/ by Stephanie Burnette
I visit Beaufort about every other year and this trip I noticed how reset downtown feels. No longer just a picturesque village with its historic draw, Beaufort has popped with a bevy of new shops and restaurants, extended sidewalks, events and a photo opp at every turn. I catch myself telling people to get back to Beaufort, SC asap.
Bay Street anchors downtown and kudos to the city for its campaign directing visitors to wear masks, especially inside retail stores. Nearly every restaurant offers patio seats, most facing the water and the bridge, all framed with dripping Spanish moss. Bring your walkable footwear game, Beaufort is a great place to wander historic neighborhoods and parks and cemeteries between stints of shopping. Art, antiques, design interiors, gifts, books and botanicals sit mere steps apart, peppered with coffee and tea stops, ice cream, cocktails and tapas.
I want to say it feels like a more curated Charleston, a smaller Savannah or a closer Wilmington; or maybe Beaufort is simply showing us its best day, marrying a sense of place with commerce attractive to lively residents and visitors alike.
Scout Southern Market & Sweet Tea Bar
709 Bay St | scoutsouthernmarket.com
Rattan, upscale table and bar ware, better candles, ceramics and maritime items abound. After shopping, visit the Sweet Tea Bar at the back of the shop with its custom Scout iced tea wallpaper: scoops of sorbet topped with iced tea make a float.
COOK on Bay
720 Bay St | cookonbay.com
I think vacation is a fabulous time to shop for the kitchen without duress. This stocked store has lots of handheld utensils and local sundries to bring home, enamelware and the latest for baking.
811 Bay St
One of South Carolina’s best stores for interior design, M offers chic global imports, both new and vintage, beautiful furnishings and tabletop (including books), complete with a petite lighting and fixture showroom.
819 Bay St | cabana22.com
This new store is a mix of accessories and home goods focused on tableware, seasonal décor and smalls for entertaining. Handmade jewelry and fun pouches add to the mix with couture bedding at the back.
Atelier on Bay
203 West St | atelieroffbay.com
Fourteen working studios and galleries, Atelier offers a broad look at working artists of the Low Country, in nearly every medium. Browse the studios and if you can land here on a First Friday, nearly every artist will be available for a chat.
Tidal Creek Haven Home & Garden
200 Carteret St | tidalcreekhaven.com
Plant lovers, here is your stop. Tidal Creek Haven’s displays are Insta-good so have your phone in hand. Woodland mushrooms made from driftwood stole my heart and tiny houseplants and terrariums abound.
Otis Dry Goods Co.
202 Carteret St
This handsome store stocks upscale gifts and tabletop items along with period furnishings, inspired staging, good art and fixtures. Letter-pressed cards and cocktail supplies round out the bespoke environs.
bachelor hill antiques
206 Carteret St | bachelorhillantiques.com
Simply a fabulous store with period antiques, bachelor hill makes me fall for old all over again. Beautiful chests and armoires mix with original mid-century art, Victorian collectibles and better salvage. Don’t miss garden items out back.
702 Craven St | nevermorebooks.com
A haven for the book lover, Nevermore stocks all the expected plus a vast array of coffee table books, rare and antique books. The building alone is worth a look and the interiors will charm you with its antique curios and cabinetry.
Amidst the Alders
223 Scott St | Amidstthealders.com
This curated gift shop has a precious tagline: the whimsical, the curious, the rare + the lovely; vintage finds, handmade jewelry, craft chocolates, a dried flower bar, garden tools and primitive antiques, repurposed items, sea charts and fossils.
Where to eat, drink and retreat:
Herban Market and Cafe
Every town needs a Herban Market. Coffee, breakfast, takeout lunch all freshly made in a converted gas station, now white-washed to perfection. Eat here.
Shrimp Shack (St. Helena Island)
Off the beaten path, the Shrimp Shack is an institution with its treehouse like location on the way to the natural beaches of Hunting Island State Park.
Saltus River Grill
Home to SC Chef Ambassador Brian Waters, Saltus is a standard when in Beaufort. A gorgeous wine list, well-informed servers and beautiful seafood specials make Saltus a must stop.
Old Bull Tavern
Don’t blink or you’ll miss the sign and you may want a reservation, even for drinks. Old Bull is the definition for modern dining with a serious craft cocktail and bar snacks game.
You won’t be a stranger for long once you sip a drink at Breakwater and the cocktail program is run by Liam Galán, a serious barman with a great personality.
The Beaufort Inn
I can’t decide if it’s the location, the colossal bathrooms, the lovely bedding, the parking, the bikes, the service or the grounds that tip The Beaufort Inn over the top. Maybe it’s all of it. Stay here.
Anchorage Boutique Inn
If you love a B&B, then Anchorage is the place. The converted mansion is run with rapt attention and waterfront porches and rooftop make this stay extra special. Their restaurant, The Ribault Social Club, is exceptional and reservation only.
One of America’s most historic places.
Beaufort was held by the Union Army as early as 1861 and it’s here, in Beaufort, that a slave named Robert Smalls became a war hero by delivering a commandeered Confederate battleship. Later, Smalls was a significant landholder in Beaufort, a civic leader and an elected rep to both the SC and US House during Reconstruction.
Learn more about Beaufort’s fascinating place in history by visiting South Carolina’s first National Park: the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park, just designated a year ago in 2019. Start at the Old Beaufort Firehouse, which acts as headquarters for the significant district. Walking tours are offered to visit many historic sites and neighborhoods through the National Park as well as via the Beaufort Visitors Center, a gem of a stop, just across the block.
Reconstruction Era National Historic Park headquarters:
Old Beaufort Firehouse | 706 Craven St | nps.gov/reer
Old Beaufort Visitors Center | 713 Craven St | beaufortsc.org/visitors-center