Beaufort, South Carolina is overshadowed by nearby Savannah, Charleston and Hilton Head island, making it a great “unknown” getaway. You’ll be able to enjoy the Southern hospitality so well known in Charleston and Savannah without the crowds. While there are plenty of historical sites to visit in Beaufort, it’s prime location on the water gives amazing opportunities for sports enthusiasts and family outings. We’ve found some of the best fun family activities in Beaufort, South Carolina.
1. Beaufort River Tour We joined Captain Dick on the Prince of Tides, aptly named for Pat Conroy’s book with the same title. Departing daily from the downtown Marina, this cruise offers a chance to see dolphins and other native wildlife and learn about the history of the area. The Prince of Tides is a small, intimate vessel, holding only 24 passengers. We took a private sunset cruise, but several options are available, including scheduled daily tours, evening cruises, and private tours and charters.
Captain Dick is a knowledgeable guide, pointing out native wildlife and spots where dolphins frolic, along with interesting tidbits about the area. Did you know that much of the movies Prince of Tides and Forest Gump were filmed in Beaufort? We had a chance to see the stately old houses used in the films from the river.
Viewing the sunset over the water was the perfect way to end the tour. We were able to bring our own snacks and beverages onto the boat, allowing a cozy, relaxing evening with friends. And, the best part? The lulling motion of the water rocked the baby to sleep! Tip: If you take an evening cruise in the fall, be sure to bring a jacket as the ride can become chilly.
2. The Kayak Farm When I learned we were taking a Kayak tour, I was not sure what to expect. I am a novice and didn’t want to have to be fished out of the water when I capsized. I didn’t have to worry because our guide, Eric Gibbons, turned out to be everything I could have wanted in an instructor. He patiently explained which kayak we should try, a more stable tandem, and explained how to use our oars, even giving us lessons before we left the shore.
Our tour was located in the calm waters of Fripp’s inlet and the day was perfect. Eric allowed us to take all the time we needed to paddle, all the while pointing out native species of fauna and wildlife. He also assured us we had no need to worry from sharks or alligators, a point I appreciated.
Eric is very knowledgeable about the local wildlife, having operated his business since 1999. He took us on a tour of the marshes and the oyster banks, and allowed us to “get up close and personal” with the pod of dolphins who live in the inlet. We were able to sit in our kayak and watch the dolphins frolic all around us. Eric offers both guided kayak tours and kayak rentals for all skill levels, including families with children. Tip: Bring sunscreen even if the trip is in the fall.
3. Shopping in Downtown Beaufort For those of us who enjoy shopping or just browsing, downtown Beaufort has a variety of quaint options. We started our day by visiting The Chocolate Tree . The chocolate in this shop was used in the movie Forest Gump when he exclaimed, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” While the box in the movie might have had a different name, it’s said Tom Hanks liked the sweets from The Chocolate Tree so well he dumped out the other chocolates and filled it with an assortment from this shop. I can understand why! I had a package of Malted Milk Balls from the store. I’m usually not a fan of malted milk balls, but these were so good I didn’t want to share! If you stop in the Visitors Center (located in the Old Arsenal on Craven Street), you can pick up a coupon in The Chocolate Tree’s brochure for a free chocolate shell. But don’t stop with your free piece, pick up some of their tasty morsels to take home. I’ll keep your secret if you don’t want to share them with anyone.
Want to find a bevy of decor ideas for your house? Stop by Scout Southern Market. Owner Ann Higgins moved to Beaufort from San Francisco and created a shop full of Southern Charm. She sources products made locally or in the South in an ever changing display of goodies. I was particularly impressed with the “Bless Your Heart” pillows since I say this on a regular basis. I think they’d be perfect in my family room.
But the highlight of her shop is the Sweet Tea Floats, which are quickly making a name for themselves in the area. Made with your choice of unsweetened or sweet tea and a sorbet of your choice, these drinks are a delightful treat. I’m not a tea drinker like the rest of my family, but I was curious. I tried the Sweet Tea Float made with peach sorbet and sweet tea. To my surprise, it was delicious; a perfect blend of flavors. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy much of it. Brittany quickly finished off her Tea Float and began eyeing mine. “Are you going to finish that?” she asked. Let’s just say she enjoyed a float and a half and still could have had more.
4. Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park is the perfect spot to spend time with friends or family. This park offers a relaxing view of the marina from one of the many benches or swings overlooking the river and much more. There’s a playground for the children, walkways for strolling and access to nearby downtown shops and restaurants. Decorated with a variety of native shrubs, flowers and plants, the park is designed to reflect the town’s ties to the water.
The open air amphitheater is the site of seasonal movie nights, concerts and festivals, including the annual Taste of Beaufort. If you are visiting in December, you might be able to spend the evening at the park watching the annual Christmas Boat Parade as the boats slowly sail down the river.
Have you visited Beaufort, South Carolina? What was your favorite attraction?