Beaufort On a BudgetThe second oldest city in South Carolina (next to Charleston), Beaufort was charted in 1711 and grew from a shipbuilding community to a slave society of elite planters and finally to the small southern town as it sits today. Beaufort's historic character and architecture has made it a popular tourist destination with much to offer in sightseeing, seaside activities, and maritime history.
SightsBeaufort really made its mark on the map when the Queen Anne's Revenge, flagship of the famous pirate Blackbeard, was discovered under 20 feet of water in the Beaufort Inlet in 1996. Since this discovery, moves have been made to salvage and restore the ship. At the North Carolina Maritime Museum there is a display highlighting the famous ship and its past. The museum is free and additionally houses a glimpse of North Carolina's boating history.
Beyond pirates and ships, Beaufort is very well known for its restored historic homes. Dozens of homes, more than 80 years old, are marked with plaques that designate their historical significance. Amongst the oldest is Hammock House of 1698, which was once an inn that regularly served Blackbeard. The Beaufort Historic Site offers tours of ten of these buildings, clustered in two acres of the downtown area. The Beaufort Historical Association is more than happy to help visitors will all things historic.
Other sites include Old Burying Ground on Ann Street which is the town's most picturesque historic cemetery with tours available, as well as the Beaufort Waterfront which boasts a wooden boardwalk at the water's edge lined with gift shops and restaurants. Be sure to keep an eye out along the banks for wild descendants of the Shackleford Ponies who reportedly swam ashore from a sinking Spanish ship in the 16th century.
NeighborhoodsDowntown Beaufort is the heart of everything-shopping, dining, and history. Earning a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, the downtown primarily centered along Bay Street, a historic commercial street that runs along the borders of the Beaufort River. Here you will find a handful of historic homes true to the antebellum legacy, local galleries, boutique stores, scenic parks, and waterfront restaurants. This coastal community is further divided into a few sub-neighborhoods-the Old Point which is home to some of the town's oldest, biggest, and most luxurious homes, the Bluff which features some of the most recognizable historic homes in the city, and the Old Common with a unique collection of graveyards, commercial structures, and historical residences. Just about anywhere in the downtown you'll feel an air of southern charm draped with Spanish Moss, and bustling with things to do, sights to see, and places to eat.
ActivitiesWalking the neighborhoods, sightseeing the historic downtown, and shopping and dining along the waterfront are some of the more popular activities if you are looking to see Beaufort at your own leisure. There are also several tours of the area worth a try, depending on what you are interested in. Port City Tour Company hosts most of them with specialty excursions that include the Beaufort Ghost Walk, the Legend of Blackbeard Tour and the Shackleford Wild Horse, and Shelling Safari. Hungry Town Tours takes visitors through Beaufort's 300 years with historic narratives and true stories that make up the town's history, plus some insight and samples of the local culinary scene. There are also plenty of harbor tours, ferries, and lookout cruises for dolphins, sunsets, and the surrounding nature.
The Rachel Carson Estuarine Research Reserve is a neat sanctuary to visit if you are interested in the native wildlife, as is scuba diving with the Discovery Diving Company.
And as far as annual events go, Beaufort Old Homes and Gardens Tour is held annually during the last weekend in June (same as an antique car show), while the Beaufort Music Festival comes to town for a weekend in April/May with musical groups on several performance stages in town.
Food and DiningSouth Carolina is known for its home-style comfort foot and barbeque cuisine; however, the closer you get to the coastline, the more you will find the South Carolina take on seafood. Highly influenced by French and creole culture, the eats of the coast includes favorites like Gullah rice, gumbo, fried okra, and buckets of peel and eat shrimp, served cocktail or otherwise with good southern spices. Sweet tea is a staple throughout the south, while peach cobbler remains the dessert of choice. Some of the more traditional low country favorites can be found at places like the Breakwater Restaurant & Bar, the Foolish Frog, Smokin Planks BBQ, and Blackstone's Café, while the finer side of dining can be enjoyed at Wined it Up, Emily's Restaurant & Tapas Bar, Paninis on the Waterfront, and the Cat Island Grill & Pub.
TransportationThe nearest major airport is on Hilton Head Island which has domestic flights to a variety of cities on the eastern side of the U.S. and is 38 miles from the center of Beaufort.
Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is the next nearest airport with domestic flights from Savannah, Georgia (located 48 miles from Beaufort). You can also opt for Charleston International Airport, which is about 75 miles from Beaufort.
Other than those, Beaufort County Airport serves local flights.
By car from the north, take I-95 to US-17 and finally onto US-21 which runs right through Beaufort, SC.
By car from the south, take I-95 to US-278 and onto SC-170 which will take you to Carteret Street in Beaufort.