Beaufort is considered the Most Romantic City in South Carolina, thanks to its beautiful architecture, southern charm, and slower way of life. But don't worry, there's plenty to do in low country, whether you're a family of five or flying solo. As the second-oldest city in the state, Beaufort is full of history, including antebellum houses, churches, and forts, and because it's on Port Royal Island, there are plenty of nearby marshes, islands, and an ocean to explore.
Spanish moss is one of the most recognized natural features of the South, and the Spanish Moss Trail is an excellent place to get outside and see it in all its glory. It follows the old Port Royal Railroad path along the, and because it is paved, it is the perfect place to walk, run, or bike. Travel the 14 miles of the trial, and you'll see everything from wetlands to wildlife to stunning antebellum homes and plenty of gorgeous trees covered in Spanish moss.
One of Beaufort's biggest draws is its history, and the best place to see it is the Beaufort Historic District. Many of the homes in this area were constructed before the Civil War. They remain intact primarily because most of the occupants left town before the North made it into the city. This area became the headquarters for the US Army in the South, with most of the homes converted into officer's quarters and hospitals. Today, this area is full of shops, art galleries, museums, restaurants, and plenty of photo ops.
Waterfront Park is a beautiful green space overlooking the bay in Beaufort's Historic District. Sit on a bench swing to catch the cool breeze coming over the water, watch the sunset, or relax with a cup of coffee. This park combines winding walkways and gorgeous landscaping with a business district that hosts a variety of boutiques, galleries, and restaurants nearby. Waterfront Park is also home to many of Beaufort's most popular festivals, like the Shrimp Festival, Water Festival, and Original Gullah Festival.
Fort Fremont is about a 20-minute drive south of Beaufort but well worth the trip. It was built in 1899 and is one of the country's only two surviving Spanish-American War forts. What remains of the structure is decaying and overgrown with trees and shrubs, which only adds to the overall atmosphere. Several facilities are under construction, and visitors will soon be able to take advantage of walking paths, a picnic area, and an interpretive center.
About 30 minutes from Beaufort on the coast of the Atlantic, you'll find Hunting Island. This state park is South Carolina's most popular, and it's easy to see why. With five miles of beaches, a saltwater lagoon, forests, and marshes to explore, Hunting Island is an excellent place for outdoor enthusiasts. You can even camp here and fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean crashing against the beach. Stop by the Hunting Island Lighthouse, the only one in the state accessible to the public, where you can climb to the top for amazing views of the Atlantic coast from 132 feet.
St. Helena Island, a 20-minute drive east of Beaufort, is home to one of the largest Gullah populations in the region. The Gullah are descendants of enslaved people who have preserved African heritage and culture for more than 150 years. Here, Gullah descendants share stories, arts, and crafts, most notably their woven sweetgrass baskets. Dine on local seafood and produce to fully experience the heart of the Gullah community.
Port Royal is a short ten-minute drive south of Beaufort and a stunning place to take in the region's natural beauty. Head to Sands Beach and walk down the Port Royal Boardwalk, where you might see dolphins playing in the water or various birds flying overhead. You can even climb the observation tower for a better view. If you're a fisherman, the Boardwalk is a perfect place to be. It's a great spot to catch a rainbow trout, flounder, or bass.
You'll have to drive about an hour north to get to the Old Sheldon Church, but it's packed with history and definitely worth the trip. Construction on the church was completed in 1753, but it was burned down decades later during the Revolutionary War. After it was rebuilt, General Sherman burned it down again in 1865 during the Civil War. Today, only ruins remain, but what's left of the crumbling brick walls, entrance, and foundation are truly a sight to see.
The Cypress Wetlands is an idyllic place for nature lovers, but the calm, beautiful surroundings are a draw for anyone. You can spot an impressive amount of birds here, including owls, hawks, and falcons, and don't miss the white egrets and other wading birds gracefully hunting in the tall grasses. The half-mile trail features viewing spots along the way where you might catch sight of an alligator having breakfast. Keep going until you reach the Richmond Avenue Overlook, where there are a few places to grab coffee and drinks or a bite to eat.
Fripp Island is 18 miles west of Beaufort, connected via a bridge to Hunting Island State Park. Its more remote than other islands and home to 175 species of birds, not to mention deer herds wandering through the trees and dolphins playing off the shore. Get the timing right, and you may even catch loggerhead turtles hatching and making their way to the ocean. The island is rich with pirate lore - rumor is that Blackbeard the pirate buried some treasure here. Kayaking through the marches is a popular activity on Fripp Island, as are paddle surfing, golfing, and crabbing.