Cruising Destinations

Cruising Through Lower South Carolina

Beaufort, South Carolina  32' 25.767ᵒN 080' 40.467ᵒW

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South Carolina has numerous delightful small towns to explore, but two of our very favorite stops are Beaufort and Hilton Head Island. 

Beaufort, the second oldest town in South Carolina, was founded in 1711. The town of Beaufort, which is the county seat of Beaufort County, was named for the Englishman Henry Somerset, Second Duke of Beaufort, England. 

Beaufort is located on Port Royal Island in the heart of the Sea Islands and South Carolina Lowcountry. The city is known for its scenic location and for maintaining a historic character by preservation of its antebellum architecture. The city is also known for its military establishments, being located in close proximity to Parris Island and a U.S. naval hospital, in addition to being home of the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. 

The downtown area is fun for a walkabout featuring many waterfront restaurants with amazing views and very tasty cuisine. A good place to start is The Beaufort Visitors Center in the Arsenal at 713 Craven Street. Beaufort has been the inspirational setting for several major motion pictures including The Big Chill, The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, Forrest Gump, Something To Talk About and G.I. Jane.

Cruising Destinations, Waterway Guide, Hilton Head Island, Beaufort, South Carolina

Downtown Beaufort, South Carolina

Within a short walk from the downtown Beaufort waterfront, you can view magnificent antebellum homes. There are guided tours available for some of the historical homes, and you won't be disappointed with any of them.  History abounds in and around Beaufort. Plus, there is wide variety of restaurants as well as ice cream parlors and coffee houses. You certainly won't go hungry in this town. If you want to do some souvenir shopping, that is available, along with plenty of antiques shops. Bicycle rentals and carriage tours are available if you prefer not to walk.

Today Beaufort boasts a beautiful tree-fringed waterfront park and has some outstanding marinas. The Downtown Marina is Beaufort's nautical gateway to the Intracoastal Waterway and the surrounding Sea Islands. It overlooks the lush Waterfront Park and provides easy access to restaurants and cafes, inns and charming shops. Three miles south of downtown, Safe Harbor Port Royal Landing Marina is close to a West Marine, a supermarket and other shopping. Just across the swing bridge, on Lady's Island, is Lady's Island Marina, which has an easy walk to restaurants, two markets, a package store and a large hardware store. Several boat landings exist in the city and in the surrounding areas. If you need the services of a mechanic or a shipwright on your vessel, there are plenty nearby from which to choose, including Marsh Harbor Boat Works. (Refer to the Atlantic ICW Waterway Guide for dockage details for Beaufort).

Beaufort also has several festivals to attract your attention. In May, The Gullah Festival celebrates the Gullah heritage, which is only found in the Beaufort and Lowcountry region of North and South Carolina and Georgia. The Gullah are descendants of the enslaved people from Africa and have a language of their own. In October, the Shrimp Festival features shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp. The local restaurants serve up their own unique recipes. There is live music and a lot of fun to be had. 

All in all, Beaufort is a beautiful and charming southern town. Make sure it's on your list of places to visit.

Hilton Head Island 32'08.317ᵒN 080'48.850ᵒW

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The Harbour Town Yacht Basin on Hilton Head Island.

Hilton Head Island, sometimes referred to as simply Hilton Head, is a Lowcountry resort town located on an island of the same name in Beaufort County, South Carolina. It is 20 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia, and 95 miles southwest of Charleston. The island gets its name from Captain William Hilton. In 1663, Hilton identified a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, and it was named "Hilton's Head" after him. The island features 12 miles of beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean and is a very popular vacation destination.

The Town of Hilton Head Island was incorporated as a municipality in 1983 and is well known for its ecological development. A large portion of the island, including most of the tourist areas, is located inside gated communities. But the island is also very boater friendly. There are several marinas on the island that accept transient boats and have good facilities, including Hilton Head Harbor, which has dockage in an enclosed basin, a pool, spa amenities and an on-site restaurant in a tropical environment.  There are numerous other docking options here; check the Atlantic ICW Waterway Guide for information on marinas in Hilton Head. Most of the marinas either have restaurants on the premises or very nearby. If you want to get away from the boat for a while, there are a lot of restaurants to choose from with varied types of cuisine. Rental cars, golf carts and shuttle buses are available for transportation, if needed. Big-box store shopping is also on the island, but you will definitely need some mode of transportation to get there.

You can easily stay busy on the island. Nature paths and catwalks along with meandering bike trails allow you to explore the wildlife sanctuaries and the marshlands. The Audubon Society regularly sponsors and leads visitors on bird walks. The Sandbox is an interactive children's museum that has hands-on exhibits for your child. Golf is one of the most popular activities. (There are 25 championship courses on Hilton Head Island.) The PGA plays an annual tournament here: The Heritage Golf Classic, on the Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort, is held every April just one week after the Masters.

Finding the Harbour Town Yacht Basin is made easy because of the Harbour Town Lighthouse. The red and white striped structure stands 90 feet tall and for a small fee you can climb to the top and visually explore the area. Plus photograph some incredibly gorgeous scenery.

Cruising Destinations, Waterway Guide, Hilton Head Island, Beaufort, South Carolina

Hilton Head has all of the usual attractions that are common to resort areas. You can rent a paddleboard or go parasailing. All sorts of tours are available, including alligator boat tours, historical site tours, wildlife exhibits, bird watching, kayaking and beachcombing for shells. The possibilities are endless.

The Low Country (North and South Carolina and Georgia) is home to the extremely beautiful Sea Islands. The National Park Service controls some of them, and some are part of the state park service. All are worth your time to visit. 

A couple of the things that we love about being full-time cruising are: 1) the incredibly interesting people that we meet, and 2) being able to visit small towns like Beaufort and Hilton Head and explore their beauty and history.