Looking for some amazing things to do in Beaufort, SC? We’ve made this list of some of our favorite highlights around this historic coastal small South Carolina town.
You will surely be entertained with gorgeous beaches, wild islands, historic sites, and fresh seafood. This charming coastal town is a standout and one of our favorite things to do in South Carolina. Here are all the best things to do in Beaufort, South Carolina!
Where is Beaufort, South Carolina?
Beaufort is a small city in Beaufort County in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina, on the Atlantic coast. It is situated on Port Royal Island, one of the Sea Islands, close to Bluffton and Hilton Head.
Beaufort, South Carolina should not be confused with Beaufort in North Carolina. It is pronounced like BEW-fert, while Beaufort in NC is pronounced “BOW-firt.” It is the second-oldest city in South Carolina, behind Charleston.
Beaufort is fondly referred to as the “Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands” due to its combination of a rich history, culture, southern hospitality, and charming coastal atmosphere.
Best Things to Do in Beaufort, South Carolina
Head from Point A to The Point Neighborhood
The Point Neighborhood is an elegantly maintained vision of early American homes and seeing them is one of the best things to do in Beaufort, SC.
The Point Neighborhood is home to 12 blocks of houses that retain the pre-civil war style in which they were originally constructed. Spanish Moss and historic churches flank the homes, some of which are more than 300 years old.
The Point is centrally located enough to be an easy walk from uptown. Iconic landscaping and beautifully maintained houses are spread throughout the neighborhood. Mix in the trek with a stop at a few town parks to make an afternoon of it.
Make A Splash at the Beaufort Waterfest
Every July, Beaufort Waterfest celebrates the life that surrounds them in the water. Fresh seafood, competitions, fireworks, and concerts are mainstays at the festival. More than just celebrating water, the festivities are a great reason to let loose.
Fishing and golfing competitions fill the days, and righteous pageants and dance halls keep the party going at night. Over 50 years running, the festival has enough events to go on over the course of two weekends.
Pay Homage at the Beaufort National Cemetery
The Beaufort National Cemetery has supported those taking their final rest since 1863. Its meticulously maintained landscape has allowed old oak trees and Spanish moss to thrive over centuries of slow growth. The entire area feels untouched since the headstones were first installed.
The cemetery originated as a civil war cemetery and has since been marked as a Blue Star Memorial area for its role in the Nation’s history.
Wear boots to Port Royal’s Cypress Wetlands
Beaufort’s Island status allows for unique ecosystems to thrive across its many shores. There are over 65 uninhabitable islands in the area, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore them. The Cypress Wetlands is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the continent, creating an area that is neither land nor sea.
It’s not uncommon to spot great Heron, Turtles, ducks, and sea creatures passing through the marshland. Port Royal’s Cypress wetlands have been maintained just enough to ensure you won’t find yourself in any trouble in your jaunt through the foliage.
Eat Shrimp and Grits with the Locals
You don’t have to venture to Hilton Head for amazing eats. You can’t live much more on the coast than Beaufort, and the area’s geography is reflected in the cuisine. Add in their location below the Mason-Dixon line, and you’ve got the recipe for a unique fusion of seafood and southern cuisines.
You won’t find a much more iconic cuisine combination than Shrimp and Grits, and the Low Country has plenty of options to satisfy your craving. The dish has evolved from a breakfast staple to an elegant southern classic. Nowadays, you’ll be able to find the meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at most of Beaufort’s local restaurants.
Learn a New Language on the Spanish Moss Trail
Nothing signifies the low country quite like Spanish Moss, and the growth is prevalent across Beaufort. The Spanish Moss Trail covers 10 miles and connects downtown Beaufort to Port Royal.
Old-growth oaks covered in Spanish Moss can be seen throughout the journey. The trek is an out and back path, not a loop, making it better suited for a bike trip.
Hunting Island State Park
Soak in a true taste of the low country at Hunting Island State Park. One of the most popular South Carolina State Parks, the island is packed full of South Carolina hiking trails and marine wildlife. It is home to a lagoon and ocean inlets, as well as acres of forest land, giving you plenty of variety across your visit.
The Park covers 5,000 acres of the unique estuary from Huntington Island Beach inland. The landscape changes daily with the tides, meaning there’s always something new to see.
