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Many people know and plan visits to the historic cities of Charleston and Savannah, often seen as the bookends of a visit to the Lowcountry region. Sadly, a good number of visitors to one or both of these places miss out on the pleasures that lay in between these bookends. The place that anchors the "space between" is a charming, historic community you do not want to miss - Beaufort.
Founded in 1711, Beaufort (pronounced BYEW-fert) is the second oldest community in South Carolina (behind Charleston) and was founded even before Savannah. Today, this community of about 12,000 residents is widely renowned for its downtown historic district, which has preserved much of its antebellum architecture that is representative of the Old South. Beyond downtown Beaufort, the natural beauty of the Lowcountry entice visitors to explore the surrounding areas - especially one of the state's natural gems, Hunting Island State Park.
Beaufort is attractive for many visitors, but particularly for those interested in history, architecture, art, nature, and outdoor adventure. Adding to these attractions include dozens of outstanding restaurants offering local and international tastes as well as a variety of accommodations, ranging from charming bed and breakfasts to unique boutique hotels to standard motels.
Plenty. Most folks enjoy exploring the historic district either at their own pace or through a guided carriage tour or walking tour. Many people enjoy the various shops and galleries of Bay Street and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the adjacent Waterfront Park. Periodic events and festivals such as art walks, farmers markets, and food festivals are popular for visitors and residents alike. Speaking of food, you can sample the renowned Lowcountry cuisine in restaurants around the area and events throughout the year!
Beyond downtown Beaufort, Hunting Island is often a popular full day or afternoon destination for those seeking the beach or nature-based activities. Parris Island is a popular place for those interested in military history, and if you come on select Fridays, you can attend a graduation ceremony. St. Helena Island is rich in African-American heritage related to its unique Gullah culture. Visitors from Charleston rave about the Old Sheldon Church Ruins on their way to town.
A sportsman's paradise, the Beaufort area has nearly a dozen different golf courses, all of which are scenic and playable for every level of golfer. Watersports are also popular, with fishing charters, kayak tours, and boat rentals available to visitors year-round.
Depending you ask - some will say a few hours, some say a week. Average it out and typically you get two days (one to two nights). This makes Beaufort perfect for a weekend getaway or a middle stop on a week-long itinerary between Charleston and Savannah. Even if your schedule doesn't permit a night's stay, Beaufort can be easily enjoyed for a day trip - but many visitors who've come for a short stop often wish they stayed longer.
If you are looking for a beach vacation on the resort islands of Fripp Island or Harbor Island, you may wish to consider a week's stay. A weekend stay at the campgrounds of Hunting Island State Park has been a popular past-time for generations of families.
Should one stay in Beaufort and use it as a base to explore other areas? Some people do. Since it's halfway between Charleston (75 minutes away) and Savannah (60 minutes away), Beaufort is a convenient choice for those who don't want to pack and unpack.
Many who use Beaufort as a base mention they sought a small town and didn't want to stay in a larger city. If you're considering a beach vacation or a trip that is based more towards outdoor activities and away from staying in cities, then you'll also want to consider staying in Beaufort or the surrounding area for the full week, as you will have quicker access to natural areas like Hunting Island and the ACE Basin.
If you don't fall in those categories, you should still consider staying in Charleston and/or Savannah and make Beaufort a part of your trip itinerary. It is after all a small town, so some may wish to have larger surroundings as well.
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