Beaufort Area Sights, Tours, and Activities



Click here for downloadable (pdf) version of our Beaufort Visitors Guide, which includes major sites and attractions, and Parris Island Graduation information

Beaufort, S. C. is one of the most beautiful and historic spots in America, with a rich, 500-year history stretching back to 1514 – a mere 22 years after Columbus discovered America – and numerous sightseeing and outdoor activity opportunities. Below is a brief overview of some of the many sites and activities that can be enjoyed in the Beaufort area.

Click for downloadable or printable version

Click for downloadable or printable version

MAIN ATTRACTIONS

Beaufort Welcome Center, 713 Craven Street, 843.379.3331. Mon. – Sat., 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Sun. 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Start your trip at The Beaufort Arsenal, the city’s official Welcome Center, operated by the Historic Beaufort Foundation and The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. Built in 1795-1798 as a result of the secessionist movement, the Arsenal was home to the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery, the 5th oldest organized militia in America (1775). Civil War artifacts, exhibits, gift shop, exhibition/party space upstairs. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. www.historicbeaufort.org;  www.beaufortsc.org

Beaufort Arsenal

Beaufort Arsenal, ca. 1935

Beaufort Arsenal/Welcome Center, ca. 2010

Beaufort National Historic Landmark District, bounded by Bladen, Hamar, and Boundary Sreets and the Beaufort River

Yellow House

One of Beaufort’s beautifully preserved antebellum homes

Beaufort is significant for its role as a major center of South Carolina’s antebellum plantation culture, its contribution to the history of the Civil War, and its role in African-American history during and after the war. Beaufort contains one of the most important collections of  antebellum architecture still standing in America. Unlike that of Charleston and Savannah, it is made up of free-standing Federal, Early Classical Revival, and Greek Revival houses on large lots.  They were, in essence, “plantations brought to town”, and adapted to the heat of the summer weather and dampness of the lowlands, as well as to the aesthetics of their beautiful waterfront settings. The buildings and structures display an unusual and visually stunning variety of architectural forms and styles, including Italianate, Gothic Revival, Victorian, Queen Anne, and Neo-Classical. Beaufort’s National Historic Landmark District covers 3,041 acres and over 475 structures, making it one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in America. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1969; designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1973. www.historicbeaufort.org

Penn Center National Historic Landmark, Martin Luther King Drive, St. Helena Island, 843.838.2432. Mon. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1974, the 50-acre Penn School and Center compound on St. Helena Island was designated a National Historic Landmark, elevating it to the same status as The White House, Monticello, Independence Hall, etc. One of the most significant African-American cultural and historical institutions still existing in America today, it was founded by abolitionist Laura M. Towne as the first school in the South for freed slaves. It features The York W. Bailey Museum and 18 other structures related to the education and cultural development of freed African-Americans after The Civil War; the war itself; Reconstruction; the development of Gullah culture; and the Civil Rights movement. Exhibits include “Education for Freedom:  The Penn School Experiment,” and exhibits related to Dr. Martin Luther King’s frequent visits (he wrote parts of “I Have a Dream” – arguably the most famous speech in American history – in Gantt Cottage at The Penn Center). Museum, tours, gift shop. In the Gullah language (a combination of Creole English and 30+ tribal African languages, developed by slaves as a way of communicating secretly with one another), “Wen oonah dey yuh, oonah dey home”  –  “When you are here, you are home.” www.penncenter.com

John Verdier House, ca. 1805

John Mark Verdier House, 801 Bay Street, 843.379.6335. Guided Tours Mon. – Sat., 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, this c. 1800 Federal-style house was purposely built in a very prominent location by one of Beaufort’s most successful merchants to announce his arrival to the higher “Planter Class” of Beaufort society. The house served as the head- quarters of the Union Adjutant General during the occupation; remarkably, it reverted back to Verdier family ownership after the war. Recognized as one of the finest examples of the “Beaufort Vernacular” architecture style still in existence; the condemnation of the Verdier House in 1965 to make way for a gas station rallied a group of Beaufort’s citizens to form what would become The Historic Beaufort Foundation, which renovated and operates the house as its headquarters, a museum/education center, and gift shop. www.historicbeaufort.org

Beaufort National Cemetery, 1601 Boundary Street, 843.524.3925. Mon. – Fri., 8 a.m. – sunset. Closed federal holidays except Memorial Day.

