Beaufort, SC, is one of the South’s most beautiful towns, rich with history, draped with Spanish moss and framed by gorgeous coastal views.
Adventure on the water or along the rails-to-trails path…relax at the beach or breathe easy on a large swing overlooking the river. Dive deep into the history of the Gullah Geechee people or the city’s Union occupation. We loved our visit here, and can’t wait to go back.
There are so many things to do in Beaufort SC that you’ll be coming back to this South Carolina charmer again and again.
Do you wish you could travel more, but don’t want to pay the expensive cost of airfare for your whole family? There is a way to fly your family for free and it’s easy to learn! Families Fly Free is a program that teaches families how to fly for free using travel rewards – including our family!
Want to learn how your family can do it too? Click here to grab 7 Secret Hacks for flying free that the founder of Families Fly Free personally uses to take her family of 4 all over the world!
Coolest Places To Stay In Beaufort SC
- Our Favorite Beaufort Hotel. The Beaufort Inn is a historical, award-winning inn that offers unique and distinct guest rooms, suites, cottages and extended stay options. We stayed with our kiddos in 808 Bay, a large 3-bedroom suite that showcased Bay Street on one side and the River from the patio on the other side. We have more info about it at the bottom of this article, but to put it simply: We absolutely love it here and cannot recommend it enough.
- Best for Couples: Anchorage 1770 is a great option for those traveling without kiddos. Located downtown with sweeping waterfront views, the 18th-century inn provides guests breakfast every morning and fresh baked cookies before bed. An in-house fine dining restaurant, beach cruisers available to all guests are just a few of the great perks you’ll find.
- Best for Families: Home2 Suites By Hilton Beaufort features free bikes, seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center and shared lounge in Beaufort. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace.
- Best Pet-Friendly Option: Featuring a stylish urban design, the pet-friendly City Loft Hotel is located in Beaufort’s historic city center. Guests of the hotel will enjoy concierge services and an on-site espresso bar. The hotel is 5 minutes’ walk from Bay Street which offers waterfront shopping, dining and entertainment.
Best Things To Do In Beaufort SC: Outdoor Activities
There are so many amazing things to do when you’re in Beaufort SC, but here are the best of the best!
Beaufort Lands End Paddling
We loved our tour with Lands End Paddling. Starting at the Beaufort Marina, we piled into a 4-person kayak and followed our guide (and the lowering tide) across the Intracoastal Waterway to a popular little sandbar (shown above). Here, our guide showed us how to cast a net for fish, shrimp, and the like.
After we splashed on the sandbar a little more, we climbed back in the kayaks and rode the tide back to the Marina. You can take this tour (great for kids) or the Beaufort River Kayak Tour or the Hunting Island Tour. You can also rent kayaks and bikes if you want to make your own adventure!
Spanish Moss Trail
The Spanish Moss Trail is the Lowcountry’s Rails to Trails effort (much like Atlanta’s BeltLine) that extends 10 miles. There are water and marsh views, great for walking or biking under the live oaks, and pets are welcome on a leash.
No bikes? No problem. Many of the hotels (like The Beaufort Inn) have complimentary bikes available for you to use. Just be sure to bring smaller bikes from home if you have kiddos with you.
Bike the Point
If you keep reading, you’ll notice I mention that I recommend the Sea Island Carriage Tour. Whatever you do, take the tour before you bike The Point — you’ll appreciate the area so much more when you realize it’s more than just a group of pretty houses draped in Spanish moss.
The Point is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the Lowcountry, and was originally owned by one man…until he passed in 1770, when it was divided into tracts of land. The homes built here were “second and third” homes of wealthy Confederates. When news of the war came to them, they fled. Biking this area is a must-do.
Tip for history nerds: When you bike The Point, you’ll be near the Beaufort National Cemetery. It’s an interesting bike stop, as this is one of the few cemeteries in the South established for Union soldiers and sailors.
Beaufort Tours offers different types of tours — from walking tours to golf cart tours.
