Beaufort, South Carolina

Best Places to Retire in South Carolina


Beaufort (pronounced like “beautiful”) has been traced back 4,000 years to Archaic Indians. Spanish ships arrived about 1521, and a French explorer came to the area in 1562 and dubbed it “Porte Royall.” England, Spain and Scotland all tried to lay claim to the area over the next two hundred years.

Then in 1715 two Native American tribes fought to regain the land, and pirates laid claim as well. By the 1800s the town of Port Royal was at peace and had found prosperity as well. Sea Island cotton had become a valuable commodity, and indigo and rice plantations flourished. Wealthy plantation owners built many of Beaufort’s historic mansions during this period. A devastating hurricane in 1893 brought tragedy as well as economic hardship to the area.

Today Beaufort has a population of about 13,000. The downtown area is filled with mansions, offers a glimpse of the city’s rich history. More than 90 significant buildings and historic sites are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the entire downtown area is designated an historic district. African American heritage has also been preserved here and is especially celebrated at Penn Center where a museum exhibits rare artifacts and crafts.

Visitors will discover a small, picturesque southern community, overlooking Beaufort Bay and River. There many galleries, antique shops, book stores, and boutiques, all within an easy walk. And there are several fine dining establishments, and luncheon places. Horse drawn carriages can be seen on their historic tour routes, and the town park and marina are right at the center of things — convenient for boaters along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Beaufort is located on Port Royal Island, one of the largest of the more than 60 Sea Islands. Just to the east of the city, are Lady’s Island, Coosaw, Judge, Cat, Cane, Gibbs, St. Helena, Dataw, Distant, Harbor, Hunting, and Fripp islands. These are a mixture of residential and resort areas, with Harbor, Dataw and Fripp being gated communities. Some of the properties are located on world-class golf courses.

Beaufort is also home to three major military installations – the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, the Marine Corps Air Station and the Naval Hospital. About 17,000 active duty service men and women and their families live in the area and are a vital part of the community and the economy.

Arts & Culture

Arts in the Park sponsors free cultural and entertainment events in Waterfront Park from March through November. (843) 521-4144

The Beaufort Art Association sponsors special shows and exhibitions of local artists. (843) 379-2222

The Beaufort Museum in the 1795 Beaufort Arsenal exhibits the story of cotton, rice and indigo creating plantation life, then the wars which changed the character of the area along with that of the country. (843) 379-3331

The Beaufort Orchestra consists of 40 professional and semi-professional musicians. It presents 10 concerts each season.

The Byrone Miller Dance Theatre is a non-profit organization that brings outstanding dance companies to Beaufort, organizes school workshops and artist’s residencies. (843) 524-9148

Lowcountry Shakespeare is a group of local actors who performs works of Shakespeare every fall. (843) 522-0418

Parris Island Museum at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot traces military history and island settlements from the 1500s. (843) 228-2951

Penn Center on St. Helena Island is considered one of the nation’s most historically significant African-American educational institutions. It is the site of the first African American school where freed slaves were educated after the Civil War.

Nearby Hilton Head Island has a very active arts calendar of annual events. Included are Winter Carnival, with jazz concerts, wine tasting, a black-tie opera, big band concert, plus art exhibits, beach tours, road races and kayaking tours; Springfest, which includes Winefest, Healthfest, Wingfest, and Sweet Tastes, arts demonstrations, music concerts, and more; Youth Arts Fest; the Art & Flowers Festival, and BRAVO Festival of the Arts. HarbourFest, which runs through the summer months, features crafts, music, children’s activities, and more. There are simply too many to list them all.

The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, located on Hilton Head Island, produces live theater — musicals, comedies, and dramas. It also hosts many visiting performers and artists. Its main stage is a 350-seat theater and also has two smaller venues for youth and experimental theater. The center also features a gallery for the visual arts.

Hilton Head Jazz Society, founded in 1986, today claims over 500 members. Every month a different artist and format is featured at a hotel ballroom.

Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra features a creative 10-concert Master Series.


There are an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities in the area. The Lowcountry’s salt marshes, which are virtually unspoiled, are easy to explore from Beaufort. There is a large wilderness area created at the juncture of three rivers where guided boat or kayak tours allow visitors to experience its beauty. Cruising, sailing, fishing, and even shrimping or crabbing are also popular. Port Royal’s boardwalk and Hunting Island State Park’s pier are ideal fishing venues.

The 5,000-acre Hunting Island State Park, located 16 miles east of Beaufort, offers three miles of ocean beach, picnic areas and camp sites. There is a Visitor’s Center, a Nature Center, and a lagoon where kayaks can be launched. It also has hiking trails that lead into the dense palmettos, pine and live oaks, and a marsh walk. And there is a pier that is popular for fishing, crabbing or spotting dolphins.

There are also 12 fine golf courses in the area, and near by there are many more excellent courses at Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island. Three local courses are open to the public, including The Legends at Parris Island, considered among the top 10 military courses in the nation.

Sports fans can attend The Heritage of Golf tournament, one of the premier PGA Tour events, on the Ocean Course at Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island each April.

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Preserve, which is just before the bridge onto Hilton Head Island, offers six miles of paths and roads for biking, walking, and bird watching. Audubon Newhall Preserve offers trails with native flowering plants and a lagoon that attracts migratory birds.


The University of South Carolina at Beaufort offers associate degrees in the arts and sciences, and plans to transition to a four-year-degree-granting institution. Its enrollment is about 1,200 with about 500 as full-time students.

Technical College of the Lowcountry is a public two-year technical college offering a curriculum that includes computer technology.

Senior Programs

“Coastal Senior,” a monthly publication with a circulation of about 30,000, targets active seniors age 50-plus in South Carolina and Coastal Georgia. The publication includes information on activities for seniors and opportunities for volunteering, travel, etc.

The Creative Retirement Center (CRC), which is an Elderhostel Affiliate, has a campus in Beaufort and Hilton Head. It is under the auspices of University of South Carolina and offers its 800 members the opportunity for lifelong learning.


Beaufort Memorial Hospital is a 182-bed acute care community hospital with over 100 board-certified physicians on staff. Located on the Intracostal Waterway, it is one of very few hospitals to have its own waterfront emergency dock.

Naval Hospital, Beaufort, consists of the hospital’s two Branch Medical Clinics – one at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island and the other at Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort. The hospital provides general medical, surgical, and emergency services to all active duty Navy and Marine Corps personnel, as well as retired military personnel and all military dependents residing in the Beaufort area, a population of approximately 35,000 beneficiaries.


Beaufort County Airport is three miles from Beaufort and has a paved 3,430-foot runway.

Hilton Head Island Airport, located on the island, is about 20 minutes from Harbour Town, and is about 35 miles from Beaufort. It has a full-service terminal building and offers commercial service with 8-14 flights per day to and from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, depending on the time of year.

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is 45 minutes from Beaufort.


Beaufort enjoys a mild climate year-round, with January temperatures averaging a high of 59 and low of 38 degrees. Summers are humid with average highs of 89 in July.

Beaufort Gazette –
The Island Packet –

Property Taxes

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce

State Aging Agency


Hilton Head – 34 miles
Savannah – 44 miles
Charleston – 70 miles
Jacksonville – 178 miles

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