Beaufort & Port Royal
Because of the deep, safe harbor, two of the first European settlements in what would become the Colony of South Carolina were established in the mid-1500s. Beaufort, and sister-city, Port Royal occupy the lower half of Port Royal Island, and offer visitors a glimpse of historic sites and homes of the antebellum South.
Beaufort and Port Royal have quiet neighborhood streets, overhung by giant live oaks and Spanish moss it is perfect for walking tours or a narrated, horse-drawn carriage ride.
If you love seafood, Beaufort and Port Royal boast some of the best seafood restaurants in the State. Several festivals and events are held during the year that celebrate the heritage, food, culture, and environment that these two communities share.
One of the area’s two public beaches is located in Port Royal, The Sands is just across the Beaufort River from Parris Island and is a favorite place to view 4th of July fireworks. The ocean beach at Hunting Island State Park is a 17 mile drive east of Beaufort.
Full service marinas assist boaters and fishermen who enjoy the protected waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, or easy access to the open ocean for deep sea fishing and diving.
From antique shops to unique gift items to hand made chocolates are found in the quaint shopping districts of the two towns, along with waterfront dining and bed & breakfast inns in lovingly restored historic homes.
Nature lovers can take kayak tours, walk the long, marsh-front board walk and climb the tower overlooking the waterfront in Port Royal, or visit the unusual Lowcountry Estuarium- A Coastal Learning Center. (For other nearby attractions, see: Sights to see in Beaufort / Port Royal; and see Tours.)
Be warned however, many visitors fall in love with our friendly towns and mild temperatures and find it hard to leave. In fact many return to make Beaufort, Port Royal and surrounding communities their new home.
Beaufort/Port Royal Area
Click on the name of the attraction for more information.
Beaufort Arsenal Museum
713 Craven Street, (843)379-3079, Mon-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun.-Closed. Call in advance for holiday closings. Built in 1798 & expanded in 1852. As a result of the secessionist movement. Contains Civil War artifacts and exhibits on local history.
Beaufort National Cemetery
1601 Boundary Street, (843)524-3925. One of the first cemeteries established during the Civil War, it is one of the few that contains the remains of both Confederate and Union soldiers.
Chapel of Ease
Land’s End Road, St. Helena’s Island
Built between 1742 and 1747 to serve the planters on St. Helena Island. In 1886, a forest fire destroyed part of the brick and tabby chapel. The ruins and a small graveyard remain.
Cypress Wetlands Trail
1700 Paris Ave, Port Royal
Cypress Wetland Loop is a 0.8 mile loop trail located in Port Royal, that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash. The wetlands support abundant populations of native wildlife. The trail around the wetland is a combination of boardwalk, paved trail, and roadside pedestrian and bike trail.
Fort Fremont Preserve
Land’s End Road, St. Helena Island
A unique example of a Spanish American War Endicott Era fortification built to protect the U.S. Naval Station in Port Royal.
John Mark Verdier House
801 Bay Street, (843)379-6335. Hours of operation: 10:30am-3:30 pm, Mon-Sat. Call for holiday closings. Operated by the Historic
Beaufort Foundation. Circa 1800. Built in the Federal style by one of Beaufort’s most successful merchants, it is an excellent example of an early Lowcountry home. Museum gift shop open.
The Mather Museum & Interpretive Center
921 Ribaut Rd, Building #1, Beaufort, 843-379-2787
Located on the campus of the Technical College of the Lowcountry, this museum depicts the history of the Mather School and its founder Rachel Crane Mather. The school was founded in 1868, shortly after the civil war, to teach the daughters of the newly freed slaves how to read and write and become homemakers. The School remained open for 100 years, closing it’s doors in 1968 and becoming a state trade school and eventually the Technical College of the Lowcountry. Hours of operation: Tues-Fri 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Old Sheldon Church Ruins
Located at the junction of Highways 21 & 235.