One of America’s first Arlington-style veterans’ cemeteries – established during the Civil War; it contains the remains of 117 Confederate solders and about 2,800 Union solders, making it one of a very few cemeteries in America that contains both Confederate and Union dead. Unique in its landscape plan, in which the burial sections are arranged in the shape of a half-circle with roads arranged within like the spokes of a wheel. Features a memorial to the 179 Unknown Soldiers interred within; and the remains of 19 Union soldiers whose remains were discovered on Folly Island (Charleston) in 1987, who had been listed as MIA since 1863. The memorial was dedicated in 1989 using an honor guard composed of actors filming the Denzel Washington/Matthew Broderick movie “Glory” nearby. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1997. The cemetery’s massive, historic brick wall (the neighborhood behind the cemeterey is called “Behind the Bricks”), built in the 1870’s, recently underwent a massive restoration. www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/beaufort

Hunting Island State Park / Lighthouse, Off Hwy 21. Open daily. Admission: $5 Adult, $3 children; additional $2 charge to climb lighthouse. Park facilities.

Hunting Island State Park

South Carolina’s most popular state park attracts over one million (human) visitors a year to its more than 4 miles of unique, wild beach, maritime forest, hiking/nature trails, campgrounds, 1120′ pier, and Nature Center. Contains the only lighthouse in S. C. open to the public. Built in 1859, the lighthouse recently celebrated its 150th birthday; for those adventurous enough to climb its 167 steps (not for the faint-hearted!), the surrounding ocean/ marsh/ maritime forest panorama from 135′ is spectacular. Officially deactivated as a navigational lighthouse in 1935. it now has an active organization of friends (www.friends-of-hunting-island-sc.org) who zealously protect and maintain the lighthouse, beach, and other public areas. Hunting Island’s Friends also monitor the beach’s Loggerhead Turtle activity, where a record 6,826 Loggerhead eggs were laid in 2010 (unfortunately, only about 1 in 1000 survives to maturity); improve the infrastructure; and provide valuable services to this unique, fragile ecosystem. The 5,000 acre island was donated to the S. C. State Parks system by Beaufort County in 1938. Lighthouse listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1970. See www.huntingisland.com for more information and road, hiking trail, and facility location maps.

St. Helena's

300 year-old St. Helena’s Church

St. Helena’s Episcopal Church, 505 Church St., 843.525.1712. Docent-guided tours of church and graveyard Mon., Wed., Fri.

The beautiful church bells you hear while staying at The Rhett House Inn originate in one of Beaufort’s oldest citizens, St. Helena’s Episcopal Church. Founded in 1712 by the British Commons House of Assembly, under the Lords Proprietors of the Carolina Colony as a colonial parish of the Church of England, it is one of the oldest active churches in North America. The church and its walls are built of brick – much of which was originally ship’s ballast – smoothed over with stucco; the beautiful interior detail gives an insight as to the fine craftsmanship of the period. From 1800 to 1860, the Sea Islands of St. Helena’s Parish formed one of the wealthiest, most aristocratic and cultivated communities in America, and some of the wealthiest and most prominent families of the American South were represented in St. Helena’s membership – including Thomas Heyward Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and John Barnwell, a famous Indian fighter and one of the founders of Beaufort. During the Civil War, the church sanctuary was used as an operating room because of its large, two-story windows, which allowed more light into the space. By 1998, the 285 year-old church was badly in need of restoration; after a 19 month, $3 million restoration, the church was structurally sound, freshly painted, and ready for another 300 years. It was officially rededicated on Palm Sunday, 2000 – 288 years after its founding. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Ask for service and concert times/dates. www.sthelenas1712.org

Marine Corp Recruit Depot at Parris Island (MCRDPI), 283 Boulevard de France, off Ribaut Road, 843.228.3650.
Open daily 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Graduation Colors Ceremony

