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If you are visiting Charleston, South Carolina and have time for a one-day side trip, Beaufort is an excellent option. Beaufort (pronounced Byoo-fert in these parts) is about 90 minutes south of its big brother, Charleston.
Chocked full of fascinating history, delectable restaurants and stunning natural views, Beaufort is the perfect way to further immerse yourself in Lowcountry culture and history.
Start your day out with a healthy breakfast at Herben Market & Café. The food here will be unfailingly healthy and fresh every time. Breakfast options such as the Breakfast Burrito or the Vegetarian Biscuits and Gravy cost between $11-$13.
Pair your meal with an item from their extensive list of coffees, teas, smoothies or juices. Most smoothies are gluten-free and many are vegan as well. Though not inexpensive, prices range between $9-$10, they are deliciously fresh.
Should you decide to postpone your visit until later in the day, Herben Market is open for lunch until 3:00pm several days per week.
After a fortifying breakfast, get oriented to this historic city by taking a charming horse-drawn carriage ride with Southurn Rose Buggy Tours. During my visit, I paid $29.00 (excluding gratuity) on a one-hour tour.
Listening to the clip-clop of hooves and the humor of well-versed local guides as you traverse the town’s oldest neighborhoods is a great way to learn the basics of this historic town. In warm weather months, the tour operators do suggest booking your tour in advance for the morning hours when the heat is more tolerable.
I managed during the 12:30pm tour just fine, but I am from the South. If you aren’t used to southern heat and humidity, take their advice and tour in the morning.
After your tour, visit the Beaufort Arsenal on Craven Street. This historic structure is home to the local Visitor Center. Here local experts who love their city will load you up with information and brochures on dining options, walking tours, natural and cultural sites and more.
The Beaufort History Museum is also housed in this complex and is worth a look. My personal recommendation is to take a self-guided walking tour of the downtown. All the sites with the coolest stories are located within a three-mile radius.
This gives you the opportunity to pause for pictures in front of your favorite sites from the carriage tour and to see new ones that were not included. On my never-miss list is the home of Robert Smalls who began life as an enslaved person, later bought the plantation home where he and his mother toiled, and eventually served in the South Carolina Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the old days, Bay Street and its warehouses met the salty ocean and formed a bustling port as goods arrived and shipped out continuously. Today, Waterfront Park is a wide expanse of lawn, sidewalks for strolling and benches for enjoying the view.
Enjoy a luxuriously relaxing lunch at Panini’s on the Waterfront or any of the other amazing restaurants on the south side of Bay Street. Most of these restaurants have rear decks that overlook Waterfront Park and the bay.
Your sangria will taste even better when coupled with the weeping Lowcountry views that are unique to South Carolina. Share a fresh antipasto plate with your companions. A small one is $10.25 and is more than enough for 2-3 people. The caesar salad with generous parmesan shavings and the paninis, too, are homeruns.
Walk off lunch by visiting Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve. Here you will be able to see and stroll the foundation of the oldest known tabby structure in Beaufort County. (Tabby is a building material common in this region that is made from the lime of burned oyster shells mixed with sand, water, ash and other shells).
Built between 1733 and 1735, this fort’s most significant role in history came on January 1, 1863, when residents came here to hear the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in the Southern states.
Make time to wander the art galleries, boutiques and antique stores in the adorable downtown. Personally, I love to get lost inside Nevermore Books on Republic Street. Visit Bathe and take home luxurious bath products with scents like Walking on Sunshine, Dark Kiss and Green Goddess.
End your time in this lovely coastal getaway by having dinner and a cocktail at Old Bull Tavern. If you are feeling particularly self-indulgent they offer a flight of Bourbons for $180. Otherwise, many of the cocktails are $10 or less.
The menu is elegant comfort food like a cider-brined grilled pork chop or seared salmon served on black lentils. The menu changes every so often, which is a great excuse to visit repeatedly, if you ask me.
Lastly, finish off a sweet day with some ice cream from Southern Sweets and enjoy it while people watching at Waterfront Park. With any luck, you’ll get to see the Woods Memorial Bridge open for a passing boat.
Built in 1927, this swinging bridge is one of only a handful of such bridges still in existence in South Carolina. Rather than splitting in the center and pulling up (like a typical draw bridge) to make a space for watercraft to pass, this bridge pivots on a central axis to create an opening.
Thanks to its smaller size, the pace is a bit slower in Beaufort than in Charleston. While it can get busy, the crowds will not match those of Charleston and the food and history are every bit as worthwhile.
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