1.7 miles north of the junction of Highways 21 & 17 near Gardens Corner. Sheldon Church has laid in ruin for more than 140 years. Its gable roof, pediment, windows & interior have disappeared, but the classic simplicity of its design still remains. Burned by Prevost’s British troops in 1779, and again during the Civil War it still serves as a religious center for special observances. Admission – Free.
Parris Island Museum
Marine Corps Recruit Depot
(843)228-2951, Daily 10am-4:30pm, 10am-7pm on Family Days (Thursdays prior to graduation). Housed in the War Memorial Building, it is devoted to the portrayal of the history & development of Parris Island and the Port Royal area along with the Marine Corps & recruit training facilities.
Pat Conroy Literary Center
905 Port Republic Street, (843)-379-7025
The Pat Conroy Literary Center will cultivate a passionate and inclusive reading and writing community in honor of Pat Conroy, who dedicated his life to spreading his love for literature and writing to future generations.
Martin Luther King Drive, St. Helena Island, (843)838-2432. Hours of operation: 11am-4pm Mon-Sat. The 50-acre Penn School National Historic Landmark District features the York W. Bailey Museum as well as 18 other structures related to the education of African Americans, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Era. Enjoy a permanent exhibit, “Education for Freedom: the Penn School Experiment,” as well as temporary exhibits. The museum, housed in the newly renovated Historic Cope Industrial Building, includes four galleries and a gift shop.
Port Royal Sound Foundation
310 Okatie Highway, (843)645-7774
Open Tues – Fri, 10 a.m -5 p.m., Sat – 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Port Royal Sound Foundation features exhibits, classrooms, hands-on learning spaces and other areas where you can learn about and celebrate Port Royal Sound. Enjoy diverse and fun opportunities to experience and connect with the Port Royal Sound Area. Come by the Maritime Center to see the animals in action every Saturday at 2pm! A naturalist will feed and discuss the critters in various tanks. Fun for kids and adults alike! Other activities include Saturdays on the Sound, Tuesday Talks, Eco Boat Tours, story times and art contests.
Santa Elena History Center
1501 Bay Street, Beaufort, (843) 379-1550
Open 10-4 p.m. Tues – Sat, 1-4 p.m. Sun.
More than 40 years before the English settled at Jamestown in Virginia, the Spanish established a town and fort on the shores of Port Royal Sound in Beaufort. Now you can find the lost story of Santa Elena at the brand new interpretive center, where the inaugural exhibit “Santa Elena: America’s Untold Story” is open along with ancillary exhibits throughout the building. Come visit and engage with the Santa Elena Foundation as we restore a “missing century” of South Carolina and American history.
Docents are available during all hours of operation to guide visitors through the building and tell more about the Santa Elena story.
Spanish Moss Trail
Lowcountry’s Rails to Trail located in the heart of Northern Beaufort County, SC. This 10 mile long hiking and biking trail is open for public enjoyment. The trail is open dawn to dusk. The path is open for pedestrians and non-motorized transportation (Exception: motorized wheelchairs). There are six parking trail heads available. The trail is open to pets on a leash; pet-waste stations are available. The trail offers beautiful water and marsh views and coastal wildlife viewing. It is also open for recreational fishing on various trestles. There are two restroom facilities (Broome Lane and Parker’s Convenience Store.
Trail head access located at Clarendon Road, Depot Road, Westvine Drive, Broome Lane Access, Beaufort Plaza, Roseida Road, & Clarendon Road.
St. Helena’s Episcopal Church
505 Church Road, Beaufort, (843)522-1712
Established in 1712 as a colonial parish of the Church of England, St. Helena’s is one of the oldest churches in America. The original church was built on the present site in 1724 and appears today as it did in 1842 following its final enlargement.
Brief History and Map
Tabernacle Baptist Church/Robert Smalls Grave
911 Craven Street, Beaufort
Tabernacle Church was formed by African-American members of Beaufort Baptist Church after Federal Occupation of the town in 1861. Robert Smalls, a slave who during the Civil War became a Union Naval Captain and later a US Congressman is buried in the churchyard.
Hunting Island Lighthouse
John Mark Verdier House
Mather School Museum & Interpretive Center