BEAUFORT, S.C. — If you are looking for a quiet spot to spend time as a family, where time seems to slow down but there is still plenty to do when you are feeling active, take a gander at Beaufort. This sleepy town is so picturesque that Hollywood has used it as the backdrop for such films as "The Prince of Tides" and "Forest Gump," and while there are many lovely cafes, bakeries, chocolateries, coffee shops and restaurants in the district, you won't find a Starbucks or a McDonald's in town.
Take a tour of the downtown area in a horse-drawn carriage - Southern Rose Buggy Tours offers them with a covered top to protect you and yours from the Southern sun. The tour guide and driver know the area inside and out, telling you all about not only historical landmarks and homes that you pass, but also stories and legends that go hand in hand with history (both modern and past).
An amusing anecdote related to Barbara Streisand and the local Marines is sure to have your group laughing - make sure you ask what "the sound of freedom" is if your guide forgets to tell you. Each tour lasts about an hour, and if you bring peppermint candies along, you will be able to give the carriage horse a treat.
Cruise around the area with Captain Dick River Tours on the Prince of Tides sightseeing boat, where dolphins, cranes and other wildlife can be seen as you tour the river. The daily 75-minute tour leaves the Downtown Marina at the Beaufort Waterfront Park at 2 p.m.; all seats are $24 (no charge for infants). The kids will love the local fauna, and mom and dad will enjoy hearing about the historic homes, celebrity sightings and movie-production stories. There also is a 2-hour sunset cruise option two days a week (seasonally) Tuesday and Saturday evenings.
After you're done exploring the downtown Waterfront Park and Playground, make a quick stop to Southern Sweets Ice Cream Parlor. This old-fashioned ice cream parlor will be a hit with the entire family. Complete with soda fountains, hand-dipped ice cream and marble tabletops, it offers everything from ice cream cones to banana splits to egg cremes. The parlor also has homemade brownies and pralines, a must try.
If your sweet tooth still isn't satisfied, and perhaps you'd like a unique souvenir to take home, pay a visit to The Lollipop Shop. Not only do they carry every kind of candy (and sweet beverage) - even hard-to-find "retro" stuff - but you can buy candy in many ways: by the piece, the pound, the box or the stuffed animal. That's right - you (or your child, should you feel so generous) can choose from two sizes and about two dozen styles of stuffed toys, which come "hollow," so to speak. You then stuff your toy full of candy from the baskets in the store, and when it's full, they close it up, name it, and give you a "birth certificate" for your new buddy. They also give you a box of stuffing to take with you, so that when the candy is eaten, you have a soft and cuddly toy to keep forever. This was nearly everyone's favorite find, and one that we will surely visit again next time we are in the area.
Two restaurants the whole crew will enjoy are Fat Patties and The Foolish Frog. Fat Patties will strongly appeal to the burger-loving crowd, although they have so much more then burgers (also serving items such as bratwurst, salads and sandwiches). The patties (hence the name) can be ordered with nearly any topping, cheese, bun, sauce and even several choices of meat or vegetarian patties. (For example, not only a shrimp patty, but also a half-beef, half-bacon patty.)
Fat Patties also offers an amazing selection of craft beers. They have 19 on draft, including at least six from hyper-local breweries (from Charleston to Atlanta). They also make ice cream on location, in small (thus fresh) batches. While they always have the traditional vanilla, chocolate and (most-popular flavor) Burnt Marshmallow, you can also get seasonal favorites such as Local Peach Cobbler, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Maple Bacon Pancake or Spiced Pumpkin. The staff couldn't be friendlier (even if you have a motley child or two) and will gladly give you recommendations. Mine is to eat at Fat Patties as soon as you can get to town.
If it's authentic Southern Lowcountry food you are seeking, head to the Foolish Frog. Specializing in seafood, steak and barbeque, it also has a small kids menu. You can eat indoors or outside on a back patio with a wetland view and roof or umbrellas to shade you from the Southern sun. Dinner is a great time to stop by, as the sunset views are lovely. And if you like pulled pork, theirs is excellent.
Before you head home, visit Hunting Island State Park. Voted one of the top beaches in the state and also one of the most popular state parks in South Carolina, it's a stop everyone will look forward to. Bring your beach gear and a picnic, or grab some food at a nearby food stand. There is a cute hut run by the park that sells ice cream and souvenirs. If you have the South Carolina state park passport, make sure you collect your stamp! (If you don't, here is a great place to grab one.)
Once you dry off (or better yet, before you get wet), climb the 167 steps in the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse. For $2 and a little sweat, you can get one of the best views of the area available. (Open from March through February; hours vary seasonally.)
IF YOU GO:
Plan your vacation at http://www.beaufortsc.org/