Filled with gorgeous antebellum architecture and rich history, it is no mystery why Beaufort, South Carolina, is consistently praised and recognized as one of the best towns in the South. Only an easy 45-minute drive from Palmetto Bluff, Beaufort offers a diverse amount of activities and opportunities for everyone. From centuries-old neighborhoods that are featured in many cinematic classics, to an abundance of close-by, gorgeous islands, spending only one day in Beaufort is hard to achieve. So, here is an itinerary of the perfect day in Beaufort, featuring some of the many highlights it has to offer.
Start your day with breakfast at the Lowcountry Produce Market & Cafe. Located on Carteret Street, this popular spot offers fresh produce, preserved jams, baked goods, delicious meals, and much more. Start with an appetizer of the perfectly glazed yeast donuts complemented with some fresh, hot coffee. For the most important meal of the day, the Traveler’s Breakfast gives you a little bit of everything this cafe has to offer. Enjoy an appetizing meal of bacon, eggs, avocado toast, and toast topped with fig preserves. With its cute Southern decor and relaxing charm, Lowcountry Produce is the best energizing start to an adventurous day in Beaufort.
A 10-minute walk from breakfast down to the waterfront sits SouthurnRose Buggy Tours. Offering horse-drawn carriage rides every hour, a morning tour gives new visitors a great way to get the lay of the land while it is still cool outside. Hop on a carriage and relive the past, as an experienced guide narrates Beaufort’s history, scandals, and fun facts. Because of its position as a medical center for the Union, Beaufort was spared from the ravaging of the Civil War, and much of its antebellum architecture and historic buildings are still standing. While riding under moss-covered oak trees, you’ll get a glimpse into the high-society lives of past residents of the mansions in Old Point Neighborhood and where celebrities stayed when movies like Forrest Gump, The Big Chill, and The Prince of Tides were filmed in Beaufort. Also, the carriage guide will be an epicenter of local knowledge and give the best local suggestions for where to eat, play, and stay. Two historic places to stay are the Rhett House Inn, an upscale celebrity-favorite bed and breakfast, or the Anchorage 1770, a boutique bed and breakfast that is adorned with stunning Corinthian columns.
After the carriage ride, take the time to stretch your legs and get some retail therapy while shopping on Bay Street. Filled with antique stores, art galleries, sports outfitters, and boutiques, Bay Street offers a variety of shopping opportunities to give your wallet some exercise too. A few must-stops include the Scout Southern Market, which not only has goods for the perfect Southern home, but also a sweet tea bar with different sugar cookies and macaroons that are the best fuel for shopping, and Bay Street Outfitters, which has all the outdoor gear imaginable and a friendly and experienced staff that can help ensure you have a fun and safe outdoor experience. Off the beaten path, one block north on Craven Street, is NeverMore Books, a quirky library filled with a large selection of books varying from first editions to newly published and unique records and posters.
After a good shopping spree, drive over the Harbor River Bridge to St. Helena Island. Known for its deeply rooted Gullah culture, this island is home to the historic Penn Center, one of the first schools in America for freed slaves and where Martin Luther King Jr. drafted his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Make sure to stop by the recently opened Macdonald Marketplace on Sea Island Parkway. Originally a corner store built in 1877 by tomato farmer James Macdonald, the store was reopened by his family five generations later who still are producing high-quality tomatoes. Not only is this store filled with work by numerous artisans, antiques, and home goods, but it also has an attached kitchen with refreshing watermelon, savory pies, and homemade meals.
At the end of the island is the Shrimp Shack, a delicious dive restaurant for lunch. Open every day except Sundays, this popular lunch spot cooks the freshest fried food. With a menu full of various fried local seafood, the best way to go is to choose your favorite and make a meal out of it, which will add crispy hush puppies, two sides of your choice, and some sweet tea to your menu.
Less than 10 minutes from the Shrimp Shack on St. Helena’s Island is the bountiful Dempsey Farms. Family owned for 60 years, Dempsey Farms is a popular and renowned spot for the best organic and fresh produce. In the early summer, rows and rows of the farm are filled with in-season tomatoes, watermelon, and corn that are almost ready to harvest. For a cheap six dollars, visitors can buy a small bucket and fill it with as much produce from the farm as they can. Picking is easy and fun, but make sure to wear a hat and lots of sunscreen.
After getting enough tomatoes to fill up your kitchen for the summer, island hop to Hunting Island State Park and take a refreshing dip in the ocean. Recently opened from Hurricane Matthew this past June, for five dollars you can visit its gorgeous white sandy beaches. The park is extremely lush, and your surroundings feel untouched by humans as you drive to the beach. Home to the only lighthouse in South Carolina that is open to the public, the north beach is a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. One part of the beach has open sand and lifeguards on duty, while the other side is embedded with tons of natural fallen trees, perfect for hanging beach supplies and providing shade. And if the ocean is not enough to cool you off, there is a store right above the beach with refreshments and, most importantly, ice cream. With tides changing every day, make sure to check the Hunting Island State Park website for updates on what to expect during your visit.
As the day nears the end, start to make your way back to Beaufort. Before crossing the Harbor River Bridge, stop by the Carolina Cider Company to grab a snack. Specializing in seasonal ciders, trinkets, pastries, and coffee, the drink that is a must-try is the Peach Cider Smoothie.
When you are driving into Beaufort, visit The Chocolate Tree and indulge in some dessert before dinner. Rumored to be the favorite stop of Tom Hanks when he was staying in Beaufort filming Forrest Gump, this shop has a delicious aroma and all types of homemade chocolates and sweets. After, stroll over to the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park to enjoy your newly bought chocolate on the public swings overlooking the ocean.
For dinner, Old Bull Tavern is a funky gastropub and the perfect way to end the activity-packed day. With a delicious menu full of New American cuisine and imaginative and refreshing cocktails, this restaurant has an intimate atmosphere. For hungry diners, the Duck Confit or Scottish Salmon with an LBG (lemon, basil, and ginger) cocktail is recommended.
As your day in Beaufort ends, you’ll realize why it is such a destination. After a day full of activities, the ride home from Beaufort is relaxing and free of traffic. Although you may leave, Beaufort will always make you want to come back, stay longer, and experience the great amount of other activities and hidden spots there wasn’t enough time for in one day.
By: Ellie O’Donoghue
Photos by: Ellie O’Donoghue