Believe it or not, if you’ve watched Forrest Gump, the iconic movie classic starring Tom Hanks, Sally Fields, and Robin Wright, you’ve seen Beaufort, South Carolina. While the movie was technically set in Alabama, a large chunk of the filming was done just outside of this small southern town known for its live oaks, coastal beauty, and beautiful antique buildings. If, like us, you just can’t get enough of this gem of a getaway, here are seven more reasons to visit Beaufort today (plus some great places to stay)!
Rooted in History
Before we get to all the fantastic things to see and do in Beaufort, let’s learn a little more about this city’s storied past. It’s one of the oldest cities in the United States, and while there’s a Beaufort, North Carolina, this one is pronounced “bew-fort.”
Close to other southern treasures such as Myrtle Beach and Savannah, Georgia, the area that Beaufort is situated in is called the Lowcountry. This area is characterized by its proximity to the Eastern Atlantic coast and its marshy, subtropical climate. Beaufort itself sits on Port Royal Island, just north of Tybee Island and Hilton Head.
Many settlers explorers tried–and failed–to establish settlements in the area before the British finally flew their flag in 1711. At one point known for its agricultural exports of rice and indigo, which flourished thanks to the slave trade, after Emancipation during the Civil War, a devastating hurricane in the late 1800’s, and a fire in the early 1900’s, the city struggled to carry on. Finally, it has today come to be known for its cultural heritage, well preserved historical landmarks and natural beauty. The area also gets an economic boost from local military establishments.
Things to Do in Beaufort
Beaufort, SC weather is mild throughout the year, which is one of the things that makes it such a great place to visit. In the winter, it averages in the 60’s during the winter and the 80’s during the summer. Also, Beaufort, SC restaurants are also unmatched–it’s difficult to find a place to eat that isn’t delicious! In between eating, however, you’re going to need some things to do.
Here are our recommendations for the top places to visit in that lovely weather:
1. The Santa Elena History Center
While the British were the first to colonize Beaufort, it was the Spanish who were some of the first settlers and the Santa Elena History Center celebrates that very fact. Over four hundred years later, the center itself is located in a newly renovated federal courthouse in downtown Beaufort while the National Historic Landmark size is preserved on nearby Parris Island.
On the island, visitors can take tours and learn the historical background that explains why the area was mistakenly attributed to French settlers for so long. In fact, it wasn’t until after World War I when United States Marine Corps Major George Osterhout, whose troops trained nearby, excavated the site.
Despite their age, many of the archeological features on the island are very well preserved. You can enjoy a tour or visit the center, which is open seven days a week.
2. Rhett Gallery
The Rhett Gallery located in Beaufort, SC features art from the Rhett family, including William Rhett III, William Rhett, Jr., James Moore Rhett, Jamie R. Thompson, and Nancy Ricker Rhett. This gallery is one of the most authentic and best things to do in Beaufort, SC. This multi-generational family of artists presents beautiful paintings highlighting the beauty and splendor of their South Carolina landscapes while also providing photography, woodworking, antiques and other items for purchase. Visit to purchase a meaningful souvenir for your trip or visit just to pursue.
3. Spanish Moss Trail
The new Spanish Moss Trail connects downtown Beaufort, South Carolina with Port Royal. It’s a ten-mile greenway that provides beautiful water views and a great recreational area for adults and children alike. The trail itself is twelve feet wide and paved so that you can run, walk, bike, stroll, or even fish off the sides!
Residents and visitors alike rate this location very highly and love to bike, bring pets, and enjoy leisurely strolls. Visitors can download the app, and the trail is open from dawn till dusk each day.
4. The Beaufort Shrimp Festival
Speaking of Forrest Gump and shrimp, the shrimp festival in Beaufort, South Carolina is a reason to celebrate! The event is hosted each fall at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Local restaurants vie annually for the Silver Cup Award, and event participants are invited to cast their votes, as well, for the People’s Choice Award.
The local rotary club even gets in on the action by allowing you to adopt a shrimp in the Rubber Shrimp Race for charity! Enjoy delicious local shrimp dishes while your children compete in the shrimp heading and peeling competition. There’s a 5k you can enter, arts and crafts booths, and world-class live entertainment. Admission is free, and tickets can be purchased for $1 for use at the numerous food and beverage booths.
5. The Kazoobie Kazoo Factory
If you’re a parent, you might regret stocking your kids with kazoos, but visiting the Kazoobie Kazoo Factory will be a delightful experience whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart! The Kazoo Factory has been building Kazoos right here in Beaufort, SC since the late 1990’s. Visitors can take a guided tour through the factory and learn about the history of kazoos and the variety of instruments available.
In the Kazoo Museum, you can see kazoos from Boaz Frankel, Rick Hubbard, and Barbara Stewart. Tour participants can even make their own kazoos from the factory’s extensive array of colors. Each tour is about an hour and only costs $5 per person.
6. The John Mark Verdier House
The John Mark Verdier House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and is the only house museum in Beaufort. It is a beautiful example of the gracious antebellum architectural style that so deeply characterizes this part of the country, from its neoclassical style to its tall columns and stately balcony.
The home was built by John Mark Verdier, a French Huguenot who lived in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Verdier had built a fortune trading indigo and growing cotton and created his home as a visible representation of that fortune. During the Civil War, the house even served as headquarters for Union soldiers. Its long history is today preserved by the Historic Beaufort Foundation.
7. The Chocolate Tree
Remember Forrest’s box of chocolates? That box was created right here in Beaufort, SC at The Chocolate Tree! Opened in 1980 by chocolate enthusiast Pat Green, the small shop has today grown to be a chocolate and candy manufactory. Walk by on the sidewalk and you’ll catch a whiff of chocolate in the air and if you visit, you’ll be able to view the production area through huge glass windows.
More than 60 specialty chocolates and confections are made on site including caramel apples, fudge, and maybe even your very own box of chocolates! The Chocolate Tree is located downtown, so make sure you don’t miss this on your visit.
8. Take a Tour
Beaufort is full of gems and exciting pieces of history and one of the best ways to explore is by taking a tour, preferably with the Spirit of Old Beaufort Tour Center where the family-owned business will connect with a tour guide (who, hopefully, has dressed in vintage duds from the 19th century). You’ll get to see the house that the Big Chill and the Great Santini were filmed in, the house Pat Conroy wrote one of his famous novels in and the hospital where Harriet Tubman cared for wounded black soldiers during the Civil War.
Where to Stay
After all that eating and sight-seeing, you’re going to need a place to rest your head. Fortunately for you, Beaufort is chock full of colorful places to stay. Beaufort, SC hotels and bed and breakfasts are resplendent here in the south.
The Rhett House Inn
Located downtown, this beautiful 17 room guesthouse receives extremely high reviews from guests. It’s been awarded four stars and four diamonds and serves full breakfast, afternoon tea, dessert after dinner, and hors-d’oeuvres in the evening. If you’re a guest, you can even use one of the inn’s bicycles for free! If you want something culturally appropriate, romantic, or luxurious, this is a great option.
Best Western Sea Island Inn
This inn is a basic hotel, so you won’t get any bells or whistles. However, it is centrally located and provides a Continental breakfast for its guests. If you’re looking for something simple and hotel-like, this is your best bet.
Harbor Island Condo Rental
If you’d like a true Lowlands experience you can rent a condo on Harbor Island. Harbor Island is what’s known as a barrier island. It’s situated between St. Helena and Hunting Island and gives you a taste of the sound and the Atlantic. Beautiful views and quaint villages offer all the charm you’ll ever need!
Beaufort, South Carolina is a true gem. Now that you know the best places to visit and stay, the next question is when are you going?