SC Outdoor Recreation
For all the beauty of its grand mansions,
historic fortifications, haunting graveyards and memorable church
steeples, Beaufort is just as easily enjoyed for its nature, and
outdoor activities abound throughout the year.
The most obvious choice for fun in the sun is on the water, which
Beaufort County has in abundance, boasting more waterfront area than
any other in South Carolina. This maze of pristine rivers, estuaries
and tidal creeks meanders throughout for miles past old plantations,
windswept marshes and huge stands of moss-draped oaks. The ebb and
flow of water is a vital component of an incredible variety of
wildlife that puts on a showy spectacle.
Bottlenose dolphins frequently swim into
protected inlets in search of fish and crabs feeding on shallow
bottoms. On board such local expeditions as Capt. Dick’s Beaufort
River Tour and Dolphin Watch, Beaufort Kayak Tours, and the River
Safari, paddlers and boat passengers can observe two remarkable
dolphin techniques. One is “tailing”, in which the powerful mammal
plunges with its tail fin splashing wildly on the surface, driving the
dolphin’s nose into mud where its prey are hiding. The other is called
“stranding”, in which the dolphin rushes through the water at great
speed, pushing its body and a wall of water up on a shallow mud bank,
where the big predator gulps down flopping fish before wiggling back
into the water.
A seemingly endless flight of birds passes over Beaufort’s coastal
waters, from whistler swans that migrate south in the winter, to the
local varieties of egrets, herons, and ospreys. With so much island
habitat divided by bodies of water, it is also common to see deer and
raccoons swimming in transit with heads bobbing above the surface.
Another traditional sight is that of the
local shrimp and crab harvesters with their distinctive boats and
gear. The shrimp trawlers ply area such as St. Helena Sound with large
spreading outriggers that drag nets along the bottom. With the tons of
shrimp and fish gathered, there are always flocks of diving pelicans
following in the trawlers’ wake. Crabbers are distinguished by their
long, open boats piled with mesh cages. These crab traps are pulled
from the bottom of creeks and bays daily, gathered by hauling in
floats attached to long ropes that are winched in and turned over,
revealing scores of colorful blue crabs, a local delicacy for which
Beaufort is famous.
If you would rather catch the sea fare
yourself, Beaufort features a wide range of angling charters for both
off-shore and in-shore fishing, including Bay Street Outfitters,
Beaufort Coastal Adventures, Beaufort on the Fly, Aqua Sport Inc./Sea
Wolf Charter, and Cast Away Charters.
The more spectacular aspects of boating
can also be enjoyed from the land during the annual Beaufort Water
Festival each July, in which spectators along the beautiful Waterfront
Park area can observe professional races featuring Formula One tunnel
boats, Zap Cats and other super-powered muscle boats clocking speeds
well over 110 miles an hour.
If the inclination is more slow-paced and
serene on foot, Beaufort features the incomparable beauty of Hunting
Island State Park only twenty minutes from the historic downtown area.
This secluded barrier island offers miles of hiking trails through
old-growth forest, a secluded stretch of white-sand public beach, and
a remarkable 19th century lighthouse. The 140-foot tower can still be
climbed to the top for one of America’s most fascinating views, and
offering a first-hand experience in the fabled “lighthouse leg”
weariness that was part of the life of the lighthouse keeper. A
completely intact light keeper’s village displays the lenses used, and
methods of maintain the tower that also served as a day marker. The
most unique aspect of the historic light is construction design in
which all parts are adjustable and numbered, allowing for the massive
structure to be completely dismantled and moved farther inland when
threatened by erosion in 1889.
Also high on the list of
well-above-the-radar locations is
Beaufort’s City Loft Hotel,
complete with upscale amenities such as its City Java & News espresso
bar. This invigorating boutique hotel in the heart of the historic
district relaxes and refreshes guests for a more enjoyable outdoor
experience in Beaufort’s expanse of natural wonders.