Plan a Picnic at Henry C. Chambers Park
Henry C. Chambers was an early mayor of Beaufort who fought for the establishment of public space. This park is the result of his struggle and encompasses seven acres of walking paths close to downtown Beaufort.
The Park doubles as a local marina and provides plenty of Palmetto and Oak trees for shade during the summertime. It’s a popular lunchtime destination for those heading from downtown.
Port Royal is a living piece of the past. Shops and restaurants still function in Old Village that has maintained its genuine southern charm and preserved its buildings and landmarks for a historical feel. It is smaller than the main drag of Beaufort, but still has plenty to offer.
In addition to the historical landmarks and shops, the area is an excellent spot for boating, bird lovers, and walking trails. Two rivers roll through the center of town, giving views no matter which direction you head out of town.
Find Authentic Living on St. Helena Island
St. Helena Island has inspired TV Shows as well as travelers with its simple living ideologies. The Island is covered with marshland, and the people who live there find most of their identity and livelihood in the unique landscape. The area has remained a steady home for the Gullah Geechee peoples and cultures for hundreds of years.
The people of St. Helena Island fought against development from the beginning. No condos or gated communities are allowed to set up shop here. Instead, the area supports a rural exploration of simple living.
Walk barefoot through The Sands in Port Royal
Luxurious, white sand beaches aren’t only found in the Caribbean Sea. Port Royal is home to The Sands, a natural area perfect for a day by the beach. The sands are packed with seashells and shark teeth, and the waters nearby are filled with fish when you’re ready for supper.
The area has been preserved with a long boardwalk and a four-story tower that allows you to take a look into the ocean below.
Map out a trip through Landmarks of the Past
Beaufort has sought to make its past part of its current identity throughout its 500-year history. Those efforts have manifested in wonderfully maintained works of architecture, art, and design that change with the cultures that have inhabited the area.
The downtown visitors’ center runs tours through the landmarks erected by Spanish, English, French, and Native people who have dominated the area over the years.
See the first tastes of Freedom at the Penn Center
Located on St. Helena Island, The Penn Center is the First School in the South for Formerly Enslaved West Africans. Three years before slavery was abolished, African American community leaders were already pushing to help live more full lives. The Penn Center as a result of these efforts and today stands to preserve the culture of its early founders.
The Gullah Geechee people native to the area established this as the first academic school for freed slaves. Slaves had been forced against learning to read or write for decades, and the Penn Center sought to level the playing field.
Discover the Fresh Produce of Beaufort
Beaufort has taken advantage of their watery surroundings by creating a thriving agricultural economy. Local Produce stands now pack the area as a testament to the hard work of the area’s early inhabitants. The people here have always thrived on freshness, so there’s no better way to get a taste of the area.
If you don’t bump into any produce stands on your journey across Route 21, you’ll be sure to find the freshest of the fresh at the Port Royal Farmers Market, an outdoor market that runs rain or shine year-round.
Watch the Sunset from the St. Phillips Island Ferry
St. Phillips Ferry is an ecotour from Hunting State Park along the Story River. The island is uninhabited, besides the park ranger ready to take you on a tram ride through the marshland to the beach. Trails have been carved through the maritime forest and endangered species have been introduced to the area and allowed to thrive.
Head onshore to get a glimpse of Loggerhead Sea Turtles and Fox squirrels, as well as a variety of legendary local tree species. The island is a recent addition to the State Park area, and spending a day on its nature-filled shores is capped off perfectly with a sunset cruise back to the mainland.
Tours are 5 hours and cost Adults $65/Kids 12 & under $35. You can also book Beaufort dolphin tours which is one of the best things to do in Beaufort with kids!
Relive Movie Magic
This amount of architectural preservation has been noticed by the entire world. Over 16 Hollywood films have set up shop somewhere in town, most notably in Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks crosses the Woods Memorial Bridge in the film while running across the US. This is now one of Beaufort’s most famous landmarks!
The Beaufort Visitors’ Center has a map of all filming locations, and several tour guides will take you for an inside look of the areas, with never before heard stories of the making of the more famous works.
You don’t have to be a movie lover to appreciate the locations Hollywood producers chose to make their stories come to life.
