Fun things to do in Beaufort, South Carolina

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South Carolina’s second oldest city is full of inspiration. | Photo by Michelle Gross

South Carolina’s second oldest city is full of inspiration. | Photo by Michelle Gross

Dating back to 1711, Beaufort is the second oldest city in South Carolina. Situated roughly between Charleston and Savannah, its Lowcountry landscapes – think of widely open marshes and swaying oaks drenched in Spanish moss – contain stories that span generations. (They also appear as the backdrop for cultural landmarks like Forrest Gump and The big thrill.)

To fully understand this seaside town, you have to immerse yourself in its history. Remnants of the past can be found along Bay Street, where sprawling federal mansions and antebellum-style homes still stand, and on St Helena Island, where the Gullah-Geechee community has lived for centuries.

You also have to get to know its people, both modern and historical. Robert Smalls, a former Union leader and politician who became a slave during Beaufort’s tumultuous post-Civil War era, would eventually become the first African-American captain of a ship in the service of the United States. And we can’t talk about Beaufort without talking about his dear Pat Conroy, author of novels like Prince of tides and The water is wide, whose heritage continues today in an eponymous literary center of the city.

There really isn’t a bad time to visit, but fall – when humidity is a distant memory and festival season is well underway – is a great time to explore. Don’t let the small town vibe fool you: there is more than enough things to do (and eat) in Beaufort to keep you occupied, that is, when you’re not sipping a sweet tea and you are resting on a swing.

a boat near a lawn where a crowd has gathered for a festival
Every fall, Beaufort comes alive with festivals. | Visit Beaufort

Savor the best of the festival season

Each October, the annual Beaufort Shrimp Festival marks the start of fall. The party features dishes unique to the Lowcountry, including shrimp perloo and crab soup, as well as the Run Forrest Run 5K, which sees hundreds of locals don their most proficient Forrest Gump attire as they traverse the famous Woods Memorial Bridge. If you miss the Shrimp Fest, don’t worry: With the cold weather, oyster roasts on Sea Island all end with a ten-day week-long Oyster Fest and Tides To Table, which features select each year. of the best crustaceans of local origin. January.

At the end of October, the Beaufort Houses and Gardens Fall Festival is a great way to immerse yourself in local history. You can expect behind-the-scenes access to some of Beaufort’s largest homes and gardens, a low-elevation picnic on the banks of the River Combahee in Prince William Parish, and a Southern-style brunch in the French gardens of a town center style house. Soon after, in early November, the Pat Conroy Literary Center – a must-see anytime of the year – hosts a literary festival with tons of speakers and stories from award-winning authors, poets and more.

Set among tall oak trees on the edge of a cypress swamp, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Auldbrass Plantation, one of the greatest projects ever undertaken by the famous architect, is only open to the public once a year at autumn. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this is truly a once in a lifetime experience and tickets must be reserved in advance. The property includes a main house, guest house, cabins, stables, aviary and a pond with a floating ‘dining barge’.

a colonial style inn
The 247-year-old historic Anchorage Inn | Photo courtesy of The Anchorage Inn

Soak up historical sites and storytelling

Once you’ve got your boots on the ground, make your way to downtown Beaufort, where the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park offers historic walking tours year-round, or take a stroll along from Bay Street, where dozens of charming shops, restaurants and galleries are a great place to stop and visit with the locals.

Stop by the Old Bay Market where the Southern Sweets Ice Cream & Sandwich store serves up all the vintage jerk soda feel. A few doors down, the Legacy Art Gallery is run by local artist Lisa Rivers whose magnificent paintings and portraits of Gullah are on display and are a great keepsake to take home.

Not far from the main drag, Lowcountry Produce Market & Cafe is worth a visit for a light afternoon snack accompanied by sweet tea and a stack of green tomatoes served with chili and a drizzle of garlic and pepper jelly. Just up the street, if you’re looking to take home a piece of Beaufort history, L’Arbre à Chocolat is the place that inspired the famous line of Forrest Gump about life being like a box of chocolates. And for one of the city’s most scenic walks, the Spanish Moss Trail is a 10 mile stretch along an old railroad track that will take you through the scenic marshes and wetlands of the Lowcountry.

trees covered with Spanish moss on a swamp
Spanish moss drips from trees in the Lowcountry. | Photo by Shawn Hill

Get out on the water

One of the best ways to see Beaufort is on or by the water. Coastal expeditions offers one of the best boat trips in town; available year-round from the downtown marina, you’ll spot bottlenose dolphins floating along the water, bald eagles and nesting ospreys in just 1.5 hours.

