South Carolina

Beaufort, South Carolina

A- Overview:

Some 30 miles north of Hilton Head Island, Beaufort (Low Country pronunciation byoo-fort) is an old seaport with narrow streets shaded by huge moss-draped live oaks and lined with pre-Revolutionary and antebellum homes. It is located on Port Royal Island, one of the large Sea Islands along the southeast Atlantic coast.

A center of luxury homes prior to the Civil War, Beaufort was one of a few southern cities spared from fire in the war’s aftermath, making it an architectural treasure. The oldest house (at Port Republic and New Streets) was built in 1717, before the birth of George Washington. Beaufort is one of the few towns in the United States whose entire downtown has been designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as an historic district. Nearly 200 restored buildings can be seen in the city’s historic district.

More than 50 historic buildings have been identified and include lovely private homes beautifully restored. Start your visit to Beaufort with a walk along the peaceful harbor at Waterfront Park. The park is a pleasant place to linger for a while, and several restaurants are nearby. Boat and horse-drawn carriage tours also start from the park.

The Low country’s salt-marsh ecosystem, one of the world’s most productive and unspoiled, is remarkably easy to explore from a Beaufort base. The A.C.E. Basin is the vast wilderness created at the juncture of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers. Guided boat and kayak tours allow visitors to photograph hundreds of species of birds while exploring the coast, and boat rentals enable adventurers to explore on their own. Given the abundance of water, it’s no wonder that fishing, sailing, shrimping and crabbing are popular activities for visitors. Port Royal’s boardwalk and Hunting Island State Park’s pier are among the ideal fishing venues as well as being popular for sightseeing and leisurely strolls.

A five-mile leisure trail winds through Port Royal for jogging and bicycling and includes an observation deck.

Beaufort and Port Royal are proud to host three military bases. The military is an integral part of Beaufort, with the Marine Corps Air Station to the north, Parris Island Recruit Depot on Port Royal Sound, and the Naval Hospital at the heart of the community. The Marines take an active role in community life. They assist in emergencies, entertain at air shows and volunteer at community events.

Art galleries, antique shops and modern boutiques are within the downtown walking area, not to mention fine dining and quick eateries. Museums are a beginning for an educational and interesting look at the history of the area.

The Beaufort Museum includes artifacts from throughout the city’s history, including Native American relics and Revolutionary and Civil War items. The Federal-style John Mark Verdier House was built in 1790, and St. Helena’s Episcopal Church dates to 1724. Of special interest—although it’s not open to the public—is the Milton Maxey House, traditionally claimed as the site where South Carolina’s secession documents were drafted.

Filmmakers have discovered that Beaufort locations make convincing movie settings, whether they’re looking to portray the Old South or the jungles and beaches of Vietnam. Some 20 movies have had scenes shot in the area, but Beaufort’s fondest memories are of Tom Hanks and the film Forrest Gump. For the most part, local residents take film making in stride. They’ve seen a lot of excitement in films such as The Big Chill, The Prince of Tides, Forces of Nature, Rules of Engagement, Jungle Book, White Squall, Something to Talk About, The Legend of Bagger Vance, GI Jane, The Last Dance and the TV series Gullah. Gullah Island was filmed on location in Beaufort. It seems as if almost everyone has at least one, really good, first-hand filmmaking story to share.

In the Low country, a festival or celebration is almost always underway. Locals and visitors regularly take to the streets, parks and waterways to enjoy life with the special varieties of cuisine, entertainment, crafts and activities, which define the friendly communities and their customs. Among Beaufort’s notable annual events are the yearly Plantation Tour and Tour of Historic Homes in March and the Beaufort Water Festival in late July.

B- City Information:
Population: 12,950

Elevation: 11 feet

Land Area: 18.6 square miles

Location: Beaufort is located in southeastern South Carolina along Highway 17 between Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.

