Courtesy Beaufort Regional COC
There’s nothing like a good South Carolina secret.
The coastal destinations of the Palmetto State get plenty of press, and for good reason: The beautiful coastline, immaculate history and well developed tourism infrastructure make Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Beaufort and Hilton Head popular with visitors from around the country. But some of the most interesting things to see and do don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
If your group has toured South Carolina before, perhaps it’s time for another visit. This time, though, in addition to the tried-and-true attractions, consider making some time to explore the hidden side of the destination.
Consider this your guide to the secrets of the South Carolina coast.
Location: In the coastal region of southern South Carolina, Beaufort sits about 35 miles north of Hilton Head, between Charleston and Savannah, Georgia.
Claim to fame: Historic beauty. Beaufort’s waterfront historic district boasts dozens of old homes and shops, some of which predate the Civil War. Groups can explore the local history through guided walking tours or step-on coach tours.
The secret side: Although it is often overshadowed by the historic architecture, Beaufort’s downtown culinary scene deserves some notoriety. Restaurants throughout town serve a variety of cuisines that include market-fresh seafood, traditional barbecue, Gullah and Lowcountry favorites, and a growing selection of farm-to-table options that highlight fresh meat and produce from farms around South Carolina.
A great way for groups to experience the food scene is on a tour of Lowcountry Produce, a local company that hand-makes and packages favorite regional products such as pepper jelly, sweet pickled cucumbers and sweet potato butter.
Exploring Beaufort: For a mix of local history and scenic views, take your group to Hunting Island Lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park. Originally constructed in 1859 and then rebuilt in 1875, it is the only lighthouse in South Carolina that’s open to the public. Visitors who climb the 167-step spiral staircase get a view of the Atlantic Ocean, the park and the surrounding marshes.
Nearby, on St. Helena Island, the Penn Center is a notable landmark for African-American history. The site marks the home of the first freedmen school in South Carolina; in the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. used the center as a secret retreat, spending several days there preparing for his “I Have a Dream” speech.
A few miles inland, the Old Sheldon Church Ruins is one of the hidden treasures of coastal South Carolina. The site preserves the brick columns and walls of a 1750s church, which is now surrounded by sprawling live oak trees.
Free time: Horse-drawn carriage tours make a great way for individuals or couples to get to know Beaufort.