If you’re planning to visit Beaufort in early to mid-October, contact the Historic Beaufort Foundation (tel. 843/379-3331; www.historicbeaufort.org), for dates and details regarding its 3-day Fall Festival of Houses and Gardens, when several private antebellum houses and gardens open to the public.
A walking tour by the Spirit of Old Beaufort, 103 West St. (tel. 843/525-0459; www.thespiritofoldbeaufort.com), takes you on a journey through the old town, exploring local history, architecture, horticulture, and Lowcountry life. You’ll see houses that are not accessible on other tours. Your host, clad in period costume, will guide you for 2 hours Monday to Saturday at 10am and 2pm. The cost is $18 for adults and $9 for children 7 to 12. Tours depart from just behind the John Mark Verdier House Museum.
Remnants of the original English colonial settlement of Beaufort are preserved in the historic district downtown, designated a National Historic Landmark. The John Mark Verdier House Museum, 801 Bay St. (tel. 843/379-6335; www.historicbeaufort.org/verdier-house.php), is a restored 1804 house partially furnished to depict the life of the prosperous merchant who lived here until 1825. An excellent example of a Federal-style home, it was once known as the Lafayette Building because the Marquis de Lafayette is said to have spoken here in 1825. It’s open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm. Admission is $10; children 6 and under are admitted free. A scale model diorama of 1863 Bay Street is displayed on the ground floor of the house; this exhibit is free (same hours).
St. Helena’s Episcopal Church, 505 Church St. (tel. 843/522-1712; www.sthelenas1712.org), traces its origin back to 1712, though the current church was built around 1724. Visitors, admitted free Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm, can see its classic interior and visit the graveyard, where tombstones served as operating tables during the Civil War.
A worthwhile excursion from Beaufort is the 15-mile drive to the state park at Hunting Island, 2555 Sea Island Pkwy. (tel. 843/838-2011; www.huntingisland.com), a lush island where the Vietnam battle scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed. Long a layover for sailors and pirates, including Blackbeard, the island was once a base for hunting deer. With 3 miles of natural sandy beaches—some of the most beautiful coastline in South Carolina—this 5,000-acre park is now a nature and wildlife refuge. There are showers and dressing rooms on the beach, a 200-site campground, plus cabins, a boardwalk, and nature trails, as well as a fishing pier and boat landing.
In the center of the park stands the 132-foot historic Hunting Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1875 after it was destroyed in the Civil War; you can climb the 167 steps to the top for spectacular views March through October daily 10am to 4:45pm (Nov–Feb closes 3:45pm). Admission is $2.
The park collects an entry fee of $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and kids ages 6 to 15. The park is open daily from 6am to 6pm. The Visitors Center is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.