Beautiful pre-Revolutionary and antebellum homes stand gracefully among moss-draped oaks in the pretty old port town of Beaufort, South Carolina (70 mi/113 km southwest of Charleston). In fact, you can see nearly 200 restored buildings along Bay Street in the city's historic district. Start your stay with a walk along the peaceful harbor at Waterfront Park—a landscaped area along the Beaufort River with a seawall promenade, crafts market and marina. There are several restaurants nearby, as well as boat and carriage tours, should you need a break.
The Beaufort Museum includes artifacts from throughout the city's history, including Indian relics and Revolutionary and Civil War items. The Federal-style John Mark Verdier House museum was built in 1790 and is furnished as it would have been in the early 1800s. (It was the headquarters for Union forces during the Civil War). St. Helena's Episcopal Church dates from 1724. Of special interest—although it's not open to the public—is the Milton Maxey House, traditionally claimed as the site where South Carolina's secession documents were drafted.
From Beaufort and elsewhere, tours are available that travel through the marshes and sea islands of the ACE Basin (named for three rivers, the Ashepoo, the Combahee and the Edisto), which is the largest estuarine preserve on the East Coast. Beaufort is also very close to the Parris Island U.S. Marine Corps Base, where about 17,000 U.S. Marine Corps recruits pass through each year. At the Marine Corps Depot, a museum covers the history of the island and the Marine base.
St. Helena Island, a few miles/kilometers down Highway 21, is still mostly rural and dotted with historic sites, including the Penn Center, established in the middle of the Civil War as the South's first school for freed slaves. A little farther out, Hunting Island State Park has a quiet beach, nature trails, a 1,120-ft/340-m fishing pier and lighthouse, and Fripp Island is a controlled-access resort island with few cars and great beaches.
Among Beaufort's notable events are the yearly Plantation Tour (historic home tour—March) and the Beaufort Water Festival (late July).
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