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Beaufort is a great place to explore the Lowcountry region, which offers so much in history and beauty. Many of the Beaufort area's best attractions can be found beyond the community itself. Listed below are some of these places that are worth exploring:
Click here for further information on military sites and heritage in the area, including Parris Island, the Marine Corps Air Station, and the Beaufort National Cemetery. If you are in town on a Friday, Marine Corps Recruit graduation ceremonies are open to the public and are spectacular and colorful events to attend.
Located just down the river from Beaufort, the town of Port Royal is a quieter yet charming area that is more local in character. The "Old Village" or downtown was once clustered around a port facility and is in the process of being transformed into a new downtown mixed use and amenity area. Visitors should take in the unique Cypress Wetlands right in Old Village, where bird-watching opportunities are among the best (and most convenient) in the Lowcountry. Don't miss a walk along the boardwalk out to The Sands, a local "beach" for those who don't have the time or the effort to take the trek out to Hunting Island. A fifty foot tall observation tower along the boardwalk provides exceptional views of the Beaufort River and Parris Island, which lies directly across the river from Port Royal.
The Sea Islands refers to the string of barrier islands that run from South Carolina through northern Florida. Locally, the term "Sea Islands" typically refers to nearby islands that surround Beaufort (which is itself situated on Port Royal Island).
The best known and most accessible islands are connected by the main thoroughfare in the area, U.S. Highway 21, known as the "Sea Islands Parkway". Each Sea Island has developed differently over the past century but all retain unique characteristics about them and all are worth a visit. They are listed in the order one crosses them on U.S. 21 heading south from downtown Beaufort.
Lady's Island is a primarily residential island that is defined by its lush landscaping, golf course communities, and commercial amenities located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 21 and S.C. Highway 802. The main visitor attractions are primarily local restaurants and excellent golfing opportunities. The Beaufort County Airport is located here. (across the bridges from downtown Beaufort)
St. Helena Island is the largest of the Sea Islands in northern Beaufort County and one of the most diverse in terms of history, culture, and landscape. The island is very rural in character and farming activities remain the major economic driver of the island and its residents. The island is best known for its Gullah culture and African-American heritage. The Penn Center Historic District is the main attraction on the island which documents much of this heritage and preserves it on a lovely tract of land. St. Helena is also known for its cuisine, with the signature dish being "Frogmore Stew", which is also known by some as "Lowcountry Boil", "Beaufort Stew", and other terms. Whatever one calls it, be sure to try it at one of several dining places that are on the island. (10-15 minutes from downtown Beaufort)
Hunting Island State Park is perhaps the crown jewel of the Lowcountry and is South Carolina's most popular state park. It received its name as hunting grounds for Native Americans and then European settlers during the Colonial period. The park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and since that time has become a favorite for generations of visitors. The park offers overnight camping and RV areas in addition to four miles of beaches, miles of hiking and biking trails, a spectacular marsh boardwalk, and a ranger station that hosts informative and educational programs. The park's 19th century lighthouse is a popular visitor spot. A fishing pier is also located at the south end of the island. (20 minutes from downtown Beaufort).
Harbor Island and Fripp Island are gated communities that require you be a resident, a guest of a resident, or a renter of a home or villa on the respective island in order to gain access.
Hilton Head Island is a major destination in its own right. Highlights of Hilton Head include over 10 miles of beaches, dozens of excellent restaurants and shops and its accessibility for bicyclists. The island is perhaps best known for its gajillion (literally) golf courses and tennis courts. Popular spots to visit include Coligny Beach, the Mall at Shelter Cove, and perhaps the better known Harbour Town and South Beach Marina areas (both located inside the Sea Pines Plantation, which requires a $5 daily pass for entry).
Nightlife is extensive; from sports bars and dance halls to comedy clubs and jazz bars, you'll be sure to find something to enjoy. Hilton Head of course is also known for its natural beauty and commitment to maintaining it. If wildlife is more your thing that lying on the beach, you’ll enjoy the Sea Pines Forest Preserve or the nearby Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, a local favorite.
is fast becoming a go-to destination. The once sleepy fishing village
today is the commercial center for southern Beaufort County. Visitors
love the Tanger Outlets along U.S. 278 right before the Hilton Head bridges. Bluffton has also made strides in improving the "Old Town", which today is an eclectic mix of old-school shops and up-scale dining opportunities.
Hardeeville is a small but rapidly growing community located along Interstate 95, to the west of Bluffton. Although known mostly for its overnight accomodations and interstate commerce, Hardeeville also boasts the attractive Sergeant Jasper County Park, a beautiful facility that is located less than three minutes from Exit 8 on Interstate 95. A disc golf course is a popular amenity at the park. Just beyond the city limits is the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, which is extremely popular for nature lovers, particularly for folks interested in birding.
Walterboro is a charming community located along Interstate 95, just under an hour's drive to the north of Beaufort. As one of South Carolina's center for antiques, you'll want to engage in some window-shopping along downtown's Washington Street. While in town, be sure to check out the South Carolina Artisan's Center to capture the spirit and creativity of South Carolina's folk arts scene. On your way back from Walterboro, be sure to stop briefly in the small community of Yemassee at Harold's Country Club, a local dive with legendary press. Also from Yemassee, the Old Sheldon Church Ruins are less than 10 minutes away...
Charleston and Savannah are of course internationally renowned destinations. Both of Beaufort's "larger sisters" are easily reachable from Beaufort, with Savannah being about an hour's drive away and Charleston about 75 to 90 minutes to the north.