Soak up a Drive-in Film
Drive-in theaters may not be the most prevalent movie experience anymore, but Beaufort has kept an authentic movie-going opportunity alive at the Highway 21 drive in. The concession stand hasn’t even changed its menu since the original rendition.
Don’t let the old school preservation fool you, this theater has two big screens and shows four movies every night. You’ll find a constant blend of classic favorites and some of the most exciting new films heading to a theater near you.
Test your luck at Old Sheldon Church
Old Sheldon Church has burnt down not once, but twice in its history since it was first built in 1745. The church didn’t even make it 50 years before being burned down in the revolutionary war. It was rebuilt in 1826, and was once again burned down during the Civil War.
The church never regained its full glory after the second incident, but the ruins are still a popular destination for history lovers and ghost hunters. There is still one service at the ruins of this church after easter each year.
Meet a friend at the Port Royal Beer Garden
If you are still wondering what to do in Beaufort SC in the evening, it’s best to relax with a drink. Rival craft brewers decided to come together and provide a one-stop-shop for local food and drinks.
The Port Royal Beer Garden area has developed into a thriving example of Beaufort’s casual nightlife. Food trucks frequent the outer edges of the outdoor venue to help turn happy hour into an all-night event.
The garden pops up once a week, giving vendors plenty of time to prepare new tastes and concoctions before each rendition. Live music peppers the atmosphere, with a new act weekly.
Relish the Boats on Parade
The Light Up the Night Boat Parade is a Beaufort Classic. Every holiday season, private boat owners flock to the Waterfront Park to deck the port and starboard halls. The boats take three laps around the seawall around sunset and invite attendees to cheer for the best boat art on display.
Entry to the parade is open to anyone, all it takes is a bit of artistic vision. The competition is hot, and so are the chocolate beverages enjoyed by those waiting for the boats to roll by.
Cypress Wetland Park
Cypress Wetlands, a breathtaking attraction in Beaufort, is nestled on Port Royal island and serves as a hidden gem that you wouldn’t want to miss on your Low-country vacation.
Stroll along the boardwalk that will lead you through a verdant swamp surrounded by cypress trees and draped with Spanish moss. You might even encounter hidden alligators and turtles along with a rich and diverse avian population.
The snowy white egrets are particularly prominent, but you may also spot herons, hawks, eagles, owls, falcons, geese, ducks, and waterfowl. Heading to the wetlands is one of the best things to do in Beaufort with the family!
Rent a Boat to Chart your Own Course
To make the most out of Beaufort’s Marshy landscape, the town ensures there are plenty of opportunities to hop on your paddleboard and kayak to find your own adventure. With a variety of islands and marshlands within a day’s paddle, you can pack a full tour of Beaufort’s natural landmarks into a day’s journey.
Rent a kayak if you’re planning on extended stops on any nearby islands, or a paddleboard if you just want to squeeze a good leg workout into your journey. Beaufort’s waterways have something for everyone. Beaufort Lands End Paddling rents sups and kayaks for $25, or you can join them on several tours around Beaufort.
Bring Earplugs to the Kazoobie Kazoo Factory
Not quite as exciting as Charlie’s Chocolate factory, this Kazoo distributor has embraced the quirkiness of the instrument and created an entire experience out of making a kazoo.
The factory has been built for exploration, and each tour comes with a free kazoo. This is one of the best things to do in Beaufort with kids! Just be sure the instrument doesn’t wind up in your child’s hands during the car ride home.
Best Restaurants in Beaufort, SC
- Madison’s: This family-owned and operated restaurant has the ultimate atmosphere that is cute and casual while the fares feel upscale. Dishes on offer are burgers, pasta, and grits!
- Red Rooster Cafe: Red Rooster Cafe serves up classic American comfort foods with a savory Southern flair.
- Lady’s Island Dockside: For a waterfront seafood dining experience you can’t go wrong here.
The Best Hotels to Stay in Beaufort, SC
You’ll need somewhere to stay after your long days doing all these amazing things to do in Beaufort, SC. Here are some of our favorite places to stay!
How long do you need in Beaufort?
There are so many things to do in Beaufort you could spend 1-2 weeks here and never get bored. However, most people don’t have that kind of time. At the very least we recommend spending three days here exploring. It’s the perfect weekend getaway in South Carolina.
Amazing Things To Do In Beaufort Map
Plan For Your Trip to the South!
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