Time Zone: Eastern Time Zone

Weather:

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Average temp. (°F)
48.5
50.7
57.3
64.4
72.7
78.5
81.6
80.4
76.0
67.1
58.5
50.8

High temperature (°F)
58.4
61.3
67.8
74.8
81.9
87.0
89.8
88.3
83.8
76.3
68.2
60.4

Low temperature (°F)
38.5
40.1
46.7
54.1
63.4
69.9
73.4
72.5
68.2
57.9
48.7
41.2

Precipitation (in)
4.1
3.1
3.7
3.0
3.1
5.7
5.7
7.5
5.3
3.1
2.6
3.1

Climate:

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Days with precip.
9
8
9
7
8
12
13
13
10
6
7
8

Wind speed (mph)
8.4
8.8
9.3
8.8
7.8
7.6
7.1
6.8
7.3
7.4
7.4
7.8

Morning humidity (%)
83
82
84
84
86
88
89
91
91
89
87
84

Afternoon humidity (%)
55
51
49
47
51
57
59
61
60
54
53
55

Sunshine (%)
54
57
63
71
68
65
65
62
59
63
61
55

Days clear of clouds
9
8
9
11
9
7
6
6
7
12
11
9

Partly cloudy days
6
6
9
9
10
11
14
14
10
8
7
7

Cloudy days
16
14
13
11
12
12
12
12
13
11
12
15

Snowfall (in)
0.1
0.2
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.1

Local Seasons: Beaufort winters are moderate and summers are pleasant to hot, with continuous, cooling on-shore breezes. Average annual temperature is 65ºF and annual precipitation is 49.4 inches. Temperatures in August can run into the 90s and lows in winter may reach 20 degrees. And yes, once every few winters there may be a few snowflakes, but the snow rarely sticks. When a winter front passes through, the temperatures usually bounce back to the high 60s or low 70s within a couple of days.

How to Get There

By Air

International airports are located in Charleston (Charleston International Airport) to the north of Beaufort and in Savannah (Savannah International Airport) to the south. Savannah is about a 45-minute drive, and Charleston is 65 miles away, an easy hour and a half drive. Each is about an hour to an hour and a half drive from the City of Beaufort. Major carriers offer scheduled flights from both airports. The Beaufort County Airport and Hilton Head County Airport offer private and corporate service.

By Car

It’s easy to get to beautiful Beaufort, just a short drive from I-95 or US 17 which both run north-south the length of the United States and connect to other interstates and major highways.

Driving south on US 17, exit onto US 21 at Gardens Corner and enjoy the scenic marsh views driving approximately 20 miles east into the downtown Beaufort area.

Driving south on I-95, Exit 33 at Point South and connect to US 21 for a direct route into the center of Beaufort.

Driving north on I-95, exit 8 onto US 278 toward Hilton Head Island and directly into the Bluffton area and the southern part of Beaufort County. This route connects to SC 170 to cross the river into the City of Beaufort in the northern part of the county.

By Train

Train travel via Amtrak (800-usa-rail) is convenient to Beaufort with the Yemassee station only a few miles to the west of downtown. Daily north-south service is available.

By Bus

Greyhound Buses stop at Beaufort’s Boundary Street station. Buses usually stop at Parris Island except during periods of heightened security. Greyhound telephone numbers are (843) 524-4646 for local information and (800) 231-2222 for fare and schedule information.

National Holidays:

New Year’s Day: Jan. 1

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day: 3rd Mon. in Jan.

President’s Day: 3rd Mon. in Feb.

Memorial Day: last Mon. in May

Independence Day: July 4

Labor Day: 1st Mon. in Sept.

Thanksgiving Day: 4th Thurs. in Nov.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day: Dec. 24 and 25

New Year’s Eve: Dec. 31

C- Attractions/Things To Do:
The Spirit of Old Beaufort

West Street extension

Tours depart from just behind the John Market Verdier House Museum.

843/525-0459

Tuesday to Saturday at 10am, 11:30am, 1:15, and 3:30pm.

