I grabbed my little sister and together we visited historic downtown Beaufort, South Carolina (pronounced be-ew-fert) – considered the little sister of neighboring cities Charleston and Savannah. Historic homes? Check. Waterfront? Check. Boutique shopping? Check. Fine dining? Check. Loads of history? Check. In just a little more than two days, we parked our cars and discovered Beaufort’s beauty, and left wanting to return for more.
A walking tour of the historic district with Beaufort Touring Company (843-263-7761) is a fantastic way to get the lay of the town. Not only will it give you a glimpse into the stories of the palatial antebellum homes that dot the riverfront and tree-lined streets, but a real sense of Beaufort’s history. Collin, who led our tour, shared fascinating information with our group, not only of the Civil War history that filled the streets, but the celebrities who stayed in the prestigious homes while filming any number of movies based on author Pat Conroy’s novels.
It was time to shop, and that we did on Beaufort’s Bay Street, lined with fun boutiques to pop into, art galleries filled with amazing works, jewelry shops for a little bling and restaurants to satiate any appetite. I couldn’t resist picking up a small summer bag – for myself!
Another fantastic way to discover Beaufort is from the water. The Beaufort River embraces the historic district, and can be enjoyed in a few different ways. We hopped aboard a pontoon boat and let Capt. Dick of Capt. Dick’s Original Beaufort River Tour and Dolphin Watch (843-524-4422) navigate the waterways, pointing out landmarks and key sights along the way. Just over an hour long, the tour is fully-narrated, and you may even spot a dolphin or two. Sunset cruises are offered, too, and small coolers are welcome to bring along your favorite beverage. Cheers!
If you’re looking for something a bit more active, opt instead for a kayaking tour of Beaufort’s waterways with Beaufort Kayak Tours. With three tours available – downtown Beaufort, a blackwater creek into the rice culture of the past, or Hunting Island and the Atlantic Ocean – you’re sure to see more than you could imagine in this part of the Low Country. Unfortunately, we missed our window to kayak, but will certainly take that on during our next visit!
Back on land, an English tradition continues with high tea at Southern Graces Bistro within The Beaufort Inn. We devoured cucumber, tomato and chicken salad finger sandwiches, along with fresh fruit and freshly-baked pastries, not to mention a variety of hot teas. Pinkies up!
When staying in downtown Beaufort, there’s no need to drive anywhere. The entire time we were there, our cars were parked and we walked everything the area has to offer. However, there are some spots that tempted us to jump back in the car and check out a bit further down the road: the natural beauty Hunting Island State Park; the history at Parris Island; and one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves at the Penn Center. There’s so much to discover on the outer islands!
Though small in size, Beaufort’s dining scene is big in flavor. We loved our meals at Blackstone’s Café for breakfast and lunch in a kitchy setting; Lowcountry Produce Market & Café for breakfast and lunch, and light bites with live music Friday nights; Wren Bistro and Bar for lunch and dinner in a hip setting; Emily’s Restaurant & Tapas Bar (843-522-1866)for shared plates; and Saltus River Grill for fine dining. And if you like oysters, don’t miss Free Oyster Friday from 5 – 7 p.m. at Plums on the river. Wherever you dine, you have to try shrimp and grits – a Lowcountry tradition – at least once!
Downtown Beaufort has several options when it comes to staying the night. As far as bed and breakfasts, check into one of the historic Beaufort Inn’s 30 rooms, or the Rhett House Inn, a beautifully restored 1820s plantation house (and enjoy daily champagne, in addition to other goodies). For a more modern stay, choose the City Loft Hotel, Beaufort’s first upscale boutique hotel. We adored our room, and its proximity to all the fun around!
However you enjoy Beaufort, you’ll leave wanting to return for more. And with true southern hospitality, Beaufort will welcome you back with open arms.
Susan B. Barnes is a travel writer and photographer. A proud Army brat, she was born on a military base in Belgium and has been on the go ever since. While Susan has traveled across the United States and into Canada, she has also managed to visit such European cultural hot spots as Paris, London, Ireland, Athens and Rome, and has even explored the second largest reef in the world off the coast of Belize and the cloud forest of Venezuela, among many other exotic locales. Having learned to rock climb in Yosemite National Park, surf in La Jolla and swim with whale sharks in Mexico, she’s always looking forward to her next adventure. Be sure to follow Susan on Twitter to keep up with her latest adventures @travlin_girl.