Small Town We Love: Beaufort, South Carolina

Beaufort, South Carolina boasts terrific saltwater bluffs and sea island culture. 

Story by Sandy Lang

Population: 12,788

Why We'd Move There
The curving, tidal Beaufort River wraps around the 303-year-old downtown and offers up terrific scenery in most directions. And then there’s the leafy historic district itself, filled with 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century architecture, from tiny cottages and fish shacks to indigo-planters’ mansions with wide piazzas. It’s a Lowcountry town where characters abound. And the river’s pristine waters surrender such high-quality seafood that it seems folks are always gathering for a shrimp or crab boil or an oyster roast.  

The Community
This isn’t Savannah or Charleston, but it’s close in flavor and geography—within 90 minutes of each. The smaller size and slower pace draw everyone from artists, retirees, and young families to live-aboard-sailboat types, fishermen, literati, and moviemakers. And Beaufort’s population skews toward the youthful side—the median age is 34. 

The Perfect Day
Take a walk or carriage tour east of Carteret Street in the tree-shaded Old Point and catch a glimpse of the porches of Tidalholm, aka The Big Chill house, on the waterfront at Laurens Street. For lunch, order the Ooey Gooey, a pressed and toasted bacon-and-pimiento cheese sandwich at Lowcountry Produce Market & Café (lowcountryproduce.com). Stop in the Elena Madden studio (elenamadden.comon West Street to see her contemporary paintings inspired by Beaufort-area waterways. Before sunset, hop on an evening boat tour from the Downtown Marina of Beaufort (downtownmarinabeaufort.com), and cap the day with wild-caught shrimp atop ricotta gnocchi at the understated Old Bull Tavern (843/379-2855).

Local To Know
Artist William Rhett III can paint grassy details of a wide marsh scene on the ivory face of a single antique piano key. He can also advise on all sorts of practical local topics. “A johnboat is about all you need around here,” he says. Just 30, William works at his family’s Rhett Gallery (rhettgallery.com) on Bay Street, where you’ll often find him telling stories. Like the one about catching 67 crabs in just 12 hours in two pots from the dock behind his house. The young artist also sells antique guitars and guns at the gallery begun by his parents, sculptor William Rhett, Jr., and watercolor painter Nancy Ricker Rhett—all of the same Rhett family who built the formidable 19th-century landmark a few blocks away that’s now home to the Rhett House Inn (rhetthouseinn.com).

Don't Miss
Pedal or walk along the new Spanish Moss Trail (spanishmosstrail.com), which opened last year and will one day span some 14 miles. The rail-trail greenway project gives terrific water views and already connects downtown Beaufort with neighboring Port Royal.

 
For more information, check out Beaufort's Official Visitor Site. 

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