The second-oldest town in South Carolina, Beaufort (pop. 12,361; pronounced “BYOO-furd”) is a well-preserved antebellum town stretching along a fine natural harbor. Established in 1710, Beaufort stands on the largest of some 75 islands near the Georgia border; the town is perhaps best known as the home of the massive U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot at nearby Parris Island, where new Marines undergo their basic training. Dozens of colonial-era and antebellum homes line Beaufort’s quiet Bay Street waterfront, but only one, the Verdier House, is open to visitors. Verdier House offers tours.
Beaufort is a very enjoyable place to wander around and explore, and it has at least one great place to eat: Blackstone’s Cafe (205 Scott St., 843/524-4330), off the main street, where fans of the shrimp and grits and corned beef hash include local writer Pat Conroy. Places to stay include the waterfront Best Western Sea Island Inn (1015 Bay St., 843/522-2090) and the state’s only four-star B&B, the lovely Rhett House Inn (1009 Craven St., 843/524-9030, $189 and up), where the film of Conroy’s The Prince of Tides was shot on location.