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Two charming SC towns top a travel guide

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The swing-span Woods Memorial Bridge, seen from Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, is one of Beaufort’s most notable landmarks.

File photo

The typical big names — Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island — weren’t on TheTravel’s list of charming South Carolina destinations.

Instead, smaller locales dominated the chart.

TheTravel, a website that tells 4 million readers where to go, eat and sleep, focused on scenic spots in South Carolina bursting with history, architecture and nature.

Bluffton took first place, knocking out Anderson and Clemson. And Beaufort came in eighth for its vibrant downtown and rich history.

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Sunset on the River May near the Church of the Cross in Bluffton Wendy Purdy Submitted

The site praised Bluffton, often referred to as “the last true coastal village in the South,” for the beauty and utility of the River May, as well as the town’s restaurants and artisan shops.

TheTravel suggested a stay at Montage Palmetto Bluff, a sprawling 20,000-acre community on the May River. Or, conversely, a spot at Stoney Crest Plantation Campground, a year-round campground 10 miles from Hilton Head Island.

In the heart of the Lowcountry, Bluffton has been described as “eclectic” because it’s teeming with artists, art galleries, festivals and parades, according to the town’s website. Bluffton’s history dates back to its incorporation in 1852 as a 1 square mile river town, but it began to prosper and expand in 1998. But in 2019 it grew to 54 square miles and now has more of 20,000 inhabitants.

History buffs cannot miss the Heyward House and Museum, the Garvin-Garvey House and the Church of the Cross. Nature lovers can head to the May River to see vast marshes, dolphins, and birds while taking a boat or kayak.

The town is full of restaurants offering seafood and fresh produce, and it’s almost certain that there’s some sort of event to attend every weekend. Check the town’s website when you travel to Bluffton to see all it has to offer that week.

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Bluffton Oyster Co. on Wharf Street is one of many restaurants in town that offer fresh seafood. Drew Martin [email protected]

Although it didn’t beat Bluffton for the top title, the town of Beaufort has won numerous awards for architecture, beauty and friendliness, being named the nation’s happiest beach town in 2013 by the magazine Coastal Living.

Beaufort’s rapture comes from its centuries-old history, dating back to the 1500s. The second oldest town in the state, it is located on the island of Port Royal and is one of the few towns whose entire center -town has been designated as a historic district by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, according to the SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Site.

TheTravel suggested either a stay at the Beaufort Inn, the Landmark Historic District or the Best Western Sea Island Inn, both located in the heart of the historic district.

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The Maxcy-Rhett House, also known as the Secession House, at 1113 Craven St. is in downtown Beaufort. Stephen Fastenau [email protected]

Pastel antebellum homes dot the city’s downtown area, which is packed with local vendors and restaurants serving Southern cuisine. Visitors can sit by the downtown marina near Henry C. Chambers waterfront park or take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city.

History buffs can spend the day in the Historic District where they can see the Robert Smalls House, Estate House, Lewis Reeves Sams House, Verdier House, among many other well-known properties. The Reconstruction-era National Historic Park and the Beaufort History Museum are also must-visits.

There’s no shortage of art, culture and history, and there’s plenty to eat in the town of Beaufort. And of course, this is not an exhaustive list that the city has to offer.

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A variety of boats are moored at the downtown Beaufort Marina. The city is looking to find a new operator for the marina and make potential improvements to continue attracting visitors and increasing public access. Stephen Fastenau [email protected]

Sarah Haselhorst, a native of St. Louis, writes about weather issues along the South Carolina coast. Her work is produced with the financial support of a grant from the Energy Foundation. She graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia, where she studied journalism and sociology. Previously, Sarah spent time reporting in Jackson, Mississippi; Cincinnati, Ohio; and middle Missouri.