Monday, May 19, 2014

Free and Frugal Things To Do In Beaufort, SC

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One of the great things about living in Georgia is that we are only a few hours away from South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, and Alabama. We have been lucky enough to explore several areas in these amazing states and as soon as we are a two car family again we hope to do a lot more exploring. Last May our family visited Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort, SC. We went camping for several days with our family and extended family and had a blast. And I completely fell in love with the area.

Beaufort county is a warm, hospitable region filled with amazing history, heritage, nature, arts and culture! Known as the Low Country this region offers something for every explorer. Beaufort county consists of 6 towns and cities and hundreds of named and unnamed islands.

Here are 30+ FREE and frugal things things to see and do in Beaufort county:

Beaufort is located on Port Royal Island, one of the largest Sea Islands along the southeast Atlantic  coast. And it is one of only a handful of US towns that has had it's entire downtown designated as a historic district by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The city was founded in 1711 and has maintained its antebellum architecture and small town atmosphere.

Beaufort National Cemetary - The cemetery is FREE to visit and provides visitors with lots of fabulous historical information. Beaufort National Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The burial sections are arranged in the shape of a half-circle with roads arranged like the spokes of a wheel. There are several Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery. And there are several monuments to honor the brave men and women who have served our country throughout history.

ARTworks - Browse the galleries for FREE Tuesday through Saturday. Founded in 1991 ARTworks applies the many creative tools of The Arts to strengthen artists and to enrich audiences, collectors, and visitors through high quality arts experiences and arts education programs 365 days a year.

Beaufort Tree Walk - This self guided tree walk tour is FREE. You can download the guide book in PDF format here.

Sheldon Church Ruins - Travel back in time with a visit to these beautiful church ruins. Sheldon Church has lain in ruin for more than 120 years. Its gable roof, pediment, windows, and interior have disappeared, but the classic simplicity of its design still remains. One of the first Greek-Revival structures built in the United States, Prince William's Parish Church, erected 1745-55, was once one of the most impressive churches in the Province. FREE to explore.

File:Sheldon Church 2.jpg
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Beaufort History Museum - $3 admission. The Beaufort History Museum traces its roots to July 20, 1939, when its constitution was approved at a meeting of the original board of trustees. The museum was formed “to increase and diffuse knowledge by the maintenance of a general museum and library of art, science, history and industry; the preservation and protection of objects and places of artistic, historic or scientific interest; and by furnishing instruction and recreation.”

Waterfront Park - The multi-acre park provides a breathtaking view of the Beaufort River, the Woods Memorial Bridge, the western tip of Lady's Island, the eastern side of Port Royal Island and the northern tip of Parris Island. 

The Arsenal Museum - (location of the Beaufort Chamber VCB Visitor Center) History will come to life with a visit to this FREE museum. Originally constructed in 1799, the brick and tabby arsenal has participated in a number of U.S. wars. During the Revolutionary War, a volunteer company served valiantly. The artillery also saw action during the Civil War during the battle of Port Royal.

John Mark Verdier House - Visit the only planters house in Beaufort open to the public. This prominent Federal-style mansion was built circa 1804 by John Mark Verdier (1759-1827), a successful merchant and planter. Verdier had accumulated significant wealth both by trading indigo and subsequently by acquiring over 1,000 acres used for the growing of highly profitable sea island cotton. $10 admission fee for tour of the house. Civil War exhibit is FREE to visit.

The Anchorage - Stop by and admire a piece of history. The Anchorage, also known as the William Elliott House is believed to be built prior to the Revolutionary War. Stylistic evidence suggests it’s construction dates closer to 1800. This massive home is constructed of tabby and boasts three stories of glorious architecture. The stucco covering the tabby blocks gives the home a look of concrete. The Elliott House is the tallest, double-pile tabby structure. 

William Barnwell House - This is another historic home that you can admire.  The twelve room town house is said to have been built by the Gibbes brothers on behalf of their sister, Sarah Reeve Gibbes, who married William Wigg Barnwell, grandson of the Revolutionary War hero, Major William Hazzard Wigg. During the Civil War, the house served as Union Hospital #4

Other historic sites include - Barnwell-Gough HouseJohn A. Cuthbert HouseFort Lyttelton SiteLaurel Bay PlantationSeacoast Packing CompanyRobert Smalls House and Tabby Manse.