Admission Charged

This tour takes you on a 2 hour journey through the old town, exploring local history, architecture, horticulture, and Low Country life.

St. Helen’s Episcopal Church

501 Church St.

843/522-1722

Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm

Admission Free

This church traces its origin back to 1712, and visitors can see its classic interior and visit the graveyard, where tombstones served as operating tables during the Civil War.

North Street Aquarium

608 North Street

843-524-1550
Thursday-Saturday, 10am-6pm

The first public aquarium in South Carolina. Features local marine life.

John Mark Verdier House Museum
(843) 379-6335
801 Bay St.
Mon -Sat, 11am-4pm
Admission Charged

The museum is a restored 1802 house built for a wealthy merchant-planter, partially furnished to depict the life of a merchant planter during the period 1800-25. It is one of the best examples of the Federal period and was once known as the Lafayette Building, because the Marquis de Lafayette is said to have spoken here in 1825.

The Beaufort Museum
713 Craven St.

843-379-3331
Mon-Sat, 10:30 am-4 pm.
Admission Charged
The museum is housed in the 1795 Beaufort Arsenal. Exhibits tell the story of the individual crops that created plantation life and the wars which changed the character of the area along with that of the country.

Parris Island Museum

Marine Corps Recruit Depot
843-228-2951
Call for hours of operation.
Admission Free
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Easter.
The Parris Island Museum in the War Memorial Building depicts the history of Parris Island since the French Huguenots landed in 1562. The museum is full of exhibits about historic Beaufort, including 127 different types of weapons, depicting all the wars the Marine Corps has been involved in. Civil War buffs and kids will enjoy the big Civil War display with its miniature battle scenes. Visitors also may thrill to the color and precision of graduation ceremonies, which are conducted almost every Friday year-round.

Penn Center
York W. Bailey Museum
St. Helena Island
843-838-2432

Monday-Saturday, 11m-4pm

Admission Charged
The site of the country’s first school for freed slaves and one of the most significant African American historical and cultural institutions in existence today.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins
U.S. 21, Beaufort

Admission Free
Remains of Prince William’s Parish Church, 1745-55. It was burned by the British during the Revolutionary War, reconstructed in 1825 and burned by Sherman’s troops in 1865.

Cole-Heyward House
Bluffton
843-757-6293

Tuesday-Friday, 10am-3pm; Saturday,11am-2pm

Admission Charged
Museum typical of the West Indies style home, partially restored and managed by the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society. Seven additional homes are in Bluffton’s national historic district.

Low country Estuarium – A Coastal Learning Center

Corner of 14th St. and Paris Ave., Port Royal

843-524-6600

Friday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, other days by appointment

Admission Charged

The Lowcountry Estuarium is a learning center designed to provide hands-on learning about the coastal environments of our beautiful area, such as salt marshes, beaches, coastal waters, and estuaries with creature feeding twice daily.

Prehistoric Gift Shop and Shark Museum
1628 Paris Ave.
Port Royal, SC 29935
843-525-1961

Call for hours.

Admission Charged.
Prehistoric museum displaying the largest collection of giant sharks teeth in the world.

Hunting Island State Park

Highway 21

843-838-2011

Admission Charged

16 miles east of Beaufort, is South Carolina’s most visited state park. It has three miles of clean, safe beach along the Atlantic Ocean, picnic tables and camp sites with an ocean view, plus an 1873 lighthouse that offers a bird’s eye view of the pristine island and coastal waters that embrace it.
Hiking trails pierce the subtropical forest of palmettos, pine and moss-draped oak and offer glimpses of the abundant bird and wildlife residents.
A pier offers a venue for fishing and crabbing and a spot to watch dolphins do their own fishing. An ambling marsh walk reveals secrets of the tidal marsh and presents an opportunity to watch millions of scurrying crabs. A large lagoon is a perfect staging area for launching kayaks. A Visitors Center and a Nature Center provide a wealth of information about the coastal ecology.

An annual South Carolina Park Passport lets you access this state park — and dozens of other parks throughout the state — for a modest annual fee.