- The Complete Walking History/Movie Tour is a great tour that will teach you all about the history of the area, as well as show you some of the places that have been featured in movies filmed in the area.
- Another walking tour offered is the Beaufort and the Civil War: Rehearsal for Reconstruction tour. You’ll learn about the effect the Civil War took on Beaufort.
- If golf cart tours are more your speed, there are a couple to choose from. You can take the History and Movie Tour by Golf Cart tour (more below) or Pat Conroy’s Beaufort tour.
Book It: History and Movie Tour by Golf Cart
Relax and Unwind in Beaufort SC
Hunting Island State Park
We love state parks and Hunting Island State Park was no exception…I could have stayed here for an entire day (or more!). First, be sure to climb the lighthouse for fantastic views for up to 40 miles. It’s a nominal fee (cash only) and worth it!
Second, make time for the beach. There is a South Beach and a North Beach. We spent most of our time on the North side, near the lighthouse and “driftwood beach.” The South side is where you’ll find the nature center, fishing pier and boating area.
If you have time, there are miles of trails to explore, shoreline perfect for finding shark’s teeth…and beach camping!
Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park
The feature picture at the beginning of this post is a view from the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park at sunset, facing the marina. It sits right on the water, parallel to Bay Street (the main thoroughfare in the Historic District) and it is where all the action happens. We spent a lot of time at this park during our visit.
In the afternoon we sipped on a Sunset Slush as we strolled. We played frisbee in the green area, climbed the playground equipment, watched prom and graduation students gather for photos, took in the breeze and rocked on the over-sized swings lining the waterfront…it is also pet-friendly, so we watched pups playing catch!
As the sun set, the number of families – locals and visitors – gathered. Several restaurants played live music for everyone to enjoy. We opted to eat at the restaurants each evening, but many families were enjoying picnics on the lawn. It was just a spectacular community space with breathtaking views that you don’t want to miss.
Explore Downtown Beaufort SC
Visit some of the art galleries in town featuring local artists and browse through the shops on Bay Street. The Downtown Historic District is filled with culinary delights, sweet treats, and plenty of smells to draw you in.
You can also visit the Beaufort History Museum while you’re there. It’s located within the historic Arsenal from 1798. One of the knowledgeable Docents can guide you through 450 years of Beaufort’s past, recounting stories about this place that shaped America.
Highway 21 Drive In
After the sun sets, head to Highway 21 Drive In. It was named one of the “10 Classic Drive-In Theaters” by the Travel Channel. Usually they are showing double features on the weekends.
Get there early for a good spot…grab some snacks or an old-school style dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs…let the kids play on the playground equipment and get out the wiggles before you tune into the show.
Port Royal Observation Tower
Beaufort is on the island of Port Royal, but hold your hat because there is also a city of Port Royal just south of Beaufort and it is adorable. If you can’t stay for the entire day exploring the Old Village and surrounding area, you’ll at least want to walk the Port Royal Boardwalk and climb its 4-story observation tower for impeccable views of the sound and marsh.
In the same parking area you’ll find The Sands, a small community beach. It’s great for lounging and having a snack, and popular for hunting shark’s teeth.
Stephen Elliott Park
The locals told us they call Stephen Elliot Park, Cannon Park, because of the cannons that sit along the water, on the other side of the bridge from Waterfront Park. They came from a British ship long ago, and offer a stunning backdrop to the Sound.
Take in the Local History in Beaufort SC
The Gullah Geechee Visitors’ Center at LyBensons’ Gallery
The Gullah people are direct descendants of the African slaves brought to the US, who lived in the Lowcountry coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia – landing points for over 40% of slaves.
After slavery was abolished, they settled in remote, Lowcountry villages and formed strong communal ties – probably because of their isolation. What resulted is a unique culture that has persevered, and is continuing to hold steadfast to their traditions even today.