Hunting Island
This beautiful parks has been named One of America's Top Ten Beaches by TripAdvisor. It is located 16 miles east of Beaufort and is South Carolina's most visited state park. You will experience moss covered trees, frolicking dolphins, beautiful beaches, serene waterways, ospreys flying overhead and more!

**Admission fee is $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children (ages 6-15). This includes trails, nature center, beaches and visitor center.

Nature Center and Fishing PierThe Nature Center features live reptiles and exhibits highlighting the park's natural resources. 

Hunting Island Lighthouse - The historic Hunting Island lighthouse was originally constructed in 1859 and is the only lighthouse in the state of South Carolina that is open to the public. From the top platform, for those who are adventurous enough to climb the 167 step spiral staircase, one truly can get a birds eye view of the Atlantic Ocean, the park and surrounding marshes from about 132 feet above the ground. $2 admission fee to climb to the top of the lighthouse.

Visitor CenterThe visitor center blends so well with the natural surroundings you would think it "grew" there. The visitor center is a great spot for Hunting Island and local area information. Be sure to check out the alligators or perhaps catch an educational workshop. 

Trials - There are several great trails including the marsh boardwalk and lagoon. These trails offer great wildlife viewing as well as some geocaching too! 

Check out this post about our visit to Hunting Island.

Port Royal
Port Royal celebrates over 450 years of history. It is the second-deepest natural harbor on the East Coast and because of this it attracted Spanish, French and British explorers throughout history. The town of Port Royal is located between Beaufort River and Battery Creek in the heart of SC Low Country.

Bird-lover’s ParadisePort Royal’s Old Village is home to three diverse habitats: a large open lake, a very rare Bald Cypress swamp with existing boardwalk, and a small duck pond.  This project will provide the community and visitors a wonderful chance to enjoy dramatic lake views, explore different habitats, and offer learning and teaching opportunities about the importance of nature and the diversity of these special habitats.

Cypress Wetlands and Historic Walking Trails - Be sure to check out this beautiful walking trail to enjoy abundant wildlife, bird watching and some history too! Trails are FREE.

Low Country Estruiarium - The Lowcountry Estuarium is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to the principle of “Conservation through Education” The facility’s creatures have been relocated to an interim home in the art gallery/gift shop of the curator, Bob Bender, which is also located in Port Royal at 630 16th St. Ext. Visitation is available seven days a week by APPOINTMENT ONLY by calling 843-524-6600 or 843-263-7969 or email You should plan on spending 45 min. to an hour or even longer with inquisitive kids. And yes, the critters will be fed during your visit. Visiting the animals is FREE but donations will be greatly appreciated.

St. Helena Island
St. Helena Island is located 5 miles east of Beaufort and offers adventurers a glimpse into rural Low Country life both past and present. The majority of the rural and agricultural land on St. Helena is still worked by native residents, many of whom are descended from slaves.

Penn Center - 
This 50 acre campus offers tons of great history. There are 19 buildings located on this campus, old burial grounds, Gantt Cottage where Martin Luther King Jr lodged (and drafted his famous “I have a dream speech”), a Nature trail and Chowan creek. One of the buildings was the first school for the children of freed slaves. The campus is FREE to visit. Museum admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children (under 5 yrs old free)

Fort Freemont Historic Park - This historic fort was completed in 1899 and active until 1921. This historic site features 3 distinct elements which offer visitors a unique and diverse opportunity. The park is FREE to visit however donations are accepted.

SC historic place marker
Image courtesy of Friends of Fort Fremont Park website

Seaside Plantation - Stop by to see this Seaside plantation house which is believed to have been constructed by members of the Fripp family circa 1795 to 1810. The house is architecturally significant as a local interpretation exemplary of the transitional period between the Georgian and Federal styles and is historically significant both for its associations with a locally prominent family and for its role in the Port Royal Experiment. Among the outstanding architectural features of the house are the one-story hipped roof portico, tripartite windows, cantilevered elliptical stair, and the Adam style decoration of the first floor right front room.

Parris Island
Parris Island, SC, consists of 8,095 acres, of which only 3,262 are habitable. The remaining acres are primarily salt marsh. Enlisted male training began here in November 1915. Enlisted female training began here in February 1949. Marines have trained on the Depot during each major conflict of the 20th and 21st century:

Friday Marine Graduation - honor our men and women who serve our country by visiting a Marine graduation ceremony. FREE to visit.

