Finding Southern splendor in Beaufort, South Carolina

Live oak trees draped in Spanish moss and sprouting Resurrection ferns, wetlands and waterways that are home to coastal birds and other fauna as well as an abundance of historical sites are at the heart of Beaufort, South Carolina.

Located about 42 miles north of Savannah and a four-and-a-half-hour drive from DeKalb County, Beaufort makes for an easy weekend or weeklong getaway. Although the vibe in Beaufort is laid back, there’s also an assortment of things to do if one desires.

Tours by foot, horse-drawn carriage, golf cart and small-passenger buses are among the options to explore Beaufort and neighboring Lady’s Island and St. Helena Island. Many of the tours take guests through Beaufort’s Historic District where scores of antebellum homes are located. Unlike many other Southern communities ravaged by fire during the Civil War, Beaufort was unscathed, and the homes reflect the care given to their preservation. Movie locations are the theme of other tours and visitors are taken to sites where such movies as Forest Gump, G.I. Jane and Deliverance were filmed.

I spent three hours on a Grayline Gullah Geechee bus tour that concentrates on the history of the 10,000 West Africans brought to Beaufort and enslaved to work the fields that made Beaufort plantation owners rich. Known as the Gullah people, many became landowners after the Civil War and a large contingent still live in Beaufort and St. Helena.

Two wraparound porches are features of The Rhett House Inn.

Other things to do in the area include:
• Visit the Pat Conroy Literary Center
• Check out Beaufort Arsenal
• Explore art galleries and craft shops throughout downtown Beaufort, Old Village of Port Royal, and on St. Helena Island
• Stay outdoors for kayaking, fishing, hiking, boating and other related activities.
My overnight accommodations at The Rhett House Inn couldn’t have been more ideal.

Located in the historic district and in waking distance to dining and Beaufort’s waterfront, The Rhett House Inn offers 19 rooms in three residences—the main house, the two-bedroom Newcastle House next door and The Cottage a few steps away.

My hosted stay in the main house was in a second-floor room with a ceiling that looked to be 15-feet high with bay windows that overlooked the garden and four-poster bed.

At a time when amenities are being trimmed at some properties, the inn has retained daylong perks for its guests. After a made-to-order breakfast each morning in the white tablecloth dining room, guests are offered tea and cookies as well as cheese and crackers in the parlor (wine or cocktail upon request) at different times throughout the day. Dessert is set out in the kitchen in the evenings as well. (All included in the room rate.)

The Rhett House Inn has been owned by the Harrison family since 1986. Photos by Gale Horton Gay

Time at the inn can be spent exploring the garden or relaxing on one of the two wraparound porches smartly outfitted with black wicker furniture with bold black and white striped cushions and hanging ferns surrounded by massive live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Indoors, the large parlor with fireplace and multiple seating areas is ideal for reading, chilling out or conversing.

No stranger to celebrity guests, the inn has hosted Barbra Streisand, Ben Affleck, Robin Givens, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hanks and others.

The inn has been owned by the Harrison family since 1986. Current owner John Harrison, who took over operation of the inn two years ago from his parents, said his goal is make guests feel like they’re having a “timeless experience” while staying in someone’s home.

Built in Greek Revival style in 1820 by Thomas Rhett as his in-town plantation house, it was abandoned during the Civil War and later became a hospital, a real estate development office, a morgue and eventually an inn.
Rates at the inn range from $200 to $500 per night. For details on the inn, go to

For more information on visiting Beaufort, go to

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