You’ll also want to spend a day at Hunting Island State Park, one of the state’s most popular beaches. Ride the hauntingly beautiful boneyard along the South Beach, go shark-tooth hunting in the sand, or overcome your fear of heights by climbing the 167 steps to the top of the lighthouse for just $ 2.

the ruins of a chapel under the Spanish moss
The ruins of the Saint Helena de la Ease chapel are centuries old. | Visit Beaufort

Jump on the island of Saint Helena

For centuries, Saint Helena has been the heart of the Gullah-Geechee nation: descendants of West and Central Africans known for their rich cultural heritage and Creole language. The Penn Center is a great place to learn about Gullah’s culture and history, with heritage tours and celebrations that bring three days of arts, demonstrations, storytelling, and food to the island.

While you’re here, pass by the nearby Ease Chapel. Originally built in the 1700s, the ruins are all that remains, but the historical significance and melancholy Spanish moss that surrounds the structure make it worthy of a quick stop.

Once you’ve had your fill of history, stock up on food. It’s easy to drive right off Beedos along the Sea Island Parkway, but the chili cheese and fried chicken sandos are worth turning around. And for an introduction to lowland cuisine, Gullah Grub is also right by the Parkway. Arrive early to grab a crab soup with rice and cornbread before it sells out, then cross the street to see Gullah’s incredible collection of artwork on display at the LyBenson Gallery.

a meal and wine near a seaside restaurant
At the Fishcamp, enjoy dinner and oceanfront sunsets. | Fishcamp on 11th Street

Feast on po’boys, potato pies and painkillers

Fall is officially shrimp season in Beaufort, but before you dive in, start with pumpkin pie waffles and the best homemade lattes in town at Urban Brew + Co. Be sure to grab a succulent and a Beaufort hand towel from the comfy and so cute gift shop on the way out.

Just off downtown Main Street, po’boys and chicken salad are always on tap on Plums’ back patio. It gets crowded on the weekends, so get there early enough to beat the brunch crowds. A few doors down, the Saltus River Grill has a patio overlooking the harbor and easily offers the best shrimp and grits of any island in the sea.

One of the most popular tickets in town, you’ll need dinner reservations at the low-key Old Bull Tavern gourmet pub. But with the wine-soaked lamb shank, chicken andouille, and wood-fired pizzas on the menu, plus a Beaufort pain reliever that’ll give you a ride, it’s worth the wait.

There is no dish more typical of Beaufort than Frogmore Stew, and Fishcamp in Port Royal is the place to try it. There is no frog or stew in sight – the name is actually derived from a nearby town, and the dish itself is akin to a low-level boil with shrimp, sausage and all the spices and Southern fixins that accompany it. Take a seat at the bar or on one of the swings overlooking the shrimp boats of the old port to listen to live music every day from 6 to 9 p.m., as well as some of the best sunsets in town.

Where to stay in Beaufort

Located on the waterfront in downtown Beaufort, Anchorage 1770 has a history as rich as Beaufort itself. Today, the antebellum-style hotel has just 15 rooms, including a designated ghost room that couldn’t be scarier or more appropriate for this time of year. Dining at the Ribaut Social Club in the hotel’s main lounge, breakfast on the front patio overlooking the harbor or the veranda with a glass of wine on the upper terrace are all must-do activities here.

If you’re looking for true low-country luxury, Palmetto Bluff is a sprawling southern resort on 20,000 acres of a nature reserve near Bluffton. This place exudes southern hospitality, and between on-site bowling, dozens of restaurants (don’t miss Octagon), romantic alleys, and miles of cycle paths, it’s an experience worth spending a lot of money on. ‘money.

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michelle brut is a New York girl living her best life in the South Carolina Lowcountry. When not paddleboarding or sipping pain relievers at Old Bull, she can be found rehabilitating furniture or scouring a local thrift store.



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