Parris Island Museum - Explore the long and rich legacy of the United States Marine Corps as well as the exciting history of the Port Royal region. Thousands of artifacts, images, and other materials illustrate the varied stories within the exhibit galleries from Native American to modern Marines. FREE to visit.

Image courtesy of Marine Corps website

Iron Mike Tour - Take a walking tour of Parris Island. Be sure to stop by the visitor center first to check in and obtain a map. FREE to visit.

Brick Oil House - The only substantial remnant from Parris Island Range Lights is the brick oil house and a mound of bricks at the site of the dwelling. To reach the oil house today, one must travel across abandoned runways and down a dirt road to the thickly forested area where the oil house is hidden.

Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head is a lowcountry resort town located on an island of the same name in Beaufort County, SC, United States. The island gets its name from Captain William Hilton. In 1663, Hilton identified a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, which he named "Hilton's Head" after himself. The island features 12 miles of beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean and is a popular vacation destination.

Gullah Museum - The mission of the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island is to revive, restore and preserve the Hilton Head Island Gullah history for the benefit of all – lest we forget. The Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization that was established in 2003 to preserve Gullah history, culture, customs, traditions, language, stories, songs  and structures on Hilton Head Island. FREE to visit.

Image courtesy of Gullah Museum website

Coastal Discovery MuseumThe Coastal Discovery Museum was established in 1985 with a mission to teach the public about the natural history and cultural heritage of the Lowcountry.  The Museum makes learning about Hilton Head Island and the surrounding region a fun filled experience for the whole family. There are salt marshes, open fields, stands of centuries old live oak trees, the State's largest Southern Red Cedar tree dated at 1595, and a collection of some of the oldest buildings that exist on Hilton Head Island. FREE to visit, guided tours are extra. Suggested donation $3.

The Sandbox: An Interactive Children's Museum This hands-on interactive museum is filled with unique entertaining, and educational play areas to explore. Children can sail away on Captain William Hilton’s ship of discovery or find their Passport to the World in the international airport terminal with a plane ready for little pilots to fly.  $6 adults and children.

Daufuskie Island
This island is a residential "sea island" between Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina about 2.75 miles offshore. The total island surface is just 8 square miles. The island was named a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places due to its Gullah and Civil War history. It's history traces back to Pre Revolutionary War times. It was the site of a skirmish called the "Daufuskie Fight" during the Yemassee War of 1715–1717.


First Union African Baptist Church - Daufuskie's oldest building, and is still in use today as a place of worship. This church was the First Union African Baptist Church. It is listed as a historical landmark and a must see!

Tabby Ruins - 
Tabby is a building material made from a mixture of ground oyster shells, sand and water. This material was used for buildings on Daufuskie Island, especially on Haig’s Point Plantation. Many slave quarters were constructed of wood and these have long since disintegrated, but remnants of structures made from the very durable tabby remain on Daufuskie Island, Hilton Head Island, and throughout the Lowcountry.

File:Sams Plantation Club Ruins.jpg
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

White School House - The White School House was built in 1913 by the Beaufort County Board of Education for white children who lived on Daufuskie Island. Whether there were twenty students or just one, a teacher was sent to the island. The school closed when the last white child graduated in 1962. Since then, the White School House has been used as fire department headquarters, island library, and thrift shop. Currently the White School House is home to the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation’s archives.

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge - located near the bridge to Hilton Head Island, offers an ideal place to enjoy the natural beauty of the Lowcountry. Once part of the plantation of Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a prominent South Carolina attorney, from 1801 to 1815, this wildlife refuge features 14 miles of trails and an abundance of wildlife.
There are two historic lighthouses on the island, but both require tours to visit. But you may be lucky enough to at least get a glimpse of them: 
Bloody Point Lighthouse, built in 1883 and Haig Point Lighthouse, built in 1873.

Other locations to visit -
 tour map.
For more great historic sites visit The Historic Marker Database for South Carolina.


Amanda C. said...

Beaufort is also home to The Kazoo Factory on John Galts Road. You can browse the museum and gift shop for free OR you can take a guided tour of the factory and make your own kazoo for $4 a person.

Kathy Balman said...

Thanks I'll add it. I saw it during my research but though it was just a store.

Jessica@LivingChic said...

We love Beaufort! My in-laws live in Hambersham and we visit often. We always try to go to Hunting Island and The Shrimp Shack when we are in town. We will try some of your other recommendations on our next visit. Great post!

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