Second Oldest City in South Carolina—Beaufort

Destination: Beaufort, SC

Think of South Carolina cities or towns that exude the state’s classic charm and culture and most likely Charleston or Savannah come to mind. However, for an alternative that captures the area’s rich history in a smaller, more manageable package (read: less tourists) you may want to consider Beaufort.

This small coastal town offers its own charms with easier accessibility and greater affordability. Situated between those two “other” South Carolina mainstays, Beaufort’s oak-lined streets predate the Civil War, making it the second oldest city in the state.

Beaufort is one of only a few cities with the unique distinction of having the entire downtown region designated as a historic district.

Emblematic of the deep South’s traditional architecture, Beaufort offers visitors tree-shaded streets with Victorian and Federal-style houses that harken the pre-Civil War years. The architecture and sultry Southern atmosphere of this quiet town have found their way into a number of literary works. Reflecting that influence, book lovers visiting Beaufort can peruse the shelves of three diverse and independent bookstores in town.

And as you might expect with the aptly-named Spanish Moss Trail nearby, the extensive greenway is a hiking treasure of Spanish moss-draped woods. Nearby Woods Memorial Bridge is a popular stop, which made an appearance in the film Forrest Gump.

Beaufort also has a number of art galleries, museums, shops and restaurants. One of the many activities available to visitors is picking seasonal fruit and vegetables at Dempsey Farms, as well as shopping at the Saturday Port Royal Farmers’ Market.

True to its Southern roots, food is serious business in Beaufort, with the offerings ranging from fried chicken and spicy  gumbos to po-boy sandwiches and an extensive array of seafood. Choose from Blackstone’s Cafe, Herban Market & Cafe, Old Bull Tavern and Saltus River Grill as jumping-off points, with Griffin Market the choice for Italian.

Nearby Attractions

Nearby Roads

When it’s time to ride, head east out of town and pick-up US 21 to Hunter Island Park. This 17-mile jaunt is a scenic exploration of hanging moss, marshes, waterways, bridges and forest. Once you arrive in Hunter Island, you can enjoy the beaches and the saltwater lagoon.

There’s also the historical Hunting Island Lighthouse, which was destroyed in the Civil War but has been rebuilt to its former glory. Another destination is St. Helena Island, where Penn Center—one of the first schools for former slaves—is located. St. Helena Island is home to Gullah Grub Restaurant, one of the area’s finest.

Step back in time at the Anchorage 1770, a structure from the colonial days steeped in the history of the South. The private summer home of a politician, it was transformed into Union Hospital Number 11 during the war and treated wounded soldiers. The Inn overlooks the Beaufort River. On-site dining is available at the Ribaut Social Club.

Situated in the center of the historic district, the Beaufort Inn has been in operation since 1897, delivering Southern charm and memorable stays. The hotel itself comprises several buildings that featured in the development of the nation. The Beaufort Inn has hosted U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit, Julia Roberts, and Jimmy Buffett.

Best Time to Travel

Due to its Southern locale, in summer Beaufort is shrouded in South Carolina’s famous humidity and heat, with sweet mint tea the traditional drink to stay cool. Early spring and late fall present the most pleasant times to visit in terms of the weather. Winter months are cooler and even cold, but come with the added benefit of streets and establishments devoid of tourists, granting more elbow room.