Most of us can conjure a picture of the idyllic Southern small town. Maybe it involves sipping sweet tea on a veranda or walking through a historic downtown, or maybe we imagine interacting with locals eager to offer assistance.
Though the image is familiar, finding a quaint Southern town suitable for group tours can prove challenging. Groups want authenticity but also enough historic attractions to keep travelers interested. They want well-preserved downtowns that can both cater to their group size and retain their small-town feel.
These five charming Southern towns enchant groups of all sizes regularly with gorgeous architecture, interesting history, experiential attractions and passionate locals. Whether groups seek live oaks, antebellum homes, art havens or even gold, they will find all those and more at these distinctly Southern destinations.
Beaufort, South Carolina
Between Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, lies a quaint Southern town filled with unspoiled historic homes and moss-draped live oaks. Though not as widely known as those other two coastal towns, Beaufort, South Carolina, is the second-oldest city in the state.
“We have all the history of Charleston and Savannah; we just don’t have the traffic,” said Robb Wells, vice president of tourism for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. “There is an authenticity here that everyone experiences. The person you stop on the street for directions will stop what they are doing [to] not only answer you but also share their favorite things to do. Everyone has that friendly demeanor.”
Groups can explore the town’s interlocking streets lined with foliage and Civil War-era homes on walking tours, step-on guided tours and horse-drawn carriage rides. Each tour reveals compelling stories about some of Beaufort’s most revered buildings, such as the 1712 Parish Church of St. Helena and the Robert Smalls House, purchased by a former slave after valiantly fighting in the Civil War for Union forces.
Groups treasure the historic stops, among them the Santa Elena History Center, the Beaufort History Museum and the Penn Center. The Penn Center exposes visitors to the town’s Gullah culture by chronicling a former college built after the Civil War to teach the newly freed Gullah people to support themselves.
“We have a strong connection to the Gullah people,” said Wells. “Groups can learn about it in a number of ways, such as a concert, tour and Gullah restaurant to spice up what’s going on. We find that Gullah experiences resonate with groups very well.”
Must-see view: From Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, guests can gaze at historic buildings of downtown’s Bay Street on one side and the Beaufort River on the other.