventure. There’s just something about being out there on the open water that’s exhilarating! And there’s no better way to improve your odds of catching fish than by going out with a seasoned captain who knows the waters.
Visit The Penn Center
At the Penn Center, you can learn about the Penn School, one of the first schools in existence for freed slaves. You’ll also learn about the fascinating Gullah culture of the region. Stop at the visitor center and gift shop to purchase your admission tickets for the museum and grab a map for the self-guided walking tour. You can explore as much as you’d like of the 25 buildings and 50-acre site. Be sure to stop by the gift shop again on your way out to pick up handmade treasures like baskets and artwork.
Check Out The Pat Conroy Literary Center
Check out the Pat Conroy Literary Center for an in-depth look at how this Beaufort icon crafted his works. Did you know that many of his books were made into movies and were actually filmed in Beaufort? At the literary center, you can get the backstory on all his books. Be sure to also check out the calendar of events for master classes on writing and book discussions.
Shop Till You Drop
Don’t miss all the local shops in downtown Beaufort. There are more than 40 shops and restaurants in this very charming and walkable part of the city, and you can window-shop to your heart’s content. I especially liked the cute tops at Beaufort Belle and the fun selection of kitschy items at the Beaufort Emporium and Dry Goods Co.
See The Spots Where Famous Movies Were Filmed
Hollywood directors love Beaufort for its quaint small-town feel and picturesque look. The Big Chill, Forrest Gump, The Great Santini, and The Prince of Tides are just some of the movies that have been filmed here. You can take a self-guided tour of the film sites or book a guided tour with Beaufort Tours.
Explore Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island State Park, the most popular state park in South Carolina, is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Beaufort and is a tropical paradise! Explore the hiking and biking trails or just spend some time on the beach. If you enjoy fishing, you can do so at Johnson Creek or the lagoon within the park. You can buy bait and tackle at the park store if you didn’t bring any of your own. Another draw here is the 19th-century lighthouse, the only one in the state that is accessible to the public.
Best Restaurants In Beaufort
In Beaufort, you can sample some of the best Lowcountry cuisine in the country. In some ways, South Carolina’s food is more like that of New Orleans than like traditional Southern fare. All along the coast of South Carolina, there are freshwater estuaries that provide lots of seafood. The marsh-lined coast is similar to the coast of New Orleans, and in both areas the seafood, rice, and rich Creole-inspired spices make for mouthwatering specialties.
Here are some delicious spots to visit.
Try this inviting little spot for a savory Southern breakfast of shrimp and grits, or if you have a sweet tooth like me, try their made-to-order donuts. Their yummy buttermilk cheddar biscuits are also popular. The attached market is full of homemade and homegrown items. One of my all-time favorites is the hot pepper jelly. There’s something about that hit of heat followed quickly by the sweet sugar of the jelly that I just love. If that isn’t your thing, though, there are plenty of other pepper jellies, jams, and chutneys to purchase. The strawberry pepper preserves sound fantastic!
Head across the bridge to Saint Helena Island for lunch at Shrimp Shack, a local favorite. Just 10 minutes from downtown Beaufort, Shrimp Shack is a casual place where you order at the window and eat outside on the deck. Rumor has it that when Forrest Gump was being filmed in Beaufort, Tom Hanks made frequent stops here. It’s that good. Try the famous shrimp burger and hushpuppies.
Lady’s Island Dockside
For picturesque views and a delightful menu full of Southern specialties and seafood, head over to Lady’s Island Dockside. When in Beaufort -- or South Carolina, for that matter -- you simply must try the famous Lowcountry boil, also known as Frogmore stew. Don’t worry -- frogs aren’t actually involved! I personally love the Lowcountry boil with fried green tomatoes for an appetizer. What could be more traditional?
Other Great Beaufort Eats
For other great Beaufort eats, consider the tomato pie at Herban Market & Cafe, the shrimp and grits at Blackstone’s Cafe, the fresh oysters at Saltus River Grill, the barbecue at Dukes Barbeque of Beaufort, and the boiled peanuts anywhere you find them!
Best Hotels In Beaufort
In a place like Beaufort, where there’s so much going on in the historic downtown area, I think it makes sense to stay downtown. You’ll be within walking distance of a lot of restaurants and shops. Plus, you won’t necessarily have to rent a car.
Here are my top picks for where to stay in Beaufort’s downtown area.
The Rhett House Inn
The Rhett House Inn is a charming bed and breakfast in the heart of the historic district. It boasts comfortable rooms with fireplaces and a full, hot breakfast including grits, hash browns, eggs, and country ham.
The Beaufort Inn
The Beaufort Inn is another great choice in the historic district. There are multiple lodging options, including traditional rooms, cottages, and even a rental unit for large groups. Guests have access to free bicycles to cruise around the area, and if you’re bringing your four-legged friend, you’ll be glad to know that some rooms are pet-friendly. The Beaufort Inn is within easy walking distance of the downtown waterfront.
City Loft Hotel
For a nice stay in a traditional hotel, try the City Loft Hotel. It’s a small refurbished motel that’s in a great location downtown and offers plenty of amenities. With its attached coffee shop, free Wi-Fi, and free parking, you’ll have everything you need for a comfortable stay. Plus, they have an agreement with Celadon Living that allows guests of City Loft the use of the resort, where you can play golf or tennis or relax by the pool.
What To Know Before You Go
The best times to visit Beaufort are spring and the month of October. The weather is beautiful, and it’s less crowded than in the summer months.
If you like charming, historic small towns with stunning architecture, you’re sure to love Beaufort.