Plan a Weekend Trip to Beaufort, SC

July 6, 2024
Riding bikes around Beaufort, SC

I recently spent a weekend exploring Beaufort, the second oldest town in South Carolina and just a 1.5 hour drive from my home in Charleston. This charming, historic town is easy to explore on foot or bike and offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural Lowcountry beauty. In fact, it is so charming Southern Living named it the #1 best small town in South Carolina in 2023. 

Take a turn back in time as you walk around Beaufort’s historic district for a variety of architecture, all surrounded by beautiful ancient oak trees

Strolling around Beaufort had me imagining what life in a smaller, quainter Charleston must have felt like decades ago—the kind that longtime locals still like to reminisce about. Whether you’re looking to slow down and relax by the water in a darling B&B, explore historical sites, or visit the adjacent sea islands, Beaufort, SC is worth a visit. 

Here’s a detailed guide you can use to plan a visit to Beaufort, South Carolina:

What to See and Do in Beaufort

Stroll or bike along Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park

It's common to spot dolphins popping up in Beaufort River on a clear day
It’s common to spot dolphins popping up in Beaufort River on a clear day

One of the best ways to start or finish your visit to Beaufort is with a leisurely stroll or bike ride along Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park for the best water views and dolphin spotting potential. This scenic park offers stunning views of the Beaufort River, a fun playground for kids, and plenty of spots to sit and relax thanks to the many wooden porch swings lining the park’s walking paths. 

Shop local on Bay Street

Beaufort is a southern haven for antique lovers and local business enthusiasts. Start your antiquing adventure at Bay Street Treasures for local vintage finds, furniture, and collectibles. When looking for modern touches, visit the nearby MR. – the eclectic storefront of M. Home & Garden Interiors that had me eager to redo my home bar setup with their glass and decanter selection. If you’re in the mood for beach decor, custom florals, or both, head to Sweet Bay next.

Channel your inner Forrest Gump with chocolates

"Life is like a box of chocolates" - buy yourself some at The Chocolate Tree in Beaufort
“Life is like a box of chocolates” – buy yourself some at The Chocolate Tree!

A fun fact about Beaufort is that it’s connected to the iconic film Forrest Gump. The movie crew purchased the box of chocolates used in the movie from Beaufort’s long-time chocolate local chocolate and sweet shop, The Chocolate Tree. Right in the center of downtown Beaufort, you can buy your own box of chocolates there as a fun way to bring a piece of movie history into your trip (then obviously you must quote the movie while eating them).

Beach day at Hunting Island State Park

No trip to Beaufort is complete without a visit to the nearby Hunting Island State Park. This beautiful SC state park features 5 miles of clean beaches, a historic lighthouse, saltwater lagoon, and hundreds of acres of maritime forests. The entrance fee is $8, but it’s well worth it for the amenities (bathrooms and cute old-fashioned convenience store) during a day of sun, sand, and exploration. You can also buy an annual pass if you plan to come back!

Tap into Beaufort book culture

Nevermore Books is the newest addition to the Beaufort literary scene
Nevermore Books is the newest addition to the Beaufort literary scene and specializes is first and signed editions

Calling all bookworms and Pat Conroy fans! Books are a big deal in Beaufort, and if you are a novel fan, you won’t want to miss a visit to the Pat Conroy Literary Center. This center celebrates the life and work of the beloved Southern author Pat Conroy who spent years living in Beaufort and teaching on the surrounding islands. 

Additionally, you can browse the shelves at Nevermore Books or McIntosh Book Shoppe to find a great read to enjoy at the beach or on the porch of your B&B. Nevermore Books is a local bookstore known for its eclectic collection of fiction, with a large selection of first editions and signed first editions. As an avid reader, the shop’s cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make it a personal favorite to pop into. On the other hand, McIntosh Book Shoppe is a treasure trove for those interested in local history, featuring a wide range of titles on the Lowcountry’s rich past. Both stores regularly host book signings and community events, making them not just places to buy books, but special spots to celebrate the literary culture in Beaufort.

Explore the Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Old Sheldon Church ruins outside of Beaufort
The Old Sheldon Church ruins are a little outside of Beaufort, so plan to hit them on your drive in or out

Step back in time with a visit to the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, the former Prince William’s Parish Church north of downtown that was burned down during the American revolution, rebuilt, and then burnt down again. These hauntingly beautiful ruins offer a glimpse into the past and are now a popular site for wedding ceremonies, photographers, and ghost hunters. There is also a worship service held at the ruins every year on the second Sunday after Easter.