Parris Island Graduation Colors Ceremony

A valued Beaufort citizen since its founding in 1915, Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot recently installed the first female Commander in its 100 year history. Parris Island is one of the busiest and most visited military bases in the world, hosting more than 150,000 visitors per year, many of whom attend the Boot Camp Graduation ceremonies for family and friends. As the headquarters for the Eastern Recruiting Region of the United States Marine Corps, this 8,000+ acre island, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Port Royal Sound, and the Beaufort River, is temporary home to all Marine recruits east of the Mississippi River, Puerto Rico, and the U. S. Virgin Islands. Parris Island has trained Marines to serve in every major conflict since WWI. The base also hosts many other events throughout the year, including Fourth of July and Memorial Day celebrations, community and military reunion groups, and educational programs for ROTC and Jr. ROTC groups. Attractions include The Douglas Visitors’ Center; the Parris Island Museum (see “Parris Island Museum” under “Further Afield:  South of Downtown” below); and The Legends Golf Course at Parris Island, which is one of the highest-rated military golf courses in America (and open to the public). The base is open daily; each attraction has special requirements for visitors, which vary with the Homeland Security Department’s DEFCOM level. Please visit www.mcrdpi.usmc.mil for specific information on each area, and information about base entry requirements.

Historic District Sightseeing :

You might meet Duke, a purebred Belgian Draft. At almost 20 hands high and 2,800 lbs., he is one of the largest horses on the east coast.

Horse / Carriage Tours (Highly Recommended; Tickets available at front desk) :

Southurn Rose Buggy Tours, 843.524.2900, $18.
40-minute narrated tours; ask for seasonal hours; leaves from Beaufort Marina.  www.southurnrose.com

Sea Island Carriage Co., 843.476.7789, $18.
40-minute narrated tours; ask for seasonal hours; leaves from Beaufort Marina. www.seaislandcarriage.com

Walking / Vehicle Tours :

Jon Sharp Walking Tours, 843.575.5775. Tues. – Sat., 11 a.m.; October 15th through May 20th. Leaves from the Beaufort Marina. Very entertaining, 2-hour walking tours guided by Jon Sharp, a shipwrecked Hollywood-veteran-turned-Beaufortonian. www.jonswalkinghistory.com

The Spirit of Old Beaufort, 1001 Bay St., 843.525.0459. Various guided walking and van tours of the historic downtown area and outlying islands; self-guided tours with recorded information and maps; gift shop. Call for tour times, availability, and rates.  www.thespiritofoldbeaufort.com

Jon Sharp Walking Tour

Jon Sharp Walking Tour – under Beaufort’s famous “Low Clearance Oak”

Gullah -n- Geechie Mahn Tours, 843.848.7516. Mon. – Sat., 9:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.; Reservations required.  Group packages available. Discover the haunting, 500 year-old beauty and soul of St. Helena Island, S. C. with exclusive guided van tours of the historic sites of the island and surrounding areas. Featured in over 300 magazines and newspapers, as well as S. C.’s official tourism guide for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Geechie Mahn is the ultimate authority on the S. C. sea islands, which are rich in culture, old world charm, and colonial history dating back to the 1500’s. Discover the centuries-old traditions of the islands’ rich African-American culture of “Gullah” with on-site recollections and native stories.  www.gullahngeechietours.net

Boat Tours :  

Captain Dick’s River Tours, 843.524.4422.  Departs from Beaufort Marina. Discover another perspective of our beautiful town with various boat tours on the Beaufort River, past the Waterfront Park and Old Point neighborhood, with guaranteed dolphin, alligator, and seabird sightings. Seasonal evening shuttles from downtown to Port Royal Marina and 11th Street Dockside Restaurant; Friday and Saturday evening sunset cruises. Call for more info. www.beaufortrivercruises.com, www.beaufortrivertours.com

Captain Bill

Captain Bill

Ace Basin Tours, Inc., 843-521-3099. Departs from the same dock on Coosaw Island used in the movie “Forrest Gump”. ACE Basin Tours, located on the Intracoastal Waterway outside of Beaufort, conducts regular and charter tours of the ACE Basin aboard the Dixie Lady, a 29-passenger covered pontoon boat. For more information, see www.acebasintours.com.

Captain Bill’s River Safari, 843.575.1748, 7 days, 10 a.m. or by appointment. Experience Beaufort’s waterways in comfort on a 24′ covered pontoon boat with Capt. Bill, a lifetime Beaufort sailor and nature enthusiast. Capt. Bill is so familiar with Beaufort’s waterways, flora and fauna, he knows many of them by name. Approximately 90 minutes (longer by prior arrangement); leaves from Port Royal Marina. www.river-safari.com

Bicycle Tours :

Please ask the front desk for information.

Kayak Tours :

Kayaking trips are fun for everyone . . . from novice to expert

Kayaking trips are fun for everyone . . . from novice to expert

The Kayak Farm, 843.838.2008. Trips scheduled accd. to tides and weather; must be over 13; advance reservations required. Fun, educational guided tours with rental kayaks in the area of Harbour, Fripp and Hunting Islands. Learn about Sea Kayaking and Salt Marsh Ecology. The Kayak Farm uses ruddered touring kayaks from 14.5 – 18 ft. in length. All skill levels accommodated. ADVANCE RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Call for special trips. www.thekayakfarm.com

Beaufort Kayak Tours, 843.525.0810. Trips scheduled accd. to tides and weather; advance reservations required.  Join your hosts, Kim and David, in the South Carolina Lowcountry for a variety of fully narrated half-day tours of Beaufort, Hunting Island, and the ACE Basin. Tours are led by the owners, who are degreed, certified Master Naturalists and City of Beaufort History Tour Guides. We emphasize cultural and natural history interpretation, use easy to enter, stable kayaks, and paddle with the tidal current – no prior kayaking experience is necessary. Appropriate for most ages. ADVANCE RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. www.beaufortkayaktours.com

Hiking/Nature/Birding : 

Hunting Island State Park Trails (See “Hunting Island State Park/ Lighthouse” above and below). Visitors to the park will find the hiking experience much more enjoyable with new, improved trails, improved surfaces, and the addition of new signage. Hunting Island’s trails include over seven miles of pathways and boardwalks, divided into eight different trails of varying lengths, from 1/4 to 2 1/4 miles. Several of the trails have been noticeably widened, and the new sand and shell mixture improves the surface for jogging, bicycles, wheelchairs, and general use. New, color-coded maps with brief trail descriptions are available from the Visitors Center, Nature Center, and Camp Ground Store, as well as at major trailheads and Beaufort-area businesses. Click here for printable version of trail map:  www.southcarolinaparks.com/HuntingIsland/trailmap.pdf

ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge Trails; Bear Island Wildlife Management Area Trails (See “ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge” under “North of Downtown” below). www.acebasin.net

Further Afield:  North of Downtown :

Old Sheldon Church Ruins / Auldbrass Plantation / Bonny Hall Plantation / Myrtle Grove Plantation / 18th – 19th  Century Rice Fields, Along and off of Hwy. 17, approx. 20 – 25 miles north of downtown Beaufort. Sheldon Church Ruins are open to the public; Bonny Hall, Auldbrass, Myrtle Grove, and rice fields are private property which can be viewed, photographed, and enjoyed from public roads – but PLEASE DO NOT TRESPASS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY. Ask for directions and more information at front desk.

Auldbrass (“Old Brass”) is the only plantation house ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably the most (in)famous American architect in history. The plantation was assembled in the early 20th century from several tracts along the Combahee River, and Wright had just completed his masterpiece, “Fallingwater”, when he was approached by industrialist C. Leigh Stevens to design the house and outbuildings. It is famous for its 80-degree angle, slanted wall construction – none of the exterior walls are a perpendicular 90 degrees. Even the cabinetry, outbuildings, stables, kennels, and fencing are built at an angle; the external doors must be opened outward because of the inward slant of the walls. Fortunately, Auldbrass was bought in 1986 by hugely successful Hollywood producer Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, The Matrix, etc.), a well-known FLW enthusiast, who appreciated this diamond-in-the-rough (and had the funds for its cutting and polishing), sought out Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, researched original construction blueprints, and spent 15 years and many millions of dollars carefully restoring and completing the project to Wright’s original, exacting specifications – down to the furnishings, fixtures, silverware, and even the copper downspouts, which are made to emulate stylized Spanish Moss. It is considered one of the most extraordinary examples of historic and architectural preservation in America (and a stunning example of what unlimited funds can accomplish), and was featured in the 2003 New York Times story, “Aulbrass Wasn’t Rebuilt in a Day”, in which Silver said, “By the time I first visited Auldbrass [in 1986], it was a month away from the bulldozer.” This priceless architectural gem is opened to the public biennially for the Historic Beaufort Foundation’s very popular Fall Aulbrass Tour, which gives one a sense of living inside a working piece of art. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Gate, outbuildings, some guest cottages (Wright originally designed 9) and pastures – which now contain exotic animals – visible from River Road, off Hwy. 17, north of the Hwy. 21 interchange. For more information and photos of Auldbrass, visit: www.south-carolina-plantations.com/beaufort/auldbrass.

Bonny Hall is a beautiful southern plantation house and gardens on the same road as Auldbrass, unusual in that it sits close to the road, rather than at the end of a long oak alley, which was the usual plantation design. The house, gardens, pecan grove, stables, most of the outbuildings, and its slave cemetery can be seen from River Road.

Traveling north on Hwy. 17, after crossing the Harriet Tubman Bridge, you can see the imposing Myrtle Grove Plantation House, with its 13 chimneys in the far distance across the rice fields on your left.

All along Hwy. 17 in Beaufort, Jasper, and Colleton Counties, the remains of 18th and 19th century rice fields – amazing early American engineering feats – can still be seen. The complex system of dykes, locks, and canals which were dug and built into the marshes to allow the tidal flow from the Combahee River into the fields to irrigate the crops can still be seen from the highway. Remarkably, much of the natural vegetation (mostly salt-tolerant marsh grass now) is still growing in the original crop row formations – 175 years later. They now serve as excellent wildlife habitats, and much of them are included in the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge (see “ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge” below).  www.acebasin.net

Sheldon Church, est 1740 – burned during the Revolutionary War; rebuilt, then burned again by Sherman

The ruins of “Old” Sheldon Church (originally “Prince William’s Parish Church”) are among the most haunting reminders of a bygone era still remaining in the S. C. Lowcountry. Originally built in 1745 – 1750, the church is a glorious example of early 18th century Greek-inspired southern civic architecture, with its brick construction, massive round brick columned portico, large arched window openings, and perfect proportions. The church was burned by Gen. Provost’s troops in 1779 during the Revolutionary War; rebuilt in 1826, then burned again in 1865 by Gen. Sherman’s troops as they marched up the very same canopy (tree-covered) road from Savannah toward Columbia that you will drive on to see it. The church has stood defiantly proud – elegant in its ruined state – for over 120 years, and is still used for many religious and special observance ceremonies – and weddings, which take place in and amongst the stunning, moss-draped grounds and church as if it were still a fully-functioning building. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1970. Sheldon Church Road (“Burnt Church Road” to locals), off Hwy. 17, south of the Hwy. 21 interchange. Parking courtesy The Beaufort County Open Land Trust. www.sciway.net/old-sheldon-church , www.sthelenas1712.org , www.archbishopofcanterbury.org

South Carolina’s much-beloved (and zealously protected) state reptile, the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) – one of only five species of sea turtles left on earth

ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge – 843.844.8957. Headquarters at 585 Donnelley Dr., Green Pond, S. C. – about 25 miles northeast of Beaufort.
In 1988, the ACE Basin Project was launched when The South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Westvaco Corp., The Lowcountry Open Land Trust, and The duPont Wildlife Foundation formed a coalition known as the Ace Basin Task Force. The mission of the ACE Basin Project is to maintain the natural character of the drainage basin of the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto (ACE) Rivers by promoting wise resource management on private lands and protecting strategic tracts by conservation agencies. The drainage basin represents one of the largest undeveloped estuaries (areas where fresh and salt water mix – which is called “brackish” water on the east coast of the United States. Consisting of  approximately 350,000 acres of diverse habitats, including pine and hardwood uplands, forested wetlands, fresh, brackish and salt water tidal marshes, barrier islands, and beaches, the basin’s unique estuarine system, the largest of its type in the South, provides an invaluable habitat for a rich diversity of finfish and shellfish resources.

S. C.’s beaches have “Turtle Patrols” that mark and protect nests. If you see this, stay clear of the area; it contains precious turtle eggs under the sand

The ACE Basin NWR hosts a wealth of wildlife, including endangered and threatened species such as bald eagles, woodstorks, ospreys, loggerhead sea turtles (S. C.’s State Reptile), shortnose sturgeon, and . . . MANY alligators, which owe much of their comeback from the brink of extinction to adaptation to brackish environments like this. The Refuge offers a variety of recreational uses. In the mid-1700’s, tidal swamps bordering the rivers were cleared and diked for rice fields; after the rice culture declined in the late 1800s, wealthy sportsmen purchased many of the plantations as hunting retreats. Thenew owners successfully managed the former rice fields and adjacent upland areas for a wide range of wildlife, and this tradition of responsible land stewardship has continued throughout the 20th century. The ACE Basin has been designated a World Class Ecosystem under The Nature Conservancy’s Last Great Places program, and was called “One of the most unique ecosystems in America” by famed naturalist Jacques Cousteau.. Numerous recreational and sightseeing opportunities, including driving, boating, hiking, biking, bird watching, hunting, fishing, etc. Please visit www.acebasin.net for more maps, descriptions, and more recreational information.

Further Afield:  South of Downtown :

Old Town Port Royal, est. 1562 – Approximately 10 miles southwest of downtown. www.portroyalsc.org
Eight flags (including Old Glory) have flown over the town of Port Royal since its discovery in 1514. Located just south of downtown Beaufort, between the Beaufort River and Battery Creek at the mouth of Port Royal Sound, it is a living textbook of 16th and 17th century competition for discovery and colonization of the New World by European explorers and settlers. Forts and settlements were built at Port Royal and Parris Island (just across the river), abandoned, then built again by various settlers from around the world. Pedro de Salaza of Hispaniola first landed at Port Royal in 1514 and built the first fort in North America in 1525. The Spanish used this area as the center of their North American Empire (which they called “Florida”) for about 75 years. In 1562, Capt. John Ribaut of France landed in the area with about 30 Huguenots, sailing up a “mighty river” they named “Port Royal”, and built Charlesfort (see “Charlesfort – Santa Elena National Historic Landmark” below) across the river, on what is now Parris Island. The Spanish and French settlers battled for control of the area until the English arrived in 1607, laying their claim to St. Helena Island. In 1663, Capt. William Hilton raised the British flag over St. Helena, and in 1670 King Charles II of England began land grants in the New World, rewarding eight of his courtiers and friends with the title “Lord Proprieter”, and granting them land in appreciation for their help in restoring him to the throne of England. In 1684, the Scottish landed in the area and built Stuart Town, which lasted only a few years before they gave up and returned to Scotland (the Great Seal of Stuart Town now resides in the Charleston Museum). The Spanish, French, and English continued to battle with each other, Native Americans, disease, and terrible conditions from about 1670 – 1711, when the town of Beaufort was established, firmly under English control. In 1779, Capt. William Barnwell successfully defended Port Royal against the British during the Revolution, and the rest, as they say, is history. Port Royal was named a “Bicentennial Town” in 1976, and today has grown into a vibrant, unique city with a network of walking trails, docks, shopping villages, a community beach, and an observation tower. Called “One of America’s coolest towns” by CBS News. Bay St. W. to Ribaut Rd. to Paris Ave. http://mapq.st/lyw0cpwww.portroyalsc.org

Santa Elena (Helena of Constantinople)

Charlesfort – Santa Elena (St. Helena) National Historic Landmark, Eastern Shore, Parris Island. Small exhibit at site; full exhibit at Parris Island Museum.
Charlesfort was founded in 1562 at the mouth of Port Royal Sound (where the Broad River meets the Atlantic Ocean) by the French explorer Jean Ribaut, who deposited a band of settlers there. He then returned to France, where legal complications delayed his return for years; upon his return, the settlers had abandoned Charlesfort (partly because of hostility from Native Americans and Spaniards). In the meantime, Hernando de Manrique de Rojas had led an expedition under the Spanish flag from Cuba, destroyed what remained of Charlesfort, and built Santa Elena (Spanish for St. Helena) on the site. Santa Elena was the first Spanish capital of Florida (Spanish for “flower”, “blossom”, or “bloom” – what the Spaniards called the New World at that time – eventually, it became the name of a state) until 1587. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1974; because it so dramatically illustrates the competition for the colonizing and settlement of the New World, Chalresfort – Santa Elena was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001.  www.parrisislandmuseum.com

Parris Island Museum, 843.525.9030. Open daily 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; 8 a. m. – 4:30 p.m. on Graduation and Family Days; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Easter. Free admission. See www.mcrdpi.usmc.mil  for requirements for entry to Parris Island MCRD.
The Parris Island Museum was dedicated on January 8, 1975; today, the museum’s over 8,000 square feet of exhibit space assists in the training of recruits by teaching about the long and honored history and traditions of the United States Marine Corps, along with the colorful, 500 year history of the area. Marine families, veterans, and the general public will also find inspiration from the stories told through artifacts and images of Marines who served our nation during some of our most challenging times. After viewing an introductory film on the recruit training process, visitors may explore galleries on the first floor covering Parris Island’s rich history from its prehistoric occupation by Native Americans to the establishment of the Depot at the end of the 19th-century. Alongside early Marine Corps history is a room devoted entirely to the Charlesfort-Santa Elena National Historic Landmark, site of French and Spanish colonies on Parris Island between 1562 and 1587. Displays of artifacts, weapons, equipment, photographs, and films cover Port Royal’s important military role from the American Revolution to the Civil War, along with the strategic development of the island into a Marine Corps installation after the Spanish American War. Gift Shop. http://www.mcrdpi.usmc.mil/graduation/museum.asp

Land’s End Road / Penn Center / Fort Fremont – Off Hwy. 21 S. to Martin Luther King Drive (which becomes Land’s End Road past the Penn Center), St. Helena Island.

A beautiful ride down history lane, Land’s End Road is one of Beaufort’s famous “canopy roads”, and originally served planters and seamen coming into Beaufort. The first site is the Penn Center (see “Penn Center National Historic Landmark” above), which contains museums, gift shops, and educational displays about the development of the African-American island culture after the Civil War. The haunting ruins of Fort Fremont, which was built under the Coastal Fortifications Act of 1898 to protect Port Royal Sound in the event of an attack during the Spanish-American War, are 7.5 miles farther. Obsolete by the time it was completed, it was nonetheless once an elaborate fortification, consisting of 170 acres and numerous buildings and gun emplacements. Of these, only one 10″disappearing gun emplacement, one 4.5″ rapid-fire gun mount, and the brick hospital (which is now on private land) remain. Ft. Fremont was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 as one of only two remaining forts from the period. www.fortfremont.org

Hunting Island State Park – Off Hwy 21 S. (see “Hunting Island State Park” under “Main Attractions” above.)
Many recreational opportunities, including camping, hiking, birding, beachcombing, boating. For more information, contact the Nature Center at 843.838.7437 or the Visitors Center at 843.838.2011www.huntingisland.com

Fort Frederick, est. 1732
Now a part of the grounds of the Beaufort Naval Hospital, these ruins of an old tabby fort built by the British in 1732 for protection against the Spanish, French and Indians was abandoned in 1758. Pre-arranged tours only. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1974. Call 803.734.3893 or visit http://www.beaufortcountylibrary.org/htdocs-sirsi/FortFrederick.htm .

Ace Basin Boat Tours
Discover Beaufort’s marshes and Sea Islands of the ACE Basin. Boat tours last about three hours and leave from the ACE Basin Tours dock on Coosaw Island. The dock was featured as the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in the movie Forrest Gump and other scenes from the movie were filmed at nearby sites. The tour boat is the Dixie Lady measuring 38 feet long, is a coast guardcertified covered platoon, and can hold up to 40 passengers. Cold beverages and restroom are available onboard and please feel free to bring your own food and drinks.

1 Coosaw River Drive
Beaufort, SC 29907
Phone: (843) 5213099 Toll Free: 18665213099
Email: info@acebasintours.comBeaufort 300 years