Beaufort, SC is located on Port Royal Island, one of the largest Sea Islands along the southeast coast of the US. Once a fishing village, it grew to be filled with mansions built by the wealthy plantation owners before the Civil War. During the war it was one of the only Southern towns chosen to be occupied by Union troops, rather than destroyed. In 1973 it’s entire downtown was designated a National Historic Landmark. Several famous movies have been filmed there including Forrest Gump, The Prince of Tides and The Big Chill.
We like to visit Beaufort in winter when it’s a bit quieter and cooler but still a great place to be outside. It’s a very walkable town with numerous historic buildings, huge live oaks covered in Spanish moss, great restaurants and shopping. Hunting Island State Park, with its beautiful beaches, trails and a wide variety of wildlife is just a short drive away.
- Rhett House Inn – On our first visit to to Beaufort a friend recommended we stay at the Rhett House Inn, a hotel in one of many restored historic buildings in the area. We were so pleased with it that we’ve never wanted to stay anywhere else. Amenities include a lovely breakfast, ice tea and cookies, evening hors d’oeuvres, homemade after dinner desserts in the kitchen, park passes, use of bicycles, beach towels and chairs and more.
- The Shrimp Shack – This hole in the wall/fish shack has been a tradition in Beaufort for the last 50 years. In fact, the lady who took our order told us she’d been there since it first opened in 1979! They are most famous for their totally unique shrimp burgers and fried shrimp.
- Q on BBQ – An upscale, waterfront BBQ Smokehouse and Taproom located in Historic Beaufort, offering a choice of 32 draft beers, Seafood, Steaks, Wings & more. Chris likes their sliders and I usually order the Portobello burger. It’s delish.
- Panini’s on the Waterfront – Located in the historic Beaufort bank building, Panini’s is a blend of old world Italian charm and new world cuisine. Serving unique and crispy stone-baked pizza, fresh local seafood, and a number of other creative and delicious dishes including their famous homemade Italian desserts. They have a full bar, indoors/outdoor seating and overlook the Waterfront Park. We love their pizza and make a point of getting one every time we visit Beaufort.
- The Gullah Grub Restaurant – Gullah people are African Americans who live in the Atlantic coastal regions of the southern end of North Carolina, the islands of South Carolina and into Georgia and the north east coast of Florida. The Gullah are known for preserving more of their African linguistic and cultural heritage than any other African American community in the United States. This restaurant is preserving and sharing that heritage through their food. Both times we tried to visit they were been closed but it’s so unique we felt it deserved to be mentioned anyway.
Coffee and Dessert
- Lowcountry Cider Company and Superior Coffee – They offer a selection of coffee, tea, cider, bakery goods, homemade ice cream and local products from small businesses in the area. This is our favorite place in Beaufort to get a warm drink and walk around town or a cup of their craft pistachio ice cream to eat in the park.
Great places for a walk
- Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in downtown Beaufort. It’s a great place to walk along the water, enjoy the greenery and watch the boats on the water from the riverside bench swings.
- Marsh Boardwalk – The Marsh Boardwalk, near the southern end of the island (just over 0.5 of a mile long), is part of Hunting Island State Park. The Vietnam war scenes for the movie Forrest Gump were shot near the boardwalk. The trail leads into a salt marsh hummock area. At the end of the walk a tidal creek flows into the Atlantic Ocean. This marsh is home to many species of wildlife including birds, crabs and alligators. Depending on the time of year you visit you may want to bring bug spray (one more reason we like to visit in winter). This is a great spot to watch the sunset.
- Hunting Island State Park Pier – After the 2016 visit from Hurricane Matthew wrecked the Nature Center Pier, they have finally repaired and reopened it (9/18/21). A popular place to fish, we like to see the wildlife and feel the breeze.
- Hunting Island Lighthouse – Built in 1859, this is the only publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina. Although its currently closed for repairs, you can still view it from the ground and learn about it from volunteers. Just a short walk away is a beautiful beach. Walk a little bit further and you’ll find a lagoon. We love the unique, tropical feel of the area.
- North of Hunting Island Lighthouse used to be a large collection of deadfall but its since been cleared. There is still one trail left that leads to an area deadfall…
- The Nature Center Trail (0.7 miles) to Little Hunting Island Loop Trail (0.5 miles) will take you to a boneyard beach. This trail starts in the parking area for the Nature Center.
- The Port Royal Boardwalk and Observation Tower is part of a quiet beach region called the Sands. The tower is 4 stories high giving a good view of the surrounding Lowcountry. It can be a great place to see birds and dolphins or watch a shrimp boat come in. The beach itself is supposed to be a good place to find shark’s teeth (I haven’t found any yet).
- The Port Royal Cypress Wetlands has a boardwalk with educational signs and views of the wetlands, where a wide variety of birds, alligators, crabs, turtles and other aquatic animals live.
Beaufort’s southern charm, peaceful waterfront views, rich history, unique places to stay and eat and a climate suitable for outdoor activities year-round makes it a great place to visit.