When we plan travels, we usually think of visiting a city. Maybe we are not always thinking about a place the size of New York City, San Francisco or Chicago. Maybe we are considering something more picturesque like New Orleans. Maybe the city has a beach close by, so we think about Miami or even Panama City. I think we miss a lot when we bypass the small towns of our country.
by Elaine Allen
Okay, I will admit that my favorite small town is Key West, Florida, and it is not a typical small town. Maybe there aren’t a lot of small towns that are big tourist attractions. Let’s look at Beaufort, South Carolina as a small town stop.
The city of Beaufort sports a population around 12,000. It is located on Port Royal Island and is part of the Low Country of South Carolina. It is the second oldest city in South Carolina. You will find many lovely old homes in this historic city. You may want to visit there for the Home Water Festival in July or the Shrimp Festival in October.
Pat Conroy’s novel “The Great Santini” is set in the city of Beaufort. Conroy has returned to live in the city with his wife, author Cassandra King. Beaufort played a big role in Conroy’s life, and you can see his love for the Low Country in all of his works.
In thinking about small towns to visit, I have looked at various lists of “best small towns.” And I noted that the town of Beaufort was on just about every one of those lists.
What makes Beaufort so special? Perhaps it is the aura of its history. The city was chartered in the year 1711. Compared to St. Augustine’s beginnings in 1565, perhaps 1711 wasn’t that long ago. But then Georgia’s oldest city, Savannah, wasn’t founded until 1733. There has been a lot of history since 1711.
by Elaine Allen
Beaufort was occupied by Union soldiers from the early days of the American Civil War. It became a haven for runaway slaves during this period. Because the Union Army controlled the city, many of the beautiful homes survived the war and many are still standing in the city.
In 1893 the city was hit by a devastating hurricane. Thousands of people were drowned by the high tide that completely covered the islands. Later Beaufort suffered a destructive fire in 1907, which further devastated the city. These events and the economic consequences kept the city from growing for many years after.
by elaine allen
In the 20th century, the area turned to the seafood industry as well as tourism for financial support. Many of the antebellum mansions were turned in to guesthouses as the tourist industry grew. During World War II, Beaufort became the site of great military growth. Beaufort’s military bases employ many of the local population and have provided significant economic growth in the area.
Because of its beauty and southern charm, Beaufort has been the scene for filming several major motion pictures. Parts of “The Great Santini,” “Prince of Tides,” “Forrest Gump” and “The Big Chill” were filmed there.
Hunting Island State Park by Elaine Allen
If you plan a trip to Beaufort, you will find major hotel brands like the Beaufort Best Western Sea Island Inn and the Beaufort Hilton Garden Inn. You will also find bed and breakfast locations such as the Rhett House Inn and the Cuthbert House Inn. Both of these historic buildings are located in the National Landmark Historic District.
If you are looking for a place to dine, you might want to check out the Back Porch Grill for casual dining or the Breakwater Restaurant to try their “New Southern Cuisine.” For breakfast you might try the Beaufort Bread Company or Blackstone’s Café.
When in the area you will want to take a trip to the Hunting Island State Park. Hunting Island has beautiful beaches and a great lighthouse. You can also rent campsites or a cabin if you want to stay overnight or longer.
Don’t forget other stops you will want to include on this trip to the low country. Hilton Head Island, S.C. and Savannah, Georgia are both just a daytrip away.