Coastal Living Magazine proclaimed Beaufort the nation’s “Happiest Seaside Town” earlier this year, citing “Lowcountry friendliness and urban refinement ... antebellum architecture, exquisite local cuisine, and rich African-American heritage.”
In nominating towns, editors considered qualities such as rankings in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, as well as the number of sunny days, beach health, walkability and intangibles such as “coastal vibe.”
Beaufort possesses all those attributes. It lies on Port Royal Sound and the banks of the brackish Beaufort River. Open water is 16 miles east of the historic town center, where Hunting Island State Park sports three miles of pristine beachfront, acres of woodland and a historic lighthouse.
Set in the heart of South Carolina’s Sea Islands, Beaufort’s walkable downtown boasts art galleries, bookstores and antique shops. Restaurants serve fresh-off-the-boat seafood and classic Lowcountry cuisine such as thick, spicy gumbos and just-picked collard greens. And a sprawling waterfront park doubles as a stage for live concerts.
History here is just like a Lowcountry breeze blowing through the salt marshes. Roots run deep in downtown Beaufort, designated a National Historic Landmark, as well as on nearby St. Helena Island, home to a rich Gullah heritage nurtured by slave descendents.
The spot also figures into civil rights history as a place where early movement leaders strategized, and where Martin Luther King Jr., wrote part of his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Beaufort in the movies
Hollywood discovered Beaufort with the filming of “The Great Santini,” released in 1979. It was based on the novel by long-time resident Pat Conroy, who’s still a fixture around town. Enough notable films — “The Big Chill” and “Forrest Gump,” among others — followed, to spark the creation of drive-by tours of on-location sites.
Other sorts of artists predate the movie makers’ arrivals. Beaufort has been an art mecca since the late 1800s, notes J.W. Roane, executive director of the local arts council.
But is it a happy arts town?
“It’s special. The spreading oaks and Spanish moss give it a romantic nature. “But people come to Beaufort because it’s beautiful. And yes, you could say it’s the happiest seaside place.”
For more information on renting an apartment in Beaufort, SC, contact Ashton Pointe.