Get away to this historic, patriotic city and take a trip to South Carolina’s past
Beaufort is a beautiful blessing tucked along the coastal South Carolina Lowcountry. The historic waterfront city is immersed in a celebration of the senses. Step foot onto Craven or Bay Street, close your eyes, and you can breathe in the centuries of enchantment in the air and dripping from the Spanish moss draped in the live oaks on the streets.
Sandwiched in between the South’s superstar cities of Savannah and Charleston, Beaufort is a hidden gem, despite it being the second oldest city in South Carolina. Downtown, however, has proudly shone in its own spotlight off the beaten path, luring visitors with its charm since 1512. In fact, over 300 acres of the downtown part of the city is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the city streets are lined with galleries, boutiques, bars, and restaurants to feed a foodie’s cravings. Extending further into the islands of Beaufort County, these surrounding unique communities also embrace their military roots, with Parris Island acting as the Marine Corps Recruit Depot since 1915, the Naval Hospital Beaufort, and the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, where my family sat on the tarmac to take in the Beaufort Airshow last April. Beaufort is also known to celebrate the area’s Gullah culture through artwork and cuisine. Here is what I found out in my personal discovery while in Beaufort for a few visits over the last few years.
Panini’s on the Waterfront, 926 Bay St.
A popular outdoor/indoor dining spot on Bay Street, Panini’s is located in the historic Beaufort Bank building that overlooks the picturesque Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The restaurant has been a locals’ favorite for more than 20 years, known for their blend of Old World Italian and modern cuisine, including, of course, their namesake paninis, stone-baked brick oven pizzas, creative pasta dishes, and fresh local seafood with a Mediterranean twist. Try the Shrimp BLT Panini and the King Neptune pizza topped with crab meat, shrimp, mushrooms, and preserved lemon. Choose to dine indoors under the high vaulted ceiling or outside on the River Deck outdoor dining area to boat watch as the sun sets.
Lost Local, 705 Bay St.
This cool café in downtown Beaufort is creatively centered on seafood, bar, and tacos, with the tagline, “Arrive lost, leave a local” – and exactly the vibe we felt in wake of our visit. The eclectic menu features international inspirations crafted from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Choose from the constantly changing blackboard specials or the unique menu mainstays, such as an option from the long list of tacos, like the Mac Chicken Taco (blackened chicken, house made mac and cheese, bourbon-infused bacon jam, pico de gallo, and salsa verde) or the Fried Sushi Taco (fried California sushi rolls on fresh greens topped with purple cabbage, carrots, soy glaze, and boom boom sauce). Also lengthy is their list of craft beer, wine, and libations available.
Bricks on Boundary, 1422 Boundary St.
Another family-friendly dining landmark that has been feeding Beaufort for the last 20 years is Bricks on Boundary. The name is birthed from the brick wall along Boundary and across the street from the restaurant that makes up the wall for the Beaufort National Cemetery. The locally owned restaurant prides itself on its service to the community and setting the standard for Southern hospitality. Bricks’ menu also exudes the South, with standouts like Bricks’ Famous Fried Shrimp with a side of lima bean blue cheese slaw, the Spicy Carolina Flounder sandwich spread with chipotle crème on a hoagie roll, and a slice of Aunt Edith’s homemade Southern Pecan Pie.
Bistro Ten, 10-B Market in the Village of Habersham
My husband and I chose to dine here on our wedding anniversary while we were visiting Beaufort and staying in Habersham, and it was a delightful experience dining alfresco within their charming garden, where fresh produce and herbs are grown for dishes on the menu. Three friends opened Bistro 10 next door to their wine and cheese shop, Corks on the Vine, during the pandemic and the result is an intimate ambience, a menu showcasing fresh, local ingredients that frequently changes, and a selection of craft beer and artisan wines. Start with their Mediterranean Plate, a tapas arrangement of hummus and labneh (tangy yogurt cheese), seasonal veggies from the garden, and warmed naan, and continue with a fresh seafood creation, like tonnato tartine (tuna, anchovies, capers, garlic, herbed focaccia, pickled red onions, and crisp veggies) or seared scallops with creamed corn, sweet peas, and tomatoes.
SEE & DO
Book a Tour
Named for Henry Somerset, the second duke of Beaufort, Beaufort, chartered in 1711, is the second oldest city and should definitely be explored during your visit. The town was laid out around a fort and blockhouse that had been built in 1706 to guard against Spanish invasion. The best way to learn more about historic facts like this, as well as Beaufort’s culture, architecture, and local lore is by booking a guided tour of the city by way of walking, horse-drawn carriage, city minibus, golf cart, and more. There is a history and movie-themed tour, covering Beaufort’s historic district that was the setting for movies, such as “The Big Chill,” “The Prince of Tides,” “The Great Santini,” and “Forrest Gump.” You can also choose a Gullah heritage tour, ghost walking tour, even a Kazoo Factory and Museum tour.
There’s also my personal favorite, a tour presented in partnership with the Pat Conroy Literary Center that celebrates Beaufort’s pride and joy, award-winning writer Pat Conroy. You’ll see homes in the historic Point where he lived and wrote, sites connected to his teachers and friends, his parents’ grave site, and his film locations, followed by a visit to the center, where you get a sneak peek at his writing desk and chair, “The Great Santini’s” flight jacket, and the handwritten prologue to “The Prince of Tides.”
Attend the MCAS Beaufort Airshow
One of the main reasons my family and I traveled to Beaufort for a getaway is to attend the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort Airshow in April 2023. The high-flying, full-speed airshow comes to town every few years and is mind-blowing for all ages (even teens). Everything from propeller planes to tandem seating airplanes to fighter jets demonstrate their sky-high daredevil aerobatics for a full day of fun. It all culminates with the grand finale performance by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The unbelievable choreographed show begins with the Angels’ C-130 known as Fat Albert and leads to the jaw-dropping, daredevil demos in four- and six-jet formations,including the diamond and delta, plus a high-performance demo of precision of two solo professional pilots hurtling toward one another at top speed. I had to look away at some points to catch my breath!
Stroll Along the Beaufort River & Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park
A must-do in Beaufort before you leave is a stroll along this 2.1-mile waterfront park that wraps around the city and borders the Beaufort River. From the paved walkway, you can also see the Woods Memorial Bridge, the western end of Lady’s Island, the east side of Port Royal Island, and the north end of Parris Island. The multi-acre park, named after the city’s former mayor, features landscaped green spaces, paths that face the river, swings, a small pavilion, playground, and access to a great lineup of restaurants and shops.
On our visit, my family of five booked a two-bedroom second floor loft through Airbnb located in the village of Habersham, just a few minutes’ drive from downtown Beaufort. Developed 30 years ago, Habersham mimics the picture-perfect charm of Charleston and traditional coastal towns, garnering national awards for its beauty and charm, like the “Best Neighborhood Design in America” by the National Association of Home Builders. There were several Airbnbs listed and available in here, in addition to the permanent residences within Habersham. Amenities abound, including the outdoor Olympic size pool complex, community dock, marketplace, and River Retreat Pavilion.
For more information on a getaway to Beaufort, South Carolina, visit beaufortsc.org