Southerners needn’t hop on a plane to experience something both wondrous and familiar. Anyone seeking natural beauty and manmade grace need only set their GPS for Beaufort, SC, where both are in abundance.Less than an afternoon’s drive from Greenville or a day’s drive from Nashville, this bewitching town transports visitors at every turn. It’s no wonder this was one of the new world’s first settlements; its beauty is unmatched. Looking to ditch the faux-thentic beach shacks and souvenir shops of so many coastal spots? Then look no further.
Orient yourself to Beaufort’s past and present by starting where it all began: at the waterfront, where lapping waves and gorgeous vistas inspire immediate relaxation. From here, you can enjoy a cocktail or a cold brew while you watch the bay through the intricate metalwork of the Woods Memorial Bridge.
You could hit the trail – the Spanish Moss trail, that is – a 10-mile expanse that offers amazing views of the marsh, a few designated fishing spots on former railroad trestles, and a leashed-pet friendly spot to just take a well-deserved exhale. Download their app for a full list of amenities.
Or stay downtown, where the Beaufort Marina pulls double duty as both a scenic perch and guided tour hub. Stretch your road-weary limbs with an easy sojourn with Spirit of Old Beaufort guided tours, which depart from the iconic Marina and offer several distinct circuits for avid “experiencers.”
Cinema buffs enjoy the film site walking tour through historic shooting locations. The Lowcountry island and Gullah tour dazzles history buffs by ushering them to America’s first school for freed slaves and past the ruins of island churches.
Salt air has a way of making everybody hungry, So dig into a local waterside favorite.
Panini’s on the Waterfront occupies the historic Beaufort Bank building, and serves Italian classics with country flare. music while the sun vanishes in the gloaming light above the riverfront.
Looking to meet some locals? Consider a nightcap at Hemingway’s, best described as “our kind of dive.”
Nothing looks finer in morning light than Beaufort’s antebellum homes and historic attractions.
Start your tour in the gorgeous Point neighborhood. Here: a two-story Queen Anne with bone-white columns. There: a Victorian mansion set back from the street, its lawn shaded and shaggy with moss-draped oaks. One of five distinct districts, the Point neighborhood can be explored on your own or with a guided tour.
Next up, the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center. The history of Beaufort’s Lowcountry culture is the history of the waterways and ecological treasure troves. Explore the Center’s exhibits and marvel at the unique species contained in their 3,000-gallon aquarium.
For lunch, it’s back to the waterfront for a stay-in or take-out adventure at Q’s Chicken Shack, where organic and cage-free poultry inspire boaters and others to line up for the daily specials. After lunch, a cup of coffee and some gelato at Common Ground coffee shop serve as the perfect break in your explorations.
Spend the afternoon browsing local art galleries and taking in the quaint, family-owned shops. Then sidle up for a drink at the beloved Old Bull Tavern. Beaufort’s premier gastropub slings suds, lamb shanks, Sardinian pizzas, and sensuous desserts.
Breakfast with the locals at Blackstone’s Café starts your last morning in Beaufort (until your next visit, that is). Arrive early enough and join the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Poached eggs and ham on English muffins, fruit-topped pancakes, and salmon omelets—whatever gets you started is served up hot here.
Before heading home, don’t forget to sand your toes on a contemplative walk on one of Hunting Island State Park’s pristine beaches. The most popular park in the state, Hunting Island is as wild and undeveloped as it must’ve appeared to the first Europeans 450 years ago. Scale the only accessible lighthouse in South Carolina and take in the elevated view of the Lowcountry.
Beaufort bewitches, which is why the place doesn’t welcome visitors, it welcomes “visiting residents.” So as you motor off, remember this: you’ll be back, and we’ll be ready for your return.