Blue Turtle Cruising

Exploring Beaufort, SC – Historic homes, live oaks and lowcountry charm

When we left Cumberland Island to head north, we knew we had a cold front coming. We decided to try to make it to Beaufort, SC before it hit us. We did a short run to Jekyll Island and stayed overnight before making a much longer run of 77 miles to the Vernon River where we anchored at Possum Point. The next day was another long day of 55 miles in the cold and rain. Sophie and I stayed below most of the trip trying to stay dry and warm. We arrived in Beaufort in the late afternoon, passed under the Lady’s Island Bridge and headed up Factory Creek to anchor. We’d never anchored here before but it looked like a great spot to wait out the additional rain and wind we had coming the next day. The anchorage is very tight and narrow in areas and we ended up reanchoring several times before we felt comfortable we wouldn’t hit any docks or grassy areas when the tide changed.

The next 2 days were very windy and cool with highs in the low 60’s and lows in the 40’s. We ventured to shore a couple of times to take Sophie for a long walk and locate the grocery store and also so Randy and I could get a run in. After being confined to the boat for 3 full days it felt good to stretch our legs to walk and run.

Once the cold front passed and temps began to warm, we pulled anchor and navigated through the Lady’s Island Bridge once again to anchor closer to the free dinghy docks in downtown Beaufort. We immediately went to shore to walk along the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The waterfront park area is one of Beaufort’s best features. The seven meticulously landscaped acres borders the waters edge and provides open spaces for performances, picnics, bocce games, etc. The free hanging swings are fun to sit in and relax while taking in the views. There are also several cafes, bars and restaurants that line the park with beautiful views of the water. One of our favorite spots is the bar and grill, Hemingways Bistro. Besides its friendly staff, it has a great pet-friendly patio where you can usually strike up a conversation with a local.

Beaufort is a great stop along the ICW for several reasons. Aside from the quaint town and historic streets, it also has dinghy docks that are free to use. Provisioning is pretty easy if you dinghy over to the tip of Lady Island where there is a public boat ramp you can tie the dinghy to. A short 3/4 mile walk or so takes you to two grocery stores, a Publix and a Food Lion. Laundry can be done at the Beaufort Marina. I inquired about the code for the laundry door, and they gladly handed it over as well as the WiFi code. Cruiser-friendly places like this make life traveling on a boat a little easier.

On our previous stops in Beaufort, we only stayed a day or two which really only gave us time to checkout the waterfront park and nearby shops. This time, we stayed about a week and it was nice to have that extra time to explore the town some more. Randy and I would go for runs in the mornings through the historic district known as “The Point”. These scenic roads are lined with huge plantation homes and frequently traveled by horse drawn carriages taking people on tours. After several runs through the area, we decided we needed to slow down and take our time exploring these mansions and their history. Using this self-guided walking tour of Beaufort as a starting point, Randy navigated and pushed Sophie in her stroller while I took photos. It was so nice to spend a good part of the day walking all over the residential point as well as exploring other historic streets with churches, sculptures and gardens.

Below are some of the historic homes we found as we walked the streets of Beaufort.

Dr. Joseph Johnson’s House, “The Castle”

Known as “The Castle”, Dr. Joseph Johnson’s House on Craven Street was built in the late 1850’s. The Johnson family moved into the house in 1861 and later that same year Beaufort fell to Union forces. It then served as a Union hospital for wounded military during the Civil War.  Johnson buried the family silver and china on the property and was able to reclaim the home after the war. In the 1999 movie, Forces of Nature, this home was set as the backdrop in the wedding scene.

The Castle/Joseph Johnson House – 411 Craven Street

James Robert Verdier House, “Marshlands”

The James Robert Verdier House, also known as “Marshlands”, was built in 1814 by Dr. James Robert Verdier who discovered a treatment for yellow fever. It is designated a National Historic Landmark for its well-preserved early Beaufort architecture.

Marshlands/James Robert Verdier House

Berners Barnwell Sams House

Built in 1852, this Classic Revival home with large doric columns and plantation made brick was used as a hospital during the Civil War.

B.B. Sams House – 201 Laurens Street

Edgar Fripp House, “Tidalholm”

Tidalholm was built in 1853 by Edgar Fripp, then owner of Fripp Island. The home is mostly surrounded by the waters of Beaufort River. During the Civil War, it served as a Union Hospital for treatment of officers. This home is featured in the movies The Big Chill and The Great Santini.

Tidalholm/Edgar Fripp House – 1 Laurens Street 

George Mosse Stoney House

This two-story, Greek Revival style home was built by Dr. Stoney around 1838.  The Union Army occupied this house from 1861 until 1865.

George Mosse Stoney house – 500 Port Republic Street

John Archibald Johnson House

This three-story house was built by Dr. Johnson in the 1850s. It was confiscated during the Civil War and used as a hospital. It is now privately owned.

John Archibald Johnson House – 804 Pickney Street

James Rhett House

Built in 1886 by James Rhett, a descendant of a powerful political family that led the Secession movement prior to the Civil War. It was initially built only one room deep and was referred to as  “Rhett’s Folly,” because he intended to make it two rooms deep but was later forced to change his plans for financial reasons.

James Rhett House, 303 Federal Street

First African Baptist Church

First African Baptist Church located at 601 New Street in Beaufort, South Carolina, was built in 1863 by freed slaves after the American Civil War. It is still active today.

First African Baptist Church – 601 New Street

Robert Smalls Home

This is the home of Beaufort’s most well-known resident, Robert Smalls. Robert was born into slavery at this home in 1839, to the household of John McKee. At 12 years old he was sent to work on the docks in Charleston by Mckee and he remained there until the outbreak of the Civil War. Robert gained fame for escaping slavery by piloting a Confederate ship past rebel forces at Charleston Harbor and delivering it to Union forces in Beaufort. After the war he returned to Beaufort and purchased his former master’s house. He later served in politics and was elected as the first African American Congressman.

Robert Smalls House – 511 Prince Street
Robert Smalls House – 511 Prince Street
Robert Smalls is buried with his family at the Tabernacle Baptist Church located at 901 Craven St, Beaufort, SC
Cumberland Island to Jekyll Island = 23.5 nm
Jekyll Island to Possum Point (Vernon River) = 77.5 nm
Possum Point (Vernon River) to Beaufort, SC = 55 nm

TOTAL miles to date: = 2,839 nm

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