This past September, when tropical Storm Hermine smacked into the Southeast U.S. coast, the city of Beaufort, South Carolina, suffered some damage. About a month later, when Hurricane Matthew rammed the city even harder, the wreckage was far more substantial. As of late January, some marinas were still working to rebuild, trying to get ready for the first transient boaters to arrive right about the time you read this. “Several marinas were affected,” says Ryan Salley, general manager at Port Royal Landing Marina. “We expect to be ready to go by the transient season. A couple other marinas were not affected, but some got hit very hard. Transient slips may be a little more limited than usual.”
The spring season (from late March to mid-May) and the autumn rush (from late October through early December) are the busiest times at the marinas in Beaufort, with snowbirds coming and going. Most stay a few days, Salley says, others a week, “and you’ve got historic Port Royal right next to Beaufort, so there are a lot of neat things to do.”
Beaufort itself is in great shape, with storm repairs pretty much complete, Salley says. But if you want to be welcomed like a local, you need to pronounce its name correctly: Say BEW-furt, not BOW-furt, like the town of the same spelling in that “other” Carolina to the north. Here in the Lowcountry, they take such things just as seriously as their dirty rice, she-crab soup and fresh buttermilk biscuits.
But once you’re in, boy, you’re in — for a treat. The shopping, restaurants and historical sites will cure anybody’s cabin fever, and if you dock at the right time, you can enjoy some cool festivals. A Taste of Beaufort, with music and seafood, is held in early May; the Beaufort Water Festival, with a craft market and fun games like boccie and badminton, is in mid-July; and the Shrimp Festival, with more than a dozen restaurants bringing their A-game dishes to compete, is in early October.
By then, hopefully, the last of the marina repairs will be done. Until then, make your dockage reservations early.
WHAT TO DO
Dock and Walk
You know you have cruised into a special part of the U.S. when you see not only fresh oysters on the menu but also everything from fried cornmeal-crusted okra to Lowcountry pork schnitzel. Look to order a Lowcountry boil with shrimp and sausage if you get the chance, or any local version of shrimp and grits, of course.
The Old Sheldon Church Ruins contain the remains of Col. William Bull, who is not as well known as James Oglethorpe, but who did much of the land surveying to create the grid pattern in Oglethorpe’s layout of Savannah, Georgia. The two men sailed together along the coast, seeking a site for colonists to settle. Bull later became acting governor of South Carolina.
Old Sheldon Church Ruins / Hunting Island Light
Hunting Island Light is one of just two lighthouses in the U.S. built in cast-iron segments that can be taken apart (the other is Florida’s Cape Canaveral Light). They came in handy in 1889, when beach erosion forced the South Carolina lighthouse to move more than a mile from its original spot.