The The Gullah-Geechee Cultural Visitors’ Center at LyBensons’ Gallery is both information center and art gallery – and a must-visit location. I recommend asking the staff about the art and culture – they are a wealth of information! If this is a culture you’re not familiar with – don’t be scared! Ask questions…it’s how we learn, grow, and help keep the traditions alive.
The Spirit of Old Beaufort
We did not have an opportunity to take the Guided Gullah History Tour, but I will most definitely be back for this, if nothing else!
The 3-hour driving tour (yes, there is air-conditioning!) takes you to Lady’s Island and St Helena, both rich with Gullah Geechee history. You’ll explore one of the first schools for freed slaves, see the island churches, learn their songs, and more.
If you don’t have time to take the tour, then try to get out to the first school for freed slaves, for a self-guided adventure. Penn Center is so important to history, and an important lesson for our kids!
Don’t skip the movie about the Center and their mission, before you tour the museum-area.
Sea Island Carriage Company
We always take an “overview” tour of destinations we visit, so as to get a lay of the land and peek into the history. I am so glad we did this Sea Island Carriage Company!
The kids will love it because it’s an open air carriage tour pulled by a horse (in our case, Jasper – a Clydesdale!). Your guide will whisk you through the Historic District and The Point, offering tidbits on everything from The Mansion, where the South Carolina succession papers were signed – to Pat Conroy’s old home, where he lived after authoring The Great Santini.
Old Sheldon Church Ruins
The Old Sheldon Church Ruins give you a glimpse into one of the oldest “temple-style” churches in America.
Opened in 1757, this large brick religious structure was also evident to military leaders throughout its early history as a strategic stronghold. Burned in both the Revolutionary and Civil War, it stands in its unrestored ruinous state to this day – yet the beauty of the original architecture remains. Bring your camera!
Parris Island Museum
To this day, over half of the Marine recruits in the US are trained in Parris Island, SC. Learn about the history of the United States Marine Corp at the Parris Island Museum, located within the Marine Corp Recruit Depot.
This unique museum offers a glimpse not only into the Marine history, but also the history of the surrounding area from Native American periods to present.
Historic City Tour by Bus
On this 1.5-hour driving tour, explore the historic district of Beaufort, including the famous Old Point area and The Bluff with its antebellum houses and churches.
As you drive around in air-conditioned comfort, your guide will introduce some of these beautiful, historic sites. See townhouses up close and learn about the architecture and people behind them. Discover what happened to the houses and the people of Beaufort during the Civil War Union Occupation.
Book It: Beaufort Historic City Tour by Bus
Local History and Film Sites Tour by Golf Cart
Calling all Forrest Gump fans! This 1-hour Local History and Film Sites Tour covers Beaufort’s historic district and gives you a chance to learn more about the town and its history.
Relax in a golf cart as you discover the sites and homes where the stars stayed in downtown Beaufort. Ride by locations surrounding Beaufort such as The Gump Medical Center (funded by Forrest’s “gazillions” he earned running the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company), and The National Cemetery where The Great Santini was buried.
Your “Must-Eat in Beaufort” Checklist
Sweets and Treats in Beaufort SC
- Scout Southern Market. From the street, it looks like a high-end home goods store. Beautiful decor. In the middle are adorable dresses (with pockets!) that any Southern girls would love. But the treat here in in the back at the Sweet Tea Bar. Two scoops of sorbet in a cup sweet tea. It’s divine!
- The Chocolate Tree. Word has it Tom Hanks’ assistant picked up chocolate for him here every day during the filming of Forrest Gump. And that famous lifelike “box of chocolates”? Those weren’t no Russell Stovers. A bevy of delicious handmade chocolate perfection awaits you here.
Breakfast and Lunch
- Blackstone’s Cafe. Two floors of Southern cooking and American fare served up fast and delicious. Located in the heart of Beaufort on Scott St, just a half block off the beaten path.
- Lowcountry Produce. Restaurant and fresh food market all in one, grab lunch Low Country Produce and then look though their huge selection of sundries, canned goods, and kitchen and home supplies.
