Beaufort, South Carolina is the epitome of a Southern coastal town. Seemingly straight off the wheels of a movie set, Beaufort’s centuries-old live oaks canopy the interlocking walkways of the city, while the breeze floats calmly through the moss draping lazily over each tree. Lone trees pose gracefully among the white-sanded beaches of Beaufort, blue herons flap gracefully in the wind, and the age-old buildings of downtown remind each visitor of the history this town has seen.
Founded by the British in 1711, Beaufort, South Carolina quickly became a bright center of indigo and rice production. The wealth and diversity spawned from the antebellum era is still seen in the town’s beautifully preserved mansions, the amazingly conserved Gullah culture of Beaufort’s African-slave-descended citizens, and the various historical sites that populate the quaint coastal town. Although Beaufort now offers exciting opportunities to golf, fish, bike, kayak, and soak in the rays of the sun along its ocean waters, we’re here to show you why Beaufort is more than just your typical beach town. Stop by the places on our list to see how the city’s defined history, in addition to its dedication to preserve its diverse wildlife, makes Beaufort, South Carolina one of the true gems of the south.
Prince William’s Parish Church
Visit the Lowcountry ruins of Prince William’s Parish Church, now known as Old Sheldon Church. Built between 1745 and 1753, the age-old ruins imitate the stately form of Greek temples. The ancient church was burned in 1779 by the British in the Revolutionary War, but its surviving exterior walls were rebuilt between 1825 and 1826. The hollow ruins of the church, surrounded by extending oaks, Spanish moss, and crumbling gravestones, are an eerily spectacular sight to see.
Hunting Island Lighthouse
Originally constructed in 1859, Hunting Island Lighthouse is the only lighthouse open to the public in South Carolina. The top of the 167-step spiral staircase offers visitors a 132-foot bird’s-eye view of the Atlantic Ocean, Hunting State Park, and the areas surrounding marshes.
Hunting Island State Park
After enjoying the views of the Hunting Island Lighthouse, climb back down the winding staircase to experience the fun of Hunting Island State Park. The park’s 5,000 total acres with three miles of natural beach offer exceptional opportunities for humans and nature to coexist. Watch the graceful flight of egrets and the lazy sunbathing of alligators in the park’s marshes, or sit in the sands of the beach and spot the fins of dolphins in the ocean’s waters. If you want to camp out or bring the wildlife home with you, Hunting Island State park also offers opportunities to crab and to fish.
Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park
Shop ‘til you drop, fish from the pier, or relax and enjoy the view of downtown Beaufort at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The park, located along the waters of the Beaufort River, allows access to local restaurants, shops, and the National Historic Landmark district, all while providing a spectacular view of Beaufort’s calming waters and adjoining islands.
Founded in 1862, The Penn Center was one of the first academic schools established to provide a formal education to the recently-freed West African slaves of the Carolina Sea Islands, also known as the Gullah Geechee people. The center now provides educational tours on the history of the original school, its involvement in the preservation of the Gullah Geechee heritage, history, and culture, and its contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.
The Cypress Wetlands
Surrounded by residential homes and commercial businesses, the Cypress Wetlands are a nature sanctuary in the heart of Beaufort. Birds of all types, including egrets, herons, wrens, and hawks, all commune between the reaching branches of Beaufort’s famous moss-draped live oaks, and reptiles of all types can be found swimming or slithering through the duckweed-topped waters. Photographers and tourists alike gather to observe the sounds of the crickets and cicadas competing chorus, the zipping flight of dragonflies across lily pads, and the calming coalescence of nature and humans all in one space.
The Sands in Port Royal
After a day of touring the historical wonders of Beaufort, South Carolina, unwind from the boardwalk, or soak in the sun from the sand of the beach at The Sands in Port Royal. Feel free to pack a picnic, and enjoy the view of dolphins playing, birds gliding through the air, and the brilliant colors of the sunset filtering across the horizon.