Welcome to Beaufort, South Carolina, “Southern Living” magazine’s 2017 choice for Best Small Town. With numerous adventures awaiting you and the kids just steps from the door of Beaufort vacation rentals, this charming coastal town abounds with rich history and abundant beauty. Take the family on a walking tour of this historic city’s quaint streets, hire a covered buggy, or put everyone to work and rent a cute two-or-four person pedal bike. The historic district has an impressive collection of antebellum architecture that ranges in style from Federal and neoclassical to Greek Revival.

1. Parris Island Museum

A Marine recruit’s military life begins at the Parris Island Training Depot in Beaufort. Your family can witness a graduation on any Friday afternoon and partake in an unusually moving and patriotic experience. The museum has thousands of artifacts documenting the history of the Port Royal region’s military role from the American Revolution to the Civil War. An interesting time line displays Parris Island’s recruiting depot establishment from the Spanish American War through today. Kids get a kick out of exploring the barracks and admission is free.

2. Spanish Moss Trail

Get a real taste of scenic Southern habitats when you explore the 13.6-mile Spanish Moss Trail. This unused railway is a multi-use “rail-to-trail” corridor that winds its way through Beaufort and Port Royal. This wide, smooth concrete surface makes the trail ideal for inline skating, horseback riding, or bicycling, and a stroller sails along quite well.

3. Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and Pigeon Point Park

Let the kids burn off some energy at this gorgeous downtown park located next to the Woods Memorial Bridge. The Woods Bridge swing opens hourly to allow boaters access to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, so remind the kids to watch for that. Open green space is plentiful, and you can park on a bench swing as you watch the kids slide, swing, and climb the play structures. Look up and catch a glimpse of U.S. Marine Corps aircraft as it flies overhead. Pigeon Point Park, located just a few minutes away from Waterfront Park, is a great place for a picnic at tables situated under shady trees, and it’s fenced for extra safety. The merry-go-round and plastic tree house are popular draws for the younger kids.

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4. Hunting Island Beach and State Park

Splash in the waves along the five-mile shoreline, then take a hike and climb the 130-foot lighthouse stairs for spectacular ocean views. You can learn a lot about the park and the wildlife inhabitants at the nature center and perhaps glimpse an alligator or two at the refuge.

5. Kazoobie Kazoo Museum

Kids love making their own kazoos at this uncommon factory. Get an eyeful as you watch kazoos being made, imprinted, packaged, and shipped around the world. The museum is packed with an impressive collection of historical kazoos, pictures, tools, articles, and stories about this uniquely American instrument.

6. Captain Dick’s River Tour and Dolphin Watch

There’s never a dull moment as you cruise Beaufort River in search of shipwrecks, dolphins, sea urchins, starfish, and osprey. You can stay cool as a cucumber on the 30-passenger, double-decked Beaufort Belle, thanks to the river’s refreshing and natural air conditioning. The ebb and flow of the salt water tides freshen the Beaufort River, so don’t be surprised if a friendly dolphin or two swims alongside your craft as you explore the ecology of the sea marshes. During the 19th century, merchantmen shipped grain from the plantations in its hull. As one unlucky ship, the Clifton, cruised downriver it sprung a leak. Wet, expanding grain burst through the hull, and stranded the vessel on a sandbar just feet from the shore. History assumes that no men were lost at sea that day as the walk home was most likely short, but you can spot the wreck when the tide is low.

7. Beaufort Movie Tour

Beaufort and the surrounding areas have become popular backdrop locations for Hollywood movies. Board the air-conditioned tour bus and visit the set locations where, among others, Platoon, the Prince of Tides, and Forrest Gump were filmed. The tour rolls past the Beaufort homes where stars stayed while in town, then gives you a glimpse of the Gump Medical Center before turning into the National Cemetery where the Great Santini is buried. The entertaining tour guide keeps everyone involved and does a great job of weaving Beaufort history and culture into the trip.

8. The Chocolate Tree

Tom Hanks loved hanging out at The Chocolate Tree while in town filming Forrest Gump. Step up to the window and watch as talented candy makers shape the creamy chocolate into seaside shapes, such as starfish, alligators, and shells, then hang around for free samples. If you can swing it, plan your vacation during the annual ‘all you can eat’ chocolate event.

9. Lowcountry Kayak Tours

Prepare to be thrilled when you head out on a kayak tour in the Beaufort area. On the Beaufort history tour, you can spot several of the antebellum mansions along the shore that once belonged to the cotton plantation society. Here, you can glean an understanding of Beaufort’s prominent role in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Explore the salt marsh ecology while kayaking through a series of creeks searching for shrimp, blue crabs, and oysters, then step out of the kayak onto a sandbar to examine some marine organisms you capture with a net. Kayak through the Fripp Inlet marsh at high tide in search of frisky bottlenose dolphins, or paddle past a working shrimp dock and examine the boat’s rigging. History meets nature in the ACE Basin, once the site of a cypress swamp forest. Rice cultivation in the 1600s transformed this area into a freshwater habitat for plants, birds, and alligators.

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