Visit Cypress Wetlands in Port Royal

The birds will get friendly with you at Cypress Wetlands – see how many species you can spot in one go

For nature enthusiasts, a visit to Cypress Wetlands in Port Royal is a must, and I even loved it as someone who is not super outdoorsy. The wetlands habitat is in the middle of Port Royal and home to a large variety of bird species, turtles, and yes, even alligators. Bird watching enthusiasts come to Cypress Wetlands from all over, but you don’t have to be an avid bird watcher to appreciate a walk along the scenic trail that circles the wetlands. There is plenty of free parking out front, and admission is free – just follow the wooden path.

Where to Eat & Drink in Beaufort

Coffee & baked goods from Herban Market & Cafe

Start your morning in Beaufort with a sunrise and coffee and baked goods from Herban Market & Cafe. This cozy spot offers delicious pastries in addition to a full breakfast menu, plus great espresso drink options. They are super vegetarian-friendly; I am still thinking about their breakfast croissant with vegan bacon paired with the beetroot latte – great fuel for a day of exploration.

Brunch or Lunch at Lowcountry Produce

Lowcountry Produce has the cutest small-town market vibes. This charming cafe is tucked away in downtown Beaufort and recommended to me by basically everyone! In addition to a full menu of southern staples, you can buy local canned goods, produce, and pies that you can take home with you.

Ice cream from Lowcountry Cider Co. 

Cool off with ice cream or another sweet treat from Lowcountry Cider Co.’s Beaufort location next to the Waterfront Park. Their ice cream is the perfect way to beat the heat and indulge your small town summer stroll fantasies, but their famous cider or iced coffee drinks are also excellent backup options.

Dinner with the Locals

For dinner, eat with Beaufort locals at Old Bull Tavern. This popular spot offers a cozy atmosphere, good cocktails, and a rotating seasonal menu filled with delicious dishes. Almost everyone recommended this spot to me as a local favorite and their local shrimp gnocchi was the best dish I had during my visit to Beaufort. Try to make reservations, as it’s a favorite among residents and visitors alike, or come for a last-minute seat at the bar. Another tip is to come late – we showed up at 8:15 pm on a Saturday night without reservations and got lucky with landing a table. 

Dinner with Water Views

If you are looking for dinner with a view, head to Saltus River Grill near the park in the heart of downtown. This restaurant offers great waterfront views, their patio will allow you to catch the salty sea breeze, and their menu features fresh seafood, sushi, southern fare, and a curated wine list. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing evening meal, but probably easiest to relax if you make reservations.

Marina view at night in Beaufort
The Marina view at night in Beaufort

Late Night Drinks at Hemingway’s 

End your day with late-night drinks at Hemingway’s Bistro, the diviest of dive bars recommended to us by some fun locals. Hemingway’s is situated in the basement of Panini’s on the Waterfront. This underground bar has a chill local vibe and is great for hanging with a cheap drink and fun for people watching.

Where to Stay in Beaufort

Book a room at Cuthbert House

Stay at the Cuthbert House in Beaufort, SC
Stay at the charming Cuthbert House during your trip to Beaufort, SC

For a truly memorable stay in Beaufort, book a room at  Cuthbert House. This historic bed & breakfast is ideally located in the heart of Beaufort, making it the perfect base for exploring the charming town by foot or bike- almost everything on the above itinerary is within walking distance of it. Parking is easy, the staff is incredibly thoughtful and welcoming, and the breakfasts are outstanding. 

Girl enjoying Cuthbert House B&B
The Cuthbert House team had me feeling like a queen all weekend long! The amenities are top notch.

At the start of 2024, the current owners of Cuthbert House, Suzanne and Chris, spent 4 months doing extensive, thoughtful renovations to their historic B&B. With a background in historic home renovations, you can see the intentional pairing of modern, luxury amenities with preservation of original house character and historic integrity. The updates include things like large modernized bathrooms, a full-fledged bar in the library, and upgraded suites with amenities like Smart TVs, Nespresso machines, and keyless entry.

The results are stunning, and I felt like I got a glimpse into the past and feel for a bygone era, all the while sipping beer and coffee from current local Beaufort spots.

Conclusion

I had a blast taking a weekend trip to Beaufort, SC and think most people will find it easy to fall in love with this charming small town in South Carolina. Make the most of your visit by strolling along the waterfront, exploring historical sites, eating lots of fresh southern seafood, and staying in a charming local B&B. Whether you’re looking to just relax and unwind, plan an outdoor beach and wetlands adventure, or do a little of both, this cute town is the perfect destination for your next getaway.

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me, Emma Cregg. All opinions and reviews are my own. As the owner of this blog, I may accept forms of cash advertising, or sponsorship.

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