If you know (or imagine) you love
Savannah and Charleston, Beaufort, South Carolina will suit you well, and in
a smaller-city comfortable way.
I recommend booking a downtown room,
either an historic inn or the boutique hotel. Here’s why:
Cuisine so fine and so abundant that
walking to and fro feels best. Several blocks are all that’s
asked of visitors walking between meals and lodging, museums
and shopping, marshes and tidal river gazing.
For certain book a guided walking
tour of the neighborhoods; carriages are available but to me
the walkabouts felt more grounded in personal Beaufort
history and experiences.
Sherman didn’t burn these homes
because Union troops were living in them; that means the
architecture is abundant, and an interesting mix of
carpenter built and simple styles.
Walking tours with
historians or solo strolls with friends include
dozens of handsome and historic homes.
eye on trees too because 34 of them have interesting
signs about their place in Beaufort history.
Meet the families
history in this South Carolina community involves families
still living in those homes built hundreds of years ago.
I met some of them in art
galleries downtown and in the eateries.
The Beaufort River borders downtown
so that guarantees riverfront patios for libations and
conversations, swings to hold two or three for gazing and
dreaming, brick and tabby walkways for serious exercise or
Nine miles away is the Atlantic Ocean so watch the tides change
twice daily and see the brown pelicans watching you.
The 1897 Beaufort Inn
fills and entire downtown block.
The marina is bustling and tours are
available. Because Beaufort is in the midst of a chain of sea
islands, the water is a fine way to learn the island
personalities, then make good choices when you return by land.
Fine dining distinguishes Beaufort –
strolling distance from my boutique City Loft Hotel and also
from an expansive, four-corner property, the 1897 Beaufort Inn
where high tea is served in the afternoon. The Rhett House Inn
is another fine lodging choice, earning its 19th AAA
Four Diamond ranking this year.
Green tomato soup
many takeaway foods from
Lowcountry Market and
at the Beaufort Inn
Here’s a dining overview but I
suspect I didn’t meet every chef or experience each
harbor, island or downtown restaurant design. You’ll be
well served with each of these
Lowcountry Produce Market &
Café was hopping
with live acoustic music my second evening in Beaufort.
Since my visit was a driving trip, the backseat held
packages of green tomato soup and granola with
cranberries and pecans. Brothers design the exquisite
food served here and as takeaway from the farm stand in
nearby Lobeco. Check out their sunshiny building,
originally a Post Office.
Saltus River Grill
for fine dining and a harbor view. Sunset divine my
dinner evening after a Beaufort River Tour. Takeout
might even be pleasant with abundant tables, benches and
wide swings along the park bordering the river.
Emily’s Restaurant and Tapas
Bar for fine
dining too in an energetic downtown setting. Easy to
linger over many courses, creative bartender, hushed but
is where I lunched, and only excessive people go
to dinner same day as that lunch. Definitely recommend
the shellfish and lobster bisque. Most people were
ordering gigantic sandwiches on interesting breads.
Café is the kind
of Formica-table top place I like to eavesdrop on local
folks. It’s also the first time I had shrimp and grits
for breakfast, a
luscious, lingering meal served until 2:00 p.m.
Go to your local library and to the movies to prepare for a
Beaufort holiday because books and films began here.
at the Saltus River Grill
Pat Conroy wrote “Water is Wide,” “Great
Santini” and “Lords of Discipline” in the home easy to walk in
front of today.
Not so easy to see is the filming site of
“Big Chill” but I reflected on my 1960s-college era self
climbing carefully on a sturdy wrought-iron fence to look at the
Portions of “Forest Gump” were filmed on
the bridge across the Beaufort River, as walkable as it is
Older than Charleston
Seems Beaufort was discovered before
Savannah and is older than Charleston. Think 1711 for the
starting point of this little city now numbering 12,000
Meeting people with ties to real stories,
sharing family tales passed down for generations gave depth to
the architecture I saw, the food I ate and the art I wanted to
Choice, not happenstance, brought people
back to Beaufort and for visitor me discovering how they
regained their homes after the Civil War made architecture
gazing ever so interesting.
River tour boat captain Dick Goodenough
calls the fleeing of wealthy white families in 1861 “the great
I found the return of a child born into
slavery, purchasing the home he served as a houseboy, then
elected a state and national legislator one of the most
important walking tour tales I ever heard.
Robert Smalls was also trained to manage
the owner’s boat which he commandeered through the blockade when
the Confederates in charge stayed late on land one night in the
city watering holes.
Smalls presented the boat to Union forces
and you know how the war turned out. Five miles of Highway 170
connecting nearby Port Royal to the Georgia state line is named
for Robert Smalls.
You’ll certainly notice an enormous home
even on a solo stroll – the one with an especially dramatic
Dubbed “The Castle,” this 1860 home was used as a Union
Both sons of this family died in the war
but their father returned, dug up the silver he had buried in
the outhouse and bought his home again.
Walking tours with local folks
Ten returning-family stories were shared on my walking tour by
Collin Davidson with Beaufort Touring Company; he grew up here.
Nancy Ricker Rhett and son
William Means Rhett III spark charming conversations
about Beaufort art,
landscapes, culture and heritage
in Rhett Gallery.
Meet the Rhett family if you’d like to
know the essence of South Carolina’s low country. Four
generations of painting, carving, sculpting, mapping – and
talking about Beaufort and her heritage in their gallery on 901
Gregarious group, this talented family,
seeming to love their local culture as deeply as their visions
of landscapes, birds and animals.
Enormous works of art here, and bins of
exquisite antique maps. Watercolor scenes and illustrated books.
Landscapes in oil, miniatures painted on ivory piano keys and
wooden waterfowl sculpted feather by feather.
Counterpoint to the distinguished Rhett
Gallery is Greenfish Gallery where Murano glass artist Kelly
Davidson declares, “We’re really silly here, having fun.”
Her stories connect in a heritage way too
because her first grade class in Beaufort had lunch with their
teacher on Fridays on the porch of that big house known as The
Folk art and Gullah
cultural traditions abound in Red Piano Too gallery,
just across the bridge from downtown Beaufort, on St.
Beaufort’s downtown streets are enticing
and the shopkeepers interesting. Expect a mix of stylish
apparel, fine American crafts and whimsical folk art, plus the
circa 1804 Verdier house museum and several historic churches.
chain of sea islands
Choose excursions on the neighboring islands.
Hunting Island State Park
offers five miles of pristine beach,
driftwood collections and the 167-step lighthouse
Pristine beach – five miles of shoreline
- on Hunting Island in the state park, and a lighthouse with 167
steps to climb for grand 360-degree views.
Driftwood alone is worth the trip.
Friday morning is the right time to visit
Parris Island to behold the graduations of new Marines, and stop
in the museum.
St. Helena Island lured me two ways: folk
art including Gullah artists in the Red Piano Too art gallery
and Penn Center, which was America’s first school for freed
slaves. I didn’t know to go hungry so I missed the Gullah Grub
restaurant and frogmore stew. Next time.
Rental homes are available on the
private, gated Harbor Island and golfers seem to choose Lady’s
Fripp Island is described as feeling like
an exclusive resort but I didn’t reach this southernmost of
Beaufort’s chain of sea islands.
For more info: