By Bill Warelis
South Carolina is a state I’ve passed through many times during the last 30 years. Just about all of those instances have been on drives to or from Florida to escape winter and visit the in-laws and friends.
Just two months ago though, I realized what a treat we’ve been missing by just passing through. Friends of ours recently bought a place in Beaufort, a small town in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, and invited us to visit. The four of us planned to use Beaufort as a base to explore the close-by cities of Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA, as well as Hilton Head.
If we had stuck to our plan I’m sure they would have been worth a visit, but we never saw them. In the end we spent the entire six days in Beaufort since once we arrived we could see no good reason to go anywhere else.
Beaufort, pronounced like “beauty” not “bow” (as one of the many friendly local folks told us) is renowned for its scenic location and for maintaining a historic character through its remarkable antebellum architecture. The historic district was a joy to tour on foot or in one of the many horse drawn carriages. Shopping was also a pleasure, enhanced by the easy-going, garrulous folks we found in the stores on Bay Street, all eager to talk whether they were working or just wandering about. In Waterfront Park we discovered a wonderful place to sit on a bench swing and pass the time watching both the locals and the clouds drift by.
In the residential areas of town just outside the historic district we found homes framed with giant oaks covered with Spanish Moss. It was one of those déjà vu moments since we felt that somewhere we had seen these places before. It turned out that we had.
Beaufort has long been a popular filming location for major movies, including The Big Chill, The Prince of Tides, Forrest Gump and The Great Santini (a personal favorite). The town and region has also been the inspirational setting for several novels by native son Pat Conroy.
If you visit be sure to check out the Visitor Center, located in what was once the town arsenal, which seems appropriate in a way. Beaufort is also known for its military establishments since it is located near Parris Island Marine Base and is the home of the Marine Corp Air Station Beaufort.
When we initially drove into town we couldn’t help notice the main entrance to the air station, where they had aircraft on display and a sign that really struck us. It read, “The noise you hear, is the sound of freedom”.
Mention South Carolina to me today and the noise you’ll hear will be me shouting the virtues of Beaufort. It’s a great place to visit any time of year.