European settlers who first came to this area in the 16th century had the right idea – find an attractive coastal location with and a wealth of waterways and natural beauty, settle in, and enjoy it. So Beaufort still beckons today, offering historic charm amidst a spectacular landscape of pristine natural serenity.
Visiting Beaufort from Charleston is a pleasant hour and a half driving experience once you enter the ACE Basin area on U.S. Highway 17 south of the Edisto River. ACE stands for the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers that meander through 350,000 acres of protected land that includes a National Wildlife Refuge. This former expanse of rice plantations and timberland attracts increasing numbers of bald eagles, swans, geese, ducks, and deer, and a detour down Bennett’s Point Road to St. Helena Sound is one of the most enchanting drives in South Carolina.
Nearing Beaufort, man-made beauty provides worthy stops as well. The brick columns of Old Sheldon Church, just off Highway 17, are as compelling in ruins as any building is complete. Flanked by towering oaks in the hushed perfection of a shady glade, the colonial church has a fascinating history as described on an historical roadside marker, and is a perfect spot for a short stroll or picnic. Turning down U.S. Highway 21 to enter Beaufort across the mesmerizing vista of Whale Branch Creek, it’s worth making a quick detour on road S-7-42 to the old railroad village of Seabrook, whose classic siding and other historic buildings seem as though you’ve returned to another era.
The jewel of the journey is Beaufort itself, with its grand antebellum houses and churches, majestic moss-draped oak trees, and wonderful waterfront promenade and park along the sparkling Beaufort River. A sidewalk showcase of stately mansions is an easy stroll in a sight-packed historic district that also features museums and such elegant interiors as the 1790 John Mark Verdier House, where the Marquis de Lafayette fell in love with Beaufort nearly two centuries ago.
With so much more to enjoy at nearby St. Helena Island and its famous Penn Center, as well as the fabulous “mobile” lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park, it’s well worth a night’s stay in Beaufort. The lively café district along Bay Street features colonial taverns and chic restaurants, and the City Loft Hotel is a comfortable, upscale accommodation in the heart of the historic district on Carteret Street. Complete with espresso bar, morning pastries and a micro spa, this invigorating boutique hotel complements sensory Beaufort mornings with dolphins splashing along Waterfront Park and Carolina wrens whistling sweetly in Magnolia trees.
If you are planning on staying the night book your reservation