By Bonnie & Bill Neely
When traveling to the “Low Country” of the South the favorite towns to visit are Charleston, Beaufort, Hilton Head, Bluffton, SC, and Savannah, GA. We decided to spend most of our December vacation in Beaufort, where my ancestors once lived. In fact, one of my grandfathers many generations back to the 1600’s was a swash-buckling pirate hired by British King Charles II to fight off the Spanish and French and protect this coastline for England. For successfully fulfilling this task, Johannes Fripp was granted 3,000 acres of lower South Carolina Sea Islands in the mid 1600’s, and one to this day is known as the exclusive private community of Fripp Island.
We were fortunate that 2019 December was mild and lovely, not typical of all the winter months but delightful for us, and flowers were still in bloom. Coastal sunrises and sunsets are exquisite over Beaufort’s Port Royal Sound through which the Intracoastal Waterway passes to the Atlantic Ocean. Cruise liners and many personal yachts are in and out of this harbor. The Visitor Center is at Beaufort’s beautiful Waterfront Park where you’ll love walking along this water’s edge with palm trees, magnolias, and many tropical plants and flowers, and chair swings, benches are inviting. The large grassy area is the center of the huge Water Fest every July and brings visitors from far and near. Convenient and clean public restrooms, and showers for boaters in dock, are located here. Restaurants of every kind open onto this park with outdoor eating at many. On the other side of this line of eateries is the main shopping area on Bay Street.
A large parking lot is the starting point for walking tours and the delightful Horse and Carriage rides, which add to the picturesque beauty of this remarkably kept historic town that was founded in 1711 and officially chartered in 1718. We chose to learn about Beaufort’s history on the wonderful Southurn Rose Buggy Tour. Pulling our carriage typical of the 1800’s was the sweet and smart white Percheron horse, Max. Our driver guide, Charlotte, gave Max carrots before the ride and thanked him with granola afterward. Max amazes everyone with his thorough knowledge of his route, even leading the carriage around low-hanging branches of the exquisite 300-year old live oak trees permanently decorated with gray Spanish moss. And Max seemed able to read Stop signs and know when traffic lights were red or green!
Charlotte, a Beaufort native, was such an informative, interesting, and fun guide. She took us along the neighborhood streets with the perfectly kept homes of the Historic District, and told us stories (and some fun gossip) about each of the city fathers and famous people who had lived here in days of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Many of these were of great influence in founding our nation, leading the area, the State, and the country, and affecting both Secession and Reconstruction in the South. The tour was delightful and the buggy was comfortable. No one wanted it to end. There are many Southurn Rose Carriage Tours and each is different, so we certainly plan to return for more!
Downtown shopping is so much fun with each little store filled with unique finds for yourself or gifts. Beach and low country souvenirs abound including paintings, crafts, jewelry, foods, and so much more.
Carolina Me Crazy has every kind of South Carolina take-away you could imagine! And a stop at Kilwin’s Sweets is an absolute MUST…their ice cream and candied popcorn are the best we have ever had! They feature 32 flavors of ice cream, and they invite you to sample up to 14 kinds before you select the right one for your craving! Delicious!!!
Beaufort has many places to stay from chain hotels to historic bed and breakfast places. And the restaurants are more numerous than on one holiday week. The Sea Islands have many more places and wonders to enjoy. We love visiting the Hunting Island State Park, where you will see a live alligator languishing in a pond at the viewing area. A good state park campground on the beach is there also. Just across Scott Street from Beth Israel Synagogue is the new indoor Reconstruction Era National Park dedicated to the period following the Civil War and Emancipation. In Beaufort are many churches several centuries old, which welcome people to visit their cemeteries. A very large American Cemetery has tombs of both Union and Confederate soldiers.
Beaufort proudly protects its impressive history and keeps the beautiful old mansions and other buildings in excellent condition. With the charm and grace for which the South is known to welcome you, you will want to return many times to this restful Low Country Southern Belle town.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: http://www.beaufortsc.org, https://www.historynet.com/battle-of-port-royal.htm, https://southurnrose.com/activities/buggy-tours/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconstruction_Era_National_Historical_Park