- Rain-n-Bagels. A taste of New York in the deep south. Enjoy an authentic bagel or gourmet coffee. We recommend an Everything bagel with Taylor Ham.
- Shrimp Shack. This is a great “hole-in-the-wall” lunch stop coming out of Hunting Island toward Beaufort. It’s known for the Shrimpburger, and I recommend you get a side of hushpuppies, too. It’s cash only with outdoor tables and plenty of sweet tea.
- Saltus River Grill. Recommended for a special night out, have a seat overlooking the Port Royal Sound with a plate of local oysters and a bourbon cocktail. All of the seafood is superb, but we went nuts for the sushi selections.
- Hearth Wood Fired Pizza. Although known for the “best pizza in town”, we opted for Pasta Bolognaise and Lasagna. Ok, we tried the pizza too which was wood-fired tasty.
- Dockside. Open for dinner, just over the bridge from Beaufort, this seafood eatery is very popular. We noshed on flounder, oysters, and crab (with a diverse kiddo menu, too). While the food was delish, the view is also a draw. It sits on the marsh at a marina, and we watched the sun set in the backdrop as we ate on the patio.
The Ideal Weekend Retreat
The Beaufort Inn
This historical, award-winning inn offers unique and distinct guest rooms, suites, cottages and extended stay options. We stayed in 808 Bay, a large 3-bedroom suite that showcased Bay Street on one side and the River from the patio on the other side.
Breakfast is included with each stay in the form of vouchers to local area restaurants. Wifi and bicycle rentals are complementary, along with nightly s’mores around the fire and passes to Hunting Island State Park.
We cannot recommend The Beaufort Inn more highly, with kids or without.
Read More: Beaufort Inn: Your Best Family Option When Exploring Beaufort, SC | Stay Here: The Beaufort Inn
Campgrounds Near Beaufort SC
Palmetto Shores RV Resort is located off of I-95, about 70 miles from Beaufort, SC, on the beautiful Lake Marion. With full service hookups (50/30 amp) on all pull thru and back in sites, big rigs are welcome.
With amenities galore, you’ll find an arcade, two swimming pools, a splash pad, a lazy river, fishing on the lake, a beach, a playground, and an on-site restaurant.
Beaufort SC FAQ
What is Beaufort known for?
Beaufort, SC, is known for its southern charm, maritime history, and amazing things to do. It’s also well known for its fishing and delicious seafood.
How close is Beaufort, SC, to the beach?
You’ll find one of the best beaches in South Carolina is only 15 miles from Beaufort at Hunting Island State Park. You’ll love the white sandy beaches here, as well as the hiking trails and fishing lagoon.
What is the best month to visit Beaufort?
One of the best times to visit Beaufort, SC, is in the spring. You’ll enjoy beautiful scenery, milder temperatures, less visitors, and fun local festivals during the springtime.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO SOUTH CAROLINA
- YOUR SOUTH CAROLINA VACATION
- CHARLESTON: 45+ Fantastic Things To Do In Charming Charleston SC
- HILTON HEAD: 20 Things To Do In Hilton Head For Coastal Fun
- BEACHES: 17 Alluring South Carolina Beaches Begging You To Visit
- RESORTS: 14 Amazing South Carolina Resorts You Will Love
More Places To Stay In Beaufort SC
We make no guarantees of any price listed on our site. We are not responsible for content on external web sites linked from ours, including linked resources, an external blog post, any partner site, hotel property sites, or affiliate sites. We only write about places we love in an attempt to help you in your adventures, but we can’t guarantee you will love them, too.
Posts may contain affiliate links at no cost to you. Several of our trips are also compensated by the respective tourism boards for the city or state we are visiting. This never impacts how we share the destination with you – opinions are always our own and we pride ourselves on that. We do not sell links or accept unsolicited guest posts under any circumstances. Don’t even ask.
United States Copyright, 365 Atlanta Family, LLC