Beaufort is a picturesque city on the South Carolina coast with a rich history and thriving culture. It’s a fantastic spot for history lovers, architecture buffs, literary minds, and well, anybody who loves Lowcountry cooking and unique shopping.
Although Beaufort was officially settled by the British in 1711, it was the subject of earlier exploration by other countries. In 1520—not long after Columbus landed!—Captain Francisco Gordillo of Spain founded the colony of Santa Elena mainly as a post to fend off French forces.
In 1562 Jean Ribaut founded a colony of French Protestants in the New World. This became Port Royal. It prompted a return of the Spanish, who conquered the fledgling colony and remained a presence in the area until the 1700s. At this point, English colonists established a foothold at Port Royal.
After many flags flew over Beaufort, it became the second city established in South Carolina. Due to its strategic location and successful exporting of cotton, indigo, and rice, the city prospered and became a vacation spot for wealthy plantation owners and businessmen from Charleston, who built spectacular homes in Beaufort’s center. During the Civil War, Beaufort was occupied by Union naval forces without a single shot being fired, which spared the impressive homes and churches from damage.
In addition to Beaufort’s military history, it has a fascinating connection to Gullah culture. Many of the Gullahs’ early ancestors were brought to the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry through the ports of Charleston and savannah as slaves. They are known for preserving more of their African heritage than any other community in the US, speaking an English-based creole language, and maintaining storytelling, music, folk arts, cuisine, farming and fishing traditions.
Finally, Beaufort is a thriving cultural center for the arts. Fans of Pat Conroy’s works can check out significant spots from his childhood and adulthood that inspired his beloved characters and settings. Beaufort is also known as a fun spot for film aficionados! It’s the thoughtfully-preserved historic district and sweeping marshes have been the backdrop for many favorite films. Visitors to Beaufort can check out set locations from favorites like The Big Chill, Forest Gump, Prince of Tides, and more!