D- Family Fun Attractions:
Beaufort Fun Park
591 Robert Smalls Parkway
Beaufort, SC 29906
843-524-2267

Tues-Thursday, noon-9pm; Fridays, noot-11pm, Saturdays, 10am-11pm; Sundays, noon-8pm

Admission Charged
Beaufort’s only entertainment center offering: Go Karts for ages 4-104, 18 challenging holes of miniature golf, 50 game arcades, jump castle, water wars, batting cages, party planning and much more. Fun for the entire family.

Hunting Island State Park

Highway 21

843-838-2011

Admission Charged

16 miles east of Beaufort, is South Carolina’s most visited state park. It has three miles of clean, safe beach along the Atlantic Ocean, picnic tables and camp sites with an ocean view, plus an 1873 lighthouse that offers a bird’s eye view of the pristine island and coastal waters that embrace it.
Hiking trails pierce the subtropical forest of palmettos, pine and moss-draped oak and offer glimpses of the abundant bird and wildlife residents.
A pier offers a venue for fishing and crabbing and a spot to watch dolphins do their own fishing. An ambling marsh walk reveals secrets of the tidal marsh and presents an opportunity to watch millions of scurrying crabs. A large lagoon is a perfect staging area for launching kayaks. A Visitors Center and a Nature Center provide a wealth of information about the coastal ecology.
An annual South Carolina Park Passport lets you access this state park — and dozens of other parks throughout the state — for a modest annual fee.

Parris Island Museum
War Memorial Building

843-228-2951

Monday-Sunday, 10am-4:30pm

Admission Charged
The Parris Island Museum in the War Memorial Building depicts the history of Parris Island since the French Huguenots landed in 1562. The museum is chock-full of exhibits about historic Beaufort – including 127 different types of weapons – depicting all the wars the Marine Corps has been involved in. Civil War buffs and kids will enjoy the big Civil War display with its miniature battle scenes. Be sure to inquire about bus tours and self-guided driving tours of the island at the visitor’s center.

The Beaufort Museum and Arsenal

713 Craven Street
Monday through Saturday,11am-4pm

Admission Charged
The Beaufort museum is a unique and funky museum, full of Indian and Civil War artifacts and Beaufort memorabilia, including a spinning wheel from the Colonial era and the desk Robert Smalls used as a congressman. Before or after your trip through the museum, children will enjoy the cannons in the museum’s courtyard. Ask for a scavenger hunt sheet for your family to use when going through the museum to make your experience interactive and educational.

Penn Center
York W. Bailey Museum
St. Helena Island
843-838-2432

Monday-Saturday, 11m-4pm

Admission Charged
The site of the country’s first school for freed slaves and one of the most significant African American historical and cultural institutions in existence today.

E- Events & Entertainment:
Events

February

Black History Month

943-986-5400
Call for information

Lectures, films and special events arranged at Penn Center.

Great Chefs of the South

843-986-5400

Call for information

This event is celebrated the last weekend in February with visiting chefs, wine and food seminars and a GALA tasting event showcasing the best of the local cuisine and wines from around the world.

March

41st Annual Spring Art Exhibit

Greene Street Art and Activities Center

Greene Street at Hamar Street

843-525-7067

Call for date/time/admission information
Spring art exhibit featuring local artwork in the fields of painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and fiber.

Chili Cook-Off

Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club

843-521-4145

Call for date/time/ticket information

Admission Charged
Taste your way to Beaufort’s next Chili King!

Country Day Tour of Homes (Bluffton)

Bluffton

843-757-MAYE or 843-816-2737

Call for date/time/ticket information

Admission Charged
Tour 5 riverfront homes that are rarely open to the public, the Bluffton Oyster Factory (the last one operating in South Carolina) and an artist’s studio. This tour will be offered at a reduced rate to Beaufort and Jasper County residents who choose not to take the bus transportation from Savannah. An optional lunch at Pepper’s Porch will be offered out back in the pavilions (around a fire, if it’s cold): oyster stew, country ham sandwiches, dessert and iced tea or lemonade will give these visitors from around the world a taste of Bluffton’s finest.

