By Zenda Douglas Special Correspondent
The spirit of history is almost tangible in the small coastal town of Beaufort, S.C. Indeed, as the second oldest city in South Carolina, Beaufort’s rich history spans many centuries. The city was founded in 1711 and has ties to the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
Located just 70 miles from Charleston, S.C., and 40 miles from Savannah, Ga., Beaufort is located on Port Royal Island and its surrounding area. An important part of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Beaufort has a vibrant downtown and represents a beachfront community situated along the Atlantic Ocean. The streets of this beautiful city are lined with moss-hung live oaks. The downtown marina offers endless views.
Today, Beaufort has about one million visitors annually. It is regarded as one of the most diverse of any community of its size due to its historic character and prominent architecture.
Beaufort is home to one of the largest population of Gullahs, a culture known for preserving its African linguistic and cultural heritage more than any other black community within the United States. Tourists will want to visit the Penn Center, one of the most significant black historical and cultural institutions. The 50-acre historic campus, designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1974, is the site of one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves.
The Marine Corps Recruit Depot for the Eastern Seaboard can also be found in Beaufort, in addition to the Marine Corps Air Station and Naval Hospital. Each year, the recruit depot transforms more than 20,000 recruits into Marines.
Make sure to visit the Santa Elena History Center. Walk on today’s Parris Island, the site of Santa Elena, and retrace the footsteps of 16th-century adventurers, explorers and settlers who were part of America’s lost century.
Beaufort is also home to the only kazoo factory still in operation within the United States — The Kazoobie Kazoo Factory. Visitors may tour the factory and create custom kazoos.
Prime for fishing and outdoors fun, Beaufort offers guests the ocean, a number of rivers, streams and estuaries. It’s also home to Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina’s most-visited state park. The park features miles of trails, pristine beaches and a campground for guests that allows RVs and tents. Here you will find the only lighthouse in South Carolina that visitors can still climb the steps for an eagle-eye view of the ocean. Most recently, USA Today included the park on its list of “20 Stunning State Parks Across the USA.”
Accommodations are award-winning. The Anchorage 1770, a waterfront boutique inn, was recently named as one of the top 52 places to see in 2016. The beauty of its rooms is only surpassed by their comfort. The Cuthbert House Inn is among the historic homes that have been turned into inns that provide a taste of the architecture and style that has endured in Beaufort since its founding in the 1700s.
Beaufort enjoys a burgeoning culinary scene. Emily’s, Blackstone’s and Paninis are just a few of the restaurants that are delivering the Lowcountry cuisine to diners. Enjoy fine dining and the freshest of seafood at Saltus.
For more information about Beaufort, visit www.BeaufortSC.org.
Beaufort Shrimp Festival, Sept. 30-Oct. 1: The festival includes a run and walk, plus a celebration of the local shrimping industry. Visitors can enjoy local recipes and tastings, shop in the craft market, and browse antique shops and galleries. Free entertainment, contests and plenty of shrimp make the weekend’s festival complete. For more information visit http://mainstreetbeaufort.com/beaufort-shrimp-festival.
Fall Festival of Houses and Gardens, Oct. 28-30: The fall tour features many historic homes in Beaufort’s National Historic District. For more information visit http://www.historicbeaufort.org/fall-festival.
Exchange Club Ghost Tours, late October: Take a carriage ride or walking tour through the moss-lined streets of Beaufort’s historic district while listening to storytellers share haunting tales of the area. Carriage tours last approximately 45 minutes. For more information visit http://capabeaufort.org/events/ghost-tours.
Heritage Days at Penn Center, Nov. 12-13: This down-home celebration showcases the history of the Penn School and the rich cultural legacy of the Gullah people of Sea Islands. Visitors can witness the Africanisms of basketry, storytelling, net making, hair braiding and bateau making that are a cultural legacy rooted in West Africa. For more information visit http://penncenter.com/public-programs/heritage-day.
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