Lowcountry love in beautiful Beaufort, South Carolina
Whenever I visit adorable Beaufort, South Carolina I am quickly welcomed back into the fold. People there love the lowcountry, and are efficient with their time so that they can spend time near the water, watching sunsets and dreaming about what’s possible. Many business owners, like the Lesesnes who own the gorgeous Anchorage 1770 Inn have run screaming from the big city, to find purpose in South Carolina’s shoreline and languid lifestyle. The historic main street is lined with sweet boutiques and an impressive number of impressive restaurants, each with a personality that draws you in and feeds your body and soul.
One morning, I hopped on a bike that came with my room at Anchorage 1770 Inn and biked seven miles out along the flat country road to the Foolish Frog in Frogmore on St. Helena Island. “Hey Sue, where you been?” The proprietor had been alerted to my visit by Tim Lovett at Higher Ground, with whom I’d paddled the day before. He insisted I had the grilled shrimp for lunch. “It came off the boat 15 minutes ago just down the road.” My new friends took care of me.
Spending a long weekend in beautiful Beaufort is like going to a favorite auntie’s home where you feel the warm embrace of familiar history, the open arms of an authentic welcome and the promise of new adventures at the table that will surprise even the most dedicated foodie. You will scratch that itch you didn’t know you had for being outdoors during the summer, committing to a serious stroll through the town’s 300 historically designated acres or rambling coastal trails of the many neighboring protected sea islands. There are loads of ways to explore the waterways that surround the city, founded in 1711.With postcard views of the Beaufort River dotted with working shrimp boats heading out around the barrier islands, soft marshes where inter-coastal kayakers and paddle boarders play and of cobbled streets lined with pre-Civil War homesteads, Beaufort will keep you engaged from the moment you arrive after your short drive from Savannah (with daily one-stop flights from Tulsa).
Beaufort has more antebellum homes than its more tourist crazed South Carolina sister city, Charleston, 70 miles up the coast. The Beaufort Visitor Center offers up a map for a self-guided walking (or biking) tour of some 27 homes built as early as 1717. Or, climb aboard a horse-drawn buggy with The Sea Island Carriage Co. and if you’re lucky, your guide and driver will be Debbie who will point out where movies were filmed, where history was made and how special the Angle Oak trees are that bend to the ground and grow high again from the sandy soil. Local outdoorsman Tim Lovett at Higher Ground Outfitters will get you kayaking through the tidal marshes, land paddling (long skate board plus a stubby paddle = tons of fun) along the newly paved rail-to-trail 3.3 mile Spanish Moss Trail or stand up paddle boarding where you feel like a ship captain exploring a new world. We were joined by dolphins, working shrimp boats and small leisure boats as we paddled out from Waterfront Park downtown and into the Beaufort River early one misty morning.
Fly high with Michael Rainey in his 1930’s de Havilland Tiger Moth open cockpit biplane and buzz Beaufort Harbor and the craggy coastal landscape. It’s a thrill and he’ll even loan you a vintage leather pilot jacket from his collection,.
Hunting Island State Park across the bridge is another quiet giant, with 5,000 acres of marsh, maritime forest, saltwater lagoons and four miles of sandy beaches where the Friends of Hunting Island (850 volunteers) guard up to 100 loggerhead sea turtles’ nests then hatchlings each spring, logging some 7,000 hours of beach babysitting time. The bubbly Bonnie Wright is a retired board member and lovingly guided me through the lively visitors center, nearby educational nature center where you can borrow fishing tackle on the pier. The lighthouse there was built in 1873 and is the only one open to the public in the state. I climbed what seemed like a hundred spiral steps to the top and was rewarded with a view of the coastline and a canopy of Cabbage Palmetto, Slash Pines, Longleaf Pines, Live Oaks and more that make up the island’s four climate zones.
Before and after all this exploring, Beaufort serves up coffee at the cool City Java & News, waterfront Common Grounds or Beaufort Break Company on the adjoining Lady’s Island and breakfast at Palm & Moon Bagel Company and the charming Lowcountry Produce.
Q on Bay is open for lunch, dinner and late snacks like the chef’s daily egg rolls (imagine brisket and blue cheese), smoked meats galore and desserts from the chef’s mom. The Old Bull Tavern feels like a refined pub, with a menu that changes with the tide and season, progressive offerings from behind the bar and warm but polished service. The amiable owner John Marshall (think rock star meets forager) brings his savvy style from his Charleston hot spot, Al Di La Tratorria. Shrimp season is in full swing and locals say the Ribaut Social Club’s shrimp and grits are the best in the lowcountry. “Our aim is to capture the incorrigible spirit and convivial atmosphere of the original Ribaut Club,” says owner Frank Lesesne. “In its heyday, the Club hosted performances, grand parties, dances and even gambling—a raucous getaway from buttoned-up social strictures of the time.” Executive Chef Byron Landis serves modern elevated cuisine for dinner and Sunday brunch in the dining room on the ground floor at Anchorage 1770 Inn. Stay at the Inn, a mansion with a colorful history, now with luxe accommodations, sprawling porches, breakfast on the shady front porch and bikes for exploring. The high thread-count bedding will lull you, creating a safe harbor. But get up! Get out into your engaging Beaufort summer day where the energy of a community that truly adores its history and is crafting its future will enfold you and put you in a happy place.
Before you go:
Midweek Special – Check in Sunday or Monday and get the fourth night free. Long Weekend Special – Stay Friday and Saturday and get half off for Sunday.