April

Soft Shell Crab Fest

Town of Port Royal

843-986-5400

Call for date/time/location

Admission Free

Lowcountry Blues Festival

843-986-5400

Call for date/time/location

Admission Free

Features a free concert and the Navy’s Blue Angels every other year.

May

A Taste of Beaufort

843-986-5400

Call for date/time/location

Admission Free

Food, wine, art and music create a day-long event in downtown Beaufort.

Gullah Festival

843-986-5400

Call for dates/times/location

Memorial Day weekend

Admission Charged

A celebration of African American heritage with folkways and foods, enjoyable and educational for all.

July

Kites Over Beaufort

843-986-5400

Call for date/time/location

Admission Free
A celebration o f magnificent kites heralded by ocean breezes that typify the South Carolina Lowcountry and the Beaufort area. Kite flying experts fly unique, patriotic & customized flags from beach and the water. A great family event including kite-making & flying, festival dinner and kite auction, vendors, games and more!

Flying Pig Kite Festival

Beaufort

843-986-5400

Call for date and time

Admission Free

Professional kite flyers and kite-making for kids highlight the event, while food, drink, entertainment and fireworks sparkle from the sky to the sand of the public beach.

Water Festival

Beaufort

843-986-5400

Call for dates, times and location

10 days of celebration with a variety of concerts, water skiing, talent contests, air shows, at races and parades. Tournaments include golf, tennis, boating and bed races. Water lovers can also enjoy decorated boats and the traditional Blessing of the Fleet.

October

Shrimp Festival

843-986-5400
Call for date and time

Admission Free

Enjoy local recipes and tastings or buy fresh from the boat to cook your own! Shop for arts and crafts and enjoy the Blessing of the Fleet. Free evening entertainment, children’s activities and plenty of shrimp make this annual event unforgettable. The festival also includes a 5K Run/Walk, a kids’ Popcorn Shrimp Run, and a golf tournament.

Fall Festival

Summit Place

843-770-0105

Call for dates and times

Admission Free

Hayrides, pumpkin decorating contest, food (including festival favorites such as popcorn and cotton candy), raffle, bloodmobile and much more!

Fall Festival of Houses & Gardens
800-638-3525 or 843-524-3163

Call for dates/times and location

Admission Charged

Fall Festival of Houses & History is an annual October highlight of the Historic Beaufort Foundation when tours of various historic homes are offered along with accompanying entertainment.

Oktoberfest

Old Village, Port Royal

843-522-9867 or 843-470-0699

Call for dates and times

Admission Free

The festival typically includes live entertainment, traditional Oktoberfest music, food and drinks, along with fun activities and games for children of all ages. Local artists work is showcased.

Trick or Treat in Downtown Beaufort
Throughout Historic Downtown Beaufort

843-525-6644
4:30 PM

Admission Free

Wear your costume and trick or treat downtown!

November

Heritage Days

Penn Center

St. Helena Island
843-838-2432

Call for dates and times

Craft demonstrations, museum tours, gospel singing, storytelling, art exhibits and much more are an exhilarating and educational mix.

November-December

Homes for the Holidays

Dataw Island

843-522-9555

Call for dates and times

Admission Charged
Tour eight private homes, professionally decorated for the holidays by local florists and interior designers.

Light Up the Night Lighted Holiday Boat Parade

Downtown Beaufort

843-525-6644

Admission Free

Call for date and time

A Night on the Town — Beaufort’s Holiday Celebration & Open House

843-525-6644
Admission Free
Throughout Historic Downtown Beaufort

Call for date and time

Shopping, singing and holiday comraderie.

Annual Beaufort Christmas Parade

Bladen to Boundary to Carteret to Bay Streets

843-525-6644

Call for dates and time

Admission Free